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Detroit
6:56 am
Tue February 22, 2011

Mayor Bing to deliver State of the City address tonight

Mayor Dave Bing earlier this year in Lansing as he attends Governor Rick Snyder's inauguration
Corvair Owner Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will deliver his State of the City address this evening at the Max M. Fisher Music Center in Detroit. It will be the mayor's second address since he won a special mayoral runoff election in May 2009. The Associated Press reports, "Bing has said the speech will elaborate on the city's achievements during his short time in office."

Winter Weather
6:45 am
Tue February 22, 2011

Thousands remain without power after "Presidents' Day Storm"

Thousands in Michigan remain without power on Tuesday
David Wilson Flickr

More than 100,000 utility customers in southern Michigan lost power from the "Presidents' Day storm" that hit the state Sunday and Monday... and they're likely to remain without electricity for at least two more days. The Associated Press reports:

Consumers Energy spokesman Tim Pietryga said in a statement Tuesday that most of the Jackson-based utility's customers without power are in Kalamazoo, Lenawee, Monroe, Hillsdale, Calhoun and Branch counties. More than 160,000 customers have been affected.

Pietryga said workers, including 100 utility crews from Indiana and Ohio, should return power to most blacked-out customers by late Thursday evening.

But power may not return to the hardest-hit counties until Friday. DTE Energy Co. reported no major outages.

Six to 10 inches of snow, along with sleet and ice, fell on Lower Michigan between Sunday and Monday.

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Government Shutdown
8:29 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Upton expects federal government shutdown can be avoided

Congressman Fred Upton
Photo courtesy of the Republican Conference

One Michigan congressman is downplaying warnings of a federal government shutdown next week.

Republicans in the House and Democrats in the Senate haven’t agreed on a continuing budget resolution to keep the federal government going beyond March 4th.

Representative Fred Upton expects the US House will offer the US Senate a way to avoid a shutdown. 

“My sense is that will we also in the House pass a short-term continuing resolution and send that to the Senate early in the week.  Which will allow them to say…here’s a two week extension so we don’t have a shutdown by the end of the week…as well as the long-term…and then we’ll wait and see what the Senate does.”  

Upton expects Congress will approve a short-term budget resolution before any federal government services are effected. 

film incentives
7:49 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Study looks at Michigan film incentives

People wait for tickets during Traverse City's film festival.
Andrew McFarlane Creative Commons

A new study shows Michigan’s tax incentives for the TV and film industry generated close to 4,000 fulltime jobs last year with an average salary of $53,700.  

Larry Alexander is President & CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, one of several bureaus across the state that helped commission the study.

“Diversifying Michigan’s economy by investing $84.7 million- and generating over a half a billion dollars of economic activity and nearly 4,000 high paying jobs- sounds like a pretty good deal to us.”

Rick Hert heads the West Michigan Film Office. He says talk about limiting the film incentives in the past reached Hollywood and caused some producers decide not to come to Michigan.

 “This is much bigger. This is a new governor of the state of Michigan and his comments are doing more than reverberating, they’re putting a clamp on the future of this industry.”

Hert is thankful the governor didn’t totally remove the incentives, but worries they’ll be too limited to keep attracting producers.

Hert says he understands the state is broke and that legislators have some tough calls to make.

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State Budget
7:43 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Snyder seeks allies in budget fight

Governor Rick Snyder is looking for allies in his fight for deep state spending cuts. The governor received a warm reception at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon today in Kalamazoo. 

Governor Snyder spoke to an audience that largely backed his candidacy last year  and is very receptive to his budget plans that call for revising d Text - 16 lines]the state's business tax and deep cuts in spending. But many are also concerned some the governor's plans might hit close to home.

Snyder urged the business leaders to accept part of the sacrifice.

"The only way we are going to do this is talk together and help those people who think they didn't get a fair shake or that they're being disadvantaged when they probably were not." 

Labor unions and social service groups worry that the poor, children  and others might pay a bigger price under the governor's budget plan. Snyder says the state must address its billion and a half budget  deficit now and now just kick it down the road.

