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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.

Economy
11:50 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Economist: Michigan will keep adding 60K jobs a year

An economist says the resurging domestic auto industry is helping the state get back on its feet (assembly of the Chevy Volt).
Argonne National Laboratory

 LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A University of Michigan economist says the state's rebounding economy will add about 60,000 jobs annually for the next three years.

George Fulton says the state unemployment rate will hover between 9 percent and 10 percent through 2013 as job growth stays steady but not spectacular.

Fulton gave his economic forecast to state economists Monday at the Capitol. He says the resurging domestic auto industry is helping the state get back on its feet as the Detroit Three see their first increase in market share since 1995. All sectors except government are expected to add jobs.

Fulton says Michigan is in the early stages of a sustained recovery and that 2011-13 will be the best three years for the state economy since 2000, although some residents will continue to suffer.

Politics
10:30 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Newt Gingrich compares Obama's policies to "Detroit and destruction"

Don't look now, but the 2012 presidential election is under way, and candidates are working to score political points early - so why not take a potshot at Detroit while you're at it?

Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said President Obama's policies are "going to lead us down the path to Detroit and destruction" on NBC's Meet the Press.

Here's the clip:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Gingrich said Obama's policies are increasing dependence on entitlements. He called Obama the "food stamp president" in a recent speech in Georgia, his home state.

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Commentary
10:18 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Redistricting Dilemma

When I was twelve years old, Sander Levin, who everybody calls Sandy, was my state senator. When I was eighteen, he ran for governor. He was elected congressman for the district where I now live when I was thirty years old. Next year, I will be sixty.

And Sandy Levin, who turns eighty this summer, will still be representing me in Congress. That’s not to imply that he isn’t still sharp. On the contrary, Levin was chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means committee until Democrats lost control of the House last fall. But he, and the Democrats, have a dilemma.

Republicans are  entirely in charge of the congressional redistricting process this year.  Michigan is losing a seat in Congress, and you know Republicans are going to try to eliminate one of the six seats Democrats hold, not one of the nine held by their party.

Everything I know tells me that they are most likely to throw Sandy Levin in a district with Gary Peters, now serving his second term in the House. Levin has far more name recognition and seniority than Peters.  If the two men are forced to battle against each other in a primary, he’ll almost certainly be the favorite.

Both men also say they are running for re-election, no matter what. But - should Sandy Levin really do this? Might it be better for him - and especially, for his party - if he makes a graceful exit?

Here’s why I say that: Most of Michigan’s Democratic delegation in the House of Representatives are old. Really old.

Next year, John Dingell will be eighty-six. Dale Kildee and John Conyers, eighty-three, Levin, eighty-one. The only exceptions are the just-elected Hansen Clarke of Detroit, who will be fifty-five, and Peters, fifty-three. Does it make sense for the state and the party to sacrifice the career of the fifty-three year old so the guy more than old enough to be his father can have another term?

Within a very few years, all of those lions are going to be gone, one way or another.

Does it make sense to lose all our experience pretty much at once?

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Science/Medicine
10:13 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Michigan autism center to close after director leaves

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - The University of Michigan plans to close its well-known, decade-old autism center when its director leaves this fall for a new post with a New York venture.

AnnArbor.com reports that Catherine Lord, director of the University of Michigan's Autism and Communication Disorders Center, plans to leave to head a joint effort between Columbia University
Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Lord says her two grown children who live in New York City drove her decision. The new Institute for Brain Development is to open next year.

Lord says a psychologist and a small number of researchers and staff will follow her to New York.

Lord says the Michigan center provides services for 300 to 400 people. Some federally funded research programs will continue.

Investigative
9:20 am
Mon May 16, 2011

More efficient early childhood services

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to create a more focused approach to getting young children ready for school.  The Governor says Michigan’s publicly and privately funded early childhood programs are fragmented, segmented; there’s not a coherent effort. 

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Weather
9:10 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Parts of Michigan see risk of flooding, wildfires

The National Weather Service says parts of Michigan's lower peninsula are under flood advisories or flood warnings.
user doodlepress creative commons

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Heavy rains in parts of Michigan's Lower Peninsula have caused flooding while dry weather in the Upper Peninsula has brought an increased risk of wildfires.

Flooding was reported Sunday on freeways in the Flint area. WEYI-TV reports a pump that handles water on Interstate 475 under I-69 stopped working following a power outage. Workers put up barricades and signs warning drivers to stay off the road.

WJRT-TV reports heavy rainfall soaked a golf course, roads and yards other parts of Genesee County.

More rain fell Monday. The National Weather Service says flood warnings or advisories were in effect for parts of the Lower Peninsula.

In parts of the Upper Peninsula, the weather service says there was an elevated risk of wind-fed wildfires from Monday and into the weekend.

News Roundup
8:37 am
Mon May 16, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, May 16th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Estimating the State’s Finances

A budget panel is meeting this morning in Lansing to figure out how much money the state has to spend in the fiscal year that begins on October 1st. It was announced on Friday that the state is expected to have half a billion dollars or more in revenue than was previously predicted. Some lawmakers want to use the windfall to roll back proposed budget cuts, including cuts to K-12 schools. Governor Snyder says some of the money should be put towards the state’s emergency savings.

EFM Repeal

A group looking to repeal the state’s new financial manager law is expected to detail their plans today, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Michigan Forward says it will talk about the coalition formed to launch the "Campaign to Build Michigan" this morning. The legislation signed into law in March gives state-appointed financial managers broader powers to correct the finances of communities and school districts.

The meeting will take place in Detroit.

McCotter: Not In

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Livonia announced over the weekend that he will not run against Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow for her Senate seat in 2012. Rep. McCotter is yet another Michigan Republican who has decided not to run against Stabenow. Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra and former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land both have said they will not run. Former Kent County Judge Randy Heckman is the only Republican to announce his candidacy for the seat.

Election 2012
6:40 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Rep. McCotter won't challenge Senator Stabenow in 2012

Livonia Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter says he won't challenge U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) in 2012.
Republican Conference Flickr

Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Livonia says he isn’t planning on challenging Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow for her Senate seat in 2012.

McCotter’s name had been talked about as a possible GOP candidate to run against Stabenow. The Detroit News reports:

McCotter, the fifth-term congressman who signaled last week he was considering a Senate run, said he's stepping aside for other GOP hopefuls.

"I did not wish to be a distraction for the stellar candidates now stepping forward to consider seeking the GOP U.S. Senate nomination," McCotter, of Livonia, said in statement that did not mention specific candidates.

Representative McCotter is just one more Michigan Republican who has decided not to jump into the race. Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra and former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land have both announced recently that they wouldn’t seek the GOP nomination.

Only one Republican candidate has entered the race so far. Former Kent County Judge Randy Heckman announced he would run for the seat earlier this year.

Stabenow has held the U.S. Senate seat since 2000.

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