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Auto/Economy
1:01 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

Raising Gas Taxes

Yesterday, as the congressman from New York was going through his excruciating televised confession, someone called to ask me, “why don’t we have any good sex scandals in Michigan?”

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Politics
12:32 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

State lawmakers: Detroit can keep taxing at current rates

State lawmakers have passed bills allowing the city to keep taxing at certain rates. The legislation awaits Governor Snyder's approval.
Bob Jagendorf Flickr

Because of the recent U.S. Census showing significant population loss in Detroit (the city went from 951,270 people in 2000, to 713,777 in 2010), Detroit was at risk for losing tax revenue.

Current state law says a city must have a population of at least 750,000 people in order to tax at certain rates.

State legislators have been working to change that number to help Detroit. A law lowering the threshold to 600,000 passed the State House last week, now it's passed the State Senate.

From the Associated Press:

Michigan lawmakers are approving measures that would allow the city of Detroit to continue its 2.5 percent city income tax on resident individuals and a separate utility users' tax.

Bills allowing continuation of the taxes were approved Tuesday by the Senate on 21-17 and 20-18 votes. The House already has approved the measures so they should soon be sent to Gov. Rick Snyder.

State Senator Bert Johnson (D - Detroit) told MPRN's Laura Weber that 600,000 is a safe and low-enough number, "You know, I think Detroit’s days of really hemorrhaging people are probably behind us," said Johnson. "We'll lose a few more along the way, but not in the significant numbers that we've seen over the past decade."

Politics
12:22 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

Pontiac police dispatchers union contract can be voided by emergency manager

Pontiac police car
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

For the first time, a state appointed emergency manager has permission to void a union contract in a Michigan city. The state Treasurer’s office gave its approval to Pontiac’s emergency manager Monday to void the city’s police dispatchers’ contract.   Pontiac’s policing duties are being taken over by the Oakland County sheriff’s department. 

Robert Sedler is a constitutional law professor at Wayne State University.  He believes the courts would find the decision to void the contract a ‘reasonable’ one. 

 “What I think makes this reasonable in the Pontiac situation is that it is part of a transfer of law enforcement from the city of Pontiac to the sheriff.”

 The Michigan legislature expanded the powers of state appointed emergency managers this year. 

There are numerous groups considering legal challenges to the law.

Auto/Economy
11:51 am
Tue June 7, 2011

GM Chief concerned about the economy, and Ford looks to Asia

 The CEO of General Motors, Dan Akerson, told reporters today that he's concerned about the "jobless economic recovery" and high federal deficits.

From the Associated Press:

The CEO told reporters before the company's stockholders meeting Tuesday that the government should have a 10-year plan to cut its roughly $14 trillion deficit. He says that would bring much needed stability to markets.

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Education
10:56 am
Tue June 7, 2011

Grand Rapids superintendent will not go to Cleveland Schools

GRPS Superintendent Bernard Taylor announces MEAP scores this spring.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The Cleveland Metropolitan school district selected an internal candidate to be the next CEO at a special meeting this morning. Grand Rapids Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor was a finalist for the opening.

It was the second time this year Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor became a finalist for a job opening at another school district.

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General Motors Invest in Warren
10:45 am
Tue June 7, 2011

GM to build high-tech computer command center in Warren

General Motors will invest 130-million dollars in a new high-tech computer command center in Warren. 

The announcement follows a string of other investments by GM in North America. 

GM says the high performance computers at the new command center in Warren will help the company keep pace with the increasingly complex computer simulations required to build cars. 

It will also allow the company to keep its own data and customer data more securely.   

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Auto
10:11 am
Tue June 7, 2011

Drivers have big impact on gas mileage

Poor driving, a trunk full of junk, and flags on the roof can adversely affect your miles-per-gallon.
Chevrolet

When it comes to fuel economy, Roger Clark says, "how you drive matters."

Roger is a fuel economy expert with Chevrolet. He has a few tips for getting more miles per gallon without buying a new car. We tested his driving style against Monte Doran’s, also with Chevy. Roger and Monte drove matching Chevy Cruzes and took identical routes. Both did a little highway and a little city driving on a weekday around 5pm. Roger followed his own fuel saving tips and Monte did exactly the opposite.

