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Offbeat
5:25 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Paczki photos (no calories if you just look)

Zingerman's Bakery enters the paczki world for the first time.
Mike Perini Michigan Radio

Our afternoon host Mike Perini sent along these Paczki photos in honor of Fat Tuesday.

He took them at Zingerman's Bakery and at Copernicus European Delicatessen in Ann Arbor.

Mike says feel free to enjoy these "zero calorie" photos!

Tomorrow, some lent recipes to counter those Fat Tuesday calories.

culture
4:56 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Hundreds in Michigan rally on 100th Annual International Women’s Day

Women take part in International Women's Day in downtown Grand Rapids Tuesday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

On the first International Women’s Day in 1911, thousands petitioned for women’s rights to vote and end discrimination in the workplace. Now it’s a mix. Participants hope to close the remaining gaps where they exist and celebrate achievements women have made in the last century.

Mandy Keller Rodriquez was one of dozens who participated at a rally in downtown Grand Rapids.

“We might feel equal or be okay here, in this little portion in Grand Rapids. I’m not saying we are but – with this being an international event we’re saying we know that there are women out there that don’t have it as good as we do or have the voice that we do.”

Ruth Stein says obviously women in the U.S. have made huge progress. But she points out many inequalities still exist.

“As long as mothers have a harder time getting hired, as long as women don’t get paid as much, and long as that is seen as something as a women’s problem and not as a man’s problem, or a family’s problem – then there’s a measure of inequality and we still need to be out here working for this sort of thing.”

Hundreds of people checked in at rallies in Big Rapids, Detroit, and Ann Arbor.

Arts/Culture
4:48 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Detroit City Council honors Chrysler ad

Chrysler’s now-famous “Imported from Detroit” Super Bowl ad is getting recognition from city leaders.

The Detroit City Council honored the Chrysler Group with a testimonial resolution Tuesday.

Councilman Andre Spivey, who sponsored the resolution, says the “phenomenal” ad was about much more than a car.

“I don’t think Chrysler intended it to be what it turned out to be. But I think it inspired many people in Detroit to say hey, this is our city. We have a good city. We have our challenges, yes…but I think we can come back. And I think it gave us a little spark of energy to go on and see what else we can do.”

Chrysler Group President Olivier Francois accepted the award on the company’s behalf.

Francois says Chrysler meant the ad as a tribute to Detroit, but didn’t think it would have so much resonance.

“For sure, the Super Bowl commercial has been promoting a lot beyond the car itself and beyond the company. It did I think a great job for the city."

The commercial’s “Imported from Detroit” catchphrase has become so popular Chrysler is putting it on t-shirts and other merchandise.

Francois says some proceeds from those sales will go to four still-to-be-named Detroit charities.

Politics
4:44 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Unions clog Capitol over emergency manager bill

Teachers protest in Lansing on February 26th, 2011. There were more union protests today.
MEA

More than a thousand union members crowded into the state Capitol today.

They were protesting a proposal to give emergency financial managers more control over cities, townships, or school districts.

The labor movement is upset the bills would eliminate collective bargaining rights and dissolve union contracts.

The gavel reverberated in the Senate chamber as protesters in the gallery cheered, breaking the rules that prohibit demonstration during session.

They applauded Senate Majority Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer as she condemned the proposal for not having a salary cap.

Whitmer says it does not make sense “to vote for a bill that allows an emergency financial manager to make more than our governor.”

Outside of the chamber, hundreds of workers packed the three open floors of surrounding the Capitol rotunda – a scene similar to the pictures of protestors in Madison-Wisconsin.

They screamed for the recall of Republican lawmakers who support the emergency-manager bills.

But republican lawmakers appeared unfazed by the raucous crowd, and they plan to move forward with the proposal they say will keep many cities and school districts out of financial ruin.

