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Environment
5:30 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Report warns corrosive tar sands oil boosts risks of pipeline spills

A map of oil pipelines carrying tar sands in the U.S. and Canada
From the report "Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks"

Update 5:30 p.m.

The NRDC responded to the ECRB statement saying they "stand by the information provided in the report - which is well documented and reviewed." From the NRDC statement:

The lack of transparency from the oil industry is part of the issue here. A clear accounting of the public health and safety issues associated with these products and the infrastructure associated with them is simply not available. The example of Enbridge’s CEO denying tar sands were involved with the Kalamazoo River disaster until pushed by reporters with undeniable evidence is one example of this lack of transparency.

Update 2:55 p.m.

The Energy Resources Conservation Board of Alberta, Canada, "an agency that regulates the province's energy resources," has issued a response to the report.

They write that the report "contains misleading statements on pipeline safety in Alberta and on the characteristics of diluted bitumen." From ERCB statement:

The report also states that “there are many indications that DilBit is significantly more corrosive to pipeline systems than conventional crude.”  Analysis of pipeline failure statistics in Alberta has not identified any significant differences in failure frequency between pipelines handling conventional crude versus pipelines carrying crude bitumen, crude oil or synthetic crude oil.

1:27 p.m.

This past summer, an oil pipeline in Michigan spilled more than 843,000 gallons of crude oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

The spill is still being cleaned up by Enbridge Energy Partners, the company responsible for the spill.

Now, a new report says the type of oil running through the pipeline could lead to more spills.

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Politics
5:29 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Legislation would require spending disclosure by Detroit pension boards

sushi ina flickr

Detroit’s two pension boards would be required to post all of their spending online, under a bill before the state House.

The legislation is a response to stories published in 2009 about board members’ travel expenses. The boards’ trustees, their attorneys and staff racked up bills totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars for trips to places like Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai.

State Representative Tom McMillin in the bill’s sponsor:

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Public transportation
4:57 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Obama’s budget includes money for ‘Silverline’ rapid bus transit

Public transportation officials in Grand Rapids are excited about one detail in President Obama’s budget announced this week. A proposed rapid bus transit system in Grand Rapids is one of ten new construction projects that Obama would like to fund in 2012.

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Changing Gears
4:55 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Live Panel Discussion: "Don't Go! What will keep you here?"

What will keep future entrepreneurs from leaving the state?
Alex Proimos Flickr

Keeping the brains here at home.

The University of Michigan Ross School of Business and the Changing Gears project are partnering on a panel discussion about "brain drain" being held at 5 p.m.

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Arts/Culture
4:51 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Aretha Franklin planning a return to the concert stage

Aretha Franklin
(ktkatrina) Flickr

The Queen of Soul's health has been of much concern of late.   But, after making a pre-taped appearence on the Grammy Awards, Aretha Franklin's health looked much improved.

The Associated Press reports Franklin will return to the concert stage this Spring:

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Economy
4:40 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Borders files for bankruptcy

Borders Books

Update 4:37 p.m.

Independent bookstores are waiting to see what kind of impact Borders’ bankruptcy will have on business. Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra spoke with Nicola Rooney, owner Nicola’s Books in Ann Arbor.

Rooney expects business to pick up at her store now that one of the Borders in Ann Arbor is slated to close. She said Borders’ financial problems are not emblematic of the book business in general:

"No, it’s not the death knell of bookstores by any means. They did a lot of things wrong over the years…and at any time there were things they could have done differently that they did not, and this of course from someone who knows maybe two percent of what was really going on inside, because you never know the real story," said Rooney.

Rooney blames Borders's problems on its poor website strategy, and frequent management changes.

Update 12:07 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra reports that of the stores slated for closing so far, four are in Michigan:

  • Dearborn
  • Utica
  • Grosse Pointe
  • Ann Arbor - the Arborland location.

Guerra spoke with Ann Arbor resident Jack Love about the bankruptcy:

"I’m sad. They’re nice places to go, pick up a book, look through it, of course Borders has more than just books: coffee, book readings, public gatherings," said Love.