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health
9:59 am
Tue June 7, 2011

Clean needle exchange program in Grand Rapids is proving successful

hitthatswitch Creative Commons

Clean Works Needle Exchange began ten years ago. At the time it was very controversial for Grand Rapids city commissioners to adopt local laws that would give drug users access to clean syringes.

Tami VandenBerg leads the non-profit that runs the Clean Works Needle Exchange. She says they provide clean needles for about 600 people a year.

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Politics
9:32 am
Tue June 7, 2011

In the face of safety concerns, more cuts to police in Royal Oak

Local governments are coming to terms with the effects of the Great Recession as shrinking revenues are leading to police and fire layoffs in many parts of the state.

The Royal Oak Police Department is making cuts to its department. Going from 70 to 65 sworn officers.

This despite the concern over safety in Royal Oak.

From the Daily Tribune:

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News Roundup
7:50 am
Tue June 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Emergency Manager tosses union contract

Michael Stampfler, the emergency manager of Pontiac, has flexed new muscles given to him by state legislators and Governor Snyder. Under the state's new emergency manager law, emergency managers can eliminate union contracts and strip local officials of their power.

From the Associated Press:

Pontiac has gotten approval to cancel union contract protections for 11 police dispatchers as it shuts down its police department.

The Detroit Free Press reports Monday's action will make them the first Michigan public employees to have a contract tossed under the law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in March granting expanded powers to state-appointed emergency financial managers.

It's the final move toward eliminating the Pontiac Police Department, which was proposed last year by emergency financial manager Michael Stampfler. Services will be handled by the Oakland County sheriff's department to save the cash-strapped city $2 million annually.

Detroit Mayor Bing prepares for layoffs after override of his budget veto

The Detroit City Council voted to override Mayor Bing's veto of the council's budget. Bing thought the council's cuts went too far. The mayor says steep cuts are coming to the city of Detroit.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing sharply criticized the City Council's override of his budget veto Monday, saying the $50 million in cuts the council restored will close recreation centers, eliminate hundreds of police officers and firefighters and end bus service on Sundays.

"We will have to eliminate a lot of services," said a visibly frustrated Bing, who already cut the budget by $200 million. "People have been complaining for years and years about inadequate services. Another $50 million in cuts is just irresponsible."

A memorial service for Jack Kevorkian

Assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian died last Friday. Now friends and supporters will hold a public memorial service this Friday in Troy.

From the Associated Press:

The ceremony is being held at 9:30 a.m. at White Chapel Memorial Cemetery in Troy, said attorney Mayer Morganroth.

"We weren't going to do anything, but we started getting calls from all across the country and from foreign countries, too," Morganroth told the Detroit Free Press in a story posted Monday on the newspaper's website. "There is just so much interest from people who wanted to do something to remember Jack."

Education
12:26 am
Tue June 7, 2011

Grand Rapids school board will likely compromise on a policy regulating public comment

When the board disussed the policy in January, some members suggested they needed to screen members of the public. Maureen Slade (middle) gestured at security guards at the meeting, 'I don't think we have anything to fear from our public.'
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids Public School Board has a unique policy. People who want to talk about something that’s not already on the agenda must sign up 5 days ahead of time, and explain to officials what they want to discuss.

Opponents of the policy say it intimidates people from expressing their concerns.

A special committee recommended the board get rid of the advance sign up requirement. But the comments will not be televised.

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Education
12:05 am
Tue June 7, 2011

Grand Rapids Schools approves budget to address projected $22 million dollar deficit

This fall Grand Rapids Public Schools will be able to avoid cuts to transportation, art and music. But Michigan’s third largest school district will eliminate close to 140 positions as part of a plan to deal with a projected $22 million dollar budget shortfall.

The vote for the budget was unanimous, in sharp contrast to last year. That was a huge relief for Superintendent Bernard Taylor, for a moment anyway.

