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Detroit Politics
5:22 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Mayor, Council to weigh in on new Detroit charter

Detroit Skyline
JSFauxtaugraphy/Flickr

A panel that’s drafting a new governing charter for Detroit will hear recommendations from the city’s mayor and city council this weekend. 

The Charter Revision Commission is looking at everything that has to do with how Detroit operates: How many elected officials the city should have, and how much power they should wield. How to remove elected officials from office. How many departments the city should have, and what services should be mandated.

One issue on which the mayor and city council disagree is how big the city council ought to be. 

There is agreement that the city should move away from its current system of electing members at-large, and have most council members represent districts. But Mayor Dave Bing thinks the council ought to remain at nine members, while the city council is pushing to expand it to 11. 

The Charter Revision Commission is expected to have a draft document finished in March. A citywide vote on the charter is expected next November.

The Commission meets Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday from 1 pm to 4 pm, at Cass Tech High School in Detroit.

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Environment
5:19 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Congress bans an Asian carp that is already here

They're banned, but they're already here. Current distribution of the Bighead Carp in the U.S.
USGS

Update December 3rd 5:13 pm:

Marc Gaden of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission says "as far as I know, no one thinks there are any Asian Carp in Lake Erie." He says Lake Erie is colored red in the USGS map above because two Bighead carp were found in commercial fishman's nets several years ago. They colored the entire Lake red based on these two incidents.

December 1st 5:27 pm:

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Health Care
4:44 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Holland to file lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield

Holland is the latest city in Michigan planning to file a lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield over variable fees. The fee is a 13.5% administrative access fee Blue Cross charged the city on any insurance claims filed by employees.  The city claims the insurer didn’t tell them about the fees for 17 years.

Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra says,

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Politics
3:30 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Money from special interest groups flooded Michigan congressional campaigns in 2010

A new study finds 3 Michigan congressional campaigns were swamped with outside money during the recent election.  And most of that money paid for negative ads.

National political parties, unions and special interest groups spent $19 million on issue ads leading up to the November election.   The money was focused on the 1st, 7th and 9th congressional districts, where Democrats were trying to fend off strong Republican challenges.

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Education
3:23 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Legislature clears way for sale of Michigan School for the Deaf

The Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint may soon be sold.

In the wee hours of Friday morning, as the legislature prepared to adjourn its 2010 session, state lawmakers approved the sale of the 153 year old school to a private developer for $1.3 million.

The developer plans to renovate some buildings on the 85 acre site and build a new $15 million complex for the school for the deaf.  The state will pay $2 million a year to lease the site.  

Ridgway White is the developer.  He says the current facility needs to be replaced. 

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Economy
2:46 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Legislature approves tax credits for Michigan "Aerotropolis"

The runways at Detroit Metro Airport. Willow Run Airport is nearby creating an opportunity for business incubation.
travelpod.com

The current lame-duck Michigan legislature passed a tax incentive package this morning to encourage the development of a Michigan Aerotropolis. 

So what is it? Here's how the Detroit Region Aerotropolis explains the idea:

An Aerotropolis is an emerging type of urban form comprised of aviation-intensive businesses and those businesses that need to be readily connected to their customers. These businesses, and related enterprises, extend outward from a major airport.

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AUTO SALES
12:50 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Analyst: Auto sales could reach 17 million by 2015

Car Lot
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

At a presentation to the Automotive Press Association in Detroit yesterday, Michael Robinet, director of global production forecasters at IHS Automotive, said U.S. auto sales could reach 17 million in 4 years. Robinet predicts sales will exceed 12.8 million next year and 16 million in 2013.  As the Detroit Free Press reports

That would be a huge reversal from the historically low sales levels that brought the industry to its knees during the recent recession. The last time industry sales exceeded 17 million was in 2001.

U.S. car sales were up by 17 percent last month. The country's most popular automakers in November were:

  1. General Motors
  2. Ford
  3. Toyota
  4. Honda (American)
  5. Chrysler
Economy
12:13 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

An increase in strikes in the down economy?

Striking workers' sign
Steve Rhodes/Flickr

Michigan Radio has been covering stories from across the state regarding labor and contract disputes. From the strike of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to the dispute between the City of Flint and its Firefighters Union, it seems that workers and management are having a difficult time finding common ground these days.

So, we wondered, do strikes increase during a down economy?  We assumed they did.  Well, as they say, that's we get for assuming.  As it turns out, the struggling economy may have actually reduced the number of labor disputes resulting in strikes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were fewer work stoppages affecting 1,000 or more workers in 2009 than in any other year since 1947, when the collection of this data began.

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Opinion
11:49 am
Fri December 3, 2010

Jack Lessenberry: Culture of Debt

By Jack Lessenberry

Jim McTevia never had a credit card growing up. That’s largely because there weren’t any in the small town of Marine City, Michigan where he was born. Today, he thinks that just might have saved him. He's done all right for himself; he became a well-regarded business turnaround expert without a college education.

