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Republican National Committee
7:12 am
Fri January 14, 2011

Elections begin this morning for RNC Chairmanship

Saul Anuzis, former Michigan Republican Party Chairman, is running to become Chairman of the Republican National Commitee
Photo courtesy of www.thatssaulfolks.com

Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis is in for a busy day today. Anuzis is running to become the next Chairman of the Republican National Committee, a job currently held by Michael Steele. The committee is holding the elections this morning outside of Washington, D.C.. The Detroit News reports that:

Anuzis is one of five candidates running. He lost his last bid to become chairman two years ago to Michael Steele, the former Maryland lieutenant governor whose tenure has been marked by questions of fiscal mismanagement. Steele is running again, though he's not expected to win.

ABC News reports:

RNC officials said there was no way of knowing how long the voting will take. Friday's general session begins at 10:30 a.m. ET and the official meeting schedule lists 8 p.m. ET as the estimated end time. Whoever wins will inherit committee hobbled by financial difficulties, including debt in the range of $15 million or more.

Anuzis announced his campaign last November when he sent a letter to the RNC membership. In the letter, Anuzis explained why he decided to run:

This is an exciting time to be a Republican and, as leaders, we have an awesome task ahead of us. The American people have given us a second chance' and that opportunity brings with it huge responsibility and challenge. Now we turn our attention to 2012. America must elect a new President. It is that hope, that necessity, that challenge, that draws me to announce my candidacy for the Chairmanship of the Republican National Committee.

State Legislature
6:51 am
Fri January 14, 2011

House lawmakers introduce 85 proposals, half-dozen resolutions

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

On the first day that Michigan lawmakers were allowed to submit legislative proposals, legislators in the state House introduced 85 bills and a half-dozen resolutions. As the Associated Press reports:

The first bill introduced Thursday would repeal a surcharge on the Michigan Business Tax. It's likely to pass as part of a broader, still-developing plan to reshape business taxes. Other proposals would repeal Michigan's mandatory motorcycle helmet law in some circumstances and eliminate caps on the number of charter schools.

State lawmakers began the 2011 legislative session on Wednesday by taking the oath of office and officially announcing new legislative leaders.

Michigan Budget
6:39 am
Fri January 14, 2011

Estimating the state's finances

Tracy O Flickr

Lately, you've probably heard or read a Michigan Radio story that includes this number: 1,800,000,000. In case you haven't had your morning coffee yet... that's 1.8 billion. Economic forecasters predict Michigan's budget, for the fiscal year that begins October 1st, is $1.8 billion in the red.

However, later today, that figure could change. That's because economists are meeting today for what's called a "revenue estimating conference" at the state Capitol. The economists will come up with an estimate of just how much money the state can expect to receive through the next fiscal year. As the state's website explains:

The Revenue Estimating Conference held each January is a major part of the budget process. During the conference, national and state economic indicators are used to formulate an accurate prediction of revenue available for appropriation in the upcoming fiscal year. This conference first convened in 1992, pursuant to Act No. 72 of the Public Acts of 1991. The principal participants in the conference are the State Budget Director and the Directors of the Senate and House Fiscal Agencies or their respective designees. Other participants may include the Governor and senior officials from the Department of Treasury.

Environment
11:17 pm
Thu January 13, 2011

EPA discusses options to clean up toxic chemicals from the Kalamazoo River

Allied Landfill near Alcott and Cork Streets.
David Kinsey Creative Commons

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is ready to select one of four options to clean-up one of the main contaminators of the Kalamazoo River. The Allied Landfill is full of waste from old paper factories that contain the toxic chemicals.

At a public meeting Thursday night, EPA officials asked for feedback on the plans. The options range from doing nothing (EPA officials said that's not really an option), to capping the dump, to hauling the one-and-a-half-million-cubic-yards of contaminated waste off to a safer location.

