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11:16 am
Wed April 20, 2011

New Department of Corrections Chief named

Governor Rick Snyder has named Jackson County Sheriff Daniel Heyns as the new director of the Michigan Department of Corrections. He'll start his new duties on June 1st.

From the Governor's Press release:

Heyns earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Michigan in 1973 and a master’s in criminal justice, with a correctional administration focus, from Michigan State University in 1977.  Heyns obtained his State of Michigan Police Officer Certification in 1981, is a graduate of the National FBI Academy and has completed special weapons and tactics training...

Heyns, of Jackson, has served as Jackson County sheriff since 2003.  He is responsible for a $12.5 million budget, a 450-bed jail operation, 911 central dispatch center and multiple specialized units including marine patrol, detective bureau, K-9, narcotics, traffic, firearms, Special Response Team and school liaison.  He previously served as Jackson County undersheriff and was a captain in the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.

The Associated Press notes that Heyns was a vocal opponent of Governor Granholm's plan to release more nonviolent prisoners eligible for parole.

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FOIA
9:20 am
Wed April 20, 2011

State Police want big bucks for public documents

photo by Vincent Duffy

The Michigan Freedom of Information Act is 34-years-old this month.  According to a ranking by the Better Government Association, it’s one of the stronger Freedom of Information laws in the United States. 

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News Roundup
9:19 am
Wed April 20, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Lawsuits challenging emergency manager law start

Detroit's General Retirement System and the Police and Fire Retirement System have filed a lawsuit challenging the new emergency financial manager law.

From the Associated Press:

The City of Detroit's two pension boards have filed a lawsuit seeking to block the state's new emergency financial manager law, calling it unconstitutional.

The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press report the lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Detroit and names Gov. Rick Snyder and Treasurer Andy Dillon. The lawsuit claims that emergency financial managers could remove pension board members for no reason.

Snyder's office says the governor believes in the constitutionality of the law, otherwise he wouldn't have signed it.

Benton Harbor's Emergency Financial Manager, Joe Harris, was the first EFM to use broad new powers granted to him by the state.

Cleaning the lead out of Detroit homes

The federal government and private foundations will help fund a project to help get rid of environmental hazards in Detroit homes. From the Detroit Free Press:

The federal government will kick in $1 million to help make 100 homes in a targeted area of Detroit lead-free and safe from other hazards -- such as mold and radon -- and to train workers in environmental remediation techniques.

Deputy Secretary Ron Sims of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will present the funds to Mayor Dave Bing today.

The Freep reports that a study showed "60% of children in public schools in the city who scored below grade level on standardized state tests had lead poisoning."

Foundations, nonprofit partners, and state agencies are also expected to invest in the project.

Snyder to announce new leader for the Michigan Department of Corrections

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to make the announcement this morning. From the Detroit News:

Snyder selected Jackson County Sheriff Dan Heyns to run the department, which takes the largest share of general fund dollars in the state's budget, according to two people familiar with the decision.

Snyder will make the announcement publically later this morning at a news conference in the governor's press auditorium, across from the Capitol in Lansing.

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Education
1:01 am
Wed April 20, 2011

'Freedom of Information' vs 'Academic Freedom'

U of M professors and their supporters deliver the results of an online petition to U of M officials
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

University of Michigan professors are asking university officials to deny a ‘Freedom of Information Request’ in the cause of ‘Academic Freedom’.  The issue concerns email.  

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Politics
5:40 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Michigan Attorney General's office collects over $100 million in child support

Michigan Attorney General's office

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says that office’s Child Support Division has passed an important marker: It has now collected more than $100 million in child support for delinquent parents.

The division launched in 2003. Since then, it’s used Michigan’s tough child support laws to enforce court-ordered payments.

Michiganis the only state that makes failure to pay child support a four-year felony.

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Medicine
5:35 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Governor Snyder signs "I'm sorry" law for doctors

Governor Snyder signed a law aimed at protecting doctor's if they say "I'm sorry" after a failed medical procedure.
user the consumerist Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that protects doctors from lawsuits if they express sympathy for the death of a patient.

Snyder says health care providers are often prohibited from saying “I’m sorry” when a medical procedure fails because it can be considered an admission of guilt in court.

Snyder said the new law will allow doctors to be more supportive, "and the opportunity for health care professionals to have a dialogue with families that have had some traumatic experiences," said Snyder. "So it’s great to have an opportunity to have that be done in a safe and thoughtful fashion so people can have good communication and good dialogue."

Snyder says studies show that when a doctor is allowed to say “I’m sorry,” people who are grieving are better able to heal.

