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Economy
9:57 am
Wed February 23, 2011

Rising gas prices & Michigan's economy

A Comerica Bank economist says rising gasoline prices shouldn’t hurt Michigan’s economic progress…too much. Unrest in the Middle East is forcing global crude oil prices to rise, which is pushing up gas prices in Michigan and elsewhere.    

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Politics
8:47 am
Wed February 23, 2011

Analysis: Protests in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana

Pro-union protesters in Madison, WI.
Mark Danielson Flickr

Protesters headed to Lansing yesterday to voice their displeasure with the budget cuts in Governor Snyder's budget proposal.  People were also there yesterday in support of the cuts.

Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry discussed the protests on Michigan Radio this morning.

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Politics
11:24 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Detroit Mayor's State of the City: "We are a work in progress"

Mayor Bing speaks at the Michigan gubernatorial inauguration ceremony in January.
Joe Ross Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he’s moved the city in the right direction.

But in his State of the City speech, Bing also warned that Governor Snyder’s proposed budget would jeopardize that progress. Snyder attended Tuesday night’s speech at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall.

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Entrepreneurship
11:09 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Unemployed chef awarded $2,000 to start “underground supper club”

Kurtis Garbutt Flickr

Grand Rapids chef  Brian Gerrity with an idea for an underground supper club called “Fire & Knife” got $2,000 towards that goal.

“I’m a mercenary chef right now, chef for hire. It’s a fancy way of saying I’m unemployed."

He wants to offer a temporary venue where chefs don’t have to worry about normal constraints like food costs holding back their creativity.

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Environment
9:16 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Anglers of the Au Sable issues report on oil & gas pipelines

The Au Sable River
Photo courtesy of National Scenic Byways

The Anglers of the Au Sable has issued a new report that details the group’s concerns over oil and gas pipelines in northern Michigan. They’re especially worried about protecting the Au Sable and Manistee Rivers.

John Bebow is with the Anglers group. He says they started investigating pipelines after the major oil spill last summer in the Kalamazoo River. A pipeline owned by Enbridge Energy Partners broke... and spilled more than 800,000 gallons into the river.

“And we quickly determined an even bigger pipeline owned by the same company flows under the Au Sable and its tributaries numerous times.”

That pipeline is called Line 5. It’s the largest oil pipeline in the Midwest... and it goes through the very heart of the Au Sable watershed. The report notes that Line 5 carries as much as 22 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas liquids beneath the Au Sable River every day.

John Bebow calls the Au Sable a world class trout stream. He says if there were an oil spill... it would be devastating.

“The Au Sable River is a major magnet for tourism and recreation. It is a river life up there.”

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Politics
4:28 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Protests in Lansing

The Capitol in Lansing
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Update 4:28 p.m.

Rick Pluta, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, filed a report on the protests in Lansing saying they were organized by "public employee unions, and attracted state and local government workers as well as teachers who had a snow day." From Pluta's report:

They’re fighting against anti-union bills sponsored in the Michigan Legislature, and to show support for union rallies in Madison-Wisconsin and Colombus-Ohio.

Sally McNamara is a teacher in the Adrian Public Schools:

"I’m here supporting the children of our state and our nation. Are we in debt? Are we in trouble? You bet we’re in trouble. Is it really hard-working people who are driving us down in the gutters? No. It’s not."

Pluta says dozens of Tea Party protestors also gathered to rally in favor of the proposed budget cuts.

1:41 p.m.

Protestors came to Lansing today to voice their opinion on the proposed cuts by the Snyder administration and to protest bills in the Michigan legislature they see as anti-union.

The Detroit News reports that "unofficial estimates put attendance at close 1,000" people:

After a brief rally and march to the Capitol, members streamed across to the House office building to call on legislators, and about 200 construction workers poured into a hearing room where testimony was to be taken at noon on a bill to repeal prevailing wage requirements.

Members plan to cram the gallery of the House chambers this afternoon where lawmakers are slated to discuss bills that would grant authority to emergency financial managers to toss out collective bargaining contracts.

The Detroit Free Press says the protestors in Lansing were inspired by the protests taking place in Wisconsin:

Many protesters...said they thought Snyder's proposal was an attack on unions similar to a bill being pushed by Wisconsin's new Republican governor. They said they were inspired to turn out by eight straight days of protests that have drawn tens of thousands of people to the Wisconsin Capitol.

The Detroit News reported on Tea Party protestors who turned out in smaller numbers in Lansing today. They're supporting Governor Snyder's proposed cuts and some hope Snyder will take a similar stand on unions that the legislature is taking. From the Detroit News:

Tea party supporters Annamaria Evans of Clarkston, Pat Miller of South Haven and Jack Stone of Lake Orion said they want Michigan to end collective bargaining rights for public employees, just as Walker has proposed in Wisconsin.

