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wind energy
7:21 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Muskegon County seeking developers to build wind farm

warrenski Creative Commons

Right now, the county rotates growing corn, soybeans and alfalfa on a giant, 11,000 acre plot of land where their waste water treatment plant is. They hope to lease out the land in order to add wind farming to the mix.

Mark Eisenbarth directs Muskegon County’s Wastewater Management System. He says they hope to build up to 75 commercial-sized wind turbines on the site. Eisenbarth says there are dozens of municipalities in Michigan with small turbines or even a handful of large ones. But he says this project will be unique.

“To actually get into a wind project where you’re actually creating 75 to 100 megawatts, we are not aware of any municipality, I’m not saying there’s not any, but I have not seen any yet.”

Muskegon County is soliciting proposals to create a wind farm that would generate between 75 and 100 megawatts. They expect to begin reviewing those proposals by May.

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Economy
5:37 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Could pizza pans help diversify the Michigan economy?

Jet's Pizza owner took it upon himself to find a way to make the pizza pans
Allan Chatto Flickr

Sylvia Rector, a Detroit Free Press Restaurant Critic, has a nice little piece in the Freep about a shortage of pizza pans around the state.

The pizza pan of choice for local restaurants is a blue steel pan that was once made in West Virginia.

The pans were never intended for baking. They were designed to hold small parts in factories.

Overtime the pans "became the pan of choice for nearly every big name in Detroit-style pizza" (Rector describes Detroit -style pizza like this "dough for the thick but airy crust, absurd amounts of cheese and ladles of rich, long-simmered sauce").

But the company moved its operation to Mexico, and they haven't been able to get production up and running.

Pizza makers were distraught. They needed the pans. From the article:

Restaurant supply companies here -- and apparently everywhere else -- have been out of them for many months.

Pizza makers' orders for pans are stacking up by the thousands and causing problems for big chains and small independents alike.

"You wouldn't even believe how many pans we have on back order" -- at least 4,000 small and medium sizes and 700 extra larges -- says Patti Domasicwicz at People's Restaurant Equipment in Detroit. She hasn't received a shipment since April.

One pizza maker couldn't wait. So he took it upon himself to start making the pans in Michigan.

Eugene Jett, co-founder of Jet's Pizza, says he found a manufacturer that would do it:

"They're cutting them as we speak...The first thing is for me to get my pans...It took me a long time to figure out how to get them done...But I decided then, I will build my own pans."

Rector writes that if the manufacturer thinks the pans will be profitable, they might put the pans into full production.

Perhaps another sign that Michigan is diversifying it's economy.

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State Legislature
5:18 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Is it time to allow guns in Michigan churches? Bars? Stadiums?

(source Google images)

A Michigan state senator wants to allow people with concealed carry permits to take their weapons into churches, bars and other ‘gun-free zones’.

A decade ago state lawmakers banned gun owners from taking their weapons into certain public places out of fear of gunplay. But State Senator Mike Green of Mayville says experience has shown those fears were unwarranted, since he believes people have been carrying in ‘gun-free zones’ already without incident. 

It was an obstacle ten years ago because people feared, a good, honest, law-abiding citizen would use it in a way that would hurt or harm other people.  But the fact is, in 11 years there’s not been hardly anything that happened like that. 

Green’s legislation would also put the Secretary of State’s office in charge of processing concealed carry permit applications. He says local gun boards are not completing background checks on the applicants fast enough.

State Legislature
4:59 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Lawmakers moving to eliminate tax credit for the poor

Legislators in the Michigan State Capitol want to do away with the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Republicans at the state Capitol are working to get rid of a tax credit for working poor people.

But people who support the Earned Income Tax Credit say the money helps poor people keep their jobs.

Without the credit they might have to go back on welfare, an they say that would cost the state more money.

Gilda Jacobs, director of the Michigan League for Human Services, says all lawmakers have constituents who claim the credit:

"We have some districts where 18% to 20% of the people are filers of this, and they’re putting multi-millions of dollars back into small businesses. So we kind of need to ask people to see this up-close and personal and to really be open to understanding what this is all about."

Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger says the state cannot afford the Earned Income Tax Credit right now:

“The Earned Income Tax Credit is very new in Michigan. It didn’t exist a couple of years ago. It was added at a time where I believe we couldn’t afford it. So as we look at how we are going to revamp Michigan and how we are going to move forward, we have to evaluate things that we can maybe no longer afford, however we do have to look at that with a broader tax structure, and we have to understand that the best social program is a good-paying job.”

Bolger says eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit will be part of a large package of reforms that are expected to be introduced soon in the House.

Supporters of the tax credit say they have a lot of work to do to convince lawmakers that getting rid of it would hurt people in their districts.

