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Presidential Visit
7:42 am
Tue February 8, 2011

President Obama to visit U.P. on Thursday

President Barack Obama will visit Marquette, MI on Thursday
The U.S. Army Flickr

President Barack Obama will be in Michigan's Upper Peninsula on Thursday to discuss the National Wireless Initiative. The president will visit Marquette to talk about businesses that have prospered because of broadband access. The White House issued a press release detailing the trip:

In his State of the Union Address, the President called for a National Wireless Initiative to help businesses extend the next generation of wireless coverage to 98 percent of the population.  The next generation wireless network in Marquette is an effective demonstration of how the President’s proposal to open up airwaves will spark new innovation, put people back to work, grow the economy and help America win the future.

In his State of the Union, President Obama outlined a plan for America to out-build the competition to win the future. This plan for a 21st century infrastructure is about rebuilding our roads, rails and runways, but it is also about attracting new businesses to our shores and having the resources to ship American goods, products and ideas anywhere in the world.  In order to do that, America must have the most reliable ways to move people, goods and information-from roads and airports to high-speed rail and high-speed internet.

As the Detroit News reports:

It'll be Obama's first trip to the Upper Peninsula as president and comes six months after he visited General Motors Co.'s Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant and Chrysler's Jefferson North Plant. The last time a president was north of the Mackinac Bridge was in 2004 when George W. Bush made a campaign swing through the region.

Children
7:27 am
Tue February 8, 2011

Report: Child poverty increases in Michigan

There has been an increase in child abuse and neglect cases in the state, as well as increase in children living in poverty. That’s according to an annual report published by the Michigan League for Human Services.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell works on the annual Kids Count report. She says the Legislature needs to stop making cuts to important programs in the state budget that help kids:

I think that’s sort of the trouble with term limits – that the legislators who are coming to town may not realize that we’ve already cut billion, literally billions, out of the state budget, many compromising programs that serve families and children.

Zehnder-Merrell says there are some bright spots in the Kids Count report, including a decline in high school dropout rates and teen births.

She also says she is optimistic that Governor Rick Snyder will make decreasing child poverty a priority.

Great Lakes
6:59 am
Tue February 8, 2011

Environmentalists call on Congress to fully fund Great Lakes restoration

Environmentalists are calling on Congress to fully fund the Greak Lakes restoration projects
Bug_girl_mi Flickr

A group of environmentalists is calling on Congress to fully fund Great Lakes restoration projects in the federal budget.

They say the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is working to clean waterways and drinking water, and create jobs in the Great Lakes region.

Jeff Skelding, with the Healing Our Waters coalition, says talk of budget cuts in Washington, D.C. have Great Lakes conservationists on guard:

There are those in Congress who would gladly take the axe to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative without a second thought. Our message to Congress is – cutting successful Great Lakes restoration programs that protect drinking water, safeguard public health, create jobs and uphold the quality of health for millions of people is exactly the wrong thing to do.

The coalition hopes Congress will approve $300 million dollars for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the coming weeks.

Governor Snyder
6:47 am
Tue February 8, 2011

Snyder signs executive order to reduce state parole board

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of Governor Snyder's office

Governor Rick Snyder has signed an executive order to reduce the size of the state parole board by a third.

It’s not clear how this shakeup will affect the policy set by Governor Jennifer Granholm to parole more inmates as a way to control corrections costs.

Governor Snyder is reducing the parole board from 15 to 10 members, and placing it under direct control of the Corrections director. He also eliminated the board that advices the governor on clemency decisions.

His administration say the move will streamline government and save the state about half-a-million dollars.

The parole board members will have to reapply for their jobs. But Snyder says the parole board was written into state law to be a 10-member board with the Department of Corrections, and so it will return to its original form.

Arts/Culture
8:26 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

Imported from Detroit? You bet.

I didn’t really watch the Super Bowl last night. I only flipped it on toward the very end to see what had happened. I also logged onto my Facebook page about the same time, and was floored to see my newsfeed exploding with updates, nearly all variations on one theme: “Imported from Detroit.”

I was curious to know what this was all about, and fortunately some helpful people had already posted links to the Chrysler 200 ad featuring Eminem. It begins with the familiar stark images of Detroit—the bleak industrial landscape, the vacant and decaying buildings. Then a growling, defiant voice: “I’ve gotta question for you. What does this city know about luxury?”

“What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life?”

The response is an unfolding visual narrative that was a surprisingly moving tribute to Detroit’s aesthetic and cultural beauty. Underlying it all is a frank admission that the city has been to hell, and it may still be somewhere near hell-ish. But like Diego Rivera’s gorgeous murals that depict Detroit in its industrial heyday, the ad also finds beauty in Detroit’s hardscrabble nature. It issues a defiant challenge to recognize that beauty, but offers no apologies to those who won’t.

