News

Pages

Politics
4:15 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

Senate GOP prepared to reject unmarried partner benefits

Roberto Occhialini Flickr

Republicans in the Michigan Senate have begun the process of reversing the policy of extending benefits to the unmarried live-in partners of state workers – including those in same-sex relationships.

A vote on the Senate floor is expected next week.

A Senate budget subcommittee voted along party lines to reject the new benefits policy. Now, Republicans must muster super-majorities in the Senate and the House to reverse the decision by the independent Civil Service Commission to allow unmarried partner benefits.

The Granholm administration spent years negotiating the agreement with employee unions in an effort to ensure coverage for people in same-sex relationships.

But Governor Rick Snyder says that would cost too much money as the state faces a budget crisis.  

Senator Mark Jansen chairs a budget subcommittee. He says adding new benefits to cover unmarried partners could force additional costs onto other state employees who are already being asked to pay more for their health care.

Jansen says the Civil Service Commission made the wrong decision as the state faces a budget crisis.

“I do respect it, but we’re broke, and so now it literally is adding eight million dollars at least to my bottom line. I can’t afford to add anything anymore. So it’s time to take a breath and say, let’s help those that we have right now.”

Ray Holman is with U-A-W Local Six Thousand, which represents thousands of state workers. He says the Legislature should not renege on a deal that took years to negotiate.

“This was negotiated back in 2004 and the appropriate place to deal with this stuff is the bargaining table, and to respect the agreements that have been made. So this should be handled by the Civil Service Commission and we obviously deal with the office of the State Employer on these matters.”

If the Senate and the House don’t reverse the policy, it will take effect October first.

Education
4:07 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

Judge rules taxpayers, Mackinac Center, do not have standing in lawsuit over privatization

Teacher's unions agreed to contribute to their health care premiums for the first time in the contract.
Chicago 2016 photos Creative Commons

A Kent County judge has ruled that taxpayers cannot sue school districts and teachers’ unions who agreed not to privatize any employees. The taxpayers say the schools and unions entered an illegal employment contract when the districts agreed not to privatize any employees in exchange for concessions in pay and health benefits. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s new Legal Foundation represented the taxpayers in the case.

The judge didn’t disagree with the Mackinac Center, but ruled only the parties in the contract – the unions or the school districts – had standing to file suit. And state law dictates the Michigan Employment Relations Commission must hear any unfair labor practice claims.

Read more
Arts/Culture
3:40 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

Robocop reboot?

RoboCop Speaks to Detroit from Peter Weller

 

Deadline New York reports that MGM is talking to director Jose Padilha about rebooting the Robocop movie series:

MGM is negotiating with Brazilian director Jose Padilha to direct Robocop, the remake of the futuristic 1987 film originally helmed by Paul Verhoeven. The original was about a cop who was near death and was drafted to become a powerful cyborg cop, until suppressed memories of his past life come back to haunt him. Peter Weller played the character in the original him in the original and the 1990 sequel.

Read more
Politics
3:38 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

Michigan funeral protest law in jeopardy

A sign at a Westboro Baptist Church picket in East Lansing last year.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Michigan’s law barring protesters from funerals might be vulnerable after today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court ruled in favor of an anti-gay group that pickets at military funerals.

Michigan, like dozens of other states, passed a law in 2006 to prevent the protests from disrupting funerals here.

At the time, the states were trying to prevent a fundamentalist Christian Church from Kansas from picketing military funerals.

The pickets were not opposing the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, but against gay rights.

The ACLU challenged Michigan’s law after a couple attending a family friend’s funeral was arrested for having anti-George W. Bush signs on their car.

Dan Korobkin, with the ACLU, says the new court ruling may be enough to tip the balance in their challenge to Michigan’s law:

“Laws that are created to stifle unpopular speech, which is what the law in Michigan was created to do, always end up backfiring and punishing innocent people.”

Korobkin says they hope to hear soon from the federal judge considering their challenge to the state law, "the federal judge who is overseeing that case has already indicated that it is probably unconstitutional, but he hasn’t taken the final step of striking it down," said Korobkin.

ArtPrize
2:58 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

Study: ArtPrize 2010 adds more than $7 million to Grand Rapids economy

Sicilian says most ArtPrize visitoes spent thier money on food and beverages.
Paul Sicilian Grand Valley State University

Economists at Grand Valley State University estimate last year’s ArtPrize added up to $7.5 million dollars; that’s just a little more than the first ArtPrize in 2009. But the study’s authors say they kept their estimates conservative.