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State Legislature
5:03 pm
Thu January 13, 2011

Michigan's new Speaker of the House calls for welfare caps

Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger
Michigan House Republicans

Jase Bolger, Michigan’s new Speaker of the House, says he wants to see a four-year cap on certain welfare benefits in the state.

Bolger took the gavel for the first time on Wednesday, but the Republican speaker wasted no time outlining changes he wants to make in the state.

One of them would be limiting Bridge card recipients to a maximum of four years of lifetime benefits. The bridge card provides food - which is federally funded -  and some cash assistance.

Bolger says the state could save $45 million immediately with a cap on benefits:

We want to help people break the cycle of dependency... government should not create that cycle. And that's what happens. People get caught in that system, and it's not good for the human spirit. People want the opportunity to provide for themselves, and that's what we want to help them do.

Bolger says he wants the four-year benefit allowance to be enforced retroactively. He also wants to go after businesses that participate in welfare fraud.

Auto/Economy
4:43 pm
Thu January 13, 2011

Report: Profit-sharing checks coming to Ford and GM workers

GM plans to issue profit-sharing checks to workers, the NYT reports.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

At the Detroit International Auto Show, domestic automakers are celebrating a comeback of their industry. GM and Ford both saw profits last year, and the car makers are expecting a good year this year.

As more proof of the comeback, Bill Vlasic and Nick Bunkley report in the New York Times about profit-sharing checks that are expected to go to GM and Ford workers:

The two big Detroit carmakers will announce profit-sharing checks this month for their hourly workers, perhaps the largest in a decade, company officials and industry analysts say.

The checks are expected to top out at $5,000 at Ford, less at GM.

They report these checks "would be the biggest payout since the $8,000 checks that Ford handed out in 2000." Chrysler, the report says, is not expected to issue bonus checks this year.

Changing Gears
3:18 pm
Thu January 13, 2011

Why removing freeways can be good for cities

Is removing a highway progress?
user Joe Shlabotnik Flickr

(You can also see this story with more photos on the Changing Gears website)

Half a century after cities across our region and country built sprawling freeways, many of those roads are reaching the end of their useful lives.

Instead of rebuilding them, a growing number of cities are thinking about, or actively, removing them. That may come as a surprise.

When Clevelanders hear that the city plans to convert a coastal freeway into a slower, tree-lined boulevard, you get reactions like this one from Judie Vegh:

“I think it’s a pretty bad idea for commuters,” she said. “And if it were 35 mph, I would just be later than usual.”

Within the next few years, Vegh’s commute on Cleveland’s West Shoreway will likely look very different.

Cleveland City Planner Bob Brown says this is not the traditional highway project, "the traditional highway project is obviously speeding things up, adding more capacity, and often ignoring the character of neighborhoods."

It’s quite a change.

In the 1950s and 60s, freeways were seen as progress and modernity. They were part of urban renewal and planners like New York’s Robert Moses tore through neighborhoods to put up hulking steel and concrete roadways.

Today, cities are looking to take them down.

The list is long:

  • New Orleans
  • New Haven
  • Buffalo
  • Syracuse
  • San Francisco

These are just some US cities thinking about or actively taking freeways down. You can find more information about these projects on the Changing Gears website.

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Education
2:53 pm
Thu January 13, 2011

MSU to offer teaching degrees in Arabic language

Demand is rising for degrees and certification to teach the Arabic language. Michigan is home to the largest Arab-American population in the United States.
myarabicwebsite.com

 Michigan teachers who want to be certified to teach the Arabic language will get the opportunity beginning this fall.

Jeff Bale is an assistant professor at MSU.

He says the program responds to a growing need for Arabic-speaking teachers.

Bale says the program is not without controversy.

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War
2:29 pm
Thu January 13, 2011

Funeral Friday for 2 MIA Michigan airmen

Air Force Col. James E. Dennany (left) & Maj. Robert L. Tucci (right).
virtualwall.org

Officials at the Defense Department's POW/Missing Personnel Office say they've identified the remains of two U.S. airmen from the Vietnam War. The airmen were reportedly shot down in 1969 and have been missing ever since.