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Auto/Economy
7:10 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

Plug-in electric tax credit should be a rebate, says U.S. Sen. Stabenow

Congresswoman Debbie Stabenow
Photo courtesy of www.stabenow.senate.gov

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow has introduced legislation to help people who buy plug-in electric cars – and to help the companies making the advanced vehicles.

Right now, someone who buys a plug-in electric car like a Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt gets a tax credit of up to $7,500.  But the buyer doesn’t collect the money until tax time.

Stabenow says the program could be improved.

I think it would be an even bigger incentive if it were on the front end for consumers.

Stabenow says Congress already approved the money for the tax credit, so it wouldn’t cost any more to give it out as a rebate at the time of sale.

Currently, cars that qualify for the full rebate include the Chevy Volt, the Nissan Leaf, and the Tesla Roadster. Coda and Wheego also make an electric vehicle that qualifies for the credit. Ford, Fiat and Toyota plan to launch electric plug-in cars within the next year.

Stabenow’s legislation would also commit the federal government to spend two billion dollars to help companies that make advanced lithium ion batteries for vehicles. That’s on top of the two billion dollars the federal government has already spent to help the new industry. 

The Congresswoman admits the legislation is being proposed during a tough budget year:

 (But) I think that strategic investments in innovation like battery innovation and manufacturing equals jobs – and so I’m hopeful that this will be a priority.

Michigan received the lion’s share of the last round of federal grants for advanced battery development– more than one billion dollars.  Michigan now has more advanced battery companies than any other state.

Auto/Economy
7:03 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

Federal government to release Toyota unintended acceleration results

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will reveal the results Tuesday afternoon of a year-long NASA investigation into claims of sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles.

Toyota recalled millions of vehicles last year – many because of the potential for loose floor mats to entrap the gas pedal.  In other cases, the gas pedal wouldn’t fully release.

But hundreds of lawsuits allege that Toyota vehicles can also speed out of control because something is wrong with the electronic throttle control system, perhaps due to electromagnetic interference – a problem NASA knows a lot about.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a preliminary report last year suggesting that in some cases, the sudden acceleration was the fault of drivers, because they hit the gas pedal instead of the brake.

Toyota says it has failed to find any problems with its electronic throttle control systems.  The company did pay record fines last year for delaying recalls.

Politics
4:55 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

Bing unveils incentives to make more Detroit police officers residents

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has rolled out a new incentives program for Detroit police officers.

“Project 14” aims to pull some officers living in the suburbs into city neighborhoods. The phrase refers to a Detroit police code that means things are “back to normal.”

Bing hopes to restore something like normality to Detroit neighborhoods by making more Detroit cops city residents. Fewer than half are right now.

The project’s pilot phase will give officers chance to get a tax-foreclosed home for up to a thousand dollars. They’ll also be eligible for federal funds to fix them up.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee calls moving to the city a “highly personal decision” for officers. But he thinks many will consider it.

“I’ve fielded a number of calls to my office wondering what the incentives were. So now that they’ve been laid out I think we’re going to see a lot of officers take advantage of it.”

Project 14 will initially offer 200 homes in two relatively stable Detroit neighborhoods.

Bing says the program also complements his Detroit Works Project, which aims to strengthen the city’s more viable communities.

What's Working
2:41 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

Connecting Detroit's homeless with supportive services and housing

James Marvin Phelps Flickr

Each Monday, our Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley speaks with a Michigan resident about a project or program that is working to improve life in Michigan. The interviews are part of our year-long series, What’s Working.

Today, Christina sits down with Beverley Ebersold, the Senior Program Manager at the Michigan Office for the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

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Auto/Economy
2:09 pm
Mon February 7, 2011

Impressions of the Chrysler Super Bowl ad

The "Imported from Detroit" commercial stirred a lot of pride around these parts, and on Michigan Radio's Facebook page.

We posted it last night and the "likes" and comments about pride started flowing:

  • "Gave me chills and made me proud to be a born in Detroiter."
  • "This is the kind of thing we need for our area. This commercial gave me goose bumps."
  • "Great commercial! I'm proud to be from Michigan!"
  • "Chills...I almost started crying! But, I have had almost 14 beers."

Just up I-96, the profs at MSU's Department of Advertising, Public Relations, and Retailing, who release an annual ranking of Super Bowl commercials, put the Chrysler ad in third place – tied with the ads from Audi, PepsiMax, Hyundai, and Bud-Light.

First and second place went to German car-maker Volkswagen (first went to the Darth Vader ad, and second went to the VW Beetle ad).

