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Economy
3:32 pm
Mon January 31, 2011

4 Michigan cities get some marketing help

Clare, Michigan is one of four communities chosen to receive downtown rebranding
Michigan Main Street Center

Four Michigan communities are changing their downtown identity with help from the Michigan Main Street Center.

The Center hopes to help each city market their unique characteristics to residents and future visitors.

Laura Krizov manages the program for the Michigan Main Street Center. She says the four cities to receive rebranding services - Boyne City, Clare, Grand Haven, and Niles -  have a downtown presence, but wanted to cultivate one that was more readily identifiable with their community.

Six communities applied for the program, but Krizov said the four were chosen because they demonstrated the need and the ability to benefit from the program:

"We feel that they will be able to pull this off and in the end, we’ll be able to give them a great brand, telling the community who they are and what they want to do."

Each community will get a logo and website that is meant to help them build a cohesive brand.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Medicine
3:21 pm
Mon January 31, 2011

Federal judge issues ruling in health care reform law challenge

An empty hospital emergency room bed
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A federal judge in Florida has ruled sections of the health care reform law are unconstitutional.


  The judge specifically cited the 'Commerce Clause' in the U.S. Constitution. 


Michigan is among 26 states that took part in the lawsuit trying to dismantle the health care law. 

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What's Working
2:12 pm
Mon January 31, 2011

Making Detroit more liveable

The Midtown Woodward Historic District in Detroit
Andrew Jameson wikimedia commons

Today's topic for What's Working - "What can help Detroit?"

Morning Edition host Christina Shockley spoke with Susan Mosey, the President of the University Cultural Center Association (UCCA) at Wayne State University.

The UCCA aims to guide development, encourage reinvestment, and celebrate the cultural assets of Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood.

Lately, Midtown has become a source of optimism for Detroit.

You can listen to the interview here:

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Technology
1:58 pm
Mon January 31, 2011

Meijer offers to ships items anywhere in the world

Meijer says it will ship around the world
Meijer Facebook fan page

Michigan-based retail giant Meijer says it will now ship any of the items from its stores to any place in the world. Before now, customers could only get bulk items shipped to their homes.

Frank Guglielmi is a Meijer spokesman.

“There’s the customers who are familiar and predisposed towards Meijer who perhaps lived in the Midwest or Grand Rapids and have moved to other destinations and then there’s providing a good offering online for groceries for any consumer out there.”

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Arts/Culture
1:33 pm
Mon January 31, 2011

The Green Hornet airs 75 years ago today on WXYZ-Detroit

The Green Hornet was a Detroit creation but was eventually syndicated across the country.
ssoosay flickr

If you had tuned your radio to WXYZ-Detroit on this day in 1936, you would have heard the inaugural broadcast of the masked hero,The Green Hornet.

Each week brought audiences the latest adventures of Britt Reid, a newspaper publisher by day and masked crusader by night, and his trusty side-kick, Kato.

You can listen to a sampling of the original programs at Archive.org.

Alexander Russo is an American media scholar at the Catholic University of America. He says The Green Hornet had a special appeal to listeners during the Great Depression who may have been frustrated with the lagging success of New Deal policies:

“In all of these characters, you have individuals who step outside the socially sanctioned ways of achieving social change and enacting it themselves.”

Today, The Green Hornet is a movie for the second time and has also been a television show.

The Green Hornet was created by George Trendle and Frank Striker.  Their previous radio productions included another masked hero - The Lone Ranger

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
11:57 am
Mon January 31, 2011

A "citizen's guide" to the state's financial troubles

Governor Snyder will roll out a citizen’s guide to the financial troubles facing the state, local governments, and school districts before a meeting of business leaders in Lansing this afternoon.

The governor is a retired investor and certified public accountant. He says the guide will give the public an easy-to-grasp outline of the condition of government finances in Michigan.

Governor Snyder says the state’s official financial report runs more than 200 pages and is too big and complicated, and it’s filled with too much bureaucratic jargon for most people to understand.

Snyder says his administration has picked what he considers the most critical information, such as the state’s revenue-to-expenditures, its reserves, and long-term obligations such as pensions, and put it into an easy-to-follow 13-page briefing:

“So I think this will be a big help in terms of the stage for a more-informed discussion, where all the public can participate because we’ll all have better facts to work off of and we’ll see how far beyond our means we’ve actually spent.”

Estimates peg the state’s budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year at about $1.8 billion.

The governor will present his plan to balance the budget later this month.

Offbeat
11:35 am
Mon January 31, 2011

Saline wins "Snowman Building Champion of the Free World" trophy

The city of Zeeland placed second in the snowman making contest (second out of three cities).
Abby deRoo

Looking at the photos... they don't really look like snowmen - more like snowbots, but I guess that's the kind of quality you can expect when the goal is quantity.