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Politics
11:04 am
Fri December 3, 2010

Helen Thomas in Dearborn; defends controversial comments

Helen Thomas with President Gerald Ford
Marion Trikosko creative commons

Helen Thomas had worked for United Press International for 57 years. She was an opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers from 2000 to 2010. She spent much of her career covering the White House.

She was let go earlier this year after she was briefly interviewed by Rabbi David Nesenoff of RabbiLive.com. After asking Thomas whether she had any comments on Israel, Thomas said, "tell them to get the hell out of Palestine."

The Detroit News reports that Helen Thomas, who grew up in Detroit, gave a speech saying:

"I stand by it. I told the truth," the 90-year-old Thomas told reporters shortly before a speech at a diversity conference Thursday. "I paid a price but it's worth it to speak the truth." During a speech that drew quick condemnation from Jews, Thomas took her remarks further. "Congress, the White House and Hollywood, Wall Street are owned by the Zionists," Thomas said. "No question."

Thomas spoke at the eighth-annual "Images and Perceptions of Arab American" conference in Dearborn.

State Law
8:43 am
Fri December 3, 2010

Last day for alcoholic energy drink sales

Today is the last day for alcoholic energy drink sales like Four Loko in Michigan

Today is the last day that stores in Michigan can sell alcoholic energy drinks.  Last month, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission announced it would ban sales of the controversial drinks because of health risks.

The Associated Press reports:

The Food and Drug Administration is requiring major brands of caffeinated alcoholic drinks to be taken off store shelves nationally by mid-December because of similar concerns. The agency says the combination of caffeine and alcohol in the drinks can lead to a "wide-awake drunk" and alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults.

At least four states have banned the drinks. You can find a list of the banned-drinks here.

Unemployment
8:42 am
Fri December 3, 2010

The end of jobless benefits has many Michigan unemployed saying "Now What?"

One economist says the end of jobless benefits for thousands of Michiganders should not have a big effect on the number of jobs being filled.

 More than 180 thousand people in Michigan will see their unemployment benefits expire between now and April, unless Congress agrees to grant another extension. 

Kenneth Goldstein is with the Conference Board, a business research group.   He says there are few real new job options,  either full or part time for the ‘hard-core’ unemployed.

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News Roundup
7:27 am
Fri December 3, 2010

In this morning's news...

'Lame Duck' Comes To a Close

State lawmakers worked well into the early hours of Friday morning before finally calling it quits in the 2009-2010 legislative session. Lawmakers approved $10 million for the ‘Pure Michigan’ advertising campaign, that’s less than the $25 million that Governor Granholm wanted. Lawmakers failed to enact reforms on teacher-tenure and a measure that would require insurance companies to cover autism treatments for children.

Asian Carp Legal Setback

Michigan has lost a legal round in its effort to keep Asian Carp from reaching the Great Lakes. As Steve Carmody reports, “A federal judge in Chicago has denied a request by Michigan and several other states to order the closure of canals which link Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River basin. Asian Carp are a voracious invasive species. The carp have devastated Mississippi River fish populations.”  The states might continue the legal fight.

Some 260,000 in MI Received Unemployment Benefits

President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers released a report that says about 260,000 people in Michigan received unemployment benefits through October of this year. The report comes as the White House is ramping up its efforts to get Congress to approve extended jobless benefits for unemployed workers. At 12.8%, Michigan has the nation’s second-highest unemployment rate.

Snyder, Bernero Released Campaign Finance Reports

Governor-elect Rick Snyder and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero filed their campaign finance reports for the 2010 gubernatorial election.  Snyder spent nearly $11 million; $6 million of which was his own. Bernero raised a little under $2 million and qualified for a little more than $1 million in public funds. Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

Campaign Finance
6:55 am
Fri December 3, 2010

Snyder, Bernero disclose money spent in 2010 gubernatorial race

Photo by Tracy O/Flickr

As we've been reporting, yesterday was the last day for candidates who ran in Michigan’s 2010 election to report how much money they raised during the campaign season.

According to Republican Governor-elect Rick Snyder’s campaign finance reports, he spent almost $11 million during the campaign; $6 million of which was his own.

The Associated Press reports that Snyder’s largest donors were, “Pistons owner Karen Davidson and former Bechtel Group co-owner Stephen Bechtel and his wife, Elizabeth, of San Francisco.”

Snyder’s opponent in the race for governor, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, raised a little under $2 million and qualified for a little more than $1 million in public funds.

State Legislature
6:39 am
Fri December 3, 2010

'Lame Duck' comes to a close

Capitol Building: Lansing, MI
Terry Johnson/Flickr

Lawmakers worked throughout Thursday night and into early the early morning hours on Friday to complete their 2009-2010 legislative session.

Lawmakers approved $10 million dollars for the 'Pure Michigan' advertising campaign.  Governor Granholm had wanted $25 million for the campaign. Democratic state Representative Dan Scripps said the deal could have been better:

You know, we’ve put two options on the Senate’s desk, and the governor’s put a third one, and essentially they punted and raided from another pot and I just don’t think that’s the way to go. We can do better than this.

Efforts to enact teacher-tenure reforms that would make it easier to fire teachers failed as did a law that would require insurance companies to cover autism treatments for children.

