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Offbeat
4:02 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Judge to decide if Flying Dog can sell latest beer in Michigan

This is the label from the new beer as attatched in federal court records.

Should the state of Michigan’s liquor control commission be allowed to ban the sale of a certain beer based on its name? That’s the question a federal judge in Grand Rapids will decide, following arguments this week.

People can buy several kinds of Flying Dog beer in Michigan already; In-heat wheat, Doggie Style pale ale, and Horn Dog barley wine for starters.

The state of Michigan argues the name of Flying Dog’s latest beer is a “sexist, derogatory and demeaning portrayal of women.”

Alan Gura is the brewery’s attorney.

 “The liquor commissioners don’t happen to like the name of Flying Dog’s Raging Bitch beer. They think it’s very offensive, we simply think that’s too bad.”

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Education
4:00 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Ann Arbor schools to cut more than 60 full-time teaching positions

The Ann Arbor school board passed its budget last night which eliminated teaching positions.

Kyle Feldscher from Annarbor.com reports:

Trustees passed the $183 million budget by a 5-2 vote, filling a deficit that eventually grew to about $16 million. The budget originally included the elimination of high school transportation and 70 full-time teacher positions. The final budget passed Wednesday included high school transportation and eliminated 62.3 full-time teacher positions.

Feldscher reports that teacher layoffs are not expected:

The budget includes no layoffs of full-time teachers, with all of the position reductions coming through attrition and negotiations with the Ann Arbor Education Association.

Politics
4:00 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

House approves teacher tenure changes

School districts would have an easier time firing teachers under changes to tenure laws approved by the state House.

The tenure proposal would rate the effectiveness of teachers based on student test scores.

The bills have begun their march through the Legislature after many years of debating changes to tenure rules.

Democratic state Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton says tenure laws came about to protect teachers from administrators that tried to ban certain books from being taught in the classroom.

She says of course tenure rules should be updated and changed, but she says these changes go too far:

"Rather than go in with the precision of a surgeon with a scalpel, identify a problem and fix it, what these bills do, really, I think, absolutely flay the tenure act with all the zeal of a butcher’s knife," said Lipton.

Republicans say the proposed changes would ensure bad teachers with failing student test scores are removed from classrooms.

The tenure bills were approved along mostly party lines, with one Democrat saying he would discourage his granddaughter from ever teaching in Michigan. The bills now head to the Republican-led state Senate.

Auto/Economy
3:57 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Political Roundup: Auto industry bailout & Mitt Romney (audio)

Chrysler repaid $7.6 billion to the U. S. and Canadian governments back in May.

Recently, General Motors announced the addition of 2,500 jobs to its Hamtramck plant and plans to invest $130 million in a new data center in Warren, Michigan.

Michigan Radio's Jenn White helps us get a look at the political implications of the automotive industry’s progress.  She spoke with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Republican state Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

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Changing Gears
3:17 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Midwest manufacturing bouncing back

Midwest manufacturers heard good news about U.S. trade at a conference in Chicago.

A record number of exports are helping to shrink the trade deficit, and conference organizers are optimistic about the future of Midwest manufacturing.

Economist Bill Strauss, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, likes to use a tennis ball as an analogy to explain what’s going on in manufacturing.

"The sectors that fall the hardest tend to bounce back the strongest," said Strauss. "And we are definitely seeing that with regard to manufacturing where it was automotive and it was primary metals that fell the most during the downturn and they are coming back the strongest at this point."

This morning, Strauss and others told the  Chicago Council on Global Affairs they’re optimistic. They point to data like a 7 percent increase in manufacturing over the past 22 months.

Now for the bad news.

That doesn’t translate into more jobs, because manufacturers have gotten better at producing more with less people.

Economy
3:14 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Gasoline stations accused of price fixing

Pain in the gas tank
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Five Detroit area gasoline station owners have been charged with price fixing.   The five gas stations are located in Madison Heights and are within 2 miles of each other. 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says an inside source claims the gas station operators agreed to keep their prices within a penny of one another on at least five days in February and early March of this year. 

Schuette says there is a difference between watching your competitors’ prices and colluding to keep everyone’s prices high. 

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Politics
2:35 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

State wants fines levied against bridge owners

Andrea_44 flickr

A judge in Detroit has adjourned a hearing without ruling on the state’s request to levy sanctions against the owners of the Ambassador Bridge.

