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Commentary
8:47 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Michigander: The Backstory

I realize there are a few other things going on today, such as the mess in Egypt, and the aftermath of President Obama’s historic trip to Marquette, where they gave him a Stormy Kromer hat.

There’s also a major story the media missed last night. Governor Rick Snyder spoke briefly at a Michigan State University political leadership forum in Livonia, remarks that included a sensational announcement.

Mr. Snyder said he would remain in office until the Lions appear in the Super Bowl. Which means he pretty much declared himself governor for life. The Lions last won a world championship the year I entered kindergarten, a year before Governor Snyder was born.

Maybe that’s an approach Hosni Mubarak should have tried, telling his people that the second the Lions won, he’d be history.

Anyway. I need to get on to the really important story of the day, which is the new poll by Resch Strategies that showed that by a margin of fifty-eight percent to twelve percent, citizens of this state prefer to call ourselves Michiganders, not Michiganians.

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Governor Snyder
8:34 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Snyder makes bold prediction

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

The crowd at a fundraising dinner for the Michigan Political Leadership program was maybe hoping Governor Rick Snyder would drop some clues on what’s going to be in his budget proposal next week.

The governor revealed almost nothing about his spending plan. But he did make a bold sports prediction. Governor Snyder said:

"Before I finish office, the Lions will be in the Super Bowl – how’s that?"

The governor did not say if that would be in the next four years – or if a championship season for the Lions would require a second term. The Lions record last season was six victories to 10 losses, following a winless season in 2009.

Commentary
8:13 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Super Bowl Hoopla

A storm trooper prepares to take the stage at a downtown Pittsburgh Super Bowl XLV rally
user daveynin Flickr

Forty five years ago, the Super Bowl wasn’t even the Super Bowl.

They called it the NFL-AFL Championship game, until one of the founders renamed it after watching his grandson play with a “High Bouncing Ball” – a super ball.

Tickets were only fifteen bucks for that first game, and they barely sold half of those, leaving some 40,000 empty seats in the Los Angeles Coliseum.   

A 30-second ad cost only $42,000, and they weren’t any different than the ads they showed the previous weekend.

The half-time show featured three college marching bands, including one you might have seen from the University of Michigan.

Over the next couple decades, of course, the event became a veritable national holiday.  Tickets now sell for thousands of dollars, and ads for millions.  The game attracts more than 100 million viewers in the U.S. alone.

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Auto
7:13 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Senator Levin wants electric vehicle charging stations on Capitol Hill

Michigan's Democratic Senator Carl Levin
Jeffrey Simms Photography Flickr

Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin says he will introduce legislation next week in Congress to create electric vehicle charging stations on Capitol Hill.

As the Associated Press reports, "Levin says establishing the charging stations at no cost to the federal government would help encourage electric cars in the Capitol complex... Levin has said he plans to buy a Chevrolet Volt, General Motors' rechargeable electric car."

Earlier this week, Michigan's other Democratic Senator, Debbie Stabenow, said she planned to introduce legislation that would change government incentives for buying electric cars.

Currently, the incentive for buying an electric vehicle 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.

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reported on Stabenow's plan earlier this week:

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, she said, "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
6:52 am
Fri February 11, 2011

GM: Workers to get bonus checks

General Motors says most of its 26,000 white-collar workers will get bonus checks
Spacing Magazine Flickr

General Motors says most of its 26,000 white-collar workers will get bonus checks. The automaker says the bonuses will be between 4 and 16 percent of their base salaries. The Associated Press reports:

The company says in a statement Thursday that bonuses will be based on the performance of the worker and the company. GM made $4.2 billion in the first three quarters of last year and is expected to post a fourth-quarter profit shortly. The bonuses come just 19 months after GM needed a $49.5 billion government bailout to make it through bankruptcy protection.

The company says that more than 96 percent of the salaried workers will get bonuses of 4 to 16 percent of their base pay. Fewer than 1 percent will get 50 percent or more.

State Government
6:42 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Michigan Attorney General to take on government corruption

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on Inauguration Day, 2011
Corvair Owner Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has created a Public Integrity Unit aimed at stepping up the fight against corruption in state and local government. The Associated Press reports:

Schuette says in a statement Thursday that corruption scandals have "damaged the public's trust in government" and left Michigan with a questionable national reputation. He says there will be "no more Kwames," a reference to disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick served jail time for lying in court about an affair and now is in prison for violating probation. He and his father also face a sweeping federal indictment that accuses them of taking kickbacks and bribes.

Schuette says the unit is being created with existing office resources. During last year's campaign, he had said fighting public corruption was important.

