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Auto/Economy
11:33 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Ford to expand engine plant in India

The Ford Figo is sold in India. The company plans to expand an engine plant in Chennai, India.
user Ford APA Flickr

Ford Motor Company plans to expand one of its engine plants in India.

From the Associated Press:

Ford Motor Co. says it will spend $72 million to expand an engine plant in India to support sales and export growth.

The company said today the investment in its Chennai engine plant will create more than 300 jobs. Ford plans to run the factory on three shifts per day.

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Environment
11:03 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Congress to remove Michigan's gray wolves from endangered species list?

Michigan's gray wolf population is estimated to be 687 animals. The recovery goal for the population is between 250-300 wolves.
Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf/USFWS

At the moment, the federal government manages the gray wolf populations in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. But federal officials say the wolves in these states are doing great, and they want to hand management over to the states.

This isn’t the first time federal officials have tried to take wolves off the endangered species list. Wolves were delisted in 2007... but that delisting was challenged in court by some environmental groups. And wolves were put back on the list.

Some members of Congress are trying to make sure these kinds of lawsuits don’t happen again.

Candice Miller represents Michigan’s 10th district. It’s in the Thumb. She just introduced a bill that would amend the Endangered Species Act... and remove wolves from the list. Her bill would make it more difficult for anybody to sue over that decision.

“You have a number of anti-hunting groups and they constantly tie these decisions up in court. I think this legislation is a huge tool to be used so the courts don’t have these things happening.”

She says her office has been approached by sportsmen and farmers worried about wolves preying on deer, moose and livestock.

Michigan’s wolf management plan does not call for a hunting season for wolves. The state legislature would have to decide that.

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Environment
10:54 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Consumers Energy to expand solar energy program

Consumers Energy is expanding a very popular solar energy program in Michigan. The program allows people with solar panels on their homes or businesses to sell some of the power they generate to the power company. 

State regulators are directing the utility giant to expand the program.

Consumers Energy will double the amount of power it will pay people for. All utility providers in Michigan are investing in more renewable energy. State law requires them to get at least 10% of their power from renewable sources by 2015.

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Commentary
10:27 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Miracle League

The Detroit Tigers have been playing baseball for nearly two months now, but for Steve Peck, the start of the season that really counts is still more than two weeks away.

He’s the non-salaried, happily genial commissioner of the Miracle League of Michigan, where everyone is a true all-star.

The Miracle League is designed to give children with every kind of physical and mental disability the chance to play baseball.

One little boy named Dylan can’t walk, but thanks to his able-bodied buddy, has no trouble rounding second base. The parents of Jennifer, a little girl with Down’s syndrome, say they’ve been blown away by how much self-confidence playing has given her.

Peck, a radio host and marketing and communications consultant, says he thinks this may be the most rewarding thing he’s ever done. It started almost eight years ago, when by chance he saw an HBO special about the first-ever Miracle League, which had been founded in Rockville, Georgia in the late 1990s.

The kids played on a special rubberized diamond, so that wheelchairs and walkers could move around. Every child was able to get hits, make runs, and round the bases, thanks to the assistance of a volunteer buddy. There was nothing else like it in the country.

Peck was inspired. Why should Georgia have all the fun?  He went to work and got the City of Southfield to donate some prime land in their civic center complex.  He raised the $325,000 necessary to have the special rubberized field built, and got the league going.

That was eight years ago. Things have been expanding ever since. There are various levels of play now. Some are non-competitive, where everyone just scores runs and has a good time. In others, they play for keeps.  There are now some Miracle Leagues groups where challenged adults can participate.

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News Roundup
9:21 am
Tue May 17, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara creative commons

Lansing City Council makes cuts

On the heels of a failed millage and a $14.7 million budget shortfall, the Lansing City Council approved a budget last night that would eliminate more than 100 city positions. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody was at the council meeting and reported that dozens of firefighters and police officers could be laid off as well. Mayor Bernero said the cuts in the budget were unavoidable:

"Over half the budget is in police and fire.  And yet, we have insulated police and fire up to this point…because the deficit was too large.   But even now, we are doing everything we can to mitigate the effects on police and fire."

The Lansing State Journal reports that the city will attempt to reduce the number of cuts through employee concessions:

Slightly more than 100 city workers could lose their jobs under Lansing's fiscal 2012 budget, though the city will attempt to preserve up to 61 of them by seeking employee concessions.Under the new budget, approved 5-3 by the City Council on Monday night, $3.3 million in state funds will be matched for every dollar gained in concessions before the fiscal year begins July 1.

New Emergency Manager starts at Detroit Public Schools

Roy Roberts a former GM executive, had his first day on the job yesterday. The Detroit Free Press reports he'll work alongside outgoing Emergency Manager Robert Bobb until Bobb's contract ends "no later than June."

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported that Roberts says the district "must undergo a 'cultural change' and reject a 'Rodney Dangerfield kind of mentality' for students to succeed.