Politics
4:20 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Snyder signs first bills, boosts voluntary standards for farmers

A Michigan hog farmer injects liquid manure into his field.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has signed into law measures that will enhance a voluntary environmental program for farmers.

From the Associated Press:

The two bills signed by Snyder on Tuesday afternoon in Lansing were his first as governor. The bills that the Legislature approved earlier this month are putting aspects of the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program into state law.

Snyder says the bills are important for the state's agriculture industry.

The program aims to help farmers evaluate their operations to better identify and prevent possible environmental problems. About 1,000 farms have become verified through the program. Thousands
more are in earlier stages of the verification process.

Critics of the bills say they're too much carrot and not enough stick.

They worry large farms could increase pollution without strict state oversight.

Anne Woiwode of the Michigan Sierra Club, a group that has long battled against pollution from large-scale livestock operations, says the new measures protect polluters.

This from the Michigan Messenger:

Opponents say the legislation violates the Clean Water Act and jeopardizes the state’s water quality program.“With just barely 2 months in this new legislature and Governor, it appears the course toward weakening Michiganders’ well-being is off to a jump start here,” Michigan Sierra Club Director Anne Woiwode said via e-mail.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, reported that Governor Snyder said it was important to him to put the voluntary program into law:

"Because our Ag community is a critical part of our state," said Snyder. "It’s one of our largest industries. It’s one of our greatest opportunities, and it was one of the areas that supported us over this last decade of really tough times."

Arts/Culture
4:18 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Future of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra still up in the air

DSO players have been on strike since Oct 4, 2010.
Nate Luzod creative commons

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians said last week they would return to the stage if management agreed to binding arbitration. But management has yet to agree…so the musicians are still on strike.

Roland Zullo is a labor specialist at the University of Michigan. He says binding arbitration is all about persuasion; which side can best convince a panel of the merits of their bargaining proposals:

"If management looked at their proposal carefully, weighed it against what’s happening elsewhere in the industry and saw that they were on weak ground, they might refuse arbitration."

Zullo says it would "be good for the public" for management to accept binding arbitration "and get the Detroit Symphony Orchestra back up and operating again."

In a statement, a DSO spokeswoman said management proposed several ways to return the musicians to work.

Read more
Asian Carp
3:18 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Carp czar says faster action plan 'unrealistic'

An Asian Carp caught in a canal a short distance from the entrance to Lake Michigan last year
(Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources)

The Obama Administration’s point man on the Asian Carp crisis says there’s no way to speed up the efforts to permanently keep the invasive fish from reaching the Great Lakes.

The Asian Carp have destroyed native fish populations in the Mississippi River and have swum within a few miles of Lake Michigan.  There are concerns that if Asian Carp enter the Great Lakes ecosystem, they will overwhelm and destroy the region's multi-billion dollar fishing industry.

Several members of Congress want the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to speed up their 5 year review of possible action plans to stop the carp. Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says time is important.

 “We have to have a sense of urgency about it.  The Army Corps is studying this issue now, but it’s going to take them several years…we don’t have several years.  We need to get this done as quickly as possible.”   

But Obama Administration Carp Czar John Goss says the 18 month schedule proposed by members of Congress is not enough time. 

 “Realistically I think it’s going to take substantially longer than that to get the right solution in the long term.”

Major General John Peabody is the commander of the Corps of Engineers ‘Great Lakes & Ohio River’ Division. He says finding a solution will take more than 18 months. 

“I never say never, because you don’t know what you don’t know about the future.   But in our judgment it’s not possible because of the complexity of the situation.”

The president’s top people on the Asian Carp crisis held a public hearing today in Ypsilanti.

Environment
2:32 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

State might allow mining in the Waterloo Recreation Area

Rachelle Mann at the top of a hill overlooking the current mining operations owned by Aggregate Industries. The potential new mining site – 72 acres of the Waterloo Recreation Area – is to her top right.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment wants to allow sand and gravel mining in the largest park in the lower peninsula – the Waterloo Recreation Area.