Economy
2:44 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Grand Rapids Mayor responds to Newsweek's "Dying Cities" post

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell was irked by Newsweek's "Dying Cities" designation.
user stevendepolo Flickr

After Newsweek named Grand Rapids as one of its ten "Dying Cities," Mayor George Heartwell sat down to express his feelings about the magazine's designation.

In a letter to Newsweek editor Tina Brown, Heartwell said "the citizens of Grand Rapids were astounded when you declared our city...to be a 'dying city.'"

From the letter:

Dying city? Surely Newsweek must be joking! Would a major medical School (Michigan State University School of Human Medicine) move its campus to a dying city? Would a dying city have seen $1.4 Billion in downtown construction in the past seven years?...Would a dying city have more LEED certified buildings per capita (2009) than any other American city?

The mayor might have been wise to ask whether rapper 50-cent would consider moving to a dying city as well.

He did invite Newsweek's Tina Brown to visit the city saying, "I'm afraid our timing is off to get you to a Kid Rock concert...that happens tonight. But if you want to see Lady GaGa at our Van Andel Arena there's still time; she's comes this spring."

Economy
2:04 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Great recession slows Midwest's "brain drain"

The preferred moving truck for young people.
user dvs Flickr

For much of the last decade, cities across our region have watched their recent college graduates flee to cities like Phoenix.

It what might be good news for our region, new census data show the recession has significantly changed where young people are moving.

People, especially people in their early twenties, go where the jobs are.

That’s why Michigan is so concerned about being the only state in the census to lose population

And cities like Cleveland and Detroit have been fretting about "brain drain" to other areas.

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Education
1:49 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Possible settlement in Detroit schools lawsuit

Robert Bobb

The Detroit School Board has approved a settlement that could end a
long-running lawsuit with the district’s Emergency Financial Manager, Robert Bobb.
 
The Board voted ten-to-one in favor of a settlement that would give them control over the district’s academics.
 

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Auto/Economy
1:37 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Chicago Auto Show organizers like Detroit's trend

It seems they've always been big. The Chicago Auto Show in 1938. "Musical skits...featured the new models. In the photo is the 40-foot revolving globe."
Chicago Auto Show

For the second year in a row, attendance at the North American International Auto Show increased.

It's not just good news for Detroit. It could also be good news for Chicago.

The 2011 Chicago Auto Show kicks off in two weeks.

Its organizers say they’re encouraged by the figures out of Detroit where 735,000 people attended this year’s show.

That’s about 20,000 more than last year.

It's not a huge increase, but it is a change from years of steady decline.
Paul Brian works with the Chicago Auto Show, which attracts a lot more people than the Detroit Auto Show. Brian says regional rivalries aside

"It's kind of like whether you’re Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines - everybody’s playing on the same team. If it’s good for the Detroit show, it’s good for Chicago, and New York, and LA, and it’s good for the industry."

After all, buzz is buzz.

Arts/Culture
12:52 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Artpod: Art & Fashion

A view of the planned Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum.
Photo courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.

Today’s Artpod is all art and fashion. There’s even a guest celebrity of sorts. (Hint: "Make it work!") You can listen to the podcast here.

We'll talk with Michael Rush, the founding director of the new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University.

Plus, we'll meet the man behind Motor City Denim and hear why an auto supplier is now getting ready to make jeans. According to a press release from the company, the line "will begin arriving in stores in early 2011."

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Environment
12:15 pm
Tue January 25, 2011

Dow's partnership with the Nature Conservancy

Dow Chemical corporate headquarters in Midland, Michigan.
User mgreason wikimedia commons

Let's play word association. When I say "Dow Chemical," what's the first word that comes to mind?

It's probably not bunnies or birds, but with it's new partnership with the Nature Conservancy, officials at Dow say they'll begin to take bunnies and birds into consideration when they make business decisions.

Dow called the partnership a "breakthrough collaboration."

The company and its foundation will put up $10 million to fund the five-year project which will "provide strategic, science-based counsel and technical support to help answer questions about the value and benefits of natural areas on or near where Dow works – such as the benefits of a forest to ensuring clean water for towns and factories, and the role natural wetlands and reefs play in preventing damage from storms."

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Transportation
10:45 am
Tue January 25, 2011

Part of terminal at Detroit Metro Airport evacuated

Inside the Detroit Metropolitan Airport
Phil H Flickr

UPDATE 10:45 a.m.:

A suspicious package forced the evacuation of part of the Detroit Metro Airport today.

Mike Conway is an airport spokesman. He says baggage handling workers alerted security officials after a box containing electronic equipment and loose wiring entered the building. The box was being moved from one airplane to another.

Conway says the security officials closed 8 gates in the McNamara Terminal while they investigated the box.