Roberts has to balance a budget deficit of $327 million, and he can do that with broadened powers granted to him under the state's new emergency manager law.

Cwiek reports that Roberts "says he doesn’t have plans to dismiss the elected school board or throw out union contracts, though."

The Freep reports that Roberts is working under a one-year, $250,000 contract.

Snyder calls for less humility and more unity

Governor Rick Snyder gave a speech to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids yesterday in which he asked for "less humility, a bit more swagger and a lot more unity among Michiganders," according to Chris Knape from the Grand Rapids Press:

“We're too negative,” Snyder told what was billed as a record Econ Club crowd gathered at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. “We look in the rear view mirror too much to say, 'this is what we've always had, so we've got to keep that going.'"

Snyder also lambasted the taste for political winners and losers in the state.

“Too often they will view they won something because somebody else has lost,” he said.

Knape reported that Snyder had "generally positive responses from the business-heavy crowd," except for one element in his speech - tax credits - Snyder's explanation "landed with a thud," according to Knape.

Energy
8:42 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Regulator: Fermi 2 nuclear plant operated safely

DTE Energy's Fermi 2 nuclear power station on the shores of Lake Erie in Monroe, Michigan.
nrc.gov

FRENCHTOWN TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the Fermi 2 nuclear power plant operated safely last year.

The Monroe Evening News reported Monday that a letter from a branch chief for the commission's reactor projects division says no inspections beyond ones that are routine and previously planned are scheduled for this year at the facility in southeastern Michigan's Monroe County.

The letter was to plant operator DTE Energy Co.

Each year, the federal regulatory agency reviews its inspections at plants during the calendar year and issues an assessment letter. The NRC says the plant met all operational standards in 2010 and is working to address some employee issues from recent years.

The 1,200-megawatt Fermi 2 plant began operating in 1988.

Politics
12:15 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Vote to end oil subsidies must overcome filibuster

Congress is expected to vote this week on whether to take away 4-billion dollars in subsidies to oil companies. 

Oil company executives testified in Washington last week that they need tax subsidies to help them find new, American sources of oil. 

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says she doubts that’s the case.  She says the subsidies amount to 1% of the companies' profits, and it’s fair to ask them to contribute that amount to paying down the national debt. 

Stabenow says the testimony by the leaders of the oil companies shows they are “out of touch."

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Education
12:08 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Grand Rapids school administrators face “immense” responsibility to balance budget

Administrators said keeping bus transportation, art and music, and avoiding making athletics pay-to-play programs were some of their top priorities to save from cuts.

Administrators at Grand Rapids Public Schools are proposing to eliminate close 138 positions. Most of those are teachers and support staff, but include cuts from many departments. The cuts are part of a plan to help solve a $22.2 million budget deficit for next school year. School officials say that’s by far the largest cut they’ve faced.

Grand Rapids schools Superintendent Bernard Taylor has made a number of trips to Lansing lately, petitioning state lawmakers to reduce the cuts to K-through-12 schools.

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Politics
11:32 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Lansing city council approves budget with deep cuts in public safety

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing city council voted 5 to 3 last night to approve a city budget that deeply cuts police and fire in the capitol city.    Lansing, like many Michigan cities, is struggling with declining tax revenues and rising health care costs. 

Last night, the city council approved a budget that lays off more than a hundred city employees, including dozens of police officers and firefighters.  

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero says the cuts in public safety are unavoidable. 

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Politics
6:39 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

State government has more money to spend (but should it?)

State Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Budget officials were briefed Monday on how Michigan’s economic recovery is shaping up, and what that means for the state budget. The news was mostly good – it appears there’s another $430 million available to help balance the budget. 

 Now that it’s agreed Michigan’s economy is improving and there’s more revenue, the arguments have started about how to use that money.  

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Politics
6:28 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Gov. Snyder welcomes improving tax revenue picture

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) Michigan
(Official state portrait)

The state is on track to bring in about $430 million more than originally forecast for the coming fiscal year. That’s according to state officials and economists who met today at the state Capitol for a revenue estimating conference.  

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s happy to hear the state is on the track to economic recovery. But he does not want to spend the money too quickly.  

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Politics
6:12 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Repealing Michigan's emergency financial manager law

A group announced plans today to ask voters to repeal Michigan's Emergency Financial Manager law.  Recent changes to the law give broad powers to state appointed financial managers.  The EFM's have the authority to void union contracts and strip power from local elected governments and school districts. 

Brandon Jessup leads a group called 'The Campaign to Build Michigan'.   He says the law violates the rights of Michiganders.  Jessup says his group hopes to get approval for petition language next month.  

He says they hope to collect enough signatures to get the question put on the ballot in 2012. 

Politics
5:27 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Homeland Security ends program targeting Muslims

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has ended a controversial program targeting men from majority-Muslim countries.

The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) began in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.

The program required men from predominantly Muslim nations and North Korea living in the U.S. to be interviewed and fingerprinted by Homeland Security.

