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Mackinac 2011
11:46 am
Fri June 3, 2011

GM can't tell U.S. Treasury when to sell its stock, says top exec

Reuss says the government’s part-ownership of GM matters to American taxpayers and customers.
media.gm.com

President Obama will visit a Chrysler plant in Ohio today, a day after the U.S. Treasury reached a deal to sell its remaining 6.6% stake in Chrysler to Fiat. 

Meanwhile, the Treasury still owns 26% of General Motors.  But GM North American President Mark Reuss says it’s up to the U.S. Treasury to decide when to get out of the car business completely. 

Reuss says the government’s part-ownership of GM matters to American taxpayers and customers.   It also matters to GM executives and workers.

But it's not up to GM when the Treasury sells its stock.

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Sports Commentary
7:27 am
Fri June 3, 2011

Jim Tressel and Ohio State: Cheating is excused. Losing is not

Jim Tressel resigned as Ohio State's football coach this past Monday.
Avanash Kunnath Flickr

The Jim Tressel era at Ohio State started on January 18, 2001. 

It so happened the Buckeyes had a basketball game that night against Michigan, so it was a good time to introduce their new football coach.  When Tressel stood up to speak, he knew exactly what they wanted. 

He was hired on the heels of John Cooper, whose record at Ohio State was second only to that of Woody Hayes.  But Cooper’s teams lost to Michigan an inexcusable ten times.  Can’t do that.  And you can’t say, “It’s just another game,” either – which might have been his biggest mistake. 

Knowing all this, when Tressel told the crowd, "I can assure you that you will be proud of your young people in the classroom, in the community, and most especially in 310 days in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the football field.  The place went nuts. “At last,” they said, “somebody gets it!”

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Mackinac 2011
8:21 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Mackinac Conference produces talk of possible 2012 Senate candidates

The Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island.
Steve Burt 1947 Flickr

Well, it was bound to happen. Mix an election that’s less than 18 months away with politicos, talking heads and hungry reporters (in pretty close quarters) and you’re going to start to hear stories about possible candidates for the 2012 Michigan Senate seat. Two-term Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow is up for reelection in 2012 and only one Republican, former Kent County judge Randy Hekman, has announced a run so far.

The Detroit News reports:

Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner John McCulloch said today he is "seriously looking at" a 2012 challenge to… Stabenow and expects to decide within 30 days. McCulloch, 55, told The Detroit News at the Mackinac Policy Conference he is concerned about the way the budget deficit and other federal issues are being handled. Elected to his current post, formerly known as the drain commissioner, in 2000, McCulloch earlier served 10 years as an Oakland County commissioner, including five years as chairman. Born in Royal Oak, he is an attorney and a certified public accountant.

Then, also from the Detroit News, is this:

A hot rumor making the rounds at the Mackinac conference today was that Detroit radio host Frank Beckmann would seek the Republican nomination to challenge Stabenow. "Don't wait for an announcement," Beckmann, host of "The Frank Beckmann Show”… told The Detroit News with a laugh during a break from his radio show. But the conservative talk show host wouldn't rule out entering politics, either.

Former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra have both announced that they will not run.

Mackinac 2011
5:20 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Political Roundup: Mackinac Policy Conference (audio)

This week lawmakers and business leaders from around the state are attending the annual Mackinac Policy Conference. It’s touted as a time when political deals are made and politicians have a chance to set agendas.

To give us the lowdown on the conference Michigan Radio's Jenn White talks 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.

Former Republican state Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema is familiar with what goes on at the conference. Are there really any useful conversations that come out of this event? Sikkema:

I do think useful conversations are conducted up there, but that's a far cry from saying that fundamental solutions get agreed to, or that deals get made.

The Mackinac Policy Conference is sponsored by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and is known to be a lavish event. Considering that businesses are paying for the event, is there a conflict of interest at play for lawmakers? Susan Demas doesn't think so. Lawmakers pay their own way. But there are some paid-for events and open bars. Demas:

But in a way it's not all together that different than how business is conducted in Lansing every night. The bars and the restaurants are filled with lobbyists who meet with lawmakers, this is nothing new.  But I certainly don't think anybody is violating any ethics laws that we have on the books here in Michigan.

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Arts/Culture
5:12 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Grand Rapids Art Museum hires new director

Michigan's art museums have been on a hiring spree lately.