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Politics
5:44 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Detroit Council overrides Mayoral budget veto; Bing threatens layoffs

The Detroit City Council has voted to override Mayor Dave Bing’s budget.

The City Council added $50 million in additional cuts to Bing’s budget. By overriding his veto, they put those cuts into effect.

Bing blasted the Council afterward, saying the cuts will lead to public safety layoffs. He also says their action could move the city toward a takeover by an Emergency Manager.

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Science/Medicine
5:32 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Michigan sues drug wholesaler over Medicaid bills

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is accusing a prescription drug wholesaler of illegally inflating prices of medicine purchased by the state's Medicaid program.

Schuette says he's filed a lawsuit seeking to recover millions of dollars from McKesson Corp. The attorney general says Michigan spent about $2 billion on brand-name pharmaceuticals from McKesson from 2001 to 2009.

The lawsuit filed in Ingham County court also names other defendants, including the company that publishes drug pricing data. An email seeking comment was left Monday with San Francisco-based McKesson.

Schuette is promising to "bring the hammer down" on anyone who tries to cheat Michigan. The lawsuit isn't unique. Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout says other states have sued and settled.

Arts/Culture
4:55 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Books: His Michigander unhappiness

My American Unhappiness, the second novel from Dean Bakapoulos, the author of Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon, is about an unhappy (surprise!) man working in the humanities in Wisconsin who makes a series of terrible decisions for the ostensible purpose of getting married and keeping his family together.

While the main action of the novel takes place in Madison, WI, the protagonist, Zeke Pappas, has a number of connections to Michigan. His time at the University of Michigan features many references to university and Ann Arbor town life including [mild spoiler alert!] Alice Lloyd Hall, the Fleetwood Diner, and beloved professor Ralph Williams’s popular Shakespeare class. 

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Politics
4:29 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Bridge issue to begin, Republicans still unsure

J. Stephen Conn Flickr

The state Senate will get its first look this week at legislation proposing a new bridge between Detroit and Canada.

Republicans have rejected the idea of a new bridge for years. Many of them received campaign contributions from the owner of the Ambassador Bridge – the only current span between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

But Republican lawmakers say they are against a new bridge because there has never been clear information about how the bridge would be paid for.

Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger agrees.

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Mackinac 2011
4:01 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

The Cost of Education: A panel discussion at the Mackinac Policy Conference

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham moderated a panel discussion looking into the current state of education in Michigan (K-12 and higher education) at the Mackinac Policy Conference last week.

He spoke with Peter Spadafore, the Assistant Director of Government Relations for the Michigan Association of School Boards, and Michael Van Beek, the Director of Education Policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

They explored how education funding can be improved in the state; and the potential impacts of Governor Rick Snyder's reforms on school districts, teachers and students in the state.

You can watch the discussion below.

Education Panel: Cutting the Costs of Educating Kids

Politics
3:55 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Supreme Court says stories can be used as evidence

User sabine01 Flickr

A work of fiction written by a person charged with a crime can be used against the defendant in court according to a new decision from the Michigan Supreme Court.

The question before the state’s highest court was whether a story a defendant had written depicting graphic scenes of incest between siblings and their father could be used against him as evidence of his intent.

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Environment
3:22 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

EPA giving money to help Michigan communities clean up brownfield sites

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announcing brownfield cleanup grants during a news conference in Lansing, Michigan. To the right of the speaker, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero looks on.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Seven Michigan communities are getting help from the federal government to clean up contaminated industrial sites.   Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson says her agency is awarding brownfield cleanup grants to Lansing, Albion, Inkster, Northville and three other Michigan communities.   

The grants total $2.9 million.  

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Politics
3:14 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Contract talks continue in Lansing

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero talks to reporters along the Grand River
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Time is running out for the city of Lansing to win new contract concessions from its labor unions.  Meanwhile, another round of layoff notices will soon go to some city employees.  

Lansing’s mayor’s office continues to negotiate with union leaders seeking 3 million dollars in concessions before the city’s new budget takes effect July 1st.   Mayor Virg Bernero says the city and the unions are talking in good faith to avoid possible layoffs.  

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