Auto/Economy
5:18 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Stabenow, top U.S. trade official talk exports in Detroit

Debbie Stabenow

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and a top Obama Administration trade Official were in Detroit Tuesday, talking about how to boost U.S. exports.

President Obama wants to double U.S. exports by 2015.  Under Secretary for International Trade Francisco Sanchez joined Stabenow to trade ideas with local business leaders.

Sanchez says the Obama administration is making progress on leveling the playing field for U.S. exports.

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Politics
5:03 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Johnson delivers first-ever "State of the Secretary of State" speech

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.
rick4mi.com

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson delivered what she says was the first-ever "State of the Secretary of State" speech in Lansing.

It's a speech Johnson says she plans to deliver the speech every year she is in office, "because I think there’s so much information and so many good things that are happening and I want people to know where we’re at, and where we’re going," said Johnson, "so you can judge – are we doing a good job or not?"

In the speech, Johnson said she is cutting costs in the Department of State.

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Education
4:42 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Senate budget panel scales back K-12 cut

Cuts are in the works for Michigan's K-12 public schools.
user frank juarez Flickr

A state Senate budget subcommittee has rolled back the size of Governor Rick Snyder’s proposed cut to K-through-12 schools.

The Senate subcommittee recommendation would still cut school funding by $170 per student, but that’s less than the $300 per student cut called for by the governor in his budget proposal.

State schools superintendent Michael Flanagan says more money for K-through-12 education is always welcome, but Flanagan says he’s concerned about what might have to be cut to make up that money.

"I don’t want to see pre-natal care for moms go at the expense of a couple of bucks in the formula, so that we actually have a bigger problem than we would have had, and I hope that’s what we can start to get people to think about is the continuum of services for kids – not just the K-12 issue."

The full Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on the budget recommendation tomorrow, along with budgets for universities, community colleges, and state agencies.

The governor has set a goal of wrapping up the entire state budget by June first.

Education
4:30 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

MSU finds one of its education professors guilty of plagiarizing

MSU Education Professor Sharif Shakrani has been found guilty of 'research misconduct'
Jane M Sawyer morgue file

Michigan State University has found one of its education professors guilty of plagiarism in a 2010 report about school consolidation.

The Booth newspaper chain commissioned MSU professor Sharif Shakrani to do a study about school consolidation. Shakrani’s study found Michigan could save more than $600 million by consolidating school districts.

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Politics
4:25 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

First legal challenges to emergency manager law

Robert Bobb, Detroit Public Schools emergency financial manager, says the new emergency manager law has already helped him in his role.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The controversial emergency financial manager law gives broad powers to state-appointed officials who are brought in to help struggling cities and school districts.

It was signed into law last month by Governor Rick Snyder, now, as MPRN's Rick Pluta reports, two Detroit pension fund boards have filed a lawsuit challenging the state's emergency financial manager law. They say the law "illegally threatens contracts and collective bargaining agreements."

Under the law, emergency managers can strip power from locally elected officials and dissolve union contracts.

Pluta spoke with the emergency manager in charge of the Detroit Public Schools, Robert Bobb. He says these legal challenges won't help: 

"Because the legislation as it is is to kind of help escalate the resolution of problems and issues in localities and in school districts and any type of prolonged litigation does not really help advance what needs to be advanced to right the ship," says Bobb.

The Detroit News reports that the lawsuit was filed by Detroit's General Retirement System and the Police and Fire Retirement System:

The law "represents an imminent threat to the constitutional rights of plaintiffs and other members of the Detroit Retirement Systems," the funds' lawyer Ronald A. King wrote in the lawsuit.

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Economy
4:03 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Autos and food processors get state tax breaks

Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Five companies will get tax breaks from the state of Michigan to expand their businesses and create nearly 1,400 new jobs. The businesses received tax incentives from the state Tuesday in exchange for the jobs and around $163 million dollars in private investments.

The tax breaks went to two primary industries; automotive manufacturing for companies near Detroit and Flint and food processing for companies in West Michigan.

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Auto/Economy
3:25 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Toyota announces more production cuts at North American plants

Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, after the earthquake. Toyota announced more production cuts today.
Takashi Nakano vis user tex texin Flickr

Parts shortages from Japan continue as Toyota announces more production cuts - from the Associated Press:

Toyota is extending production cuts at its North American factories through May because of parts shortages from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

The company says production will be suspended in North America on Mondays and Fridays from April 26 through June 3. During the same period, plants will run at half capacity on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Toyota also said Tuesday that U.S. production will be suspended the week of May 30 after the Memorial Day holiday. Canadian production will be suspended the week of May 23 in conjunction with Victoria Day.