State Law
6:20 am
Fri December 3, 2010

Granholm wants 'Pure Michigan' funding

Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov

Update 12/3/2010 6:18 AM

After working into the early morning hours, the state legislature finished their 2009-2010 legislative session this Friday morning.

Lawmakers approved $10 million dollars for the 'Pure Michigan' advertising campaign.  Governor Granholm had wanted $25 million for the campaign. Democratic state Representative Dan Scripps said the deal could have been better:

You know, we’ve put two options on the Senate’s desk, and the governor’s put a third one, and essentially they punted and raided from another pot and I just don’t think that’s the way to go. We can do better than this.

___

Update 12/2/2010 1:30 PM

Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta just let us know that Governor Granholm's office says she is trying to reach a deal to use economic development funds to get the 'Pure Michigan' advertising campaign back on the air. 

As the Detroit Free Press reports:

The Pure Michigan tourism ad campaign would be saved with a $25 million infusion from the state's 21st Century Jobs Fund, based on discussions today between lawmakers and Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

The tourism industry has also been pushing hard in the final days of the 2009-2010 legislative session to get state lawmakers to agree to fund the ad campaign.

Asian Carp
6:05 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Michigan loses legal round in Asian Carp battle

The state of Michigan has suffered another legal setback in its effort to keep Asian Carp from reaching the Great Lakes.  

A federal judge in Chicago has denied a request by Michigan and several other states to order the closure of canals which link Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River basin. Asian Carp are a voracious invasive species.  The carp have devastated Mississippi River fish populations.  

“The court agreed that Asian Carp are indeed a threat," says Joy Yearout,  a spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, '"But the judge also ruled the actions the federal government has taken over the last several months prove they are addressing the threat enough to make it not immediate enough to require a court order."

Federal agencies have stepped up construction of electric barriers to keep Asian Carp from passing into Lake Michigan.  Other methods are also being studied. 

The states may continue their legal fight.  They are also asking President Obama to order the canals closed.

Education
5:50 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Charter advocacy group says Michigan's charter law is among best in U.S.

A charter advocacy group gives Michigan's charter law a passing grade
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Want to open up a charter school? A new report says Michigan has one of the nation’s friendliest laws when it comes to allowing charter schools to open.

The Center for Education Reform, a charter advocacy group in Washington, DC, says Michigan has the 5th best charter school law in the country.

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Economy
4:38 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

White House pushes Congress for unemployment extension

The White House is ramping up its efforts to get Congress to approve extended unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans. Michigan's unemployment rate in October was the second-highest in the nation, at 12.8%.

The president's Council of Economic Advisers released a report that touts the need for extending benefits. The report says for the typical person getting unemployment, the benefits make up a third of the household income.  As Presidential adviser Cecilia Rouse noted:

And in those 42% of households where the unemployed person was the sole wage earner, it's about 90 percent of the income. So it's quite an important source of income for these families.

The report says about 620,000 people in Michigan received benefits through October.

Republicans in Congress say the cost of extending the benefits is too high. They want to look at budget cuts and tax cut extensions first.

Presidential Visit
4:26 pm
Thu December 2, 2010

Former President Bush in Grand Rapids today

Former President George W. Bush visits with an audience in Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Update 4:23pm

Lindsey Smith just sent in this quote from former president George Bush's talk today in Grand Rapids:

"Like in '44 if somebody in Grand Rapids, Michigan said 'I predict someday America and Japan will stand shoulder to shoulder to enhance mutual security' they would have said 'what a hopeless, idealistic nut-job you are'. But democracy transformed an enemy to an ally. I know it sounds far-fetched for some that people want to be free in the Middle East and that freedom will take hold - I think it will."

Update 3:53 pm

The event with George W. Bush in Grand Rapids just wrapped up and reporter Lindsey Smith called in with some of her highlights from the talk:

  • Bush's opening line - "Most people didn't think I couldn't read a book, much less write one."
  • Bush said after his presidency it was like going from 100 mph to 10 mph and he had to figure out what to do with all his extra time
  • About the firing of Donald Rumsfeld Bush said that his relationship with him had gone from one of "creative tension" to one of "destructive tension."
  • About 9/11 and the decision to go into Iraq Bush said that it was a bold move that had to be made. He was disappointed that no WMDs were found. He also says that 9/11 changed his mind about preemptive strikes. If he hadn't done it, he believes there would have been a dangerous nuclear arms race between Iran and Iraq.
  • Bush says he's still in touch with Condoleezza Rice, but doesn't talk much with Dick Cheney or Donald Rumsfeld.
  • He said he doesn't judge Barack Obama, and won't be pulled into criticizing or commenting on him and his presidency.

Update 12:42 pm:

Our reporter at the event, Lindsey Smith, says Secret Service told the media that laptops are not allowed. So, it might be that we have to wait for updates until after the former President speaks.

___

6:44 am

Former President George W. Bush will be in Grand Rapids this afternoon.  He'll be promoting his new book "Decision Points" at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

This is the former President's second visit to Grand Rapids this year.  He attended the Economic Club of Grand Rapids in June.

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