It’s part of an ongoing court fight over the bridge company’s failure to build on-ramps to the bridge, and remove fueling stations and part of a duty-free store that were built without the state’s permission.

Deb Sumner is a community activist and long-time critic of the bridge company. She says without the on-ramps, thousands of trucks are forced to rumble through her neighborhood every day:

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Auto/Economy
2:24 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

It's small biz versus gardeners in Detroit's Cass Corridor

Canine to Five wants to expand into the lots adjacent to its current building, a site community gardeners have long beautified.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Liz Blondy opened Canine to Five – a dog daycare – on Cass Avenue six years ago. It’s a location few entrepreneurs have dared stake a claim, but Blondy has been successful. So successful, she wants to buy the two city-owned lots adjacent to her business, and expand. Trouble is, that’s the site of a beloved community garden that’s been there longer than her business.

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Politics
2:17 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Auto bailout the issues as Romney campaign hits Michigan

GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney chats with entrepreneurs at Bizdom U during a campaign stop in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney made a pair of campaign stops in metro Detroit on his first trip to the state as a declared candidate.

The former Massachusetts governor was greeted with protests at a Livonia diner in the morning. Romney then headed to the business incubator Bizdom U in Detroit, where he offered advice to a handful of entrepreneurs.

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Auto/Economy
2:06 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Was Mitt Romney wrong about the auto industry?

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been criticized for his views on the auto bailouts.
Matthew Reichibach Flickr

Mitt Romney's visit to Michigan has sparked a debate over his views on the federal bailouts of the auto industry.

Democrats have been working to make political hay out of statements Romney made prior to, and after the restructuring of GM and Chrysler under Chapter 11 bankruptcy - restructuring that was made possible with loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments.

On his Facebook page, Congressman John Dingell said he "hopes Governor Romney has answers for Michigan's working families he abandoned two years ago when the American auto industry was in its worst crisis ever."

In 2008, Romney wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times titled "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt."

Two and half years later, with Chrysler and GM rising from the ashes, the title of his opinion piece makes it look as though he was wrong.

The Democratic Party put out this video attacking Republicans, including Romney, for their stance on the auto industry bailouts. The title of Romney's opinion piece is heavily featured in the video - (the video includes a soundtrack with dark, foreboding music for the Republicans, and happy music for the Democrats).

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Flint
1:54 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Flint gets community policing grant

The Flint Police Department received a $1.2 million grant from the C.S. Mott Foundation. The grant will hire more police officers, pay for more equipment, and use community policing techniques.

Merry Morash, professor in the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University said, "The focus on Flint is really because Mott Foundation, which is funding this, is highly invested in the city and wants to promote a very positive environment and Mott Foundation is located in Flint." 

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Commentary
1:47 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Beyond the Law?

Let’s say that I seized a portion of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park for my own uses. I erected a fence, and put up phony signs saying “No Trespassing Due to Homeland Security.”

Later, I ignored court orders to tear it down, and said that I could do this because I was sort of an agent of the federal government, or as I put it, a “federal instrumentality.”

Then, when a federal judge ruled that I was nothing of the kind, and ordered me to stop claiming to be, quote, “any type pf arm, appendage, or agent of the federal government,“ I ignored him.

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Environment
12:05 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

What it takes to get a river cleaned up (part 2)

Imerman Park sits on the flood plain of the Tittabawassee River. Signs along the trail warn walkers about dioxin contamination in some of the park's soil.
Photo by Shawn Allee

Dow Chemical polluted the Tittabawassee River with dioxin. Dioxin has been linked to several health issues, including cancer. A comprehensive clean up of the river has barely begun. Dow chemical, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state have wrestled over the cleanup for 30 years.

Michelle Hurd Riddick has spent the last 10 years of her life pushing to get the Tittabawassee River cleaned up.

When she’s not working as a nurse, she has helped file lawsuits against Dow. She religiously attends public meetings about the clean up and follows what the EPA is doing by filing freedom of information requests. And she writes a lot of letters to state and federal officials.

Hurd Riddick is part of an environmental group called the Lone Tree Council. She talked about how she felt as we drove along the river.

“I get frustrated. I get frustrated. There are a number of citizens you know who have hung in on this issue as long as I’ve been on this issue. But not a lot of them. They have to get on with their lives. And I understand that and I respect that.”