Politics
7:00 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Mubarak refuses to resign

Update 6:01 p.m.:

Egyptians in Michigan are disappointed by the news that President Hosni Mubarak plans to remain in office until elections in September.

Ola Elsaid  is a doctor who lives in Rochester, north of Detroit. She stayed home from work today to watch the developments in Cairo.

Elsaid says Mubarak’s announcement was like “a slap in the face,” and she’s worried about the reaction it could produce:

"So we’re afraid that everybody’s going to revolt even more. We see the reaction from our families. I was speaking to my cousin, he’s already dressed and going down to the street to join the demonstration. And we’re just worried about the bloodshed that might ensue in Egypt right now."

Elsaid says she wants to see the U.S. government support the push for democracy in Egypt.

Update 4:39 p.m.:

We're waiting to hear the reaction from local Arab Americans to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's decision not to resign.  The New York Times filed this report from Cairo:

President Hosni Mubarak told the Egyptian people Thursday that he would delegate more authority to his vice president, Omar Suleiman, but that he would not resign his post, contradicting earlier reports that he would step aside and surprising hundreds of thousands of demonstrators gathered to hail his departure from the political scene.  

In a nationally televised address following a tumultuous day of political rumors and conflicting reports, Mr. Mubarak said he would “admit mistakes” and honor the sacrifices of young people killed in the three-week uprising, but that he would continue to “shoulder my responsibilities” until September, and did not give a firm indication that he would cede political power.

Even as Mr. Mubarak spoke, angry chants were shouted from huge crowds in Cairo who had anticipated his resignation but were instead confronted with a plea from the president to support continued rule by him and his chosen aides. People waved their shoes in defiance, considered an insulting gesture in the Arab world. 

 NPR and BBC will provide continued coverage of the situation in Egypt throughout the evening on Michigan Radio.

Economy
6:11 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Manufacturers need more skilled workers

Manufacturing jobs are growing, but finding skilled labor can be a challenge (manufacturing t-shirts at American Apparel in LA).
Rich Allosi Flickr

The national economy added 49,000 manufacturing jobs in January. That’s more new jobs than in health care, retail or any other major sector of the economy.

It’s good news for the Midwest, where thousands of manufacturing workers are expected to be hired over the next few years.

The number of students enrolled in manufacturing training and engineering courses is on the rise at two year colleges. But some employers say they still have a hard time finding qualified candidates.

Michigan Radio’s Changing Gears project is looking at the economic future of the Midwest.

Michelle Kanu filed this report from Cleveland:

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Offbeat
4:55 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Detroiters raise funds for RoboCop statue

Detroiters want to raise $50K to build a Robocop scultupre in the city
"RoboCop" photo: Orion Pictures (c) 1987

Ealier this week, a guy in Massachusetts sent this Twitter message to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing:

"Philadelphia has a statue of Rocky & Robocop would kick Rocky's butt. He's a GREAT ambassador for Detroit."

Mayor Bing's response? Thanks, but no thanks.

"There are not any plans to erect a statue of Robocop. Thank you for the suggestion."

But Detroit artist Jerry Paffendorf and others are running with the idea. Paffendorf says the idea touched a "funny bone," and sparked "the kind of interest and intrigue in Detroit, and an interest in what Robocop means to Detroit."

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Environment
4:48 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Valentine's Day approaches, are you ready?

Most flowers are imported into the U.S.
Joe Shlabotnik Flickr

Pssst... don't forget. Valentine's Day is Monday... four more shopping days (five if you count the actual day as a shopping day).

Judging by my colleagues here at the station, a couple of us are prepared, some are waiting for the weekend, and some will wait until that last minute.

Are you ready?

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Politics
2:15 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

President Obama's "Win the Future" speech in Marquette

President Barack Obama greets the employees during a stop at Donkers candy store and restaurant in Marquette, Mich., February 10, 2011.
Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton

Here's a copy of the President's "Win the Future" speech at Northern Michigan University today:

Hello, Marquette!  It is good to be in the U.P.  It is good to be at Northern Michigan University! 

So, I have to say, I think some folks on my staff have it out for me.  Not because it’s 10 degrees here – I can handle that.  It’s because for the second time in two weeks, not long after my Bears went down, they’ve sent me to a town with a bunch of Green Bay Packer fans, even if we are in Michigan.  But I congratulate all the fans here, and we’ll see the Packers at the White House.

Of course, I haven’t come to Marquette to talk about winning the Super Bowl.  I’ve come here because it’s towns like this where the jobs and businesses of tomorrow will take root.  It’s towns like this where our economic future will be won.

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Speech at Northern Michigan University
1:00 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Live Stream of President Obama in Marquette

Presidential Visit
12:40 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

President Obama visits U.P. today

President Obama arrives in Marquette, MI later this morning
The U.S. Army Flickr

Update 12:40 p.m.:

We will carry the live feed of President Obama's speech in Marquette on our website at 1pm.

