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Politics
9:16 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Showdown looms over Detroit budget

The Detroit City Council has set up a meeting to override Mayor Dave Bing’s likely budget veto.

Bing said last week he’ll veto the Council’s budget proposal. He has until the end of this week to do so.

The two sides are at odds over the Council’s decision to cut an additional $50 million from Bing’s proposed budget.

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Politics
5:30 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

A conversation with Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow about new farm bill

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry held its first hearing in Lansing today. It’s the first step in the creation of a new farm bill.

Michigan Radio's Jenn White spoke with Senator Debbie Stabenow about the new farm bill. Stabenow chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.  Here is the interview:

Senator Stabenow talks about the importance of the new farm bill.  And says agriculture provides 1 out of 4 jobs in Michigan.

"There is strength and diversity in Michigan agriculture," Stabenow says, and "it's important to have a safety net and help farmers manage their risk on the farm."

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Politics
5:23 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

House prepares to lower population requirements for Detroit's special taxes

A measure that would let Detroit continue to levy taxes on utility bills and income is likely to pass in the state House this week. 

The bill is necessary for Detroit to keep the income and utilities taxes because the law says to keep those taxes a city must have a population of at least 750-thousand. Detroit’s population slumped below that in the past decade. Now lawmakers from Detroit are calling for a change to reduce the population requirement to 600-thousand.

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Politics
5:04 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Bills would address Detroit's dwindling population

user pablocosta creative commons

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The city of Detroit could continue charging a higher income tax rate than other Michigan cities under terms of legislation pending in the state House.

The bills that could come up for votes Wednesday also would affect utility user tax rates in Michigan's largest city.

Detroit likely needs changes in state law to keep some of its current tax rates because it is losing population. Census statistics show that the Motor City's population fell from 951,270 in 2000 to 713,777 last year.

Current state law allows higher personal income tax rates in cities with at least 750,000 people, affecting only Detroit. The law would have to change now that Detroit's population has dipped
below that 750,000 mark.

Detroit now charges an income tax rate of 2.5 percent for residents.

Economy
4:38 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Study: Michigan families need 3 times minimum wage to thrive

user j wynia Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A new study says a single parent in Michigan with a preschooler and a school-age child needs to earn more than three times the state's minimum wage to be economically
secure.

Wider Opportunities for Women and the Michigan League for Human Services released the report Tuesday.

The study says the wage-earner in that family of three needs to earn about $52,000 a year with benefits to cover child care, housing, health care, transportation, savings and retirement.

A state report says nearly six out of 10 jobs expected to be created in Michigan through 2018 won't enable a worker to earn that much.

The league says reducing tax credits for low-income workers and cutting spending on children's clothing allowances also are making it harder for hard-pressed families to reach economic security.

Natural Disaster
3:05 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Help for Joplin, Michigan judge organizing relief convoy to Missouri

Relief efforts are underway in Joplin, MO.
user meagan Flickr

Jodi Debbrecht, Waterford’s 51st District Court Judge, is organizing a donation drive to help the city of Joplin, Missouri.

On an Oakland County website "Judge Jodi Helps Joplin" Debbrecht writes about her personal connection to the Joplin area:

Like many in southeast Michigan, I was overcome with emotion when I saw the television images of the devastation from the tornado that touched down in Joplin, Missouri. For me, Joplin’s violent weather literally struck close to home. I grew up in Missouri, and would frequently vacation with my family in the Joplin area and many of my relatives still live in Missouri.

Main Street Oakland County’s Manager, Bob Donohue, is helping organize the donation effort. Donohue has been in touch with the Mayor of Joplin, Mike Woolston, who provided a list of things needed. The list includes everything from wheelbarrows, to pet food, to power tools.

They'll collect the items at 11 drop off centers around Oakland County.

Absent these items, Mayor Woolston said money would be the biggest help:

"We’re benefiting from tremendous generosity from people all over the country, but if people can give cash, that’s the best way to help us right now."

The Missouri Department of Public Safety has set up a website directing people to where they can donate.

And if you want to volunteer in the Joplin area, you can find more information from the United Way.

Economy
2:55 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Detroit home prices continue slide

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit’s home prices may soon take another tumble.  Standard & Poor’s Price-Shiller index says home prices in the nation’s 20 largest cities are falling once again.    Home prices in Detroit aren’t falling as fast as other cities in the survey, but then again Detroit’s home prices are already the lowest among the nation’s 20 largest cities.  

  Home prices in Detroit haven’t been this low since 1995.  