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Education
5:12 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

New Emergency Manager starts at Detroit Public Schools

Roy Roberts
Detroit Public Schools

The Detroit Public Schools’ new Emergency Financial manager started the job Monday.

Former GM Executive Roy Roberts toured several Detroit schools and met with staff.

Roberts says the district must undergo a “cultural change” and reject a “Rodney Dangerfield kind of mentality” for students to succeed.

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Auto
4:59 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Owners of auto parts company charged with fraud

CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Two brothers whose Michigan company supplies parts to the auto industry have been charged with fraud in an investigation of the quality of plastic.

Orman and David Bernhardt of Davalor Mold are accused of using less expensive materials than required in seat belt assemblies and then covering it up through false reports.

The fraud charge was filed Monday. Their lawyer is Bob Sheehan, and he says a guilty plea is planned.

He says there's "absolutely no safety issue." Sheehan says the parts were tested by federal regulators.

Davalor Mold is in Macomb County's Chesterfield Township, about 30 miles northeast of Detroit. The company works for Tier I auto suppliers, which supply parts for automakers. The alleged scheme lasted for two years until spring 2010.

Science
3:40 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Space Shuttle program winding down this year

The trail left by today's launch of the space shuttle Endeavor.
@TreyRatcliff Twitpic

Thirty years ago, the launch of the space shuttle Columbia was big news.

As NASA put more shuttles in orbit, the focus on the launches became much less intense.

Today, NASA's Space Shuttle program is coming to an end. So, in honor of the next to last launch of a space shuttle, here is video of Endeavor's last lift-off (launch number 134 of an orbiting space shuttle) :

The narrator of the video says the Endeavor weighs 4.5 million pounds on the ground. After one minute of flight time, half that weight is gone as it burns up 11,000 pounds of fuel per second.

Endeavor is captained Mark E. Kelly, the husband of Representative Gabrielle Giffords who was severely wounded by an assassin's bullet last January. Giffords watched the liftoff and reportedly said "Good stuff, good stuff."

The Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to be the last flight for the Space Shuttle program.

It's scheduled to launch this July.

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Energy
2:57 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Canadian company delays Great Lakes nuke shipment

Turbines in the Bruce A power station on the eastern shore of Lake Huron in Ontario.
user pencefn creative commons

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - A Canadian power company is no longer seeking U.S. permission to ship 16 scrapped generators with radioactive contents across three of the Great Lakes, but says it
hasn't abandoned the plan.

Bruce Power Inc. withdrew an application this month for a transport license from the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Canada's Nuclear Safety Commission had granted the company permission in February to ship the generators, but U.S. approval was also needed because the vessels would cross into U.S. territory.

The Kincardine, Ontario-based company seeks to send the generators to Sweden for recycling. Environmentalists and other critics say transporting the school bus-sized devices on the Great
Lakes would be risky.

The company says it's delaying the shipment to allow further talks with opponents, including native tribes.

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Politics
1:56 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Flint flirts with opening door to state appointed financial manager

The mayor of Flint is expected to take a step this week toward asking the state to review his city's finances. It's a move that could potentially lead to a state appointed emergency manager taking over control of the city.   

The Flint Journal reported over the weekend that Mayor Dayne Walling plans to ask the Flint city council to consider requesting a state  review of the city's finances.   

 It's a move the mayor reportedly hopes will give him or the city council the power to alter city union contracts.   It could also lead to the appointment of an emergency manager.  

Less than a decade ago, Flint's finances were run by an emergency financial manager.    But recent changes in the law have given emergency managers much more power, including the ability to effectively strip  elected officials of their authority and throw out union contracts.  

Flint is struggling with a large projected budget deficit, and recently sold bonds to pay off a portion of the city's debt.

Politics
1:49 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

Lansing decides city budget tonight

The Lansing city council is scheduled to vote on next year's city budget this evening.   Declining property values and rising health care costs are forcing deep spending cuts. 

 City leaders hope an estimated 4 million dollars in state revenue sharing will allow a reduction in the number of possible police and fire fighter layoffs.

Jerry Ambrose is Lansing's city finance director.    He says the Mayor's office is also seeking 3 million dollars in union contract concessions, mainly in health care coverage. 

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Politics
1:24 pm
Mon May 16, 2011

State economists expect Michigan tax revenues to be up

Economists say the state is expected to take in more than $400 million more than anticipated.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State economists agree that Michigan is expected to take in $429 million more this fiscal year than they forecast in January.

But their predictions for the next budget year have dropped as deep business tax cuts take effect.

Lawmakers will be able to use some of this year's surplus in the next budget year, and lawmakers are likely to consider putting some of the money toward easing deep cuts for public schools in 2011-12.

Without the business tax cut, the state would have gotten nearly $500 million more in the next budget year than state economists had predicted in January. But that will largely disappear as business revenue declines.

The heads of the Treasury Department and House and Senate fiscal agencies agreed on the revenue figures Monday.

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