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Arts/Culture
4:53 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Artpod: The LipDub video heard 'round the world

Ryan Slusarzyk and Abbey Sloan sit in the back of a classic Chevy truck near Rosa Parks Circle. They have a line in the Grand Rapids lip dub "drove my chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

In case you've been living under a couch cushion for the past week or so and haven't heard about the Grand Rapids LipDub video getting rave reviews, let's bring you up to speed:

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Politics
4:27 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Snyder office worker injured by substance while opening mail

An employee in Governor Rick Snyder's office was treated and quarantined after a letter delivered to the office caused a burning sensation in his fingers. The letter had what was described as a "grainy substance" that caused the injury. The governor's office says the governor called the employee to make sure he is O-K. The Michigan State Police are investigating the incident.  

Economy
4:25 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Gun Lake Casino’s first payout to state, local governments top expectations

Wayland Township Supervisor Roger VanVolkinburg accepts a check Thursday from Gun Lake Casino.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The state and several local governments are getting more than $2.5 million from Gun Lake Casino. It’s the first revenue-sharing payment since the casino opened in February.

More than $500,000 goes to one city, six townships, Allegan County and a public school district near the casino about 30 minutes south of Grand Rapids.

Wayland Township Supervisor Roger VanVolkinburg is not the only one who underestimated how big the first check would be.  

“Well my estimate was $200,000 years ago so it’s was a little off. (laughs) I’m sorry.”

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Politics
3:55 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Fenton man is a voice for the Libyan rebels

The Kingdom of Libya flag placed in front of a refinery in Ras Lanuf March 8, 2011. The flag has been used as a symbol of resistance against Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi.
BRQ Network

Marisa Schultz has an amazing story in today's Detroit News.

It's about Mustafa Gheriani of Fenton, Michigan.

Gheriani is a U.S. citizen, but was born in Benghazi, Libya.

Last February, Gheriani traveled to Benghazi for a family wedding. The revolution broke out and Gheriani found himself speaking to western reporters on behalf of the Libyan rebels. From the article:

He reported scenes from the front lines, casualties and acknowledged the rag-tag limitations of the rebel army against Gadhafi's iron-fist regime. He worked tirelessly with a cadre of international reporters with one goal: "Libya news stayed on the front page."

Gheriani didn't mince words when talking to the press. Gadhafi's "hands are tainted with blood and we will not talk to him," Gheriani told the Associated Press in March.

Back home in Fenton, when his wife saw those words she thought, "'he's a dead man."

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Environment
3:18 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Q & A: Asian carp smuggling

Bighead carp for sale (in this case, dead) at an Asian grocery store in Toronto.
Photo by Sarah Payette

State and federal agencies working to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes recently laid out their plans for 2011.

These agencies are focused mainly on the waterways around Chicago, where the fish could get in from the Mississippi River basin to Lake Michigan.

But there’s another route for Asian carp. They’re riding on trucks... that are bringing live carp from fish farms in the South.

Two fish distributors were issued large fines this winter for bringing live Asian carp into Canada. It’s illegal.

Peter Payette has been covering this story.  Rebecca Williams talks with Peter on today's Environment Report:

Rebecca: Peter, you’ve just gotten back from some of these live fish markets in Toronto. What did you see?

Peter: All of these live fish markets were a part of an Asian grocery store and a couple of them had very large sections of the store devoted to fish, and in particular, live fish. I was in one store where they had a catfish that must've been 30 pounds. I saw a common carp that size... I saw an eel that was two or three feet long.

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Politics
3:17 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Schuette: Money from Kwame Kilpatrick's book should first go to taxpayers

From the website kwamekilpatrickbook.com. Kilpatrick says he's ready to "talk about everything." Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he wants to make sure proceeds from the book go to taxpayers first.
kwamekilpatrickbook.com

State Attorney General Bill Schuette says he will go to court to make sure any book royalties earned by former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick go first toward paying his restitution debt to the state.

A Kilpatrick autobiography is expected to be released next month. Kilpatrick is in prison for failing to make restitution payments while enjoying an affluent lifestyle in Texas.

"When someone’s in the slammer, someone’s violated the law, and you owe citizens of the state of Michigan money, restitution, before you rake in royalties on a book deal, we need to make sure you even it up with the taxpayers."

Schuette says he will work with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy on a motion to tap any book royalties for restitution. Kilpatrick owes the city of Detroit more than $816,000.

A Kilpatrick spokesman did not return a phone call.

Auto/Economy
2:33 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Ford announces its smallest engine ever

A Ford Focus being built in Germany. Ford's not saying yet which cars will get their new 1.0-liter, three-cylinder engine.
Ford Motor Company

In the car world, engine size matters. It used to be the bigger the engine the more appeal it had (more power, and more vrooom!).

But now Ford is going small by announcing the "the smallest engine Ford has ever built."

Ford says the fuel-efficient 1.0-liter engine is a "three cylinder engine that delivers the same performance as a four-cylinder."

Ford says the engine is still being tweaked and is not in cars yet.

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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.

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