 “The area below that is where the nuts and bolts where all the processing of all the luggage, packages and stuff like occur…this package was on a belt…in the bag makeup area for that section of gates.’"

Conway says the box did not originate in Detroit. He says the shipper is being contacted.

9:15 a.m.:

Part of a terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Airport has been evacuated, the Associated Press reports. Authorities say the evacuation occurred after a suspicious box was found at an area for loading cargo and luggage onto planes.  According to the AP:

Airport spokesman Mike Conway says the box was found about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday and passengers were removed from part of Concourse B at the McNamara Terminal out of "an abundance of caution." Conway says planes that were to use gates at the concourse were using other gates at the airport. The concourse at the airport in Romulus primarily is used by regional aircraft.

He says details about why security officials determined the box to be suspicious weren't immediately available.

Crime
10:42 am
Tue January 25, 2011

Possible motive begins to appear for Detroit police precinct shooter

Reporters continued to dig up more details on Lamar D. Moore last night.

On Sunday, Moore entered Detroit's Northwestern Police station and began shooting. 4 officers were shot before Moore was shot and killed.

Why did he do it?

Reporters for the Detroit Free Press say a source told them that Moore "couldn't have expected to win the gunfight [because] he walked in with only a few rounds."

From the article: 

According to an official familiar with the investigation, Moore was implicated in kidnapping and sexually assaulting a runaway teen. According to the official, Moore shot up the station Sunday after the girl left his home to get help that afternoon.

Police, who raided Moore's home because of the sex crime investigation -- and independently of the shooting -- later made the connection between the two, the official said.

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Lansing
9:09 am
Tue January 25, 2011

"It’s happening in Lansing" - The State of the City of Lansing

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero delivered his sixth state of the city address last night.  He had a lot to say about past accomplishments,  but said next to nothing about the city’s projected $15 million budget deficit. 

Look around and see for yourself, it’s happening in Lansing.

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero told the audience during his state of the city address.  To that end, Bernero  spoke a lot about recent business investment in the capitol city.

He didn’t speak directly to Lansing’s projected $15 million budget deficit. He did suggest part of the budget problem can be found across the street from Lansing city hall at the state capitol. 

City budgets across Michigan are on life support.   The loss of property tax values means the loss of property tax revenue.  High unemployment means the loss of income tax revenue.  And the continued failure of state government to manage its own budget problems has cost of tens of millions in state shared revenues.

Bernero also said Lansing needs to work with its neighbors to deal with a variety of regional problems.

News Roundup
8:56 am
Tue January 25, 2011

In this morning's news...

GM to Add Jobs in Flint

General Motors announced yesterday that it plans to add 750 jobs to its Flint Assembly Plant. But, no new hires will be made. Instead, as Steve Carmody reports, the pool of workers will come from two places:

  1. People being reactivated from various layoff pools
  2. Workers who would like to return to Flint after they were transferred to another plant

The GM Flint Assembly plant currently employs about 2,000 workers. Governor Rick Snyder attended the announcement as did Mark Reuss, GM’s North America President.

A Move to a Two-Year Budget?

There’s been talk around Lansing recently about whether or not it would be a good idea for state lawmakers to adopt a two year budget plan for the state rather than the constitutionally-mandated one year budget plan. Governor Snyder and many lawmakers say they need to start thinking farther in advance when putting together the state’s budget. State Senator John Proos told reporter Laura Weber that a two year budget should happen, but that it will take time. Proos is expected to introduce a measure that would amend the constitution to create a two-year budget cycle as well as a part-time Legislature.

State of the City

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero delivered his sixth State of the City address last night. Bernero spoke quite a bit about recent business investment in the capitol city but didn’t talk directly about Lansing’s projected $15 million budget deficit. Bernero was the Democratic nominee in Michigan's 2010 Gubernatorial race. He lost the race to his Republican opponent Rick Snyder. Snyder delivered his first State of the State address as Governor last Wednesday evening.

Election 2012
7:05 am
Tue January 25, 2011

A Stabenow/Anuzis matchup for MI Senate?

Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis
Photo courtesy of www.thatssaulfolks.com

Former Michigan Republican Party chairman Saul Anuzis says he is considering a run against Michigan's Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow in 2012.

Senator Stabenow was elected to a second term by Michigan voters in 2006. Anuzis said it could take weeks or a couple of months to decide whether or not to run.

Earlier this month, Anuzis lost a bid to chair the National Republican Party to Reince Priebus.

As the Hill.com reports, Anuzis:

...may face former Gov. John Engler, the former head of the National Association of Manufacturers, or former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) or Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) in a primary contest.