Read more
Auto/Economy
1:34 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

Facelift for Detroit's Cobo Center

Screen shot from a video showing plans for renovating the Cobo Center in downtown Detroit
Cobo Center Press Release

Cobo Center in Detroit is going to get more than a coat of new paint between now and next year’s auto show.

The regional authority now running Detroit’s downtown convention center announced today Cobo will undergo a $221 million renovation.

Cobo Center’s general manager, Thom Connors, says the three year project will allow Cobo to better accommodate the needs of the North American International Auto Show:

"More leasable space, more attractive space, and increased banquet and meeting room capacity and new exhibition space. Its going to make it an easier sell to a wider variety of potential clients.  And allow us to do larger, multiple events at the same time, as well as larger capacity events in the future."

As part of  the renovation, Cobo Arena will be replaced with a 40,000 square foot ballroom space.

The Detroit Free Press reported on the plans, announced this morning, to renovate downtown Detroit's Cobo Center:

The project will be ready by the 2014 North American International Auto Show, and it will “open up” Cobo to the Detroit River with a new atrium entrance and sweeping architectural changes, said Larry Alexander, chair of the five-member Cobo Regional Convention Facility Authority.

The work will mark the first major overhaul of Cobo since 1989. Cobo was built in 1960. In recent years, Cobo has suffered from roof leaks and other problems, and other cities have leapfrogged ahead of Detroit in the amount of showroom space offered and other amenities.

A bond sale enabled by the Cobo authority will pay for the renovations.

civil rights
12:18 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

What’s your experience with bullies?

Litandmore Creative Commons

The Michigan Civil Rights Commission wants public input about bullying. The commission works to prevent and investigate discrimination complaints under state civil rights laws. It’s holding a series of forums across the state to collect the information in hopes of tackling what they say is a growing problem.

Read more
State Budget
12:10 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

Lawmakers to dig into Governor's budget proposal

Captiol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

Update 12:08 p.m.:

Lt. Governor Brian Calley is detailing the Snyder Administration's tax plans to members of the House Tax Policy committee at the Capitol, the Associated Press reports. And, as the AP notes, Budget Director John Nixon answered questions this morning from members of the House Appropriations Committee:

Gov. Rick Snyder's administration is trying to shore up support for some of its budget proposals that are running into opposition in the Michigan Legislature... The Republican governor's plan to eliminate tax exemptions on pensions is drawing opposition from some members of his own party.

Lawmakers also are concerned about proposed cuts to education funding and proposed cuts to tax revenue sharing payments made to local governments.

6:57 a.m.:

Lawmakers at the state Capitol are set to hear details today about Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposal.

Legislative committees are scheduled to hear details about Snyder's tax restructuring plan, the Associated Press reports.

From the AP:

Lawmakers also will hear testimony from some university officials, including from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Universities could lose at least 15 percent of their state aid going into next fiscal year.

Groups concerned about proposed cuts to tax revenue sharing payments also are expected to testify. Snyder and lawmakers are trying to eliminate a projected budget shortfall of roughly $1.4 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.

Meanwhile, Governor Snyder spent yesterday defending some of his controversial budget plans, including the taxing of pensions.

Read more
Justice
12:07 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

Supreme Court rules in favor of Westboro funeral protestors

The Supreme Court ruled in favor Fred Phelps and the funeral protestors
user dbking Flickr

In "Snyder v. Phelps," the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Fred Phelps, the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.

The Church got attention by picketing military funerals holding signs that read:

  • "God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11"
  • "America is Doomed”
  • “Don’t Pray for the USA"
  • “Thank God for IEDs”
  • “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”
  • “Pope in Hell”
  • “Priests Rape Boys”
  • “God Hates Fags”
  • “You’re Going to Hell”
  • and last, but not least... “God Hates You.”

From the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the First Amendment protects a fringe religious group that protested at the funeral of a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq.

The court, on an 8-1 vote, ruled that the soldier's father couldn't sue Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., for celebrating his son's death with vulgar funeral pickets and an online attack.

The case was a test of how far the First Amendment goes in protecting offensive speech.

Read more
Changing Gears
11:11 am
Wed March 2, 2011

Health care students face long wait lists (Part 1)

Second year occupational therapy student, Craig Morea, helps patient Shirley Teffner with her shoulder.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

Nursing is a hot career.

The federal government says the field will create more new jobs than any other profession this decade — almost 600,000 jobs by 2018.

But there’s a bottleneck.