War in afghanistan
7:23 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Senator Carl Levin cautiously optimistic about success in Afghanistan

Senator Levin speaks at Grand Rapids Community College Monday about prospects for success in Afghanistan.
Derek Devries Grand Rapids Community College

U.S. Senator Carl Levin says success depends on two factors. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee says the Obama administration should stick to the July deadline to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and make sure the country can continue to build up its own security forces.

The committee’s ranking republican Senator John McCain opposes the deadline.

Levin told a gathering in West Michigan Monday the deadline has helped the Afghanistan police and army exceed recruitment goals. He called a large, effective home-grown security force in Afghanistan “the Taliban’s worst nightmare.”

“Because it would demonstrate that contrary to their propaganda the war against the Taliban is not a war of foreign occupiers seeking control, that it is instead a war that the Afgan people believe in.”

Levin told a crowd in Grand Rapids that President Obama's deadline in July to begin transferring power to the government of Afghanistan has put pressure on the situation in a good way.

Arts/Culture
6:18 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

What's next for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra?

DSO management has 'suspended' the orchestra's current season
Nate Luzod Creative Commons

Now that the striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians have rejected management’s final proposal, many are wondering: What’s next for the organization?

Management 'suspended' the orchestra's current season, and doubts are swirling around the 2011-12 season.

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storm hits Michigan
3:39 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

This is Michigan. And this is what we do. (Dig out after storms).

Scott Denny Flickr

The state's three main airports report business has returned almost to normal, after crews spent the evening clearing runways of snow and ice.  Up to ten inches fell overnight.  In many cases, that was more snow than fell during the so-dubbed "Snowpocalypse," a few weeks ago. 

Detroit Metro Airport spokesman Mike Conway says the big problem last night was the roadways leading to the airport.  He says it took a long time for taxis to return from outlying suburbs, and there was congestion as cars and taxis lined up outside terminals.

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Education
2:25 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

DPS plans "draconian" cuts to eliminate deficit

The Michigan Department of Education has ordered the DPS to implement a drastic deficit elimination plan
User mrd00dman Flickr

The state Department of Education has ordered the Detroit Public Schools to implement a drastic deficit elimination plan.

The plan includes closing half the district’s remaining schools within two years, and increasing some class sizes to 60 students by next school year. It would also create "regional" prinicpals rather than school principals, and cut transportation services for most students.

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Politics
12:04 pm
Mon February 21, 2011

Unions to fight proposed state laws

As protests in Wisconsin continue, leaders of Michigan labor unions fight proposals in the Michigan Legislature
Mark Danielson Flickr

Leaders of Michigan labor unions are fighting proposals in the Michigan Legislature that they say would hurt collective bargaining rights. The Associated Press reports:

The Michigan AFL-CIO said Monday it opposes more than 30 bills pending in the Legislature including those that would give emergency financial managers of cities and schools the power to terminate labor union contracts. Unions representing public employees also are opposing bills that would change how binding arbitration works for police and fire departments.

Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney said some of the measures are an "assault" on the collective bargaining process that calls for unions and employers to negotiate contracts.

Union leaders also said they are concerned about some budget proposals from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, including measures they say hurt schools, the middle class and low-income residents.

Arts/Culture
11:44 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Comic improv, on paper (slideshow)

Patron at the Green Brain Comic store browsing through comics. Green Brain Comics is open to the public while the comic jams are going on.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

When you think about improvisation you might think of comedy or jazz. The idea of cartooning or drawing comics is probably not what comes to mind. But a little comic book shop in Dearborn is giving artists a space to try out new ideas, together, on paper.

Green Brain Comics hosts a monthly  comic jam.  It’s similar to the writing exercise known as an exquisite corpse. In this case, an artist draws one panel, then passes it to someone who draws another panel, and so forth.  The end result is an entire comic strip, created by eight artists.