State of the City
6:37 am
Tue January 25, 2011

Lansing Mayor Bernero delivers State of the City address

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero
Photo courtesy of www.votevirg.com

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero delivered his sixth State of the City address last night. As Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports, he had a lot to say about past accomplishments but said next to nothing about the city's projected $15 million dollar budget deficit:

"Look around and see for yourself, it's happening in Lansing," Bernero said. That was the theme of Lansing mayor Virg Bernero's state of the city address.

To that end, Bernero spoke a lot about recent business investment in the capitol city.  He didn't speak directly to Lansing's projected $15 million budget deficit.

He did suggest part of the budget problem can be found across the street from Lansing city hall at the state capitol.

"City budgets across Michigan are on life support.   The loss of property tax values means the loss of property tax revenue.  High unemployment means the loss of income tax revenue.  And the continued failure of state government to manage its own budget problems has cost of tens of millions in state shared revenues," Bernero said.

Bernero also said Lansing needs to work with its neighbors to deal with a variety of regional problems.

Bernero was the Democratic nominee in Michigan's 2010 Gubernatorial race. He lost the race to his Republican opponent Rick Snyder. Snyder delivered his first State of the State address as Governor last Wednesday evening.

Culture
11:27 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

Grand Rapids officials discuss pros, cons, of week-long biker event

lehcar1477 Creative Commons

Organizers of the proposed “River City Bike Week” expect the five-day event will attract between 50,000 and 60,000 people. But some worry the group is overestimating the economic benefits and underestimating the noise, traffic and potential crime they say is associated with biker clubs.

Kyle Davis is an avid Harley rider from the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming. He’s been missing the annual biker week in Sturgis, MI and would be thrilled to have something like that in Grand Rapids.

“It’s going to be noisy I can tell you that but for the most part, a lot of the Harley community around here gives back to the community a lot. I know my brother has muscular dystrophy and they do a big huge fundraiser every year. So they’re really misunderstood in my point of view.”

If the city allows the event, River City Bike Week organizer Tracy Holt says part of the proceeds would benefit the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation that helps give Grand Rapids students the tools they need to succeed. She says they'll have bike builders, vendors, stunts, races, and concerts by ZZ Top, the Steve Miller Band and the Doobie Brothers.

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Politics
5:51 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

Detroit City Council hears about EMS "management" problems

The Detroit City Council got a briefing on chronic troubles with the city’s Emergency Medical Services Monday.

EMS Chief Jerald James told the Council that only 19 of the city’s 47  EMS vehicles are in use right now. The other 27 are awaiting repair.

James also  says the understaffed department also has the money to hire 57 new employees--but  can’t find people to fill those positions.

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Auto/Economy
5:13 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

Retailers have item pricing law in their sights

Steve Carmody

Retailers say they are more hopeful than they’ve been in many years that Michigan is close to repealing the law that requires them to put a price sticker on every item they sell. But unions and Democrats say they will put up a fight to preserve what they say is a significant consumer protection.

James Hallan is the president of the Michigan Retailers Association. He says store-owners were pleased to hear in Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State address that he is on their side. And Hallan says retailers hope the Legislature’s large Republican majorities will go along with scrapping the 35-year-old law.

“We have a new administration that is progressive. We have a legislative body that is progressive, and technology has come a long ways from where it was in 1976. Cell phones were not around in 1976. You look at all the new technology, and it’s time we embrace this and not walk away from it."

But not everyone is on board. Chris Michalakis is with the United Food and Commercial Workers union. He says the item-pricing law remains popular with the public.

“What we’re hoping is our Republican governor and our Republican majorities in the House and the Senate will listen to consumers and members of their community and when they look to change this law, do it in a way that voters are comfortable with and do it in a way that protects consumers and protects jobs.”

Employee unions say the law remains popular with the public for a reason and, if anything, the item pricing law should be more strongly enforced.

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Politics
4:32 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

Lawmakers seek a 2-year budget cycle for Michigan

The Michigan House of Representatives
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The state could be headed toward a two-year budget cycle.

Governor Rick Snyder and many lawmakers say they need to start thinking farther into the future when putting together a budget.

However, creating a two-year budget cycle would require an amendment to the Michigan Constitution. The Legislature would have to put it on the ballot for voters to approve.

State Senator John Proos says that could and should happen, but it will take time. He says in the meantime lawmakers can create a two-year projection:

"That’s something that every year instead of scrambling to fix a budget hole and not really telling the whole story about what our budget will look like out into the future, this will give us the time instead to say our revenue picture and expenditure picture is going to look like X. Once we’ve made that determination, then we can say are we actually getting value for the tax dollars that we’re spending."

Proos is expected to introduce a measure that would amend the constitution to create a two-year budget cycle as well as a part-time Legislature.

Proos says for now it’s important to complete work on the budget by Governor Snyder’s May 31st deadline.

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