Schools in our region can’t keep up with all the people who want to become nurses or other health care workers.

In the first of two stories, Changing Gears is examining some of the high tech tools schools are using to help ease the training crunch.

Read more
Politics
10:22 am
Wed March 2, 2011

Michigan Works funding at risk

Michigan Works provides job training and education grants to people looking to get back to work
Mr. Juniho flikr

Budget cuts approved by the U.S. House of Representatives would close Michigan Works service centers.

The service centers are where people go to file for unemployment and can get training, education or use the Michigan Talent Bank.

The U.S. House budget proposal eliminates the federal funding that supports the centers.

Luanne Dunsford is the CEO of Michigan Works.

"If the house resolution goes through the funding for Michigan Works would be eliminated. The Michigan Works system serves over 3 million customers a year and our question is, where would those people go?

The U.S. House and the Senate are now negotiating budget proposals to decide the fate of several federal programs, including the Workforce Reinvestment Act which funds Michigan Works.

We want to get a better understanding of the kinds of services offered by Michigan Works. If you've used Michigan Works, what services did you use and what did you think of them?

Sarah Alvarez - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Commentary
8:47 am
Wed March 2, 2011

Glenn Beck and Detroit

Detroit was in an uproar yesterday, not because the schools are in crisis, or because the governor’s budget promises to make the city’s short-term fiscal problems even worse. 

Nor were Detroit’s leaders openly concerned about the effect the political crisis sweeping the oil-rich Middle East is having on gasoline prices and the auto industry.

No, what had them upset was the latest rant by the entertainer Glenn Beck, who holds forth on the Fox network. On Monday, Beck,  compared Detroit to Hiroshima, saying that today, Hiroshima is in far better shape. Beck said Detroit’s devastation is due to what he calls “progressive policies,” combined with corrupt government and labor unions. He said these forces combined to bail out the auto industry, which he thinks should have been allowed to die. I heard about this rant, and so reluctantly, I watched it, or most of it. It was, as I expected, classic Beck: Shallow, hate-filled, and full of half-truths.

Once upon a time, there was a rule about commentary. You could spout opinions, but your facts had to be accurate. Glenn Beck has never cared about facts, and the disgrace of Fox and whoever employs him is that nobody else requires him to do so, either.

Read more
News Roundup
8:40 am
Wed March 2, 2011

In this morning's news...

Michigan lawmakers will take an in-depth look today at Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposal
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

Lawmakers to Dig into Budget Proposal

Michigan lawmakers will be in Lansing today pouring over Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal. Legislative committees are scheduled to hear details about Snyder's tax restructuring plan and proposed cuts to higher education, the Associated Press reports. The state faces a projected $1.4 billion budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins October 1st. Meanwhile, the Governor spent yesterday defending some of the more controversial proposals in his budget including the taxing of public and private pensions.

Auto Sales Increase

Auto sales rose by 27 percent last month. General Motors and Toyota had the strongest sales. GM saw gains for several reasons, Tracy Samilton reports:

  • Last February GM’s sales were weak, so this February looks much better in comparison
  • The company increased incentives in February
  • It’s easier for GM customers to get financing now that GM has its own finance arm, GM Financial

Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians, who’ve been on strike since last Fall, say they are willing to return to work without a contract. The musicians say they’ll go back on stage “immediately and unconditionally” if Orchestra management agrees to binding arbitration, Sarah Cwiek reports. DSO officials did not immediately respond to the offer. But they issued a statement saying they “welcome receiving the union’s proposal.”

Detroit Public Schools
7:37 am
Wed March 2, 2011

Emergency Financial Manager of Detroit Public Schools to stay on job through June

Robert Bobb, the Emergency Financial Manager of Detroit Public Schools
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Robert Bobb, the Financial Manager of Detroit Public Schools, will stay on the job through June of this year. Bobb's contract was set to expire on Tuesday, but Governor Snyder has extended his contract.

A spokesperson for the Governor told the Detroit Free Press that Bobb will stay on the job through June 30th.

As the Associated Press reports:

Bobb was hired in March 2009 by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm to fix the district's finances.

Bobb has started a number of programs to improve education and standardized test scores across the district. He also has uncovered numerous cases of theft and fraud involving district employees and vendors.

The district still faces a more that $300 million budget deficit as state per pupil funding continues to decline with the drop in enrollment.