The DNRE is considering allowing mining on 72 acres of the 20,000 acre park.

It would be the first time mining would be allowed in the Waterloo Recreation Area.

Aggregate Industries, a Maryland-based company and a subsidiary of a Swiss-owned company, wants to do the mining.

The company has already been mining right on Waterloo's western boundary.

Read more
State Legislature
1:44 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Protesters begin to rally in Lansing

Protestors have arrived at the Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

Update 1:44 p.m.

The Detroit News reports the Michigan Senate is expected to pass the Emergency Financial Manager bill despite the protests taking place in the capitol. From the Detroit News:

A bill to give broad authority to emergency financial managers to fix a governing body's finances is expected to pass in the Senate on Wednesday despite boisterous union protests that punctuated today's session.

Senate Republicans voted down more than 20 Democratic amendments as more than 1,000 union members chanted "Kill the Bill" outside the Senate chamber. Their chants were audible as the chamber debated the bill, as were the catcalls of protesters crammed into the gallery above the Senate floor.

The union members protesting the bill say it would make emergency financial managers too powerful, "allowing them to toss out union contracts, overrule elected officials and dissolve city councils and school boards."

10:59 a.m.

Protesters have arrived at the state Capitol to show their opposition to a measure that would give more power to Emergency Financial Managers. Laura Weber sent this report from Lansing:

The state Capitol is jammed this morning with a raucous group of union members and supporters who are opposed to a proposal to grant more power to Emergency Financial Managers. Hundreds of protesters are chanting "kill the bill" loudly outside of the Michigan Senate chamber as lawmakers prepare to vote on the controversial measure.

Still hundreds more are on the Capitol lawn rallying against the emergency manager bills. The package of bills would strip unions of collective bargaining rights, and dissolve union contracts, if an emergency manager was put in place to take over the finances of a struggling city, township, or school district.

The Associated Press reports there are around 1,000 people demonstrating:

...protesters are at the Capitol objecting to bills that would give broad new powers to emergency financial managers appointed by the state to run struggling cities and schools.

The Senate plans to vote on the measures Tuesday. The House passed the bills two weeks ago.

Groups opposed to legislation they consider anti-union are holding the morning rally and also are chanting inside the Capitol.

Local officials warned during a Monday news conference that the financial manager measures would take away voters' rights by removing the authority of elected school board members, mayors and council members.

Workers warn that the bills could allow financial managers to terminate union contracts.

Supporters of the legislation say it would lead to earlier intervention in financially troubled communities and schools, avoiding bigger crises.

Education
10:48 am
Tue March 8, 2011

Report: Cuts to universities deeper than first expected

Central Michigan University could see the state's largest cut if they don't keep tuition increases under a 7.1% cap.
cmu.edu

Some officials from universities around the state are saying the Governor's proposed cuts are deeper than the 15% they expected.

The Detroit News had a piece on the reaction over the weekend by reporter Karen Bouffard.

Bouffard wrote "university officials said they discovered the cuts after pouring through the details of Snyder's proposed budget."

Mike Boulus, the executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, said the Governor didn't portray the proposed cuts openly:

"I find it less than honest that you would portray the cut as 15 percent, and call additional money an 'incentive' if you keep tuition less than 7.1 percent. It's clearly less than transparent in the way it's been presented."

Governor Snyder's spokesperson said the proposed cuts were portrayed clearly.

To keep their cuts at 15%, universities have to agree to keep their annual tuition hikes under 7.1%.

If they don't, cuts in state aid could be greater than 15%.

The cuts proposed for the 15 public universities in the state average 21%, according to the article.

Some of the specific proposed cuts mentioned in the piece (cuts if universities don't hold tuition increases under 7.1%):

  • 23.3% for Central Michigan University
  • 19% for Eastern Michigan University
  • 21.9% for Grand Valley State University

Some university officials said "they will try to hold tuition increases under the 7.1 percent cap, although they can't be sure until their boards begin approving next year's budgets in June or July."