Miller, a member of the Southwest Michigan Tea Party Patriots, said he wants to see Snyder get as tough on unions as the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature is.

Some of the signs spotted in Lansing:

  • "Recall Snyder"
  • "Don't Tax Grandma"
  • "Get Back to Work"
  • "I'm Not Getting Paid to Be Here"

And some of the chants:

Environment
3:55 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Cleaning up after the storm

Politics
3:22 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Union members protest changes to Prevailing Wage law

The Michigan House of Representatives. Union members protested today in a State House committee room.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Hundreds of outraged union members filled a State House committee room and the surrounding hallways to protest a proposal to eliminate Michigan’s Prevailing Wage law. Many union members people began chanting and banging on the walls of the committee room.

Unions say the law makes sure workers are paid fairly and that union members get work.

Some Republicans want to get rid of the Prevailing Wage law, saying developers and contractors could save money on construction costs by making wages more competitive.

Jeff Mowry, a member of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 333, says the proposal to get rid of the wage law is not a direct attack on the collective bargaining rights of unions, but it still tries to hurt unions. 

 "You know, that’s the scary part – everything gets very complicated and very confused but it sure seems like it’s all tied together. And it seems like this is just one piece of a great big puzzle that’s looking to take away our collective bargaining rights, yeah."

Some Republican lawmakers say eliminating the prevailing wage law would save about 10% on construction costs and could create more jobs in the state.

Chris Fischer with the Association of Builders and Contractors gave a presentation to lawmakers on how the state could save money by eliminating the wage law.

Fischer says the chanting was distracting, but he was not deterred.

"It is difficult to make a factual presentation when there’s a lot of white noise in the background. It is disconcerting, but the bottom line is prevailing wage does come at the expense of two things Michigan does not have right now – and that’s jobs and taxpayer dollars."

Union members were told they will be able to testify on the wage law when legislation is before the committee for a vote.

Education
1:38 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Detroit schools graduating more students

Detroit Public Schools officials are touting new numbers that show the district’s graduation rate is rising.

 

Those statistics show a 62% graduation rate in 2010. That’s up from about 58% rate in 2007, when the district began using a new method to count graduates.

 

Detroit schools’ Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb attributes the rise “in part to aggressive academic improvements and school leadership restructuring.”

 

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Commentary
1:13 pm
Tue February 22, 2011

Sins of the Fathers

Something happened this week which will, unless something changes soon, have the effect of finishing the job of effectively destroying the Detroit public schools. And maybe, Michigan’s future.

The state department of education has ordered Detroit to put in place a financial restructuring plan that would close half the district’s schools within two years. That would result in an  average high school class size of sixty-two students.

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Economy
10:53 am
Tue February 22, 2011

Middle East unrest may be felt in higher gasoline prices this summer

Fill 'er up?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Unrest in the Middle East may soon affect gasoline prices in Michigan. Crude oil prices are approaching one hundred dollars a barrel, which is expected to increase the cost of gasoline globally.

Nancy Cain is with AAA Michigan.   She says it’s too soon to predict whether or not the price for a gallon of regular unleaded will reach four dollars, like it did two years ago.

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Detroit
6:56 am
Tue February 22, 2011

Mayor Bing to deliver State of the City address tonight

Mayor Dave Bing earlier this year in Lansing as he attends Governor Rick Snyder's inauguration
Corvair Owner Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will deliver his State of the City address this evening at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit. It will be the mayor's second address since he won a special mayoral runoff election in May 2009. The Associated Press reports, "Bing has said the speech will elaborate on the city's achievements during his short time in office."

Winter Weather
6:45 am
Tue February 22, 2011

Thousands remain without power after "Presidents' Day Storm"

Thousands in Michigan remain without power on Tuesday
David Wilson Flickr

More than 100,000 utility customers in southern Michigan lost power from the "Presidents' Day storm" that hit the state Sunday and Monday... and they're likely to remain without electricity for at least two more days. The Associated Press reports:

Consumers Energy spokesman Tim Pietryga said in a statement Tuesday that most of the Jackson-based utility's customers without power are in Kalamazoo, Lenawee, Monroe, Hillsdale, Calhoun and Branch counties. More than 160,000 customers have been affected.

Pietryga said workers, including 100 utility crews from Indiana and Ohio, should return power to most blacked-out customers by late Thursday evening.

But power may not return to the hardest-hit counties until Friday. DTE Energy Co. reported no major outages.

Six to 10 inches of snow, along with sleet and ice, fell on Lower Michigan between Sunday and Monday.

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Government Shutdown
8:29 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Upton expects federal government shutdown can be avoided

Congressman Fred Upton
Photo courtesy of the Republican Conference

One Michigan congressman is downplaying warnings of a federal government shutdown next week.

Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate haven’t agreed on a continuing budget resolution to keep the federal government going beyond March 4th.

Representative Fred Upton expects the US House will offer the US Senate a way to avoid a shutdown. 

“My sense is that will we also in the House pass a short-term continuing resolution and send that to the Senate early in the week.  Which will allow them to say…here’s a two week extension so we don’t have a shutdown by the end of the week…as well as the long-term…and then we’ll wait and see what the Senate does.”  

Upton expects Congress will approve a short-term budget resolution before any federal government services are effected. 

film incentives
7:49 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Study looks at Michigan film incentives

People wait for tickets during Traverse City's film festival.
Andrew McFarlane Creative Commons

A new study shows Michigan’s tax incentives for the TV and film industry generated close to 4,000 fulltime jobs last year with an average salary of $53,700.  

Larry Alexander is President & CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, one of several bureaus across the state that helped commission the study.

“Diversifying Michigan’s economy by investing $84.7 million- and generating over a half a billion dollars of economic activity and nearly 4,000 high paying jobs- sounds like a pretty good deal to us.”

Rick Hert heads the West Michigan Film Office. He says talk about limiting the film incentives in the past reached Hollywood and caused some producers decide not to come to Michigan.

 “This is much bigger. This is a new governor of the state of Michigan and his comments are doing more than reverberating, they’re putting a clamp on the future of this industry.”

Hert is thankful the governor didn’t totally remove the incentives, but worries they’ll be too limited to keep attracting producers.

Hert says he understands the state is broke and that legislators have some tough calls to make.

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State Budget
7:43 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Snyder seeks allies in budget fight

Governor Rick Snyder is looking for allies in his fight for deep state spending cuts. The governor received a warm reception at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon today in Kalamazoo. 

Governor Snyder spoke to an audience that largely backed his candidacy last year  and is very receptive to his budget plans that call for revising d Text - 16 lines]the state's business tax and deep cuts in spending. But many are also concerned some the governor's plans might hit close to home.

Snyder urged the business leaders to accept part of the sacrifice.

"The only way we are going to do this is talk together and help those people who think they didn't get a fair shake or that they're being disadvantaged when they probably were not." 

Labor unions and social service groups worry that the poor, children  and others might pay a bigger price under the governor's budget plan. Snyder says the state must address its billion and a half budget  deficit now and now just kick it down the road.

War in afghanistan
7:23 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Senator Carl Levin cautiously optimistic about success in Afghanistan

Senator Levin speaks at Grand Rapids Community College Monday about prospects for success in Afghanistan.
Derek Devries Grand Rapids Community College

U.S. Senator Carl Levin says success depends on two factors. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee says the Obama administration should stick to the July deadline to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and make sure the country can continue to build up its own security forces.

The committee’s ranking republican Senator John McCain opposes the deadline.

Levin told a gathering in West Michigan Monday the deadline has helped the Afghanistan police and army exceed recruitment goals. He called a large, effective home-grown security force in Afghanistan “the Taliban’s worst nightmare.”

“Because it would demonstrate that contrary to their propaganda the war against the Taliban is not a war of foreign occupiers seeking control, that it is instead a war that the Afgan people believe in.”

Levin told a crowd in Grand Rapids that President Obama's deadline in July to begin transferring power to the government of Afghanistan has put pressure on the situation in a good way.

Arts/Culture
6:18 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

What's next for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra?

DSO management has 'suspended' the orchestra's current season
Nate Luzod Creative Commons

Now that the striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians have rejected management’s final proposal, many are wondering: What’s next for the organization?

Management 'suspended' the orchestra's current season, and doubts are swirling around the 2011-12 season.

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storm hits Michigan
3:39 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

This is Michigan. And this is what we do. (Dig out after storms).

Scott Denny Flickr

The state's three main airports report business has returned almost to normal, after crews spent the evening clearing runways of snow and ice.  Up to ten inches fell overnight.  In many cases, that was more snow than fell during the so-dubbed "Snowpocalypse," a few weeks ago. 

Detroit Metro Airport spokesman Mike Conway says the big problem last night was the roadways leading to the airport.  He says it took a long time for taxis to return from outlying suburbs, and there was congestion as cars and taxis lined up outside terminals.

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Education
2:25 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

DPS plans "draconian" cuts to eliminate deficit

The Michigan Department of Education has ordered the DPS to implement a drastic deficit elimination plan
User mrd00dman Flickr

The state Department of Education has ordered the Detroit Public Schools to implement a drastic deficit elimination plan.

The plan includes closing half the district’s remaining schools within two years, and increasing some class sizes to 60 students by next school year. It would also create "regional" prinicpals rather than school principals, and cut transportation services for most students.

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