News

Pages

Auto/Economy
5:18 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Chrysler to build experimental hybrid minivans

There’s more than one kind of hybrid vehicle. But most people only know about electric hybrids that use batteries.

The U.S. Department of Energy has poured several billion dollars into helping companies develop advanced lithium-ion batteries.  But to hear Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne describe the effort, that's tantamount to picking a technology winner, before the race is finished.

The big problem with advanced batteries, says Marchionne, is they're really expensive. A big battery can increase the cost of a vehicle by a third.  

"And I don’t think we should prejudice the discussion by saying electrics are the answer," Marchionne said at a press event held at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor.  "They may be part of the answer."

Enter hydraulic hybrids. They tap into energy stored in high pressure canisters filled with fluid and nitrogen. They’re cheaper than electric hybrids, and already used in some big rigs and garbage trucks.

Now, using technology developed by the U.S. EPA., Chrysler will build and test a set of hydraulic hybrid minivans. The company hopes to see the same improvement in fuel efficiency as battery hybrids - about 30 to 35% -  but at a much lower cost.

Read more
State Legislature
5:03 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Lawmakers move to repeal the Michigan Business Tax

Replacing the Michigan Business Tax is high on the legislature's agenda
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Senate Bill 1 has been introduced, and you can read it, in its entirety - here you go:

The Michigan business tax act, 2007 PA 36, MCL208.1101 to 208.1601, is repealed.

The bill was introduced by Senator Dave Hildenbrand and comes in advance of Governor Rick Snyder's State of the State address tonight.

Replacing the Michigan Business Tax was one of candidate Snyder's main promises to voters.

Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network filed a report on Senate Bill 1:

Senator Dave Hildenbrand...says his bill is more aggressive than a similar bill introduced by House Republicans, which only repeals part of the business tax:

"Well we wanted to send a strong message that we want to create a better business climate in this state so our job providers can provide jobs. It’s pretty clear, I think to all of us, that the Michigan Business Tax is an obstacle for employers to good create jobs, expand, for the ability for us to attract job providers to Michigan. So we’ve declared war on the Michigan Business Tax."

Governor Rick Snyder wants to replace the Michigan Business Tax with a flat tax on large businesses. Snyder is expected to talk more about his plans for economic development during his State of the State address tonight.

Read more
Commentary
4:14 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

And, As for the Democrats

There’s a lot of speculation today as to what Governor Snyder will say when he makes his first State of the State speech tonight.

Well, we’ll find out soon enough. However, I’m also interested in what the Democrats are going to say in response. Now, there are a lot of people who think whatever they say won’t matter much.

After all, the Dems were pounded into the ground in the last election. They lost a record twenty seats in the House, where the Republicans have a sixty-three to forty-seven seat edge.

And they are in a lot worse shape in the state senate, where they now hold only a dozen seats out of thirty-eight. That’s the weakest position they’ve been in since 1954.

Nevertheless, what goes around does tend to come around. Nobody thinks Governor Snyder‘s honeymoon with the voters will last forever. Nor is it likely that all of his fellow Republicans in the legislature are always going to support what he wants to do.

These are also not normal times. Michigan has lost nearly a million jobs in the last decade, and has the highest unemployment rate of any major state in the nation. Additionally, it’s clear that our method of funding state government is broken.

Read more
Politics
3:31 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Detroit councilwoman: Time to lawyer up over water issue

William Warby Flickr

Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson says she wants the city to lawyer up in preparation for a fight over the city’s massive water system.

Legislation introduced at the state Capitol this week would transfer the majority of control over the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the suburbs. The bill would create a regional authority that would manage rates and contracts.

Watson urged her colleagues to hire an attorney to prepare to fight the move:

"If we sit and wait and do 'Kumbaya up in Lansing while they got their hands on our water system, we’re going to be in trouble, and the citizens here are going to be blaming everybody up here for not being armed and ready. We need to be armed and ready with litigation, and go to court."

Former governor Jennifer Granholm vetoed a similar bill several years ago. But the idea has gained new traction in Lansing, with a Republican governor and Republican-controlled House and Senate.

A recent federal indictment also renewed interest in revamping how the department is governed. The indictment detailed allegations of kickbacks and corruption related to water department contracts.

Economy
2:58 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Dow chief meets with President Obama and China's President Hu Jintao

Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical speaking at the ground breaking of Dow Kokam, an advanced battery manufacturing plant in Michigan.
Dow Chemical

The CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, met with President Obama and China's President Hu this afternoon along with leaders from 17 other businesses in the U.S. and China.

President Obama says he's stressing the importance of  increasing exports to China and increasing investment in the United States, "both critical to supporting millions of American jobs." 

President Obama and President Hu made statements to the press before their meeting. From the press pool report:

Read more
Arts/Culture
1:52 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Artpod: Ukulele helps ease the pain

A ukulele jam at Marshall Music in Lansing
Kyle Norris Michigan Radio

On today's Artpod, we'll take a look at why sales of the ukulele are doing so well.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

When times are tough, and people are losing jobs, making music can be a comfort. Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris sits in on a ukulele jam at Oz's Music in Ann Arbor, and talks to the folks at Elderly Instruments in East Lansing to see how the little instrument is selling.

