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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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Mackinac 2011
3:00 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

LIVE STREAM: Mackinac Policy Conference 2011

The Mackinac Policy Conference is set to kick-off today at 3 p.m.

You can watch a live stream of the events here on our page (the live stream is provided by Detroit Public Television and MiVote.org).

Here's an agenda for the Conference.

Arts/Culture
2:02 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Grand Rapids LipDub video gaining traction

Georgia Taylor spray painted the words "Experience Grand Rapids" in giant letters on a green lawn for the LipDub video.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The "likes" are outweighing the "dislikes" on the Grand Rapids LibDub video on YouTube (17,752 likes to 361 dislikes... and counting).

More than 1.3 million have watched the video so far.

In a press release, Rob Bliss, the director and co-executive producer of the video, called its viral spread an 'epidemic' (somebody should alert the CDC!).

And co-executive producer Scott Erickson said the video resonates with people:

"People who watch the video are very impressed by the enthusiasm and the level of community support we were able to capture. But they’ve also been amazed by the fact that this was done in a single take.  At almost 10 minutes, it’s the longest LipDub on record.  I think that’s captured people’s attention and encouraged them to share it with friends."

Today, Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith's story on the LibDub video will air nationally. It will be featured on National Public Radio All Things Considered.

Linda Holmes wrote about Smith's story and the Grand Rapids LipDub video on NPR's blog "Monkey See":

It's certainly a technical accomplishment, and it's great fun, and it's a project that did many, many things right, down to the choice of the lesser-known live version of "American Pie," which includes an almost ghostly audience singalong at the first chorus that's just right for the moment when it appears.

But as much as it's a pure treat to watch, it's also quite moving, and very effective as a response to a list of cities that are allegedly dying...

It's a little counterintuitive, but a massive crowd ballet that specifically identifies no one turns out to be a surprisingly powerful translation of a impersonal economic projection to a story about individual people.

Here's the record-breaking LipDub video in case you missed it:

Education
1:41 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Lifting lifetime bans on the U of M campus

Students and others walk on the sidewalk next to the Michigan Union
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Hundreds of people banned from the University of Michigan campus may soon be able to walk again freely on the Ann Arbor campus.  More than 2 thousand people landed on U of M’s lifetime campus ban list during the past decade for a variety of offenses.  

In the past, if you landed on the list, you had little chance of ever getting permission to walk again on the Ann Arbor campus. 

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Politics
11:42 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Detroit mayor vetoes council budget

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has vetoed the city council’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Detroit City Council trimmed an additional $50 million from the budget plan submitted by the mayor. Many members said they were not convinced the mayor’s revenue projections would hold.

Mayor Bing says the council’s plan would have resulted in layoffs in public safety, jeopardized Sunday bus service, and forced the city to return millions of dollars to the federal government. He says the council was bent on enacting drastic cuts to send a political message:

"But our fiscal crisis is too important to become just another political battle where no one wins."

The mayor and council members will spend the next few days on Mackinac Island for an annual policy conference hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber. The island has been the site of many political deals in the past. But if a compromise is not struck, the city council could vote to override the veto next week.

Mackinac 2011
11:19 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Michigan Radio's coverage of the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference

The site of the 2011 Mackinac Policy Conference
David Ball creative commons

The Mackinac Policy Conference gets started this afternoon and several Michigan Radio reporters will be there to bring you the latest news. The conference will run through Friday.

Michigan Watch's Lester Graham will be keeping an ear to the ground and he'll also moderate two panel discussions for Detroit Public Television and Mi Vote's live coverage of the conference:

  1. Environmental Panel: Reinvention vs. Redevelopment: A panel discussion looking into 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 if, as Governor Snyder has proposed, the tax credits are eliminated and replaced with a separate fund.
  2. Education Panel: Cutting the Costs of Educating Kids: A panel discussion looking into the current state of education 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.

Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio's auto reporter, will cover discussions and talks from the conference related to the auto industry including Bill Ford's address.

Michigan Radio producer Zoe Clark will be blogging about the conference for michiganradio.org

And the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta will be reporting on policy from the Island.

Environment
9:32 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Feral cats seen as problematic in Detroit area

One estimate puts the feral cat population in the Detroit area at 657,000.
user anyjazz65 Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Officials say a large population of feral cats in the Detroit area is straining animal control and animal welfare groups.

The Detroit Free Press reports Wednesday that one estimate cited by the Petsmart Charities says there are about 657,000 feral cats in the area.

Officials say free-roaming cats often harbor illnesses that spread between cats and sometimes to humans.

People are working to address the problem in the Detroit area. Southfield has agreed to be the pilot community for a $100,000 county program to catch, sterilize and release feral cats. And a Warren animal welfare group is teaching people how to round up cats.

Crime
1:01 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Unabomber auction coming to an end

Theodore (Ted) Kaczynski (aka the Unabomber)

An online auction of the personal items of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski wraps up this week.  One of the hottest items in the auction is Kaczynski’s diploma from the University of Michigan.  

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Economy
10:48 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Luxury yachts to wind turbines: one story of diversification in MI

A large display of a renewable energy project is displayed in front of a large photo of a Tiara Yacht hanging on the wall at the company in Holland.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The recession forced many small manufacturers to find new products to make in an attempt to survive.  That was particularly true throughout the industrial Midwest. One Michigan yacht manufacturer is taking risks in new industries to keep its factory open and employees on the job.

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Politics
9:25 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Detroit Chief: No "critical, criminal" evidence left at shuttered crime lab

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee

The Detroit Police Chief admits the department left its former crime lab in deplorable condition. But Ralph Godbee also insists that no evidence that could compromise ongoing criminal cases was left behind there.

The Detroit Police Department shuttered its crime lab in 2008, after investigations revealed numerous problems with testing and handling evidence.

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