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Health
4:55 pm
Tue February 8, 2011

Michelle Obama to Flint: "Let's Move!"

First Lady Michelle Obama
(official White House portrait)

Flint is planning a major, new community wide effort to encourage fitness as it joins Michelle Obama's "Let's Move!" anti-obesity campaign.  Flint is the 500th local community to join the First Lady’s youth fitness campaign which marks its first anniversary tomorrow.  

Mrs. Obama welcomed Flint to her campaign during a conference call with local officials today. 

 “This is a generational problem.  We have to keep driving this issue.  We will do it here at the national level.  But the real work happens on the ground where you are.”

Flint is partnering with the Crim Fitness Foundation to get people to make personal fitness commitments. A kick-off is planned for April. Flint also plans to expand nutrition-related education programs in its schools.

Transportation
3:09 pm
Tue February 8, 2011

Lane closures on Zilwaukee bridge

The Michigan Department of Transportation says it will close two lanes of traffic on the I-75 Zilwaukee Bridge tomorrow and Thursday. From MDOT:

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will close the two left lanes in both directions of I-75 on the Zilwaukee Bridge in Saginaw County. These double-lane closures will be in effect 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. daily on Wednesday, Feb. 9, and Thursday, Feb. 10.

The closures are necessary to accommodate survey work on I-75.

Two lanes (ramp and drive) will remain open on northbound lanes on Wednesday, and on southbound lanes on Thursday.

Crews will close the two left lanes on both days.

Auto/Economy
1:56 pm
Tue February 8, 2011

Government: No electronic throttle problems in runaway Toyotas

Some safety advocates thought software problems could have led to sudden acceleration problems in Toyotas.
Rebecca Bolwitt Flickr

After a ten-month investigation, the results are in.

From the Associated Press:

A government investigation into Toyota safety problems has found no electronic flaws to account for reports of sudden, unintentional acceleration. Transportation officials and engineers with NASA say two mechanical safety defects previously identified by the government - sticking accelerator pedals and gas pedals that can become trapped in floor mats - are the only known causes for the reports of runaway Toyotas. Both issues were the subject of large recalls by Toyota.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the department's 10-month study has concluded there is no electronic-based cause of unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas.

Toyota has recalled more than 12 million vehicles globally since fall 2009 for a series of safety issues. The company has denied that electronics are to blame.

Agriculture
12:12 pm
Tue February 8, 2011

Michigan Farmers to learn about labor laws

Migrant farmworkers live and work on Michgan farms during the harvest
Craig Camp flickr

Sarah Alvarez-Michigan Radio Newsroom

The Michigan Farm Bureau is starting a six month series to educate farmers about laws that apply to migrant workers and youth labor. Michigan’s agriculture industry is dependent on migrant labor. The industry is still dealing with the effect of a harsh report on worker conditions by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission.

Hannah Stevens is with Michigan State University Extension, one of the sponsors of the series.

In agriculture it’s complicated because there immigration issues there’s housing issue, you know, so many regulatory agencies that look closely at management of labor.  I think particularly it’s a sensitive topic.

Stevens says that pressure to comply with labor laws is also coming from retailers.

The retail stores, Meijer’s and Walmart’s and all these, are beginning to demand that there’s certain responsibility that growers have in terms of managing their workforce. They may reject Michigan produce if they don’t feel that’s being handled correctly. That may put growers in a very awkward position.

The farm bureau expects only about 25% of growers in the state will attend their seminars. The seminars will run from February to July.

Economy
12:04 pm
Tue February 8, 2011

Pure Michigan takes step to getting $10 million dollars more from state

The Lake Michigan shoreline at Frankfort, Michigan
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

A State House committee this morning approved $10 million to for the Pure Michigan tourism advertising campaign. The full House is expected to vote on the funding this week, and the Senate next week.

The measure may hit the governor’s desk before the end of the month. 

George Zimmerman is a vice president with Travel Michigan.  He says the money is needed as soon as possible.

 "The funding for the national cable TV buy has already been provided up to this point.   But we don’t really have the funding yet for the regional Spring/Summer buys, in key out of state markets like Chicago, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Columbus etc."

The Pure Michigan campaign is expected to be fully funded at $25 million this year with a mix of public and private money.  The Pure Michigan advertising campaign is credited with boosting the state’s tourism industry, but state budget cuts threatened to keep the campaign off the air.

Environment
11:42 am
Tue February 8, 2011

National bike routes for Michigan

Organizers are making progress on designating two national bicycle routes through Michigan.  As Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith found out, they're hoping the routes will attract tourists to the state.