Update 12:01 p.m.:

Governor Snyder has released the following statement about President Obama's trip to Marquette:

“All Michiganders can take great pride in the national recognition earned by Northern Michigan University and the communities of Marquette County.  Their partnership to expand high-speed wireless internet services through NMU’s WiMAX network wisely recognizes the critical need to enhance online availability in the 21st century.  This cutting-edge approach benefits students and families while providing an essential tool that drives business development.

“At the state level, we are working aggressively to provide additional online and self-service alternatives for Michigan residents.  Expanding wireless capabilities in the Upper Peninsula complements our efforts and provides welcome conveniences to U.P. customers.  The President is right to highlight this initiative as a model of cooperation and innovation.  We welcome the President to Michigan and look forward to him sharing this Upper Peninsula success story across America.  We also applaud NMU and the Marquette area as they get their well-deserved attention on the national stage.  They are outstanding ambassadors for the Upper Peninsula and our entire state.”

Update: 10:58 a.m.:

Marquette, Michigan?? Wish we were going to Hawaii instead....

President Obama and his entourage of staff are flying aboard Air Force 1 to Marquette (Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is making his final flight).

The White House press corps is traveling along and they're not looking forward to the extreme cold temps.

Here's a "pool report" from the press:

Marine One touched down at Andrews approx 9:35 am. POTUS, wearing overcoat but no hat or gloves, on AF1 5 minutes later, followed by staff including Jarrett , Sutphen, Mastromonaco, and Gibbs, making his final flight as press secretary.

AF1 rolling, with a flight time of just over 2 hrs from Andrews to Marquette, where the temp is said to be in single digits with a wind chill of -19. Pool fondly remembering travel pool in Hawaii just over a month ago.

7:12 a.m.

President Barack Obama will visit the city of Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula today. The President will visit Northern Michigan University to promote his administration’s National Wireless Initiative.

It’s a program the President first announced during last month’s State of the Union Address.

The initiative would bring high speed wireless internet access to 98 percent of the nation’s population within five years.

Some say it’s a lofty goal, considering such technology is only now being built in major cities.

The initiative is part of the White House’s new focus on innovation and competitiveness as a way to “win the future.”

Offbeat
12:26 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Michigander beats Michiganian (online poll)

The Michiganders have it
Resch Strategies

Budget schmudget.

The real debate in this state is over how we self-identify.

The Michigander vs. Michiganian debate rears up every so often.

We last heard about it during last fall's gubernatorial race.

Democratic candidate Virg Bernero preferred Michiganian, while Republican candidate Rick Snyder preferred Michigander (my spell check likes neither, by the way).

Snyder grabbed the victory and told the crowd to drop all the divisive labels... except one. From MLive:

Snyder told his victory party in Detroit that it was time to "drop the labels" of party, ideology and geography. "There is only one label that matters and that label is Michigander."

Survey says

The Lansing-based PR firm Resch Strategies decided to feel the state's pulse on this question. They contacted 600 Michiganians/Michiganders at the end of January and asked them, "Do you consider yourself a (ROTATE:  Michigander or a Michiganian)"?

The results:

  • 58% said Michigander
  • 12% said Michiganian
  • 7% said both
  • 11% said neither
  • 12% didn’t know

 

Online Poll (warning, extremely scientific)

We thought we'd try to gauge your preference:

 

Commentary
12:24 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Detroit Public Schools

Robert Bobb, the emergency financial manager of the Detroit Public Schools, came to Lansing yesterday to ask for something he has to know he’s probably never going to get.

He wants the legislature to give what amounts to a loan guarantee to the company that insured the schools’ last round of borrowing. If that firm, Assured Guaranty Municipal Corporation, doesn’t get that assurance, it may block the schools from borrowing more money? Why? Because it worries DPS will go bankrupt.

Which would leave Assured Guaranty holding the bag. And it’s a pretty unpleasant bag, The schools are hemorrhaging money and students. Bobb came in two years ago, full of confident promises to eliminate the deficit. But it has only gotten worse.

Assured Guaranty insured a loan for a little over a quarter of a billion dollars the schools borrowed in 2005. Now, the schools need more. They have a new deficit of $327 million dollars.

That’s more than half their entire general fund budget. To make ends meet, Bobb says he needs to borrow $219 million next month.

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Politics
12:17 pm
Thu February 10, 2011

Michigan's Arab-American Community excited at prospect of Mubarak resignation

Hosni Mubarak

 Many in Michigan’s Arab-American community are celebrating the possible resignation of Egyptian president  Hosni Mubarak.   NPR is reporting that Mubarak will announce his resignation this evening.  