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Economy
2:30 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Interview: Do Emergency Managers actually help?

flickr / joshuadavisphotography

Governor Rick Snyder passed new laws expanding the power of Emergency Financial Managers, and there’s been debate over whether or not Emergency Managers are able to turnaround the municipalities and districts they’re assigned to.

Michigan Radio’s Jenn White spoke with Gary Olsen, Former Director of the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants. Here is the interview:

Do Emergency Managers leave their cities or districts in better financial condition?

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Auto/Economy
1:20 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

First quarter late payments on auto loans lowest since 1999

Fewer late payments on auto loans.
Emilio Labrador Flickr

Late payments on auto loans hit their lowest level since 1999 in the first quarter, providing more data that shows consumers have gotten a handle on their debt.

TransUnion said the rate of payments that are 60 days or more past due reached its lowest point since the credit reporting agency began tracking the figure, dropping to 0.49 percent.

The improvement from 0.66 percent a year ago reflects the stronger auto sales market, which is being fed by higher consumer confidence and low interest rates, says Peter Turek of TransUnion. The number of auto loans started during the quarter rose 22 percent from the prior year.

TransUnion expects late payments to continue to drop this year.

Auto/Economy
1:03 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Fiat plans to buy Canada's stake in Chrysler

Working to free itself from government ties.
Ricardo Giaviti Flickr

The majority owner of Chrysler, Fiat, is anxious to rid the company of any government ties.

Last week, the company refinanced it's TARP loans from the U.S. government.

Then they announced plans to buy the U.S. government's remaining 6% stake.

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Environment
10:34 am
Tue May 31, 2011

Bears and people getting too close?

Photo by Alan Vernon

Black bears are doing well across northern Michigan.  In fact, they're doing so well, people are complaining more about bears getting into bird feeders and bee hives and damaging orchards.

It’s still rare to encounter a bear in the woods. But last year a hunter was attacked near Petoskey. And state wildlife officials say bears become aggressive when people forget they are wild animals.

Sometimes bears just out of hibernation wander into town or into someone’s back yard to rummage for food.

Last spring, hundreds of people in Traverse City flocked to a tree with a bear in it near the airport. State wildlife officials captured the young male and moved it to a distant swamp.

But an incident from last fall near the Bear River in Emmet County continues to raise concerns.

On an October evening, three yearling bears and their mother attacked a bow hunter up a tree in his stand.

DNR wildlife chief Russ Mason says the problem likely had been brewing over the summer.

“There were reports of a sow with three cubs showing up in people’s yards and on their porches and people feeding the bears. They liked looking at them and thought they were amusing. People do things like that. They ought not to.”

In this case, the deer hunter says he kicked and hit a couple of the cubs when they climbed up his stand.

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News Roundup
8:50 am
Tue May 31, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, May 31st
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Powerless

Utility crews continue to work to restore electricity to thousands of Michigan homes and businesses that lost power after a wave of severe thunderstorms and tornados. The Associated Press reports:

CMS Energy Corp. says it may take until late Wednesday to have all power restored. It says Sunday's storms blacked out more than 115,000 of its customers, and about 42,000 remained without service Tuesday morning. DTE Energy Co. says about 30,000 of its customers lost power, and about 4,000 remained blacked out Tuesday morning.

The National Weather Service confirms that three funnel cloud touchdowns Sunday - one near Perry in Shiawassee County, one in the Three Rivers area in St. Joseph County and one in Coldwater in Branch County.No deaths or life-threatening injuries are reported.

Farm Bill

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow will hold the first field hearing on the 2012 Farm Bill later today. Stabenow is Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. The hearing, titled, “Opportunities for Growth: Michigan and the 2012 Farm Bill,” will, as Stabenow’s office explains, “focus on the upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill (which determines agriculture policies every five years), examining agriculture as well as energy, conservation, rural development, research, forestry and nutrition policies that affect Michigan.” The hearing will be held at Michigan State University.

Countdown to Break

Leaders in the state Legislature say there is still a lot of work they would like to get done before lawmakers take a two-month summer break, Laura Weber reports. From Weber:

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says some of the issues she expects to see in the coming weeks include education reforms, redrawing Michigan’s political maps, and whether the state should build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada. The Republican-led Legislature sent Governor Rick Snyder the state spending plan last week. The governor is expected to veto some items within that budget and sign them into law next week.

Weather Advisory
7:04 am
Tue May 31, 2011

Weather prompts heat advisory

The National Weather Service has issued a heat advisory for parts of Michigan as more severe thunderstorms were in the forecast.

