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Mackinac 2011
1:37 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Protesters follow Snyder to Mackinac Island

State leaders and legislators have left Lansing for Mackinac Island this week. Some protesters have followed them.
Charles Dawley Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder came to the Mackinac Policy Conference after landing two big fish from the Michigan Legislature:  a new tax overhaul plan which reduces taxes on businesses and a budget that makes big cuts, including cuts to K-12 education spending.

After these victories, he might have thought he was going to leave the protesters behind in Lansing, but they've followed him to Mackinac Island.

Paul Egan of the Detroit News reports a group of teachers and other public sector workers are protesting Snyder's education cuts and tax policies. Egan quoted Jim Martin, a health and physical education teacher from Sault Ste. Marie, speaking about Governor Snyder:

"He says he's not anti-union or anti-teacher, but his actions say otherwise," Martin said at a news conference about a block away from the Grand Hotel where the policy conference organized by the Detroit Regional Chamber is being held.

The news conference was organized by A Better Michigan Future, a coalition of about 50 union and public interest groups...

"It can't be possible that everyone really believes that corporations need the money more than children," said Tammy Hazley, a special education teacher from Sault Ste. Marie Area Public Schools.

Egan reports the group is calling for a new state income tax, one where higher-income earners would pay more than lower-income earners. The group's director "also called for a reduction in the cost of work contracted out by state government."

Economy
1:10 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Borders given more time to come up with a reorganization plan

Borders has more time to submit a bankruptcy plan. The company might have a buyer willing to take on more than half the remaining stores.
user brewbooks creative commons

When Borders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last February, it had until mid-June to submit its own reorganization plan. Now a judge has given the company an extension.

Joseph Checkler of the Wall Street Journal says such requests are routine:

A judge on Thursday gave Borders Group Inc. more time to control its own bankruptcy case, after a lawyer for the bookseller said the company hopes to have a plan in place to sell most or all of the company's stores by the end of the month.

A lawyer for Borders didn't rule out that the company could eventually come up with a plan to reorganize but said a plan to sell stores to a third party is more imminent. The company says it is in talks with "multiple buyers" interested in "most up to all" of Borders's remaining stores.

Judge Martin Glenn of U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan approved the extension, a largely procedural move that gives Borders until October to file a reorganization plan and until December to solicit votes on that plan without having to worry about competing proposals from creditors or others.

The Journal reported that the private-equity firm Gores Group is interested in buying more than half the remaining 405 Borders Bookstores.

A lawyer for Borders said the company expects to announce a buyer in the next "two to four weeks."

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Weather
12:31 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Detroit opens cooling centers

DETROIT (AP) - Two air-conditioned Detroit recreation buildings are open as cooling centers when outside temperatures and humidity are high.

The city says the Joseph Walker Williams Center on Rosa Parks Boulevard is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, while the Coleman A. Young Center on Robert Bradby Drive is open
1-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.

Young children and the elderly are at risk when temperatures rise above 90 degrees. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, heavy sweating, confusion and flushed skin are signs of heat-related illness.

The city says the most vulnerable should stay indoors, if possible, or in a public place with air conditioning.

Environment
12:27 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

DNR to hold wolf forum in Marquette

The federal government says gray wolves in the Great Lakes states are no longer endangered, and they can come off the endangered species list. If that happens, the state would be in charge of managing the wolves.

The Department of Natural Resources is holding a forum in Marquette tomorrow. The DNR’s inviting everyone from the farm bureau to conservation and hunting groups. The agency wants these groups to weigh in on the state’s wolf management plan.

Christopher Hoving is with the DNR. He says the plan would allow officials to shoot problem wolves. For example... if a wolf kills a cow or a sheep.

“It’s not something we like to do or want to do, but we can’t have that behavior of killing sheep be spread throughout the population.”

He says under the state plan, Michigan residents can also kill a wolf that’s attacking their livestock or pets.

Mackinac 2011
12:12 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Highlights of Day 1 at the Mackinac Policy Conference

There are two places you can look for a wrap of the events at the Mackinac Policy Conference.

MPRN's Rick Pluta hosts a wrap up podcast called Porchlight.

And Detroit Public Television and MiVote have this Highlight Show:

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Arts/Culture
10:43 am
Thu June 2, 2011

Music collectives keep talent in Michigan

Gun Lake records for Bigger Brush Media's "Quilted Attic Sessions."
Emily Fox Michigan Radio Newsroom

Madonna, Iggy Pop and The White Stripes got their start in Michigan, but they left the state to make it big in the music industry. Today, some musicians want to stop that migration and keep talent close to home. 