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Auto/Economy
11:32 am
Mon February 21, 2011

A small car gets big results for global safety

Ford's global small car, the Ford Fiesta, has received the equivalent of a five-star safety rating in virtually all the regions of the world in which it is sold - China, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and the United States.   The subcompact car also received a "Top Safety Pick" award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which nonetheless warns drivers that in general, larger vehicles are safer vehicles.   

Commentary
10:35 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Budget Alternatives

Well, it’s been four days since Gov. Rick Snyder presented his so-called “atomic bomb” budget, and opposition has started to harden. There are those who are concerned about the poor, largely because of the repeal of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

For example, Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson said yesterday that this amounts to a “government-sponsored shift of capital away from the most needy citizens to those who are already more comfortable.”

Senior citizens’ groups are upset because the governor wants their constituents to have to begin paying Michigan income tax on their income, just like everybody else does on theirs.

The film industry is screaming about the potential loss of the film credits. The education community isn’t happy with the cuts they’d have to take, though they seem to be bearing them with more grace.

But the interesting thing to me is that none of these groups seems to be offering any kind of alternative plan. They want what they want, but don’t have any kind of broader vision.

Yet something radical does have to be done. The state is running an enormous deficit that has to be gotten rid of, and our old automotive-based economy doesn’t work anymore, not the way it did.

So the question for the critics is, if you don’t like the governor’s plan, what are you going to offer instead?

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Governor Snyder
8:56 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today

Governor Rick Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today where he will speak to the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Kalamazoo. He's set to speak at 12:30 p.m. and a question-and-answer session is also scheduled. As the Associated Press reports, it's expected the Governor will spend his time defending the budget proposal he released last Thursday:

Last week, Snyder proposed a $45.9 billion budget that includes spending cuts for schools and getting rid of many personal tax breaks. His plan includes a corporate tax change that would save businesses $1.8 billion a year.

Snyder has been working to defend the plan. Critics say it means that the poor and the elderly, public education and local governments would be the ones picking up the tab for businesses.

What's Working
7:20 am
Mon February 21, 2011

A Chocolate Lab who does his part to help Michigan's children

Amos, a Chocolate Labrador, provides support to child victims of abuse and neglect when they have to testify or be present in a courtroom
Photo courtesy of Dan Cojanu

For this week’s edition of our series “What’s Working,” Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley welcomes Dan Cojanu. He’s the Vice President and Program Director of the Canine Advocacy Program (CAP), based in Oakland County. Through the use of a Chocolate Labrador named Amos, the CAP provides support to child victims of abuse and neglect when they are required to testify or be present in court.

Cojanu begins by explaining how he began organizing the CAP. As he was preparing to retire from his job as the Supervisor for Victim’s Services in Oakland County in 2008, Cojanu decided that he wasn’t done with victim advocacy. Not only did he want to continue work with victims of crime, Cojanu says he also had a desire to work with dogs.

“I did a little research, and I wound up out in Seattle at the Courthouse Dogs Program. And once I was able to observe what these dogs bring to the court setting, to forensic interviews, I just got so excited that I had to bring this back to Michigan.”

When a child has to go before a court as a victim, Cojanu says the experience can be overwhelmingly stressful for his or her emotions.

“These children, when they come to court, the anxiety level, I don’t think it can be measured. They’re going to have to be in front of a bunch of adults who they don’t know, all strangers, and tell the most intimate details of a sexual assault or neglect or abuse or whatever. And it’s so frightening to these kids.”

When a trained service dog like Amos is introduced to the situation, though, Cojanu says the effects are phenomenal.

“You bring a dog into the picture and they have a whole new focus. They have a big cuddly Lab that they can do tricks with, take for walks. A lot of the kids will draw pictures of Amos, and it just brings that anxiety level so far down, that by the time they’re ready to go to court, they’re at least a little better prepared, certainly more relaxed. And it’s just phenomenal. And when they’re done, you know, Amos is there for a big hug.”

Occasionally, Amos has been allowed to sit beside children as they testify on the witness stand. That makes Amos the first dog ever permitted to sit beside someone as they testified in a Michigan courtroom.