The weather service says that Tuesday temperatures were expected to reach the lower 90s. The heat advisory was to be in effect until Tuesday evening in a number of counties as well as cities including Detroit, Midland, Bay City, Saginaw, Port Huron and Ann Arbor.

The weather service says severe thunderstorms could move across the state Tuesday afternoon and evening, bringing damaging winds or hail.

The forecast comes as power restoration efforts continue following severe thunderstorms on Sunday that spawned three tornadoes in Michigan.

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State Legislature
6:43 am
Tue May 31, 2011

Lawmakers to take up big issues in June

Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Allieosmar Flickr

Leaders in the state Legislature say there is still a lot of work they would like to get done before lawmakers take a two-month summer break.

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer says some of the issues she expects to see in the coming weeks include education reforms, redrawing Michigan’s political maps, and whether the state should build a second bridge between Detroit and Canada.

“I expect most of that will be done before we break for the summer, yes. June ought to be a very busy time around here. Just because the budget bills get signed into law next week doesn’t mean we won’t be working very hard around here for the next month or so.”

The Republican-led Legislature sent Governor Rick Snyder the state spending plan last week. The governor is expected to veto some items within that budget and sign them into law next week.

Economy
3:59 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

Borders prepares for important bankruptcy court date this week

Borders bookstore, Ann Arbor, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Attorneys for Borders will be back in court this week  asking a judge to give the troubled Ann Arbor-based book store chain more time to exit bankruptcy protection.  When Borders filed for bankruptcy protection in February, the hope was the bookstore chain would be able to quickly turn itself around.   That apparently isn’t happening. 

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Arts/Culture
3:05 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

Dearborn continues Memorial Day tradition

People line Michigan Avenue in Dearborn for the city's Memorial Day parade.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

The city of Dearborn held its 87th annual Memorial Day parade Monday.

It’s the longest-running Memorial Day celebration in the state.

This year’s parade honored veterans of the Vietnam War. It’s been 50 years since the U.S. first became involved in that conflict.

The events included a funeral procession for several veterans, and a Remembrance Service.

Judy Carty watched the parade alongside her husband, a Korean War veteran.

Carty says as someone who protested the Vietnam War, she had “mixed feelings” about the proceedings.

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Economy
3:01 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

Keeping Michigan on track

A freight train rumbles through downtown Jackson, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The future of Michigan’s passenger and freight rail services is the subject of a series of public hearings next month. Michigan has thousands of miles of rail lines. Much of it is owned by freight haulers. But the state has some input about the future of those rail lines.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is holding a series of six public hearings in June from Grand Rapids and Battle Creek to Detroit and Flint. 

Larry Karnes is with the Michigan Department of Transportation. He says they want the public’s input on what the future of Michigan’s rail service should look like.

 “It will include a look at some of the issues….and challenges facing the rail system…and needs….and then come up with some strategies for addressing those needs…in the future.”  

High speed rail will play some role in Michigan’s future rail planning. The federal government has committed about $400 million toward high speed projects in Michigan.

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storms
2:31 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

National Weather Service confirms tornado touched down Sunday in Michigan

Utility crews from Ohio and Indiana are helping crews restore electricity in Michigan today. Consumers Energy says around 70,000 homes and businesses in Mid-Michigan are without power following severe storms in the area Sunday afternoon. That's down from 108,000 originally.

Jay Jacobs is with Consumers Energy. They’re working to restore power to tens of thousands of people near the cities of Lansing and Battle Creek.

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Arts/Culture
1:48 pm
Mon May 30, 2011

Some Michigan museums offer free admission to military families

The Detroit Historical Museum is one of 129 museums in Michigan participating in the Blue Star Museums program
Detroit Historical Museum

Active-duty military members and their families will get free admission to more than 1,000 museums in the United States this summer. It’s part of the National Endowment for the Arts Blue Star Museums program. 129 of those museums are in Michigan.

Bob Sadler is with the Detroit Historical Museum. He says this is the second year the museum has participated in the program and they hope to continue:

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Breaking: Jim Tressel resigns
10:38 am
Mon May 30, 2011

Buckeye football coach Jim Tressel resigns; good for Wolverines?

The man who led Ohio State to victories over the University of Michigan in nine out of the rivals' last ten games has resigned.

Football coach Jim Tressel faced an NCAA investigation into possible corruption in his program, including claims that players received cars from local dealerships. 

Sports analyst John U. Bacon says there have been allegations of corruption for years.  So he's not surprised that a scandal finally brought the Tressel era to an end, despite his stellar performance.

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