Read more
State of the State
1:09 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Snyder set to deliver first State of the State address tonight

Governor Rick Snyder delivering his first inaugural address on January 1st, 2011
Corvair Owner Flickr

Updated at 1 pm: 

Governor Snyder says the economy will be the focus of his first State of the State speech tonight.

That should come as no surprise, considering Michigan has a massive budget deficit and one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.

Snyder says he’ll talk about economic development, and about a state partnership with the University of Michigan, as reported in this story on annarbor.com. He says he also plans to present a “report card” on some key issues: 

We’re going to have probably 21 different measures in five different areas. Things about the economy, about the health of our people in the state, public safety issues, a number of different areas. Education.

Snyder says the report card, or “dashboard” as he calls it, will be revisited in each of his State of the State addresses to see whether laws and policies are improving things. A spokeswoman for the governor says it will be made available on a Web site that's slated to go live later today.

8:08 a.m.:

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his first State of the State address tonight at 7 p.m.. He'll deliver the speech to a joint session of the Michigan legislature in the state's Capitol building in Lansing. Though details of the speech have not been released, we do know the speech is expected to last about 40 minutes and is likely to focus on ways to improve and reinvent the state's economy.

Read more
Economy
12:53 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

West Michigan economy in the middle of “significant turnaround”

GVSU economist Hari Singh tells business leaders "last year there was a glimmer of hope, today the sun is rising"
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The annual West Michigan Economic forecast was held today in Grand Rapids. Hari Singh is an economist at Grand Valley State University. He expects employment will increase 2% in the region this year .

Read more
News Roundup
9:17 am
Wed January 19, 2011

In this morning's news...

SOS Tonight

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his first State of the State address to a joint session of the Michigan Legislature this evening in Lansing. Though details of the speech haven’t been released we do know it’s expected to last about 40 minutes and that Snyder doesn’t plan to read from prepared text. Instead, Snyder will go by a series of notes. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the Democratic response. You can hear live coverage of the address, the Democratic response, and analysis of the evening beginning at 7 p.m. on Michigan Radio.

Snyder Meets with MEA

Governor Rick Snyder met yesterday with the Michigan Education Association (MEA) teachers union. The union presented Snyder with a plan that includes expanding the sales tax to services to raise more money for schools, Laura Weber reports. Governor Snyder has said he wants to reform Michigan’s tax structure but that now is not the time to expand the state’s sales tax. Iris Salters, the Director of the MEA teachers union, said she was glad the new Governor met with her group.

Vote on Health Care Law

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a  repeal of the new health care law later today. It’s expected that the Republican-led House will vote to repeal the bill but, even if that does happen, the Democratic-led U.S. Senate is not expected to take it up in their chamber. Michigan's Attorney General has joined many other states arguing that parts of the new health care law are unconstitutional. So far, one federal court in Michigan ruled in favor of the law, while another federal court in Virginia ruled against it, Mark Brush reports.

Investigative
8:25 am
Wed January 19, 2011

Medicaid-welfare cuts could cost Michigan

A snapshot of Michigan's Assistance Application.
MDHS

There are close to 10-million people in Michigan.  And almost three-million are now receiving some kind of state assistance.  Half of them are children.

“A lot of them are my next-door neighbors.  It’s bad in Michigan right now.  And people are in a position where they’ve never been," says Becky Clark, who works with the Michigan Department of Human Services in Lenawee County.

Read more
Governor Snyder
7:31 am
Wed January 19, 2011

New poll shows favorable opinion of Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

A new poll shows 59 percent of likely Michigan voters hold a favorable opinion of Governor Rick Snyder. The poll was released on the eve of Snyder's first State of the State address.

Nine percent of likely voters say they have an unfavorable opinion of the new governor. 

When asked, 41 percent of respondents said they think Michigan is not headed in the right direction, 39 percent said it is.

The results of the poll have a margin of sampling area of four percentage points.

Education
1:00 am
Wed January 19, 2011

Grand Rapids Public Schools discuss public comment policy

Board member Maureen Slade (middle) gestures at security guards at the meeting, "I don't think we have anything to fear from our public."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids Public Schools is revising how it lets people comment at school board meetings. The district has a unique policy (see page 51-54). A Grand Rapids school board member says he couldn’t find any other district in Michigan with a similar provision.

Read more
Education
6:06 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Wayne State appoints Allan Gilmour as 11th President

Allan Gilmour
Wayne State University

The Wayne State University Board of Governors has named Allan Gilmour its 11th President.

Read more
Politics
5:39 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Activists speak out in favor of health care law

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote on the "Repeal the Job-Killing Health Care Act" this week.

In what's been called a symbolic move, the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a repeal of the new health care law this week (maybe tomorrow).

It's symbolic because the law isn't likely to be repealed. A vote isn't expected to come up in the Senate, and even if a repeal bill DID pass the Senate, President Obama would more than likely veto it.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, spoke with supporters of the federal health care law.