Kevin Prichard is with Bigger Brush Media in Lansing. He thinks music collectives can help keep people in Michigan.

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Politics
10:37 am
Thu June 2, 2011

Pontiac emergency manager moves to void police dispatchers contract

Downtown Pontiac. The city has major financial problems. The emergency manager of Pontiac wants to void a contract with the city's police dispatcher's union.
user dt10111 Flickr

Another Michigan emergency manager is seeking to use broad new powers granted to him by the new emergency manager law.

Pontiac emergency manager Michael Stampfler is working to void a contract with the city's police dispatchers union.

The city's police department voted to dissolve itself last March because of the city's budget problems.

The city and the Oakland County Sheriff's Department are working to draw up a contract to police Pontiac's streets, but a contract with the dispatcher's union is holding up the process, according to the Oakland Press.

From the Oakland Press:

Pontiac Emergency Manager Michael Stampfler has submitted a letter to the Michigan Department of Treasury requesting to end the contract with the police dispatchers’ union.

“I don’t know that anyone has yet to use ... the section of the legislation saying we want to do this,” said Stampfler, adding work is being done to have the transition from the Pontiac police to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office completed by July 1.

The proposed contract for law enforcement and dispatch services hasn’t been signed because of the contract with the dispatchers’ union.

Officials from the Michigan Association of Police, the union representing the dispatchers, were not available for comment.

Some groups are planning to challenge the new emergency manager law in court. Nullifying a union contract could be one place were a challenge to the law begins.

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Arts/Culture
10:20 am
Thu June 2, 2011

New Director at the Grand Rapids Art Museum

The Grand Rapids Art Museum announced they have a new director. From their press release:

The Board of Trustees of the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) announced today the appointment of Dana Friis-Hansen as Director and CEO.  The Art Museum selected Friis-Hansen, who most recently served as Executive Director of the Austin Museum of Art, as part of a national search effort. Friis-Hansen will begin work at the Grand Rapids Art Museum on July 13, 2011.

Mackinac 2011
10:04 am
Thu June 2, 2011

Mackinac Island: Day 2

Mackinac Island: Day 2
Detroit Regional Chamber.

The Mackinac Policy Conference continues up here on Mackinac Island for a second day. On tap for today: lots of panel discussions. Along with Detroit Public Television, we're putting together two panels to take a deeper look at some of the important policy issues facing the state.

The first is an environmental panel, Reinvention vs. Redevelopment. It’ll take a look at the current state of brownfield redevelopment in Michigan. In particular, Michigan's brownfield and historic tax credit programs - have they worked? And, what will happen when the tax credits are eliminated and replaced with a separate fund.

The second panel, Cutting the Costs of Educating Kids, will dig into the current state of education funding in Michigan (K-12 and higher education): What needs to be done to improve it, how do we go about funding it, and what would be the implications of Governor Rick Snyder's reform ideas on school districts, teachers and students in the state, and the workforce of tomorrow.

Panels put together by the Detroit Regional Chamber for today include Improving Michigan’s Path to Recovery: Lessons from Business Leaders with Doug Rothwell, President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan and Emerging Leaders with State Senator Dave Hildenbrand and State Reps Frank Foster, Rudy Hobbs and Andrew Kandrevas. U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow will also hold court today and we’ll hear from Mark Reuss, President, North America, General Motors Company.

Mackinac 2011
9:47 am
Thu June 2, 2011

Mackinac Conference a lavish affair

The free bar at the Mackinac Policy Conference.
Dustin Dwyer

Here's a staff favorite and a little of a blast from the past. Former Michigan Radio reporter Dustin Dwyer wonders if the Mackinac Policy Conference matters to the everyday folk of Michigan.

Click here to link to the story.

 

 

Medical marijuana
9:24 am
Thu June 2, 2011

Holland adopts home-based business model for regulating medical marijuana

Medical marijuana supporters Jon Wood and Amy Gasaway hold signs outside Holland City Hall before the meeting on Wednesday night.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

New regulations for medical marijuana will go into effect later this month in the City of Holland. Holland city council adopted the local regulations last night.

Caregivers will need to register as a home based-business.

However, caregivers won’t be allowed to operate within a thousand feet of a school, public park or pool. That provision passed by a very small margin because it makes most of the city off limits for cultivating medical marijuana. 

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Mackinac 2011
8:17 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Do YOU care about the Mackinac Policy Conference?

Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island
jpwbee Flickr

So, what is this Mackinac Policy Conference?

By now, you’ve probably heard about this huge gathering of businesspeople and politicians, reporters and lobbyists.