When I asked them, "why third?"  MSU instructor and the organizer behind the MSU rankings, Bob Kolt, said the margin between 1st and 3rd was quite small, "If a few professors had changed their ranking of the commercial slightly, it could have easily been put in the top spot."

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Auto/Economy
11:57 am
Mon February 7, 2011

Stabenow: rebates for electric vehicles

The Chevy Volt's charging port.
Michigan Radio

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow plans to introduce legislation that would change government incentives for buying electric cars.

Right now, the incentive for the purchase of an electric car comes when you file your taxes in the form of a tax credit.

Stabenow's legislation, the Charging America Forward Act, would give consumers a rebate of up to $7,500 at the time of purchase.

The Senator says a rebate would do more to spur consumers to adopt electric vehicles. From Stabenow's statement:

"Michigan is already a leader in emerging hi-tech battery and electric car production. Other countries are acting to develop their own advanced vehicle markets because they realize the tremendous economic potential this new technology represents.  These initiatives will allow Michigan innovators to continue to out-compete the world and create new jobs here"

Naturally, GM spokesman Greg Martin says the company likes the rebate idea, saying "we are pleased to see Senator Stabenow's legislation that integrates all of the components necessary for successful acceleration of electric vehicles in the marketplace.  We look forward to working with Congress on legislation that leads to widespread adoption of electric vehicles."

The Associated Press says Stabenow also wants the incentives to go beyond just consumers:

Stabenow also wants tax credits for investments into electric vehicle recharging stations and for businesses that buy hybrid trucks. It also seeks more funding to develop the nation's advanced battery industry.

And the Detroit Free Press says this bill supports the Obama Administration's plan to get 1 million "plug-in or advanced-technology" cars on the road by 2015. The Freep says it's a goal that "can be reached only if it is supported by aggressive government incentives that also spur the development of infrastructure."

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton is following this story, and will have an update later today.

Developing
11:55 am
Mon February 7, 2011

Flint making the case for a $20 million bond

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

UPDATE 3:30pm


 


The Finance and Claims Committe of the State Administrative Board unanimously passed the city of Flint's resolution requesting a $20 million fiscal stabilization bond.   The resolution now goes to the full board February 15th. 


 


11:55am 2/0711  


 


Flint city officials will be in Lansing Tuesday. The city has applied for state permission to get a $20 million  ‘fiscal stabilization bond.' 


Flint is facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit this year and other long-term debts. Flint mayor Dayne Walling says the city needs the money to help keep the city afloat financially. 



“There is nothing more important for our city right now than the bond.   We’ve been carrying a crushing load of past deficits on our shoulders.  And we’ve come to the point where the pooled cash is not there to make payroll throughout the entire month of March without an infusion of cash.”  


Walling is optimistic state officials will approve their bond request.  



“If this, for some reason, were not approved by the State Administrative Board, then we’ll get right back to the table with Treasury and we’ll talk about what our options are."


   If the city of Flint can’t get the money it needs, the state may eventually takeover Flint’s finances.

Economy
11:07 am
Mon February 7, 2011

Borders Books "One foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel"

A big week for Borders
Ruthanne Reid Flickr

This could be a pivotal week for the future of Borders Books with some sources saying the company could seek bankruptcy protection.    

The Ann Arbor-based bookseller delayed payments to publishers and others the past two months.   The company has been trying to negotiate with its vendors and come up with a plan to move forward.    Borders has a half billion dollar financing deal in place, if it can come to terms with its vendors. 

Jeff Manning is a managing director with BDO Capitol Advisors.   Manning’s company closely follows the retail market. 

"The challenge,  if you look at the statistics,  majority of companies that enter bankruptcy do not emerge.  If you look at recent statistics with retailers, an awful lot of retailers have gone straight into liquidation." 

Manning expects Borders’ vendors will decide it’s more in their interest to keep Borders viable. He says, if Borders does file for bankruptcy, the company will probably exit bankruptcy before Christmas.   But Manning says Borders execs must be careful, since the bookseller is in a precarious position:

"One foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel," says Manning.

 

The Rise and Fall (and Re-Rise?) of Borders Group.

News Roundup
10:29 am
Mon February 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

Police in Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is expected to reveal his plan for getting police officials to live in Detroit this morning. As Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports:

Detroit had a residency requirement until 1999, when the state Legislature outlawed it. Now more than half the officers on the police force live outside the city limits. Mayor Bing has said he believes neighborhoods are safer when the cops who patrol them live there too.

Not all police officials agree with Mayor Bing and say they can live outside city limits and still be effective for the residents of Detroit.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will have more Mayor Bing's proposal later today.

A replacement for the Michigan State Fair?

