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12:49 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Grappling With The Budget

I was looking at President Obama’s proposed next year’s budget yesterday, trying to get some clues for how all this would affect Michigan. Suddenly, I was hit by a revelation.

Nobody really understands this budget, I thought. Nobody understands this budget because nobody really can understand it. It is too big, too vast, has too many contours and moving parts.

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Culture
12:17 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Motorcycle event gets a thumbs up in West Michigan

Motorcycles coming to West Michigan this summer
Ped Saunders Creative Commons

Grand Rapids City Commission gave their support to a big motorcycle event scheduled to take place this summer. Organizers of a new big motorcycle rally were able to coax commissioners into supporting a shortened version of the original event.

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Environment
11:50 am
Tue February 15, 2011

Funding cuts to Great Lakes restoration?

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provides money for habitat restoration, keeping invasive species out of the Lakes, and cleaning up polluted areas.
Rebecca Williams Michigan Radio

President Obama released his 2012 budget yesterday.

In it, he calls for major cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

The goal of this multi-year program is to restore habitat... clean up pollution... and keep new invasive species out of the Lakes.

Initially, President Obama requested $475 million for the first year of the program. He got that under a democratic Congress.

Congress is wrestling with how much money to allocate for the second year (this current fiscal year).

President Obama's budget deals with the third year of GLRI funding.  Obama wants to cut $125 million out of next year’s budget for the program.

I talked with Jeff Skelding, the campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, to find out what this might mean. He says:

"The state of Michigan has a huge stake in this. They need their share of that funding to insure that restoration activities proceed forward under severely challenging economic times."

Skelding calls the GLRI "probably the most historic restoration program ever enacted by Congress for the Great Lakes." He says there is strong bi-partisan support for the program from the Great Lakes Congressional delegation, which makes him hopeful.

Economy
11:23 am
Tue February 15, 2011

The 2 types of bankruptcy facing Borders

Borders Group Inc. is facing bankruptcy
user brewbooks creative commons

With the impending bankruptcy of Borders Group Inc., we thought we'd give you a quick explanation of the two types of options facing the company.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Also known as "liquidation" or "straight bankruptcy." It sparks an 'everything must go' sale of the company's assets. The company may cease operations after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The company that owes the money files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in court. The company's assets are turned over to a bankruptcy trustee who then sells the assets and tries to pay back the company's creditors. In exchange, the company that owes the money is freed from having to pay all of its bills in full (unless some wrongdoing is found).

The details of Chapter 7 rules vary from state to state.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Also known as "reorganization" bankruptcy used by many corporations (like K-Mart and General Motors).

After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company that owes money typically keeps running its business and keeps its assets while going through a reorganization process overseen by the court.

A reorganization plan is put forth, and if the majority of creditors accept it, and the court accepts the plan - the company continues operating and repays its creditors under the reorganization plan.

Payment to creditors can come from the sale of assets, repayment from future profits, or from mergers or recapitalization.

Changing Gears
9:25 am
Tue February 15, 2011

Leadership Series: Cleveland's Quiet Mayor (Part 2)

Mayor Jackson at the podium
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

Our Midwest reporting project Changing Gears is looking at the role of leadership this week. Yesterday, we heard about Detroit Mayor Dave Bing determined to remake his troubled city. Today, we hear about another mayor in our region faced with challenges.

Normally when politicians go to certain kind of events—the ones where they all put on hard hats and pretend to shovel—they usually make speeches about how great this new development will be for the city. Not so much Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

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Politics
9:23 am
Tue February 15, 2011

Snyder says Medicaid provider payments will not be cut

Governor Rick Snyder says his budget will not call for cuts in payments to doctors, clinics, and nursing homes that take Medicaid patients.

Snyder administration officials say it is important to maintain those payments at their current levels to make sure providers continue to see patients.

The governor’s communications director, Geralyn Lasher, says that is a less costly alternative to people showing up at emergency rooms when they get sick:

"We want people having a medical home, having a physician’s office, having that physician really guiding as far as quitting smoking, leading a healthier life, we're going to see much lower healthcare costs down the road if people take those steps right now."

Lasher says there will be other changes in Medicaid.

There are almost two million people in Michigan in the health coverage program for low-income people.

Medicaid makes up about 20% of the state budget.

News Roundup
9:03 am
Tue February 15, 2011

In this morning's news...

The end of Borders

Borders Book Group Inc. can't pay its bills.

Several reports say the company is expected to file for bankruptcy sometime this week. From Reuters:

Bookseller Borders Group Inc is reviewing bids from liquidators to close hundreds of stores as it works out the final details of its impending bankruptcy filing, according to people close to the talks. The review is part of its plan to close about 200 of its 650 stores, which are a mix of Borders superstores and smaller Waldenbooks shops, these people said. The store closings will remove weak stores that have bled the retail chain's cash in recent years and provide immediate funds from the sale of inventory.