The cities of Zeeland, St. Clair and Saline took part in a snowman building contest over the weekend.

As Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported, the goal of the contest was to see who could build the most snowmen (at least 4ft. tall) in a 2 hour period with 50 volunteers.

The volunteers employed garbage cans, pickle buckets, and Pam cooking spray to help them churn the snow creatures out.

The city of Saline came out on top winning the soon-to-be coveted, wood-carved trophy known as "Frosty."

Here are the final tallies:

1st Place - Saline with 483 snowmen like creatures

2nd place - Zeeland with 268

3rd place - St. Clair with 113

St. Clair Downtown Development Director Dan Lockwood blamed their poor showing on "terrible packing snow."

The Grand Rapids Press has several photos of the contest as it took place in Zeeland.

You be the judge, do they need to tighten up their definition of a snowman? Or should snowbots count?

Investigative
8:52 am
Mon January 31, 2011

'No tax hike' pledge include eliminating tax credit?

About two dozen Michigan anti-tax legislators could find themselves in a bind.  The Michigan legislature is likely to vote on eliminating the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit.  Killing the credit would mean the  lowest paid workers in the state would have to pay more in taxes.  Kelly Cobb is with the group Americans for Tax Reform.  He says if eliminating the credit meant the state got more money, it’s a violation of the “no tax hike” pledge.

“That’s where the question lies is whether or not this would bring in revenue to the state.  And as a stand-alone proposal, it would certainly do that and therefore be a pledge violation.”

There is an escape clause for legislators who signed the pledge.  If they vote to increase taxes on the working poor, and also cut taxes for business by a like amount or more, it would meet the requirements with the tax reform group.

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Winter Weather
7:26 am
Mon January 31, 2011

Forecasters expect big winter storm to come our way

Weather forecasters say Michigan will likely get hit by big winter storm late Tuesday
Sami Flickr

Forecasters are predicting a big winter storm is on its way. It's forecasted that the storm could leave up to a foot of snow on the ground across much of the southern part of the state by Wednesday morning. As the Associated Press reports:

Meteorologist Brian Meade with the National Weather Service's Grand Rapids office says the storm is expected to include "considerable blowing and drifting snow" in the southern and central parts of the state.

Snow is expected to begin piling up Tuesday and continue overnight through Wednesday morning.

Governor Snyder
7:10 am
Mon January 31, 2011

Making the state's finances easier to understand

Governor Rick Snyder will release what he hopes will be an easier-to-understand state balance sheet today
Photo courtesy of the Snyder administration

Governor Rick Snyder will speak later today in Lansing to the group Business Leaders for Michigan. He will release an outline of the data he thinks people need to understand the state’s budget crisis. He's expected to talk about his plans to reshape the state’s tax on businesses.

The Snyder administration has been circulating a draft version of a plan to scrap the complex and unpopular Michigan Business Tax in favor of a six-percent corporate income tax.

But the governor cautions his business tax reform plan remains a work in progress:

There’s a lot of speculation going on, and it’s a good dialouge to have out there in the public. I think we’re going to have a great plan based on simple, fair, and efficient.

The governor says he’d like to make paying Michigan’s corporate tax so simple it can all fit onto a single page. He wants it be an overall tax cut on Michigan’s business sector -- though some companies will pay more, some will pay less, and some will pay no business tax at all.

Manufacturers and other businesses say they are withholding judgment until they see how it might affect their bottom lines.

Kalamazoo River Oil Spill
7:01 am
Mon January 31, 2011

Cleanup continues on the Kalamazoo River

Cleanup continues along the Kalamazoo River from last July's oil spill
Photo courtesy of www.epa.gov

More than six months after 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River, cleanup efforts continue, the Associated Press reports.

The oil leaked from a pipeline near Marshall, MI. The pipeline, owned by Enbridge Energy, runs from Griffith, Indiana to Sarnia, Ontario.

The AP reports:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said in November that much of the cleanup has been finished but some operation and maintenance "will continue for the foreseeable future.

Election 2012
6:51 am
Mon January 31, 2011

Rep. Conyers to run again in 2012

U.S. Congressman John Conyers of Detroit, MI
Photo courtesy of www.conyers.house.gov

Democratic Representative John Conyers has told The Detroit News that he plans to seek another congressional term in 2012.

Conyers, who represents the state's 14th District in Detroit, has been in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1965. He is 81 years old and is the second most senior member in the House. The Dean of the House is another Congressman from Michigan: Democrat John Dingell. Dingell, who represents Michigan's 15th District, recently announced that he, too, will run for reelection in 2012.