According to the article, the largest cut universities have seen in the last 32 years was 8.5%.

Arts/Culture
9:06 am
Tue March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras LIVE!

The River Styx float in the Rex parade during Mardi Gras 2008.
user skooksie Flickr

It's Fat Tuesday, and while many of us are toiling away at work, others are gearing up to 'act a fool' in New Orleans.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune has a collection of live webcams on nola.com.

On "parade cam" we'll be able to catch the Rex Parade starting at 10 a.m. The Rex Parade is one of many parades taking place today. Here's a description of the parade from their website:

The Rex Procession has been the highlight of Mardi Gras day since the Rex Organization was formed and first paraded in 1872. While there had been celebrations in many forms on Mardi Gras before that time, the Rex Parade gave a brilliant daytime focus to the festivities, and provided a perfect opportunity for Rex, King of Carnival, to greet his city and his subjects.

The theme for this year's Rex Parade is "This Sceptred Isle."

It kicks off at 10 a.m. (it looks a little wet there today):

The Rex Parade will be followed by the parade by the Elks Krewe of Orleanians, and then the Crescent City parade. Enjoy!

By the way, have you ever been to New Orleans for Mardi Gras? If you can keep it clean, share your experiences with us below!

Commentary
9:02 am
Tue March 8, 2011

Taxing Credibility

Two plus two equals four. Simple, right? That’s math even a journalist can understand. Unfortunately, the legislature and a large section of the general public doesn’t quite seem to get it.

State government is currently on course to run a huge deficit for the next fiscal year. State budget deficits are illegal, under Michigan’s Constitution. That budget has to be balanced by September 30.

Four months ago, we elected a ton of Republicans to the legislature who pledged they wouldn’t vote for any new taxes, no matter what. We elected a Republican governor who said he was going to deeply cut taxes on business, because he believed that was the only way to attract new jobs and industry to this state.

So we voted for no new taxes of any kind, less taxes on business, and we‘ve got a big budget deficit to start. And now we are shocked, shocked, that the governor is insisting on making huge cuts in state spending.

Well, we shouldn‘t be.

We voted for this. And, we tolerated the last governor, and several different past legislatures, refusing to deal with our problems. We put things off till we couldn‘t do it any more.

And now, we have to fix it. What‘s worse, we have to do this when we are still mired in the effects of the worst recession since World War II. Yes, I know the recession is officially over.

The economists say so, anyway. But hard times are not even close to over in Michigan. The auto industry is never coming back the way it was, and we need a new economy.

Read more
News Roundup
8:46 am
Tue March 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, March 8th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Protests, Vote Planned on Emergency Financial Manager Bill

The state Senate is planning a vote today on a measure that would give more power to state-appointed emergency financial managers. Opponents of the bill including teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public employees plan to protest today at the Capitol. Unions are particularly opposed to a part of the legislation that would allow emergency managers to vacate bargained contracts, Rick Pluta reports. Union leaders say they hope for a big enough turnout at the Capitol to persuade Senate leaders to delay a vote on the legislation.

‘Asian Carp Czar’ Returns to MI

John Goss, the Obama Administration’s so-called “Asian carp Czar, will be in Michigan today to talk about long-term strategy for keeping the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. Federal officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will also attend the meeting. The Corps wants to spend the next five years developing a plan to keep the carp of the Lakes. But, many say that’s not fast enough. Last week, Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow and Michigan Republican Congressman Dave Camp announced legislation to block Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through Chicago-area waterways.

Embridge to Step Up Clean-up Efforts

It’s been 8 months since a broken Enbridge Energy pipeline leaked more than 800,000 gallons of oil near Marshall, Michigan. Winter weather has reduced the size of the cleanup response but now, Steve Carmody reports, the next phase of the cleanup is about to begin. Enbridge says it will focus this Spring on removing oil that is still resting on the bottom of the Kalamazoo River.