Guerra says Love partly blames himself for Borders’ financial problems - he’s a book fiend who buys most of his books online at Amazon.

Update 11:58 a.m.

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog has posted a list of the top Borders creditors - Who's Owed What in Borders' Bankruptcy.

Not surprisingly, book publishers top the list. Penguin Putnam Inc. is at the very top. They're owed $41,118,914.

Update 11:33 a.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody just spoke with Rob James, the president of EXP Realty Advisors. EXP specializes in real estate valuations for companies in bankruptcy.  James told Carmody that "no doubt about it" the Borders store closings will have a ripple effect in the retail industry:

"It's going to put a lot of strain on the shopping center industry and its going to hurt a lot of landlords," said James.

Update 11:07

Here is the list of stores Borders plans to close

Update 11:00 a.m.:

The company has released a list of stores it plans to close. We'll have that list posted shortly.

The Wall Street Journal reports the company has secured a loan that will keep the company going while it goes through bankruptcy reorganization. From the WSJ:

The Ann Arbor, Mich., company also said it has lined up a $505 million loan from GE Capital to fund its operations while in bankruptcy. Access to such a loan is subject to court approval.

In its bankruptcy petition, Borders listed assets of $1.28 billion and liabilities of $1.29 billion as of Dec. 25.

Borders' five largest unsecured creditors are the book publishers Penguin Putnam Inc., Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster Inc., Random House and Harper Collins Publishers.

AnnArbor.com has some extensive coverage of the bookseller's bankruptcy filing, including a live blog. Nathan Bomey of AnnArbor.com reports on some of the scenarios that could unfold during the bankruptcy reorganization. They also highlight some of the missteps in Borders history. From AnnArbor.com:

Among the company's biggest mistakes was allowing Amazon to manage its online sales from 2001 to 2008.

“They never really harnessed the power of the Internet,” said David Dykhouse, a manager of Borders’ Arborland store from 2002 to 2007. “As someone once said, the Internet is the comet that killed the dinosaur. I’m afraid Borders is one of those dinosaurs.

8:09 a.m.

Borders Group is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization after a long struggle to stay afloat. Borders had a difficult time keeping up as the book and music businesses changed beneath its feet.

The 40-year-old Ann Arbor company plans to close about 30 percent of its stores, or about 200, over the next few weeks. The company will receive $505 million dollars in so-called debtor-in-possession financing from GE Capital and others to help it reorganize.

Borders has recently delayed payments to its vendors, landlords and other creditors. Big-box bookstores have struggled as more people buy books online, in electronic form or at grocery stores or discounters such as Walmart.

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Commentary
3:32 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Two Plus Two

 Tomorrow, Governor Rick Snyder will present to the legislature his proposed budget for the next fiscal year. The state is currently running a deficit of close to two billion dollars.

The governor also wants to make changes to the business tax system that would further add to that deficit. Keep in mind that by law, a balanced budget has to be enacted by September 30th.

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Arts/Culture
3:04 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Second annual Detroit Independent Film Festival lineup announced

DIFF Logo
Detroit Independent Film Festival

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Independent Film Festival has announced their lineup for this year's 5-day festival. 

Highlights include the premiere of Mike Allore's short film "World of Art," which will open on the first night of the festival at the Ren Cen 4 Theatre at the Renaissance Center.

The festival will feature more than 80 films, two opening night receptions, and the Michigan Film Awards on March 12. The Michigan Film Awards are presented in cooperation with the Uptown Film Festival in Birmingham.

The 2010 Michigan Film Award for Best Michigan Feature was Tracy, produced by Brian Fee and Dan Scanlon.

The festival opens March 9.

The festival is in its second year.

Politics
3:01 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Longtime Michigan Congressman Dale Kildee wants time in Congress to be even longer

Congressman Dale Kildee (D) tours an auto parts plant in Flint
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Dale Kildee won his first term in the United States Congress in 1976. Next year, he plans to run again. The Associated Press reports Kildee's spokesman says the octogenarian politician has always planned to run for another term. 

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Offbeat
2:08 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

Robocop fundraising goal met, robotic cop to be honored

"You called for backup?"