It happens every year on Mackinac Island at the Grand Hotel. It’s hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber and this year it lasts three days. It’s got all the trappings of any other big conference:  lots of speakers and meetings, lots of hob-nobbing, lots of drinking (in fact, there’s a vodka ice luge this year out on the Grand Hotel's famous porch). 

And, of course, there’s a lot of arm-twisting and deal-making.

But, maybe you’re wondering why?  Why do they need to go up to Mackinac Island to talk about the same stuff they do all the rest of the year in Lansing?

Here’s how the Detroit Regional Chamber describes it on their website, “This year’s Conference is focused on bringing business and government leaders together to create a globally competitive, financially attractive business environment in Michigan.”

Ok, so maybe it’s about fixing Michigan’s economy… trying to get ‘everyone’ on the same page to move the state forward.

However, this year is a little different than past years.  This conference was organized with Governor Rick Snyder in mind.  It’s all about Snyder’s “reinventing, rebuilding, and re-energizing” of Michigan. In fact, Snyder made opening remarks at the conference, he’ll hold several press conferences and is scheduled to be part of a panel discussion with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell.

So, that’s what the conference IS. If you want more information about the conference, click here. And, be sure, to click here for Michigan Radio’s coverage of the conference.

But, I think, the bigger question is: why should you care about what happens here?

Well, I could explain about the panels upon panels about ‘reinventing Michigan’ and ‘Michigan’s future’ (Think: Defining the Road to Economic Recovery, or Working Together to Make Michigan Globally Competitive, or Re-bounding and Re-building: A Path to Recovery… get the picture?). Or, I could list the hundreds upon hundreds of attendees (Think: Governor Rick Snyder; Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; Mark Murray, President of Meijer; Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin; Bob King, President of the United Auto Workers; Roy Roberts, the new Emergency Financial Manger of the Detroit Public Schools; and a whole ton of state and local lawmakers).

But, after speaking with Rick Pluta of the Michigan Public Radio Network (and, a conference veteran) I figured I’d just quote what he said to me, after I asked him, “Pluta, why should someone actually care about this conference?”

His answer:

"Because once a year – the political center of gravity of Michigan moves to this island [Mackinac] … decisions may or may not be made here… but certainly there is an effort underfoot to make things happen. You have to understand: Mackinac Island has become the state Capitol for the rest of this week.

Do you care about the economy? All the business movers-and-shakers are up here. You care about what happens at the state Capitol? All the political movers-and-shakers are here. And, all of these movers-and-shakers are talking to each other. And, they’ll affect things like job creation, education, taxes… this is everyone’s best chance, all year long to make their best pitch for what they care about. That’s why you have CEO’s, top politicians, university presidents, non-profit organizations… all here trying to make the case for whatever matters to them.”

So, maybe you still don’t quite care about the conference. And, that’s OK: it’s a little hard to grasp. But, at the very least, maybe you understand now why some people do care and why you’ll be hearing a lot about the conference in the days, weeks, and months to come.

- With help from Lester Graham

Mackinac 2011
7:41 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

UAW President Bob King says his union is pro-business now

UAW President Bob King asked business leaders to reexamine their ideas about unions during a speech at the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual policy conference on Mackinac Island.

Acknowledging the conservatives in the crowd, King joked that it might be the closest he'll come to ever appearing at a Republican National Convention.

But his speech quickly turned serious, with an appeal to business leaders and Republicans to work with unions, not against them, for the good of both business and the middle class.

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Politics
5:07 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

In wake of Detroit's population loss, lawmakers work to prevent revenue loss

Lawmakers are working on legislation that will allow Detroit to keep taxing residents at current rates. Under current law, the city would have to lower rates because of a decline in population.
Patricia Drury Flickr

Update 5:07 p.m.

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber reports that most Republicans voted against the change, but Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger was not among them.

He voted for the measure, which passed by a narrow margin:

"I think for a healthy Michigan we have to have a healthy Detroit, so House Republicans put up enough votes for passage and we advance this bill forward today," said Bolger. "But at the same time, we are certainly concerned about containing their expenses and not looking for additional revenue."

Weber reported that changes to the population requirement now goes to the State Senate, where Democrats hope to have them approved in the next week.

1:23 p.m.

State law stipulates that a city must have a population of at least 750,000 people in order to tax at certain rates.

In the last census, Detroit's population fell below that threshold and now stands at 713,777 according to official U.S. Census statistics (that number is being challenged).

The city could stand to lose $100 million if it had to lower it's income tax rate.

Losing this much revenue in Detroit would hurt, so lawmakers in Lansing are working to pass legislation that will allow the city to keep taxing at current rates.