Read more
Education
5:09 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Teachers union present a plan to Governor Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder met with the state’s largest teachers union today to talk about funding and standards for the state's public school system.

Laura Weber, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, reports the Michigan Education Association (MEA) teachers union presented Snyder with a plan that includes expanding the sales tax to services to raise more money for schools.

Weber reports that Governor Snyder has said he wants to reform Michigan’s tax structure, but says now is not the time to expand the sales tax.

Even so, Iris Salters, the director of the MEA teachers union, said she's glad the new Governor was willing to meet with them:

"We’re encouraged by the governor’s willingness to garner a lot of input from people who not only work within the education system, but those who are consumers of the education system. And that’s got to be good."

Another reform being considered by the Michigan legislature is to make Michigan a "Right-To-Work" state, something the MEA opposes. Doug Pratt, with the MEA, told MPRN's Laura Weber that he is concerned about the push to make Michigan a "Right-To-Work" state:

"It is a false premise that has proven not to work in other places, it is wrong for this state. And we are heartened by the governor’s comments as well as comments from others in the business community that now is not the time to take such an action."

Science/Medicine
3:57 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

U of M opens new business incubator in old Pfizer facility

U of M's new venture accelerator will connect startups with talent and funding
Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan

A new type of incubator is open for business at the University of Michigan. It’s called a “venture accelerator,” and it’s located in the  sprawling research complex Pfizer built before it left Michigan a few years ago.

Read more
Politics
3:41 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Suburbs seek more control over Detroit Water and Sewerage Dept.

An interceptor sewer line north of Detroit in the Clinton River watershed.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department serves more than just the City of Detroit.

It's water and sewer lines stretch beyond the city's boundaries and into the surrounding suburbs and communities.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Rep. Kurt Heise will introduce a bill that will give the suburbs more say in how the department is managed. From the article:

Under the proposal, the city would retain ownership of the 1,075-square-mile system, but the 126 communities and 4 million people who use its water and sewage services would be represented by a regional authority that manages contracts, water rates and future projects.

Members of Detroit City Council are reportedly in Lansing today lobbying against the bill. Council President, Charles Pugh, is quoted as saying:

"We are willing to have a regional discussion, but when the discussion is over, Detroit will still own and control the system. We built out the system, and we have a right to maintain control of it. Anything less than that is illegal."

You can see how far Detroit's sewer and water lines stretch into outlying communities on the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department's page.

Economy
2:42 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Michigan manufacturers call for tax cuts

You don't see these being built anymore. A model of an assembly line in the Detroit History Museum.
flickr - user harry_nl

The Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA) says Michigan is getting it's "butt kicked" when it comes to taxes.

In the Detroit Free Press, the MMA's vice president for government affairs, Mike Johnston, was quoted when talking about personal property taxes on equipment.

From the article:

Read more
Environment
1:54 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

Energy efficiency makeovers for Michigan neighborhoods

A house set up with a blower door test. Energy auditors use this device to find out where the leaks are in your home.
Photo by Flickr user Brandon Stafford

Many homeowners just can’t afford the upfront investment to make their homes more energy efficient. And many programs meant to defray some of that cost haven’t gotten much traction with consumers.

But Sarah Cwiek reports the federal government’s “BetterBuildings” program is trying to change that. It’s just now getting off the ground in Michigan with money from the 2009 stimulus package.

Sarah visited Chris Matus at his Ferndale home on the day he was getting an energy audit from Well Home's Kent Trobaugh.

The guys set up something called a blower door test to find out where the leaks were in Matus' home.  Then they roamed the house with an infrared camera.  The screen shows a landscape of blurred colors: gold is heat, purple is cold. Matus says the whole exercise reminds him of a certain movie from the 1980s.

“It feels like we’re Ghostbusting.”

Matus is getting about a thousand dollars worth of work done on his house today. But it only costs him 50. That’s because he’s taking advantage of the U.S. Department of Energy’s stimulus-funded BetterBuildings program. Michigan got 30-million dollars—the second-biggest chunk of any state.

Read more
Commentary
1:17 pm
Tue January 18, 2011

State of the State: A History

Tomorrow Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his first state of the state speech to a joint session of the legislature and a statewide television audience. I’ve seen a lot of these speeches, and believe this may be the most eagerly anticipated one ever.

Michigan is stuck in twin enormous economic crises, one affecting state government, which has a perennial massive deficit, and the other affecting hundreds of thousands without jobs.

Governor Snyder is brand new, and we are still getting to know him. We want to have a better sense of who he is, and, especially,  how he plans to get us out of the mess we’re in.

But all this got me wondering: Who was the first governor ever to give a state-of-the state speech?  The first I remember was Governor Milliken, but how far back did the tradition go before him?

I knew that in the old days, governors just sent an annual written message to the legislature. U.S. Presidents used to do the same, until Woodrow Wilson started the tradition of showing up at the capitol and delivering a speech in person.

Since then, almost every president has done so. But who was the first governor to do so? I asked Bill Ballenger, the publisher of Inside Michigan Politics. “Wow,” he said. “I don’t know.”

Read more

Pages