Cross a robot and a cop and you get a cult classic. Maybe not an instant cult classic (coming to love a robotic cop takes some time, after all), but 24 years after its release, all signs point to a statue honoring Robocop in Detroit.

From the Associated Press:

A group working to build a statue in Detroit of the fictional crime-fighting cyborg RoboCop says it has reached its fundraising goal of $50,000. Brandon Walley of Imagination Station said Wednesday he's "very positive" the sculpture will become a reality and could be erected on land the nonprofit owns near the hulking, abandoned Michigan Central train depot in southwest Detroit.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is skeptical. He told the AP that he doesn't "see where we get a lot of value" for honoring the robotic police officer.

The AP says "the issue got its start Feb. 7 when Bing's social media manager responded to a query on Twitter about it."

And in case you don't know the plot of Robocop, IMDb gives a summary of the movie this way: In a dystopic & crime ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg with submerged memories haunting him.

Maybe Robocop can rest in peace knowing people in Detroit will immortalize him.

The movie was full of one-liners - for those who've seen the movie (and remember it) do any one-liners stand out?

Politics
2:00 pm
Wed February 16, 2011

This week in Michigan politics with Jack Lessenberry

The Lansing Capitol
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Each Wednesday, Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley sits down with Michigan Radio’s Senior Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to get an update on state politics. This week, the focus is on Governor Snyder’s budget proposal and what cuts he might suggest.  

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Politics
10:54 am
Wed February 16, 2011

Budget battles target greenhouse gas rules

A new poll showed that the majority of people in Michigan support EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses
Michael Caven flickr

The details of the United States and Michigan budget cuts are beginning to leak out.  The United States Congress is trying to come together on a plan to cut a huge amount of spending. Governor Rick Snyder will be delivering his budget proposal for next year on Thursday.

One area of debate is how the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate greenhouse gas emissions. A new statewide poll shows voters in Michigan would support these rules, but Republicans in the US Congress are moving against them this week.

Al Quinlan conducted the poll funded by the Energy Foundation, a pro-renewable energy group.

"We asked people simply whether they favor or oppose the EPA regulating these emissions the results were 64% favor, 27% oppose. And there was broad based support across partisan lines."

Michigan Congressman Fred Upton is a leading opponent of EPA regulation of greenhouse gasses.

Sarah Alvarez-Michigan Radio Newsroom

Science/Medicine
10:18 am
Wed February 16, 2011

Access to medical marijuana uneven

Confusion continues to reign over medical marijuana dispensaries
Dominic Simpson flickr

There are still some open questions about how the state will implement its two year old Medical Marijuana law.

The state has not said how dispensaries of the drug should be regulated so some cities allow the dispensaries and others do not.

These differences have put a few cities in court. Advocates say the state is missing an opportunity by not regulating the dispensaries.

Karen O’Keefe is with the Marijuana Policy Project, a supporter of the original law.

 

"States that have regulated dispensing, a lot of them subject medical marijuana to sales tax. Some of them also have modest business taxes and there are fees. So in addition to helping patients have access and clearing up some of the confusion that localities are facing it would help the state financially."

 

Groups on both sides of the issue plan to continue to push the state to weigh in on the issue this year.

-Sarah Alvarez, Michigan Radio Newsroom

News Roundup
7:08 am
Wed February 16, 2011

In this morning's news...

Report: "Fireworks" over part of Snyder's Budget Plan

Chris Christoff, the Lansing Bureau Chief for the Detroit Free Press, says Governor Snyder plans to "eliminate Michigan's generous income tax exemptions for retiree pensions and IRA withdrawals as part of his budget plan" to be released tomorrow. Christoff wrote "a source familiar with the plan" says doing away with the tax exemption could generate more than $1 billion in revenue. From the Free Press:

Many expect Gov. Rick Snyder to set off political fireworks Thursday when he unveils a budget and tax revision plan he says will be simple, fair and efficient...Perhaps nothing will boom louder than a plan to tax pensions and other retirement income the same as all other income -- at 4.35%.