Asian Carp
6:39 am
Tue March 8, 2011

'Asian carp Czar' to hold meeting in Michigan

Asian Carp jump out of the Wabash River
LouisvilleUSACE Flickr

John Goss, the Obama Administration's so-called "Asian carp Czar" will be in Ypsilanti, Michigan today. Goss, along with federal officials from the U.S. Corps of Engineers, will discuss long-term strategy for keeping the invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. The Associated Press reports:

The Army Corps is conducting a study of how to stop migrations of invasive species between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. One option is separating the man-made linkage between the two watersheds in the Chicago area.

The study is scheduled for completion 2015. Legislation introduced in Congress last week calls for a quicker timetable.

Politics
7:50 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

Unions to protest changes to emergency manager laws

Teachers protest in Lansing on February 26th, 2011.
mea.org

Teachers, police, firefighters and other public employees plan to march on the state Capitol tomorrow.

They oppose a measure in the Senate that expands the authority of emergency managers named to run troubled local governments and  school districts.

Unions say the measures strike at their bargaining rights.

Union leaders hope for a big enough turnout to persuade Senate Republicans to delay a vote.

Unions are particularly opposed to a part of the legislation that would allow emergency managers to vacate bargained contracts.

Mark Gaffney, president of the AFL-CIO of Michigan, says that’s unfair when the state is also looking to cut money for schools and local governments:

“You’re saying to a city that it’s easy to get a dictator and you’re taking money away from that city that puts you at the point where you might need him or her.”

Republicans say the measures offer local governments early help to avert a financial takeover, but once it happens, emergency managers need crisis tools to set things right.

Scott Kincaid, a member of Flint City Council, favors keeping the law and the authority it grants emergency managers.

"These bills give them unlimited authority to do certain things that, currently, we were able to solve our problems without doing those things. The system works right now, and I’ve experienced it. And it worked very well. We had financial problems in our community and we turned them around in 18 months."

Flint was placed under an emergency manager in 2002. The city recently asked the state for the authority to sell bonds to cover a $17 million budget shortfall and meet its payroll.

The state Senate is expected to vote on the emergency management bills as soon as tomorrow.

Election 2012
7:30 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

Republican challenger for Senator Stabenow's seat

A photo in the U.S. Senate in 2007. Randy Heckman hopes to be in a similar photograph in 2013.
US Senate

A former Grand Rapids judge is the first Republican to formally launch a campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Debbie Stabenow.

This opens the campaign for a Republican primary that’s still more than a year away.

Former probate judge and conservative activist Randy Hekman is the first but by no means the last Republican to launch a primary campaign.

Big political names including former Congressman Pete Hoekstra, former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, and Republican National Committeeman Saul Anuzis are among those eyeing the race.

Hekman says he intends to run on reducing the national debt and getting more people to support hometown churches and charities.

“You’ve got to change hearts of people because they’re core of our problem – the problem beneath the problem is in my opinion this self-centeredness.”

"I believe that we need local charity. I believe, for example, if every man, woman, and child that has an income in our country could tithe 10 percent of their gross income, that would be one-point-four trillion dollars that could go to charity that could meet this need in a much more efficient and human-based and human-centered way than currently."

The winner of the Republican primary in 17 months will face two-term incumbent Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow on the November 2012 ballot.

Culture
5:35 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

Detroit gets ready to gorge on paczki

City of Hamtramck website

This Tuesday is Fat Tuesday, the last day before the 40 days of sacrifice that come with the Christian season of Lent.

But in Metro Detroit and other communities with large Polish populations, the day is better known as “Paczki Day.”

Sandy Bakic has spent her whole life making the fried, doughy pastries at the Martha Washington Bakery in Hamtramck. That small enclave is the historic center of Detroit’s Polish community.