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Environment
11:33 am
Thu February 10, 2011

Grand Rapids puts a price tag on city trees

Grand Rapids is trying to take better care of its city trees.
Photo courtesy of Fellowship of the Rich, Flickr

The City of Grand Rapids is working to revive its urban forest. Lindsey Smith visited the committee in charge of the effort to find out how things are going.

Three things to know about trees in Grand Rapids:

  1. The committee values the 61,000 trees within the city’s boundaries at $71 million.  (How'd they get that number?  It's based on the benefits trees provide: capturing storm water runoff, increasing property values, improving air quality and reducing heating and cooling costs for nearby buildings.)
  2. In 2010, more than 1,500 trees were planted in Grand Rapids.
  3. This year they’re working to add a wider variety of native trees - to better protect the urban forest from new pests and disease.  (i.e. things like the uber-destructive emerald ash borer)

Lindsey talked with Dottie Clune, the committee chair.  She says the importance of trees is often overlooked - especially these days with tight city budgets.

“We know that for every dollar we spent on the municipal urban forestry program we received $3.60 in benefits. That’s a pretty good return on investment.”

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Environment
11:13 am
Thu February 10, 2011

Partial ban on hunting & snowmobiling in national forest?

The Huron-Manistee National Forest
Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service has to consider making 70,000 acres off limits to firearm hunting and snowmobiling in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. That’s about seven percent of the Huron-Manistee.

It’s doing this because the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Service to do so... and that’s because of a lawsuit brought by a guy named Kurt Meister. Meister is an attorney, representing himself in the case. He’s trying to get areas that are already designated as non-motorized set aside for quiet recreation. 

“There ought to be some place in the forest where you can go cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing or kayaking or hiking or ride your horse without having to listen to the noise of other people and the guns and machines they use.”

This week, the Michigan House and Senate are discussing three resolutions. Those resolutions express opposition to any potential ban on hunting and snowmobiling in the Huron-Manistee. The resolutions couldn’t stop the federal agency – but it's basically a show of hands against a ban.

The resolutions are:

  • House Concurrent Resolution 2: sponsored by State Rep. Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City) - Passed the House Committee on Natural Resources, Outdoor Recreation and Tourism on Tuesday
  • House Resolution 17: sponsored by State Rep. Peter Pettalia (R-Alpena) - Passed the House Committee on Natural Resources, Outdoor Recreation and Tourism on Tuesday
  • Senate Resolution 6: sponsored by State Senator Goeff Hansen (R-Hart) - Being considered today in the Senate Committee on Outdoor Recreation and Tourism

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Politics
11:07 am
Thu February 10, 2011

Reports: Mubarak might hand over power today

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak might be at the end of his reign.
Muhammad Ghafari Flickr

Many reports that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is stepping down. You can follow live blogging on this story from NPR's The Two Way:

Breaking news from Egypt: President Hosni Mubarak is expected to address his nation tonight (local time), and the leader of his political party says Mubarak may step down. The story is developing and there are conflicting reports about what Mubarak may or may not say. We will pass along information from major news outlets and NPR staff in Cairo.

(10:45 a.m. ET: The story is moving quickly, so we're switching to a live-blog approach. Our updates will flow into the box below automatically. If you look below the box, you can read our original post and two earlier updates.)

Food Stamps
9:52 am
Thu February 10, 2011

College students to lose Bridge Cards and food aid

The state says students are not using benefits properly
Brandon Shigeta Google images

Michigan College students needing food aid will now have a harder time getting it. The state Department of Human Services will take bridge cards away from college students who don’t meet federal guidelines for food assistance.

Some lawmakers say many students who don’t really need the benefits are abusing the program.

Ingham County has the highest number of college students receiving food assistance through the Bridge card program. Michigan State University is in Ingham County.

Nate Smith-Tyge is the Director of the MSU student food bank, a service only for MSU students.

"We’ve seen an increase in the number of people we serve over the past couple of years. You can pretty much tie it directly to the economic downturn we’ve experienced here in Michigan. We do a distribution every other Wednesday, we’ll serve between 275 and 300 people, and that includes students and their dependents."

Allegations of abuse of the program have been largely unsubstantiated. Smth-Tyge says,

"I’d say that there probably is abuse, but I don’t think that you should let the outliers indicate how you determine policy. There is a real demand. We see it on our campus and I’ve talked to people trying to start food-banks from as far away as Schoolcraft Community College in Livonia to people at Grand Valley State and I think there is a real food demand for people as they attend college."

The State Department of Human Services says an unknown number of students will become ineligible for food aid April 15th.

- Sarah Alvarez, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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