A Border's spokesman is quoted in the report saying, "Borders will not comment or speculate upon Borders' future course. If and when the company has something to disclose, it will do so."

President's Obama's Budget proposal and Michigan

President Obama released his budget proposal to Congress yesterday saying "Even as we cut out things that we can afford to do without, we have a responsibility to invest in those areas that will have the biggest impact in our future."

The Detroit Free Press says the President's budget is a "mixed bag" for Michigan. On the up side, the budget continues to invest in advanced vehicle technology research, it asks that a $7,500 rebate be put in place to encourage electric vehicle purchases (instead of a tax credit), and it would help the state avoid a big payment it owes the federal government for borrowing money to cover unemployment benefits.

And the down side? From the Freep: 

...it cuts in half a program to help poor people pay energy bills, cuts community block grants and Great Lakes restoration funding and ends plans to build an amphibious Marine Corps vehicle that could have created hundreds of Michigan jobs. 

A big day for Flint

The city of Flint will likely find out today whether it can go to the bond market to cover it's $17 million budget deficit.

The State Administrative Board is meeting today at 11 a.m. to decide the city's fate.

If the plan is not approved, the State of Michigan may eventually have to take over the city's finances.

City Administrator Greg Eason told WJRT

"This stabilization bond is critical to the survival of the city over the next three to five years."

Economy
8:26 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

Site that was to become movie production studio for sale again

The largest portion of a former General Motors Plant in the Grand Rapids suburb of Walker is back up for sale. The more than quarter-million-square-foot space was to supposed to become a massive movie studio known as Hangar42.

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Economy
8:12 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

Grand Rapids to decide on fate of huge motorcycle event Tuesday

Sean Ellis Creative Commons

Organizers want to see a huge event for motorcycle enthusiasts in downtown Grand Rapids this summer. They've made a number of concessions to try and convince the city commission to allow the now 4-day event.

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Auto/Economy
6:10 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

GM, Ford share profits with UAW before contract talks start

General Motors factory workers will get a record amount in profit-sharing checks this year.  The automaker's 48,000 UAW hourly workers will get at least $4,000.  That's more than twice the company's previous record for hourly worker profit-sharing  - $1,775 in 1999.

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Politics
5:19 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

Decision day for Flint's finances

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

By some estimates, the city of Flint is facing a $17 million budget hole.

Flint's Mayor is hoping state officials will allow the city to go to the bond market to overcome the budget deficit.

The State Administrative Board is meeting tomorrow to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to the city's request.

The Flint Journal reports:

A state board made up of Michigan's top elected officials (or their delegates) is expected on Tuesday to consider the city's application to issue $20 million in bonds, part of Flint Mayor Dayne Walling's budget plan.

The State Administrative Board meeting will take place at 11 a.m. in the Lake Superior Room of the Michigan Library and Historical Center in Lansing. The meetings are open to the public.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported that without the money, Mayor Walling said the city will have trouble making payroll in March:

“There is nothing more important for our city right now than the bond.   We’ve been carrying a crushing load of past deficits on our shoulders.  And we’ve come to the point where the pooled cash is not there to make payroll throughout the entire month of March without an infusion of cash,” said Mayor Walling.

If state officials do not approve of the bond plan, the state may eventually takeover Flint’s finances.

Education
5:11 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

Changes to Pell Grant program may leave Michigan college students felling shortchanged

Students walk on the Allendale campus of Grand Valley State University
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan college students might have a more difficult time affording summer school classes.  There’s a debate in Congress that might put restrictions on one certain type of federal tuition assistance. 


Pell Grants help many financially needy students afford college classes.   For example, 15 hundred Wayne State University students used their Pell grants to pay for classes last summer.  

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Politics
3:36 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

Democrats call for law to allow unmarried couples to adopt

Wayan Vota Flickr

Democrats at the state Capitol are calling for a law that would allow unmarried couples to adopt children. Right now only married couples or individuals can adopt children. 

State Representative Jeff Irwin says it makes sense to allow couples who want to adopt but can’t get married to share the rights and responsibilities of raising children.

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Offbeat
3:16 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

Love is in the air...

User duncan c Flickr

University of Michigan professor Dr. Terri Orbuch goes by the nickname of the Love Doctor, and she has some suggestions for things lovers and spouses should remember to say to each other on Valentine's Day. From the Huffington Post:

  1. "I love you even more now than when we first met." This tells your partner you are still interested and gives him or her a sense of hopefulness, reassurance and security.

  2. "You are my best friend/the best lover/the best partner." This tells your spouse that you notice who your spouse really is and do not take him or her for granted.