Auto
5:52 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Snowstorms didn't dampen February sales - especially for GM

General Motors' auto sales rose by 46 percent in February
Spacing Magazine Flickr

Snowstorms in February didn’t seem to dampen car sales.  Sales were up 32-percent at Nissan, 42-percent at Toyota, and 46-percent at GM.

GM’s gain is for several reasons. Last February GM’s sales were weak, so this February looks much better in comparison. The company increased incentives in February. And it’s easier for GM customers to get financing now that GM has its own finance arm, GM Financial.

Don Johnson is head of GM’s U.S. sales.

"With their entry into the market, our penetration of the sub-prime business is above the industry average," says Johnson.  "We’ve also got GM Financial growing their prime lease business."

February sales were up 13-percent at Chrysler and 14-percent at Ford.

Politics
5:48 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Flint wants - but may not get - permission to ask for city tax increase

State Representatives from Flint want to allow the city to ask residents to approve an increase in the city's income tax
Sean_Marshall Flickr

Flint’s state representatives could introduce a bill that would permit the city to ask Flint residents to approve an increase in the city income tax.   

The city faces a deficit of more than $17-million. Representative Woodrow Stanley says there aren’t many other options.  Flint can’t turn to a cash-strapped state for help.

"As a matter of fact, about 8.1 million dollars is being proposed to be cut from Flint’s revenue sharing," says Stanley.

But Stanley says getting such a bill passed will be an uphill battle, because of  strong anti-tax sentiment among Republicans in the state House.

Politics
5:31 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Snyder defends budget and tax plans

Rick Snyder campaigns last year. Now, Governor Rick Snyder is having to campaign for his budget proposals.
Bill Rice Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder is defending some of his controversial budget plans.

He says taxing pensions is the right thing to do, even though some Republican lawmakers say they will not support that plan.

And Governor Snyder says his proposal to cut funding for universities by 15% this year is necessary, but he says it will get better for the schools in the future:

"We shouldn't have to walk away from our universities. Again, I'm a big, long-term advocate of we need more students going through our universities. Higher Ed is very important in our state, actually we're a very fortunate state in having the high-quality institutions that we have.

We have a tough budget situation and we need to deal with that, but if you look forward to 2013 we’re able to show that hopefully this is the bottom point in terms of where we go with higher education funding."

Snyder also told building-trade union members that he wants to work with unions to help balance the budget, not against them.

He says he is not interested in Republican proposals in the Legislature to strip unions of their power.

State Legislature
5:12 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Immigrant rights advocates stand against House bill

A protest of Arizona's immigation law in Minnesota. Advocates in Michigan say the immigration bill in Michigan will lead to racial profiling.
user Fibonacci Blue Flickr

Dozens of Latinos and Arab Americans joined faith leaders from around Michigan at the state Capitol calling on lawmakers to reject a House immigration bill similar to the controversial immigration law in Arizona.

The House Republican proposal would require police officers to question people about their immigration status if there is a suspicion that the person could be an undocumented worker.

Imam Mohammed Mardini of the American Islamic Center in Dearborn says a similar controversial law in Arizona has caused a lot of problems with how to determine who should be targeted:

"One Congressman suggested that you could tell an undocumented immigrant by their shoes. Let us face it – the police aren't going to be pulling over any suspected Canadians."

But Republican Representative Dave Agema says the intention of the bill is genuine, not racist.

"You're going after anyone who happens to be here illegally and they've already broken a law, that's why the police officer has detained them."

Agema says his proposal would save the state money in health care costs for illegal immigrants, but the protesters say it would cost the state money in additional law enforcement personnel.

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to bring more immigrants to the state who have advanced degrees.

Arts/Culture
5:04 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians offer to return to work

Elaine Roach via Musicians of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Striking musicians with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra say that after five months on the picket line, they’re willing to come back to work without a contract.

The musicians say they’ll go back on stage “immediately and unconditionally” if Orchestra management agrees to binding arbitration.

The musicians propose that its union and Orchestra management each pick one arbitrator.

Read more
Arts/Culture
5:03 pm
Tue March 1, 2011

Detroit to host "Rust Belt to Artist Belt" conference in April

The "Rust Belt to Artist Belt" conference will be held April 6-7 in Detroit
Dani Davis

Creative types from across the country will convene in Detroit next month to talk about how artists can help revitalize post-industrial cities.

Matt Clayson directs the Detroit Creative Corridor Center and is one of the people behind the “Rust Belt to Artist Belt” conference.

He says the conference will focus on the creative supply chain many post-industrial cities like Detroit have to offer:

Read more

Pages