A group of avid cyclists is working to designate bike routes sort of like the U.S. Department of Transportation designates interstate freeway systems. You can ride on two of these routes in Michigan already – they travel mostly along county roads.

  • Number 20 is an east-west route from Ludington to Marine City.
  • Number 35 is a north-south route that stretches for hundreds of miles along the Lake Michigan shore.

Kerry Irons is with Adventure Cycling, the non-profit that’s spearheading the effort.

“Nothing moves by at a high speed. You don’t have to get off and stare at the lake, you know, get out of the car and stare at the lake, the lake is there for 400 miles. That’s the essence of bicycle touring and the driver behind this national network which is going to be a couple hundred thousand miles of established bicycle routes by the time it’s all done.”

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Arts/Culture
11:36 am
Tue February 8, 2011

Artpod: Cost of Creativity, part 2

The Cost of Creativity looks at arts and the economy in Michigan.
Dani Davis

We put together our stories about arts and the economy in the state to create an hour-long documentary called The Cost of Creativity. On today's podcast, we'll hear the second installment of the doc.

And because Artpod is about all things Michigan, all the music you'll hear on The Cost of Creativity is by Michigan artists. The musicians featured on today's podcast Luke Winslow-King and The Red Sea Pedestrian.

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Commentary
11:29 am
Tue February 8, 2011

Save the Children

We could argue endlessly over who is responsible for the state of Michigan’s economy. Some people blame globalization. Others, the short-sightedness of the domestic automakers. Some say, Jennifer Granholm‘s failure to lead.

Some say it was the callous selfishness of the Republican Party, and on and on. But one thing is clear: today’s toddlers aren’t to blame. Neither is any child. They didn’t make the policies or the mistakes. But they are suffering as a result of them.

That’s not only unfair to them, but sabotages all of our futures, and that of Michigan. If we live long enough, our destinies will all be in the hands of people much younger than us. And right now, we aren’t serving them well. Certainly not well enough.

That’s the clear message emerging from a document released today, The Kids Count Data Book. This is an annual, joint project of two non-partisan, non-profit institutions, the century-old Michigan League for Human Services, and the newer Michigan’s Children.

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Environment
11:25 am
Tue February 8, 2011

Suing the state over pollution permits

A case that pinpoints a key issue in Michigan’s water law could come back before the state Supreme Court. The office of Attorney General Bill Schuette has asked the court to rehear the Anglers of the Au Sable case. The issue is: whether citizen groups can take state agencies to court to protect the environment.

Here's the nut of the case:

  • The Anglers group won their suit in the lower court to protect one of the state’s prime trout streams. The Department of Environmental Quality had given Merit Energy permission to pump more than a million gallons a day of treated wastewater into a creek at the headwaters of the Au Sable River.
  • The Court of Appeals upheld the ruling against the oil company but exempted the Department of Environmental Quality from the lawsuit. The Appeals Court said the issuing of a permit doesn’t cause harm to the environment... it’s the person with the permit that could do that.

So Anglers asked the Michigan Supreme Court to review that part of the ruling.

And in December the high court overturned the lower court and said state agencies that issue permits that result in harm can be named in a citizen suit.

The Court upheld clear language in the Michigan Environmental Protection Act that says any person can bring suit to protect the environment.

Jim Olson, an attorney for the Anglers, says the decision upholds state environmental law that’s been in place for more than forty years.

“Permits that cause harm can be brought into Circuit Court and people can bring it out into the open and judges can make decisions so agencies can’t hide behind the cloak of bureaucracy.”

Since December, a conservative majority is back in control of the Supreme Court.

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News Roundup
8:36 am
Tue February 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

Kids Count

A new report published by the Michigan League for Human Services shows there has been an increase in child abuse and neglect cases in the state. The annual Kids Count report also shows an increase in the number of children living in poverty. There are, however, some bright spots in the report that show a continued decline in teen births and high school dropout rates.

Mayor Bing Announces Residential Incentives

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced a new incentive program yesterday to get more Detroit police officers to live within the city. The project’s pilot phase will give officers the chance to buy a tax-foreclosed home and to be eligible to receive federal funds to restore them, Sarah Cwiek reports. Currently, fewer than half of the city’s police force live in Detroit.

Flint Looks to State for Help

The city of Flint, currently facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit, has applied for state permission to get a $20 million fiscal stabilization bondFlint mayor Dayne Walling says the city needs the money to help keep the city afloat. If the city doesn’t get the funds, the state may eventually takeover Flint’s finances, Steve Carmody reports.

Presidential Visit

President Obama will visit Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on Thursday to talk about the national wireless initiative. In a press release, the White House says:

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.

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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