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Winter Weather
6:52 am
Mon February 21, 2011

"Presidents' Day Storm" brings up to 10 inches of snow to parts of Michigan

A winter storm brought up to 10 inches of snow to some parts of the state
Sami Flickr

Say 'goodbye' to Spring. For now, at least. After unseasonably warm temperatures last week, winter weather has returned. As the Associated Press reports:

A winter storm that blew through the upper Midwest over the long Presidents Day weekend has dumped a hand bag of snow, sleet and ice on Michigan, canceling flights, closing schools and making driving treacherous for early morning commuters.

The National Weather service in White Lake Township says by Monday morning six to 10 inches of snow fell on southern Michigan since the storm began Sunday afternoon.

Officials were urging people to stay off the roads if possible, rather than risk driving on icy roads or through wind-driven snow.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. AAA Michigan spokeswoman Nancy Cain tells The Detroit News that by early Sunday evening, about 1,900 requests for assistance in spinouts and minor accidents had been taken.

Kalamazoo Public Schools and Flint Public Schools are closed today. The U-M Dearborn campus is closed as well.

State Budget
6:39 am
Mon February 21, 2011

Lt. Gov: Sndyer administration does not expect Wisconsin-like budget protests

Lt. Governor Brian Calley
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Senior aides to Governor Rick Snyder say they don’t expect the massive budget protests in Wisconsin will spread to Michigan. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says Governor Snyder’s style is less combative than that of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Calley also says he expects most critics of the Snyder budget will be persuaded to change their minds. He says that’s because tough choices this year will avert the need for more cuts in the future.

“Number one, we’re not going to kick the can down the road. Number two, we’re not going to employ one-time gimmicks and quick fixes and those sorts of things. We’re actually going to fix it so that, take a look at Year Two – this actually does solve the problem so going forth, we can actually spend more time on, where do we go from here? How do we work and grow together?"

Nevertheless, some public employee and retiree groups are trying to organize a protest march on Lansing this week. They oppose a demand for public employees to pay more of their health care costs, and a proposed end to the tax exemption on pension income. Governor Snyder presented his budget proposal to state lawmakers last Thursday.

Arts/Culture
4:28 pm
Sat February 19, 2011

DSO musicians reject management's "final" offer

The DSO performas at a 2008 holiday performance.
User sheri&brian Flickr

Musicians of the Detroit Symphony orchestra have rejected management’s latest contract offer.  

The musicians' union says while salary cuts had been agreed upon, other issues, including employee health care deductibles were unacceptable.

Spokesman Greg Bowens says management's offer called for an 800 percent increase in their deductible.

DSO president and CEO Ann Parsons says most people have been affected by changes in health care costs.

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Arts/Culture
3:38 pm
Sat February 19, 2011

Musicians Reject Detroit Symphony's Contract Offer, Season suspended

Detroit Symphony Orchestra
www.DSO.org

Striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians have voted to reject what management has called its final labor contract offer.

The announcement Saturday by the musicians dashes hope for a quicker end to the more than four-month, contentious walkout.

The symphony has responded by saying it has released artists and conductors from their contracts and suspended all remaining orchestral concerts through the end of the season in June.

Auto/Economy
5:20 pm
Fri February 18, 2011

Wayne State to offer energy storage courses this fall

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Wayne State University will offer certificate programs in advanced energy storage. Courses will focus on things like electric vehicle batteries, and updating the electric grid to handle electric vehicle charging.

Jay Baron is the president of the Center for Automotive Research. He says the car industry is clamoring for engineers with those skills:

"When you speak to any of the auto companies, they will tell you: if you’ve got a field of study that has the term 'battery' or 'energy storage' in it, you’ve piqued the interest. My daughter is looking for a job, and I’ve told her if there’s any way she can get 'battery' into the title of her degree, she’d do much better."

Baron says several universities are retooling their engineering programs to incorporate more battery-related course offerings.

But he says there are lingering questions about the long-term viability of the electric vehicle market.

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