Plans after June 3 will be announced later. Toyota says no workers will be laid off.

The company last week announced Monday and Friday suspensions from April 15 to 25.

Detroit has the "Big Three," but Japan has the "Big Five" (Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Suzuki, and Mazda).

This info-graphic from the Globe and Mail captures how interconnected the Japanese auto economy is to the rest of the world.

Politics
2:59 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

President Obama's invite to a townhall meeting hosted by Facebook

President Obama inviting people to join his town hall meeting hosted by Facebook
screen grab of YouTube video

In an attempt to reach people who are hanging out online, President Obama is holding an "online town hall" meeting at the headquarters of Facebook in Palo Alto, California. There he'll discuss his ideas for bringing down the deficit, and take questions posted on the White House Facebook page.

Here's the invite from the President released this morning:

Carla Marinucci on the Politics Blog of the San Francisco Chronicle writes:

...only a few lucky invitees and reporters will actually be allowed inside the headquarters of Facebook to see the town hall...White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer told reporters last week in a conference call that Obama isn't necessarily aiming for the youth demographic with his event. "It is an attempt to reach people who may not get their news through traditional news sources like newspapers and the network news,'' he said. "And we want to go to where people...congregate online and communicate with them there. And Facebook is certainly one of the premiere places to do that."

Offbeat
2:22 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Graduation "Flash Mob" on the University of Michigan's Diag

The "mob" builds on the front steps of the Hatcher Graduate Library at the University of Michigan.
screen grab of YouTube video

flash mob - n - a group of people who organize on the Internet and then quickly assemble in a public place, do something bizarre, and disperse; also called inexplicable mob

Cindy Heflin at AnnArbor.com spotted this one - a "flash mob" performance on the University of Michigan's Diag:

The performance was coordinated by students and sponsored by online graduation announcement company GoEnnounce.com.

About 70 students danced to Rusted Roots' "Send me on my way," GoEnnounce said in an e-mail...The performance was choreographed by Erik Heitz, a musical theater major.

Hard to say whether 70 dancers constitutes a "mob" - which according to Websters is a crowd "bent on riotous or destructive action."

Seems more like a "flash dance" to me, but that name's been taken.

Commentary
2:01 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

GOP Losing Streak

For many years, Michigan has had a strong two-party tradition. During the nineteen-eighties and early nineties, Michigan voters came closer than any other state to mirroring the national presidential results. But we don’t just go with the winners.

We’ve also had one of the oldest and strongest traditions of ticket-splitting in the nation. Back in 1964, Democrat Lyndon Johnson carried the state by more than a million votes, something never seen before or since. But seven hundred thousand of those voters crossed over to give Republican George Romney a landslide as well.

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Politics
1:53 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Flint Mayor reacts to news reports on Flint crime

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling (right) and police Chief Alvern Lock.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling took issue with two reports on crime in Flint and police layoffs: an article published in the New York Times; and a WJBK Fox 2 news report.

Both were by reporter Charles LeDuff.

Here are some excerpts from Walling's letter posted on votewalling.com:

...I am deeply disturbed by yet another cheap shot at the City of Flint.

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Crime
12:00 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Kalamazoo police officer killed in the line of duty

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley addresses the media
live WoodTVStream

Update 12:00 p.m.

Wood TV is carrying the press conference of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety live.

The slain officer was identified as Eric Zapata a 10 year veteran of the force. He had three children.

The police chief was visibly emotional when identifying Zapata as the officer who lost his life.

It was the first time the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety has lost an officer in the line of duty.

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said the loss has shaken the department:

"We're a small group... We have to look out for each other. You become very close.. and when things like this happen, it hits hard."

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Auto/Economy
10:57 am
Tue April 19, 2011

General Motors hiking car and truck prices

Prices of new cars will be going up.
Emilio Labrador Flickr

Higher commodity prices are translating into higher prices for cars and trucks.

GM announced their prices will go up - joining Ford and Toyota.

From the Associated Press:

General Motors says it will raise car and truck prices by an average of $123 per vehicle to make up for its increased oil and metal costs.

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Borders
1:01 am
Tue April 19, 2011

Borders Books liquidation sales coming to a close

The sale is already over at this former Borders location in Ann Arbor
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The company handling the liquidation sales at more than 200 Borders bookstores says most of those stores will close by this weekend.  The liquidation sales have already been completed at many of the stores, including one in Ann Arbor. 

Rick Kaye is a spokesman for Hilco Merchant Services, the company handling the liquidation sales.  

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