A Snyder spokesperson would not comment on the "speculation." Doug Pratt, a spokesman for the Michigan Education Association, told the Freep that Snyder will "will hear from a lot of retired employees in this state that are not going to be happy with that one." And an aide to republican State Senator Jack Brandenburg said the plan is "a nonstarter."

The Associated Press writes that Michigan's benefits for retirees are one of the most generous in the country:

The Washington-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities says Michigan's benefits are twice as generous as those of second-place Kentucky. A retired couple in Michigan can have more than $100,000 of income without having to pay any state income tax...

Political pressure in the past has made it hard to reduce senior tax breaks to help the state's bottom line, even as Michigan steadily loses more to the tax breaks as the number of older taxpayers grows.

Governor Snyder will release his budget plan tomorrow.

Prison staff fear privatization is coming

Almost everything in the state is on the chopping block. There has been talk of privatizing parts of the prison system as a way to save money. The Associated Press says the Governor's budget plan will look at cutting around 10 to 20% out of the state's corrections budget.

State workers in prisons fear that will mean privitization. The Associated Press spoke with United Auto Workers Local 6000 spokesman Ray Holman:

The Prison support staff fear the governor may outsource their jobs to private companies to save money.

"If you're cutting $400 million ... you're going to have to go after something," said Holman, whose union represents tens of thousands of state workers, including prison support staff. "We stand to take a substantial hit." 

Former GM exec may return as advisor

The Detroit News says former GM executive Bob Lutz may return to the company as an advisor. From the Detroit News:

General Motors Co. has been in talks with former product chief Robert Lutz about bringing him back as a paid consultant, The Detroit News has learned.

The details were unclear Tuesday, but the 79-year-old Lutz continues to have a close relationship with GM, and the two have been in discussions about formalizing an advisory role, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

Lutz was known as a plain speaking executive at GM who was skeptical of the commercial appeal of electric cars and hybrids. As the Guardian reported when he retired in 2010, Lutz once described global warming "as a total crock of shit."

The Guardian writes that Lutz "predicted the internal combustion engine would reign supreme for at least a further decade, and that it would be "years and years" before alternatives make up even a tenth of the market."

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Politics
4:43 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Another step toward eliminating the item pricing law

The item pricing law gives retailers indigestion.
Shawn Campbell Flickr

Update 4:23 p.m.:

Rick Pluta, from the Michigan Public Radio Network, says the House will likely vote on a repeal of the Item Pricing Law tomorrow. Pluta spoke with the sponsor of the bill, State Rep. Lisa Lyons. She says individual price tags wouldn't be required, but stores would be required to prominently post prices so consumers know how much things cost:

"It does eliminate the antiquated requirement that every item be priced which has been in effect since before I was born, but it also upholds and provides for consumer protections that Michigan shoppers have come to know, expect and they deserve," said Lyons.

2:06 p.m.

The Michigan legislature is a step closer in repealing the state's Item Pricing Law.

The law requires that most items on store shelves carry an individual price tag.

The Lansing Bureau of the Detroit Free Press reports:

Legislation to rescind the requirement that almost all retail goods sold in Michigan be individually priced cleared its first hurdle in the state House this morning, winning approval in the Commerce Committee on a 16-3 vote. The measure was approved after its sponsors agreed to an amendment that will require retailers to clearly display prices in close proximity to the item for sale.

Governor Syder has said that a repeal of the law will send a signal that Michigan is a business-friendly state. Retailers say the law is antiquated and drives up prices.

Rick Pluta reported for the Michigan Public Radio Network that

The last effort to repeal the law was five years ago, but it failed under the threat of a veto by Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Proponents of the law say the individual price tags protect consumers from being overcharged.

Politics
4:12 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Michigan AG: Prison releases should not be part of corrections cuts

It costs about $35,000 per year to keep someone in prison in Michigan.
Derek Key Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the state should save money in the corrections budget by cutting the costs of incarceration - not by closing more prisons or releasing more inmates.

Schuette says he hopes that's the strategy Governor Rick Snyder will display when he unveils his budget proposal on Thursday.