Bakic says the day has become a festival for everyone in Hamtramck, regardless of race or religion.

“It’s going to be festive. It’s gonna be a happy time. There’s paczki parties all over town. There’s paczki eating contests still going on. The Paczki Cup is in our window on display right now.”

Bakic says she and other employees have been making the sweet treats since midnight Monday. The bakery will stay open all night to serve paczki-seekers from all over southeast Michigan.

Hamtramck also celebrates with a Paczki Day parade, lots of free entertainment, and a generally party-like atmosphere.

Read more
Auto
5:32 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

Chrysler recalls 250,000 of its popular minivans

Chrysler is recalling a quarter million crossovers and minivans for ignition switch problems that can cause stalling. 

The recall involves 2010 model year Dodge Journey crossovers and Grand Caravan minivans and Chrysler Town and Country minivans. 

The company says in some of the vehicles, ignition switches can slip out of the “run” position while the vehicle is being driven. That could shut off the engine. 

At least two rear-end collisions have been reported due to the defect.   

The Grand Caravan and Town and Country minivans are top-sellers for the company. 

The automaker is struggling to increase sales while many of its Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep brand vehicles remain at the bottom of many quality and reliability surveys.

Education
4:51 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

Ravitch: School reforms are "tearing education apart and demonizing teachers"

Ravitch speaking in Dallas in the spring of 2010.
dianeravitch.com

Diane Ravitch, education historian and author of the book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, spoke at the Novi Sheraton Hotel today at an education symposium about the current state of education and education reform in the country.

The symposium was co-sponsored by the Michigan Education Association.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Ravitch had a welcome audience, getting a standing ovation before and after she spoke at the conference...She said national policy makers say they want to reform education. But, what they’re really doing “is tearing education apart and demonizing teachers.”

She alluded to Detroit as she talked about districts that are eliminating programs, laying off thousands of teachers, getting rid of art education and increasing class sizes, saying it’s kids in Detroit "who need much smaller classes."

Ravitch said poverty plays a big role in the success or failure of students in a school system.

The Grand Rapid Press had more on Ravitch's talk in which she said the United States is in an age of "national stupidity" in terms of how it views education.

From the Grand Rapids Press:

Ravich, a former assistant U.S. secretary of education who had a role in developing No Child Left Behind and the charter school movement, renounced both reforms, saying they've given way to a culture of incentives and punishments through testing that does little to help students...Ravitch said the country can't improve schools by constantly cutting budgets and using standardized tests to paint teachers as ineffective in an attempt to “de-professionalize” the work.

She said that current reforms that rely on test scores are a mistake:

“I take standardized test scores with a grain of salt – make that a ton of salt,” she said. “We've watched a gaming of the system and an increase in cheating because the stakes are so high.”

USA Today and the Detroit Free Press had stories over the weekend on this very subject. Their investigation showed anomalies in standardized test score results - anomalies that suggest cheating may have taken place.

Here is a clip of Ravitch talking about education reform and her book on the Daily Show:

The Daily Show - Diane Ravitch

Politics
4:39 pm
Mon March 7, 2011

MEA plans rally in Lansing as Senate considers financial manager bills

A protester at Saturday's MEA-sponsored rally in Lansing
Michigan Education Association

The Michigan Education Association, along with the Working Michigan coalition, is planning a protest rally in the capitol tomorrow. From the MEA's website:

"Working Michigan, a coalition of organizations dedicated to protecting working families and Michigan’s Middle Class Dream, will be holding a rally at the Capitol on Tuesday, March 8, to protest the package of "Emergency Financial Manager" bill that is currently in the state Senate."

According to the Detroit News, the state Senate may vote on Tuesday to bestow broad powers to emergency financial managers including the ability "to toss out union contracts and suspend elected officials in communities and school districts that are operating at a deficit."

The MEA is protesting what it calls a series of "attacks on Michigan workers."

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