Auto/Economy
10:36 pm
Sun January 30, 2011

Deals help auto sales in January

Analysts say U.S. car sales were at least 15% better in January than the same month last year.  Part of the reason is the deals.

Credit is more available than it was last year, and many car makers are offering low to 0% financing on last year’s models, as they try to clear room for the new models on the way. 

George Augustaitis is an analyst with IHS Automotive.  He says those new cars could keep the momentum going as the year progresses.

Ford is introducing the new Focus, Hyundai will launch the new Elantra , and Honda has a new Civic on the way.

"This is really going to drive buyers back," says Augustaitis.  "And a lot of these vehicles already have a large following."

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Economy
10:31 pm
Sun January 30, 2011

More problems at Borders Books

Ann Arbor-based Borders Books announced Sunday that it would be delaying January payments to its landlords, vendors and others. Borders also delayed payments in December.  

Borders says the move is intended to ‘protect liquidity’. Borders has been losing money for years, as book buyers have increasingly turned to the internet.

Michael Norris is the senior trade book analyst with Simba Information. He says there is one problem Borders executives must find a solution for. 

They need to answer the question 'Why should I shop at Borders? They should tattoo that question backward on their forehead so they can see every time they look into the mirror every morning.

Borders lined up a half billion dollars in financing last week to help the book seller stay afloat. But the company may still be headed toward bankruptcy protection

Entrepreneurship
11:39 am
Sun January 30, 2011

New event offering $5,000 a month to put good ideas to work

5x5night.com

Entrepreneurs will get a unique opportunity to get their business idea off the ground in Grand Rapids. During “5x5” 5 people will have 5 minutes to present their ideas on anything from art to education to business. 5 judges will decide which of the ideas should be awarded up to $5,000.

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Immigration
3:51 pm
Sat January 29, 2011

Governor Snyder wants to attract well-educated immigrants

Efforts to attract and keep well-educated immigrants to the Detroit and Ann Arbor regions may provide stepping stones to a statewide program.    

Governor Rick Snyder has asked state officials to develop an initiative to encourage immigrants with advanced college degrees to come to Michigan to live and work. The Republican governor says the effort could help reverse the "brain drain" that hampers Michigan's ability to attract high-tech industries.    

Global Detroit tries to make the region more welcoming to immigrants. And Cultural Ambassadors in Ann Arbor aims to capitalize on the region's international population - driven in part by the University of Michigan - to attract international business.

Supporters say well-educated immigrants often seek advanced college degrees in science, math and technology that can be used to help launch new businesses.

On the Radio
7:25 pm
Fri January 28, 2011

In case you missed it...

C.P. Storm Flickr

Michigan Radio broadcasts hundreds of stories, interviews, and commentaries every week (anyone care to tally them up? - my guess is around 600 pieces in one week).

Whether these pieces come from our local reporters, NPR's reporters, NPR shows, shows from American Public Media, Public Radio International, or the BBC, it's impossible to keep up with ALL the stories coming over the airwaves.

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Investigative
5:04 pm
Fri January 28, 2011

Governor Snyder on taxing low-income workers more

Governor Rick Snyder has not yet said whether he’ll support efforts to increase state taxes on the lowest-earning workers in Michigan.  He has indicated he’ll have something to say about whether to eliminate the Michigan Earned Income Tax Credit when he gives his budget address.

“Well, we’ll save that for mid-February.  But the Earned Income Credit is largely a federal program.  That’s the main driver that brings results, is the fact that it’s on your federal return.  It’s a question of how much difference does the Michigan piece of that make in terms of changing behavior.”

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Offbeat
4:56 pm
Fri January 28, 2011

Three cities preparing to build armies of snowmen this weekend

"Frosty", the traveling trophy designed for the competition.
Dan Lockwood St. Clair DDA

Zeeland, St. Clair, and Saline are competing this weekend to take home the "Snowman Building Champion of the Free World" trophy.

Art Trapp is Saline’s Downtown Development Director.

“In our community we don’t see a lot of activity downtown during the winter and we thought this was one way to get people off their couch.”

The other point of the competition is to see which community can build the most 4-foot-tall snowmen with 50 volunteers in 2 hours.

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Sports, squash, birmingham athletic club
3:58 pm
Fri January 28, 2011

Serious squash tournament

Egypt's Karim Darwish & Malaysia's Mohd Azlan Iskandar
Courtesy: Birmingham Athletic Club

You can check-out some high-level squash in metro Detroit this weekend. And no, I’m not talking about butternut and acorn. I’m talking about the sport.

The Birmingham Athletic Club is hosting The Motor City Open professional squash tournament over the next few days.

The sport is similar to racket-ball. But the ball used in squash is not pressurized, so it doesn’t have much of a bounce. The strategy used in squash is also different.

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