Schuette says he advised the governor to focus on reducing the cost-per-inmate by bidding out more prison services:

Read more
Politics
2:50 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Flint's financial plan on hold

The weather ball in Flint can't predict the city's economic future.
Jame Fairbrother Flickr

Update 3:50 p.m.:

The city of Flint did not get approval today from the state for a $20 million bond.   The city needs the money to pay its bills.

The state Treasurer’s office asked the State Administrative Board to table the bond request, which it was expected to approve. The Treasurer’s office is concerned that the city doesn’t have a plan to deal with its long-term debt.   

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling is optimistic the city will get some help from the state. 

“I’m confident the city of Flint and the state Treasurer’s office will work together on a short-term, if not a long-term solution here in the next few weeks.”

Flint faces a multi-million dollar budget deficit.   The city has laid off police officers and dozens of other employees and has reached pay cuts with other city unions. But it still might have trouble making payroll in the coming months. 

Update 2:50 p.m.:

The State Administration Board put off a decision on the city's budget plan this morning. The city wants to borrow money in the form of $20 million in bonds to cover its budget deficit.

The Flint Journal has an update from Flint City Councilman Josua Freeman:

By the end of this month or next month, the city will only have about $500,000 in cash on hand, Freeman said. That's not nearly enough money to meet the payroll expenses of $1.5 million to $2 million every two weeks, he added.

"If nothing changes and we don’t improve our cash flow, we're not going to have enough money to operate," Freeman said.

If the city cannot make payroll, a state takeover or Chapter 9 bankruptcy might be next.

12:42 p.m.

The city of Flint wants to issue bonds to cover it's $17 million budget deficit, but state officials have yet to green light that plan.

The State Administration Board was scheduled to vote on that plan today, but it appears plans have changed.

The Flint Journal is reporting the Board voted to remove the city's request from its agenda today. The Journal reports that led to a cancelation of a Flint City Council meeting scheduled for tomorrow:

Tomorrow's City Council meeting to discuss a $20 million bond request from the state has been canceled.

The meeting, which was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, was canceled after The State Administration Board voted to remove the city's request from its meeting agenda this morning...That move came at the request of the state treasurer's office...City Council President Jackie Poplar said she was made aware of the situation and had no comment until she receives further information.

Economy
1:56 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Could a Borders bankruptcy be a boom for independent bookstores?

A customer buys a book at a Borders bookstore in Ann Arbor
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Independent bookstore owners are not sure whether Borders Books expected bankruptcy filing this week will be good news for their businesses. 

Analysts expect Borders will close 200 or more stores as part of any bankruptcy plan.  

When Borders Books and other mega-bookstore chains started opening 40 years ago, it seemed like the end for many small local bookstores.   They found it difficult to compete with the big stores with their wider selections, coffee bars and other amenities. But the obituary for the corner bookstore was a bit premature.  

Now that online book sales and e-book readers are shrinking the market for big-box bookstores,  the smaller footprint booksellers suddenly have a brighter future. Deb Leonard is the executive director of the Great Lakes Independent Bookseller Association

“Those independent stores in those neighborhoods will benefit because people need a place to go.”

Leonard says, in some cases, local bookstores might consider taking over former Borders locations.

Economy
1:47 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Mayor Dave Bing looks to New Orleans for ideas to recreate Detroit

The devastation remains in parts of New Orleans 9th ward
sassycrafter Flickr

Mayor Dave Bing says there’s a lot the city of Detroit can learn from the way the city of New Orleans has tried to recover from Hurricane Katrina.  And, there’s much they can learn from Detroit.  

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Auto
1:13 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Chrysler selling "Imported from Detroit" t-shirts

A sample image of the t-shirt from Chrysler's website
collection.chrysler.com

For $29.95 you can continue the buzz that started with the "Imported from Detroit" Super Bowl ad.

Chrysler is selling t-shirts with the "Imported from Detroit" logo on its Chrysler Collection website ('imported' from the USA, according to the website).

The Detroit Free Press asked a Chrysler spokesperson if the design will be on other items:

Chrysler spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez said, “It’s too early to discuss. I don’t have any formal details to share at this time.”

The epic two-minute ad is still running on television in edited down one-minute and 30 second versions.

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