The Michigan State Fair was canceled in 2009 after budget cuts and declining attendance. Now the Associated Press is reporting that another cast aside in Michigan might fill the gap.

The AP reports that the "Great Lakes Agricultural Fair" would be held in and around the Pontiac Silverdome and would be run without any state funding. From the AP:

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters are expected to be among those on hand Monday to unveil plans for the Great Lakes Agricultural Fair…The annual festival would feature a farm market, live animals and musical performances.

Ford to increase production

If the amount of Super Bowl ads from car makers didn't clue you in, here's another sign that automakers are expecting much better sales this year. The Detroit Free Press reports that Ford Motor Company plans to boost factory production in the U.S.:

Ford Motor Co. says it will increase U.S. factory production by 13% in the first quarter due to higher sales. Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. sales, says Ford is studying additional shifts at plants that are now running on overtime. The Dearborn-based automaker said retail sales to individual buyers rose 27% in January. Global marketing chief Jim Farley said to expect further increases through the year.

State of the city
3:34 pm
Sat February 5, 2011

Heartwell: Grand Rapids ‘destination city’

Grand Rapids’ Mayor George Heartwell painted his city as a destination for medical researchers, entrepreneurs, artists and young people in his State of the City address Saturday.

Read more
Arts/Culture
12:13 pm
Sat February 5, 2011

3 Michigan cities in tight race for magazine prize

Albion, MI is among the top vote-getters in a magazine competition aimed at boosting community spirit. If it wins, the prize money could be used to renovate the city's downtown theater.
agilitynut.com

Three Michigan cities are finalists for top prizes in a national contest aimed at boosting community spirit. The competition is fierce as the contest draws to a close on Monday.

Readers Digest is asking people to cheer online for their favorite cities in its “We Hear You America” contest.

At last count, Grand  Marais, St. Johns and Albion, Michigan, were in the top five.

Read more
Taxes
8:13 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Workshops for property tax assessment appeals

Homeowners are starting to get their property tax assessments in the mail. A few organizations are hosting workshops for people who think their home’s value might be over-assessed.

Rose Bogaert is chair of the Wayne County Taxpayers Association:

"Going to the Board of Review and saying 'my taxes are too high' will get you nothing. You have to have information that justifies your contention that your house is over-assessed."

Bogaert says her organization’s workshops educate homeowners about things like how to analyze sales in their neighborhoods. Information about the Headlee Amendment and Proposal A – which govern property tax assessments in Michigan – is also part of the workshops.

Oakland County officials are also hosting a series of sessions about tax assessments through early March.

Read more
Detroit
4:45 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Detroit mayor to announce residency incentive program

Patricia Drury Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is expected to announce a program Monday to encourage more police officers to live in the city.

Detroit had a residency requirement until 1999, when the state Legislature outlawed it. Now more than half the officers on the police force live outside the city limits.

Mayor Bing has said he believes neighborhoods are safer when the cops who patrol them live there too. But Detroit Police Officer Carol Harris says she doesn’t agree.

"When I did live in that community that I did patrol, the people that I arrested also know who I was, where I lived and were to come after me, so… it’s just not a safe place."

Harris now lives in Wyandotte, and has an eight-year-old son. She says there’s “no way” she’d consider moving back to Detroit.

She says younger officers without families might be willing to entertain the idea. But Harris says cops who live elsewhere still have a vested interest the city, and care about its future.

On the Radio
4:30 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

In case you missed it...

user cpstorm Flickr

Here are a few stories that either I heard, my colleagues and friends heard, or pieces that our online friends found interesting on Michigan Radio this week.

(We want to hear about your favorites! Please add them to the comments section below)

Read more
Arts/Culture
4:24 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Baby, it's cold outside...

Jeremy Hiebert Flickr

Members of the Cleveland Orchestra (TCO), trapped in Ann Arbor because of the recent snowfall, ended up putting on an impromptu performance on Wednesday with members of Classical Revolution Ann Arbor (CRAA), a local chamber music collective.

Because of the snowstorm, TCO was unable to leave Ann Arbor in time for a concert Wednesday at Chicago's Orchestra Hall. The musicians chose to pass the time playing with University of Michigan students and amateur musicians at Sylvio's Organic Pizza in Ann Arbor, where CRAA meets every Wednesday for jam sessions.

The first quartet of the evening consisted of Bill Preucil, TCO's concertmaster, TCO violist Joanna Patterson, cellist Ed Baskerville, and University of Michigan student violinist Dan Winnick. Other TCO musicians showed up to play throughout the evening, including principal oboe Frank Rosenwein and principal flutist Joshua Smith.

Read and watch more over at University Musical Society's page.

Brian Short - Michigan Radio Newsroom

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