The government says the remains belong to 34-year-old Col. James E. Dennany of Kalamazoo and 27-year-old Maj. Robert L. Tucci of Detroit.

In a press release, the Defense Department explains how Dennany and Tucci's plane went down:

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Politics
11:55 am
Thu January 13, 2011

Former MI Congressman Bart Stupak gets Harvard fellowship

Former Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak will be heading to Harvard University this spring for a resident fellowship. As the Detroit Free Press reports:

Stupak, a Democrat from Menominee in the Upper Peninsula, retired from office this year at the end of his ninth 2-year term. As a resident fellow this spring, he and the other five people selected will meet with students, participate in activities with the Harvard community and lead weekly study groups on a range of topics.

As Politico notes, Stupak, "didn't much enjoy his intense moment at the center of the health care fight and didn't seek re-election."

Commentary
11:37 am
Thu January 13, 2011

Waiting for the Governor

The new legislature convened for the first time yesterday, nearly two weeks after their terms began. They posed for pictures and elected officers. They officially announced who would have what positions on which committees.

These are all things that had been worked out days or weeks before. What then followed was sort of the equivalent of lining up their pencils and making sure they are sharpened.

To a great extent, they are waiting for the governor. That is to say, they are waiting for Rick Snyder to set forth his program and put forward his proposals for balancing the state budget.

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Education
11:14 am
Thu January 13, 2011

Report: Michigan has inflated idea of school quality

One school in Michigan is bucking the trend. English language learners come up with adjectives to describe fruit and vegetables in Marilyn Castillo's class at North Godwin Elementary School in Wyoming, Michigan.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

A new report out today paints a grim picture of Michigan’s schools.

Education Trust-Midwest says students in Michigan’s schools are not doing as well as test scores suggest, and the state’s education problems reach far beyond Detroit.

“We are far from a leader in education right now. Though glowing reports from state education leaders regularly inform us that the vast majority of our children (around 80 percent in elementary and middle schools) are meeting state standards, performance plummets when those students take the more rigorous national examinations.”

The report goes on to cite what it calls Michigan’s inflated standardized test scores (you can see some of the charts in the slide show above).

Its author, Amber Arellano, a former Detroit Free Press education reporter and Detroit News editorial board writer, says people tend to think of Detroit as the only school district in the state with major problems:

“Michigan really has a statewide education problem. This isn’t just about Detroit kids. It’s not just about African American kids. It’s about white kids, it’s about brown kids, it’s about black kids. It’s really about kids all over the state.”

Arellano says it might surprise people to know that students in other districts – including Flint, Lansing, Pontiac, Grand Rapids, and Kalamazoo – have all registered lower proficiency rates than their Detroit counterparts.

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Economy
10:46 am
Thu January 13, 2011

Company buys shuttered GM manufacturing plant

Motors Liquidation real estate manager Mike Deighan announces the sale at a press conference Thursday. (Wyoming mayor Jack Poll at left, and The Right Place President Birgit Klohs at right.)
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Motors Liquidation, the official name of “old General Motors”, has a buyer for its 2-million-square-foot former GM stamping plant in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming.

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Economy
8:47 am
Thu January 13, 2011

2010 a bad year for foreclosures in Michigan (2011 may be worse)

A foreclosure sign sits in front of a home in Lansing, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

2010 was the worst year in a decade for home foreclosures in Michigan, according to new data out today.   And 2011 is expected to be worse.  


One in 33.    That’s how many Michigan homes received a foreclosure notice in 2010.   


 Realty Trac ranks Michigan as having the 7th worst home foreclosure rate in the nation last year. Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac.    He says Michigan’s foreclosure numbers should be worse this year. 

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News Roundup
8:32 am
Thu January 13, 2011

In this morning's news...