  3. "I would still choose you." Every partner needs to hear these words on occasion. They are affirming, nurturing, and appreciative. It is also a reminder that you are renewing your commitment in this relationship.

  4. "Let's plan _____ [a vacation, a date, getting pregnant]." This says you want your partner in your future, and he or she is your top priority. It also says that you and your partner are a team and that you are committed to the relationship!

  5. "I've really noticed that you have _____ [been helping more around the house, been working really hard these past several weeks, been helping your mother through rough times, etc.]." This shows you are paying attention to the particulars of your partner's life and that he or she matters. It also says to your partner, "You are not invisible to me and I do not take you for granted.

Meanwhile, Allan Parkman, the author of the 2004 article “The Importance of Gifts in Marriage,” has some thoughts on why—and when—gift-giving becomes less important to a relationship. From the New York Times:

“Early in life, presents and occasions are important, but as you get older, you have everything you want.”

“We gave away a lot of money, but it wasn’t tied to an occasion, and it was not required.”

“You know you are doing the right thing. It’s not stressful at all.”

Dr. Orbuch—featured in the same article—suggests that couples should be spontaneous, and that this sense of novelty and adventure can be at least as important as what gift you give on Valentine's Day:

“Romance and passion is all about using the elements of surprise and the elements of newness.

“That’s what couples say, and that’s what I’ve found in the research.”

Whatever kind of research you get up to today, Michigan Radio wishes you a Happy Valentine's Day.

-Brian Short

Commentary
3:13 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

Valentine for Michigan

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, and Mother Nature has shown Michigan a little love, at least. The temperature this morning was about forty degrees warmer than just a few days ago.

That makes a considerable difference when you have a puppy who wants to go for a mile and a half walk every morning, regardless of the weather. Nevertheless, Michigan needs all the love it can get.

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Offbeat
2:49 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

If you can't avoid potholes, track them

The freeze-thaw cycle brings potholes to Michigan roadways.
Michael Gil Flickr

Before April showers can bring May flowers, January snows bring February potholes. Roads all across Michigan are showing the strain of the premature Spring thaw, with in some cases cavernous holes opening up.

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Detroit
2:05 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

Bing gathering ideas from New Orleans

New Orleans
Ron Reiring Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is in New Orleans gathering ideas on how to rebuild a devastated city.

The Associated Press reports:

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is meeting with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to discuss that city's recovery more than five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the 9th Ward and

other parts of the Gulf Coast. Bing spokeswoman Karen Dumas says that both mayors were

preparing to take a walking tour of parts of New Orleans on Monday, and that the city bears "a lot of similarities to Detroit."

Bing is working to strengthen Detroit's most viable neighborhoods while formulating plans to deal with huge swaths of vacant land. He has said incentives will be used to encourage people to move into certain areas of Detroit, which has lost more than half its population since peaking at nearly 2 million in the 1950s. He plans to present a study April 1.

Michigan Radio traveled to New Orleans last year to learn some lessons as well. Rebuilding Detroit Schools: ATale of Two Cities looked at school reform in Detroit and New Orleans. The program explored successes and failures in New Orleans to see whether the lessons learned in New Orleans could offer some insights for education reform in Detroit.

What's Working
12:04 pm
Mon February 14, 2011

Mixing high school coursework with vocational training

user Tech_Shop Flickr

This week, for our series “What’s Working,” Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley sits down with Karl Covert, the Dean of Washtenaw Technical Middle College.

Located on the campus of Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw Technical Middle College offers high school students the chance to complete their high school education in a college setting, while also earning either an associate’s degree or technical skill certification.

The Middle College was founded in 1997 by a group of educators who were concerned about two things: high school graduates being unprepared for college and a decreasing number of vocational training programs in the area.

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Changing Gears
11:15 am
Mon February 14, 2011

Leadership Series: Dave Bing Reimagines Detroit (Part 1)

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing - "the Detroit he inherited was, in his words, nearly bankrupt — financially, ethically and operationally."
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

How important is the quality of leadership to the economic vitality of a city? And what role can leaders play in the transformation of our region? Changing Gears is exploring these questions in a three-part series on leadership.

We start with the man who may have the toughest job of any big city mayor: Dave Bing of Detroit.

He has to keep his economically depressed city running, while convincing residents that Detroit must shrink to survive.

One of those residents is David Dudley.

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Arts/Culture
10:13 am
Mon February 14, 2011

And the Grammy Award goes to...

Michigan artists had a good night at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Detroit rap star Eminem, who was nominated for a record 10 Grammy Awards, took home two top honors: Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Album. Brother and sister duo BeBe & CeCe Winans won Best Gospel Performance for their song "Grace." Best Classical Contemporary Composition and Best Orchestral Performance went to University of Michigan composition professor Michael Daugherty for his piece, "Deus Ex Machina."

You can find the complete list of Grammy Award winners here.

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