The Tittabawassee flows through Hurd Riddick’s hometown of Saginaw before emptying its waters and contaminated sediment into Lake Huron.

Dow did not want to be recorded for this story.

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Environment
10:51 am
Thu June 9, 2011

Raising Lakes Huron, Michigan costly

Water levels in Lake Michigan have been low for years. Would dams at the upper end of the St. Clair River raise lake levels, and would they be worth the cost?
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A new report says it would be technologically feasible to raise water levels in Lakes Huron and Michigan to make up for drop-offs caused by more than a century of dredging and other human activity.

But the report obtained by The Associated Press says it would take decades to accomplish the task and the price tag could exceed $200 million.

The study is scheduled for public release Friday. It was conducted by a team of engineers and scientists for the International Joint Commission, a U.S.-Canadian panel that advises both nations on Great Lakes issues.

They're trying to determine whether it would be worthwhile to place underwater dams, gates or other structures at the upper end of the St. Clair River to reduce the volume of water escaping Lake Huron.

Politics
10:42 am
Thu June 9, 2011

Snyder to sign Detroit tax and population bills

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is preparing to sign bills that will allow the city of Detroit to continue its income tax and utility user tax provisions.

Snyder is scheduled to sign the bills Thursday.

The main bill would allow Detroit to continue a 2.5 percent city income tax rate on resident individuals, higher than allowed in other Michigan cities.

Changes in state law are necessary to continue the tax rates because of Detroit's declining population.

Census statistics show that Detroit's population fell to 713,777 last year. The decline puts Detroit in danger of losing allowances in state law reserved for cities with a population above 750,000.

The bills to be signed by Snyder would lower the population threshold to 600,000 so Detroit still qualifies for the tax provisions.

Culture
9:55 am
Thu June 9, 2011

Holland considers adding sexual orientation, gender identity to anti-discrimination rules

Many said there is no problem with discrimination in Holland. But resident Bin Lim told council 'To say there’s no discrimination that’s just – I don’t know how to respond to that.'
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Gender identity and sexual orientation are a hot topic right now in the city of Holland. That’s because Holland city council is considering adding local laws that protect people against discrimination for being gay or transgender. The ordinance would give them protection from discrimination by employers and landlords. The issue is extremely divisive in the generally conservative city.

Reverend Ralph Houston reads passages from the bible to city council at an informal meeting last night. He says passing the ordinance would lead to moral chaos.

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Politics
7:56 am
Thu June 9, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit City Council corruption caught on video tape

The videos have been viewed in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, but never broadcast publically. The Detroit News has posted video from 2008 of a city council aide accepting cash from a company seeking to win a sludge hauling contract.

From the Detroit News:

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Economy
1:01 am
Thu June 9, 2011

Home sale prices may be stabilizing (but not in Detroit)

But at what price?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There's positive news about the nation's home prices, but that's not  the case in Detroit.  Data released by Clear Capital today suggests home sale prices nationally may be stabilizing.  Home prices lost ground through the winter months, and the latest data shows prices dropped by 2.3% in May.  

But the good news is prices being paid for repossessed homes nationally actually increased last month.   Foreclosed homes have been dragging down home sale prices, but that might be changing. 

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Politics
5:29 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Romney gets less-than-friendly welcome from fellow Republican McCotter

U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter represents Michigan's 11th District.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter offered fellow Republican Mitt Romney a not-so-friendly welcome ahead of a pair of campaign stops Romney has scheduled in metro Detroit tomorrow.

Romney plans a campaign stop at a diner in Livonia diner – right in the heart of Congressman Thaddeus McCotter’s district. That prompted McCotter to call a press conference to criticize Romney’s opposition to the auto bailout, and his one-time support for a healthcare overhaul in Massachusetts that created a system of subsidies and mandates, among other issues:

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Politics
5:22 pm
Wed June 8, 2011

Legislation seeks to reduce urban car insurance rates

bettyx1138 flickr

A Detroit lawmaker thinks he has the answer to that city’s high rate of uninsured drivers.

State Senator Virgil Smith wants to create a pilot program that would allow Detroit drivers to sign up for bare-bones insurance policies with reduced rates. The idea is to cover medical costs up to $50,000 a person, or $100,000 an accident. Right now, the state’s no-fault law requires unlimited personal injury coverage. Smith says that’s hampered efforts to reduce urban insurance rates.

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