The 96th State Legislature Convenes

New and returning lawmakers were in Lansing yesterday for the first day of the 2011 Legislative session. Lawmakers took the oath of office, elected legislative leaders, and even chose desks. Lawmakers are not expected to do much work at the Capitol before Governor Rick Snyder delivers his first State of the State address Wednesday evening. The Republican governor and Republican-led Senate and House face a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget shortfall for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

Michiganders Continue to Leave State

United Van Lines has released its 34th annual migration study and it shows Michigan ranked second in outboard traffic in the country. Of the 7,186 moves United Van Lines logged in Michigan in 2010, 62% of them were leaving the state, Mark Brush reports. From the study:

Outbound traffic from the Great Lakes region continued to lead the nation in 2010 with four states capturing high-outbound rankings. Western states that had traditionally experienced high-inbound traffic, most notably Nevada, saw their traffic level off.

Tougher Tests?

The Michigan Board of Education is considering tough new performance requirements on the state's MEAP and merit exams. The new requirements would be the last step in a plan the state has been working on for the last seven years, Joseph Martineau, with the Michigan Department of Education, told reporter Rina Miller. “It really is time for us to look at the end result of K-12 education being readiness for college and career, and not readiness to perform in what we might term the old manufacturing economy,” Martineau said.

State Legislature
7:21 am
Thu January 13, 2011

The 96th Legislature in headlines

Michigan's 96th Legislative session got underway yesterday
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

Michigan lawmakers began the state's 96th legislative session yesterday in Lansing.  We take a quick look at what the headlines across the state have to say about the Legislature's first day:

During their first day in session, lawmakers took the oath of office and elected legislative leaders.

State Universities
6:49 am
Thu January 13, 2011

Snyder meets with university presidents

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder met yesterday with the presidents of the state's universities.  They told the governor they are ready to help improve Michigan's economy. The Associated Press reports:

...Snyder says universities likely will have to sacrifice in the short run, but he wants to invest more in higher education when times get better. Michigan Technological University President Glen Mroz said in a statement that the meeting set a positive tone for the relationship between universities and the new Snyder administration.

Reports say Snyder did not give any specific details on what he plans to do for universities in the state's next budget. Michigan faces a projected $1.8 billion dollar budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st.

Arts/Culture
8:07 pm
Wed January 12, 2011

DSO musicians urge compromise, say strike is hurting area businesses

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra playing in Greenfield Village in 2002
flickr - user paintitblack22

Update Thursday, 9:57 a.m.:

DSO management wrote to us saying the information provided below regarding the DSO contract proposal was dated. We've updated the copy to clarify that this was one of management's original proposals.

Update 6:45 p.m.: 

At today's press conference, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians urged management to return to the bargaining table. They say the strike is hurting area businesses, especially restaurants.

David Zainea co-owns the Majestic Cafe in Midtown, and he says business has taken a big hit since the musicians went on strike Oct. 4: 

"We’re down almost 25% in the course of three months."

The musicians said they wanted to use the suggested proposal U.S. Senator Carl Levin and then-governor Jennifer Granholm had issued as a roadmap. 

That proposal called for a $36 million, 3-year contract that would require sacrifice from both sides. 

DSO management issued a statement this afternoon saying they would submit a proposal to the federal mediator "detailing how it would spend $36 million over three years once it secures additional, sustainable funding that would both close the gap between its position and the union's and support the enhanced communal and educational activities that are now even more important for the orchestra to revive and thrive."

DSO board chair Stanley Frankel had originally said he took the Granholm-Levin recommendation seriously, but:

"A $36 million compensation package is beyond what every consultant and our Board have said is feasible."

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Education
6:23 pm
Wed January 12, 2011

New fund to send Haitian high school grads to college in MI

GVSU professor Peter Wampler talks about the new fund inside Chez Olga, a Haitian restaurant in Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A couple of geology professors conducting research in Haiti want to help the people they met there. And on the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti, their idea to give young Haitians a college education is becoming reality. Grand Valley State University is launching a fundraising effort to offer scholarships to promising high school students in Haiti.

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