The Michigan State House approved a measure today that would allow the city to continue levying taxes on income and utilities by lowering the population threshold to 600,000.

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber reported on this last night. Weber spoke with State Senator Bert Johnson (D - Detroit) about the bill. From Weber's report:

He says he thinks 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. We’ll lose a few more along the way, but not in the significant numbers that we’ve seen over the past decade,” Johnson said.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said the city would likely face a financial emergency without changes to the law.

Mackinac 2011
5:05 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Snyder opens the Mackinac Policy Conference

The 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference is being held at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
SteveBurt1947 Flickr

I’ve just arrived here on Mackinac Island with Tracy Samilton and Lester Graham for the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference. Governor Rick Snyder welcomed guests to the conference earlier this afternoon. Snyder used the address to talk about what he believes is the need to build a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada. Last month, Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley said the administration will push the legislature to approve a second bridge as soon as this month. Calley said the state needs to create competition with the Ambassador Bridge Company and its monopoly at the crossing.

“The takeaway of Snyder’s speech is that he is going to use the conference to push his goal of getting the legislature to approve the bridge,” Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta says.

Not all Republicans are on-board with the idea of building a second bridge. As Pluta explains, “this isn’t the first intra-party fight that he [Snyder] has had.”

Pluta is referring to the controversial tax on some retiree pensions that was part of Snyder’s budget proposal. Pluta predicts the battle over a second bridge will be bigger than the fight Snyder had over the pension tax.

Mackinac 2011
5:01 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Snyder argues for a new bridge at Mackinac Conference

A concept drawing of a new bridge known as the Detroit River International Crossing.
partnershipborderstudy.com

Legislation to create an authority to build a new international bridge in Detroit has been introduced in the state Senate.

Governor Rick Snyder is using a conference on Mackinac Island to sell the idea to lawmakers and business people.

He still has to win over skeptical Republicans in the Legislature who are not convinced there is no risk to taxpayers in the deal.

The bridge fight could pose his biggest intra-party squabble yet. It's a debate that’s expected to last through much if June.

The governor says the bridge is necessary to support Michigan’s growing export trade, saying the entire state benefits from the growth in exports:

"We had a big bounce back from 2009," Snyder said. "The jump this year has been very large and Canada is our biggest trading partner. We did over $44 billion in exports last year…and 49% of that was with Canada."

The governor says that includes agriculture products and manufactured goods from every corner of Michigan. Supporters of the bridge say there will be even more benefits if Canada and Mexico approve a free trade deal.

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit are putting up a fierce fight including a statewide ad campaign to stop the bridge project.

They say there won’t be enough traffic to justify a second bridge.

The governor calls those claims "false."

Environment
4:33 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Feral cat population probably not as large as reported

Feral cats are a problem in the Detroit area, but there might not be as many as 657,000
Gracey Morgue File

A Detroit newspaper reported there were 657,000 feral cats in the Detroit area. But that number might not be correct.

Kevin Hatman is with the Michigan Humane Society. He says he’s not sure how accurate that number is. But he says there is a large population of wild cats in the Detroit area:

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Auto/Economy
4:17 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Toyota recalls 52,000 Prius hybrids

Toyota is recalling 106,000 Prius hybrids globally (52,000 in the U.S.) The recall is for 2001-2003 models.
Photo courtesy of Toyota

Toyota has issued another recall, this one due to steering issues in its first generation Prius hybrids.

If the steering wheel is turned as far as it can go repeatedly and rapidly, Toyota says the nuts holding the steering shaft in place might get loose and make it harder to turn left.

The recall is for 2001-2003 Prius models and involves 52,000 hybrids nationwide.

Bill Visnic. an analyst with edmunds.com, says it’s been a rough couple years for Toyota in terms of recalls:

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Economy
4:06 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Judge says bottle return marking on Michigan bottles can stay

Rex Roof Creative Commons

A federal judge says a state law requiring beer and cans sold in Michigan to have specific markings is not against federal laws.

State lawmakers amended Michigan’s bottle-deposit law in 2008. They wanted to prevent people from bringing bottles from out of state to return in Michigan for 10-cents-a-piece. That’s the highest bottle deposit in the country.

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Politics
3:08 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Walberg describes GOP meeting with Pres. Obama as 'congenial'

Rep. Tim Walberg (R) Michigan's 7th congressional district
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan congressman Tim Walberg describes today’s meeting between Republican lawmakers and President Obama as ‘congenial’.   Walberg was among the GOP members of congress who outlined their concerns about the budget during the 90 minute meeting with the president at the White House. 

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