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Crime
1:56 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Detroiters hopeful serial rapist is in custody

Detroit Chief of Police Ralph Godbee
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Detroiters are hopeful police have found the person responsible for raping seven women on the city’s east side.

A “person of interest” is in police custody The man has not yet been charged. Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee says investigators are being careful not to rush things:

"We have 48 hours to present a warrant to the prosecutor. That is in any case. If it goes outside the scope of 48 hours, as in any case, we would have to have an exception that would allow us to do so."

In most cases, the women were waiting for a bus or walking near a bus stop when they were attacked.

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Education
1:49 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

New digs for Detroit schools police

Officials including Detroit Board of Education President Anthony Adams, holding giant scissors, and Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb, to Adams' left, were on hand for the opening of the new DPS police headquarters
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools has a brand-new, state-of-the-art police headquarters.

It’s part of a $42 million initiative to improve security in the school district.

The facility includes a detention center, K-9 kennels, and an alarm system that will alert officers when doors to school buildings are opened when they shouldn’t be, said DPS Police Chief Roderick Grimes:

"We have a command center that will house state-of-the-art camera systems, which will allow us to look at the interior and the exterior of every school, 24 hours a day."

Money to pay for the building’s construction came from $500.5 billion bond initiative voters approved in 2009.

Politics
1:43 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court to consider who should prosecute violations of the state's election laws

The seal of the Michigan Supreme Court
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments tomorrow involving Meijer officials who may have violated state campaign finance law.

The company financed a public relations campaign to kick out village trustees who opposed Meijer’s plans to build a new store in their community.   The move may have violated Michigan’s campaign finance law, which bars corporations and their agents from making campaign contributions. The Grand Traverse Eagle has done a great job covering the case. 

 Alan Schneider is Grand Traverse County Prosecutor.  He’s wanted to pursue an investigation against the Meijer officials.  But attorneys for the Meijer officials involved say only the Secretary of State’s office has the authority to prosecute campaign finance cases.   Alan Schneider says the Michigan Supreme Court must decide who’s right.

“If there’s a crime, that’s a state crime, we are obligated to prosecute.”    

The whole issue could be moot.   Last year, the US Supreme Court struck down federal laws barring corporations from making political contributions. 

Meanwhile, Meijer has paid millions of dollars in settlements to the state and the targeted village trustees.

Legal
12:38 pm
Thu January 20, 2011

Is a firefighter's discovery of pot plants an illegal search?

The defendant was charged with possessing marijuana plants after a firefighter discovered them.
USFWS

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case regarding a possible illegal search today.

In the case "The People of the State of Michigan vs. Mark Slaughter" - the defendant, Mark Slaughter, was charged with possessing marijuana plants in his basement after a firefighter found the plants during an emergency call. From the court filing:

On May 6, 2007, firefighters were called to the residence of Kathleen Tunner at 3206 Coolidge, Royal Oak, Michigan. Ms. Tunner testified that she suspected that water was running down the wall of her basement in her unit over her electrical box. Ms. Tunner contacted 911 and the fire department arrived...even though the unit in which called for assistance was Ms. Tunner's unit, Lieutenant Schunck never entered or inspected Ms. Tunner's unit...[Schunck] testified that they entered Defendant's unit, absent any signs of leaking water or hearing water running from outside Defendant's unit...Upon entering Defendants unit, the firefighters observed suspected marijuana plants...and subsequently contacted the police."

The Associated Press reports that lower courts have ruled in Slaughter's favor:

Slaughter's defense lawyer successfully argued that it was an illegal search. Prosecutors say there's an exception when authorities find evidence of a crime during an emergency.

So let's play armchair Supreme Court justice. Do you think this amounted to an illegal search? You can read the complaint to gather more information before you issue your ruling.

Environment
9:58 am
Thu January 20, 2011

Environment in the State of the State

Governor Rick Snyder at last night's State of the State address.
gophouse.com

In his first State of the State address last night, Governor Rick Snyder made it clear that jobs are his first priority.

But he also made several announcements on conservation and park projects and the Pure Michigan tourism campaign. He announced that his budget recommendation will include annual funding of $25 million for the Pure Michigan tourism campaign.

“This program supports one of our strongest assets – our water resources and the treasures of the Great Lakes, and it’s an illustration of value for money. It’s positive for our image, and it’s positive return on our tax dollars.”

And he urged the legislature to quickly pass a bill that would implement the recommendations of the Natural Resources Trust Fund board. The board has recommended that $100 million be used to buy land for conservation and parks.

“These projects will positively impact every corner of our state. From Iron County in the Upper Peninsula to Traverse City, to Luna Pier in Monroe County. Also included is a significant expansion of the William T Milliken Park on the Detroit riverfront.”

In his address, Governor Snyder called the Great Lakes “economic engines.”

 

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Governor Snyder
9:24 am
Thu January 20, 2011

State of the State: What the pundits are saying

Governor Rick Snyder delivering his first State of the State address Wednesday night
Photo courtesy of www.gophouse.com

Governor Rick Snyder delivered his first State of the State address last night to a joint session of the Michigan legislature. Though the speech was highly optimistic, some said they hoped for more details in the address, particularly regarding how the governor plans to balance the state's projected $1.8 billion deficit for the fiscal year that beings October 1st. Snyder said he'll outline his budget plans in February. And, he said, he'll detail plans for government reform and education in March and April respectively. Although some hoped for more specifics, overall, pundits from across the state were pretty upbeat about the address. Here's a look at what they had to say:

Commentary
9:22 am
Thu January 20, 2011

The Statesman and the State

When it comes to speeches, Rick Snyder cannot begin to touch Jennifer Granholm in terms of style.

At no time during his State of the State speech last night did he come close to matching her perfectly modulated tones. He’s getting better, but the governor still sounds much of the time like a college student making a speech in a class he’s required to take.

But when it comes to substance and leadership, he blew her out of the park. He took one of the most divisive issues in the state, made it his own, worked out an astonishing deal with the federal government, and happily co-opted both his friends and enemies.

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Politics
6:45 am
Thu January 20, 2011

The State of the State

Governor Rick Snyder delivering his State of the State address Wednesday night.
gophouse.com

Update - 1/20/11, 6:35 a.m.:

Republicans and Democrats say they're encouraged by what they heard from Governor Rick Snyder last night. The Republican delivered his first State of the State address to a joint session of the legislature in Lansing. Laura Weber sent this report:

Democratic lawmakers say they are eager to work with Governor Snyder on many of the issues he brought up, but their optimism is tempered with caution.

They say they’re waiting for Snyder’s budget proposal in February. "At this point the voters have given him the ball, he needs to advance it up field, and I think the next big play will be on February 17th where we’ll really get to see what their priorities are and how they’re going to balance the budget," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer.

Republican lawmakers say they are most eager to work with Snyder to reform or eliminate Michigan’s complicated business tax.

Update - 1/19/11, 8:58 p.m.:

For those wishing to keep track of the goals laid out in the State of the State address, Governor Snyder announced a new website. The "Michigan Dashboard." The information on the website claims to tell you "how the state performs in areas that affect you and your family."

Update - 1/19/11, 8:20 p.m.:

Here's the audio of Governor Snyder's State of the State address:

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Unemployment
6:36 am
Thu January 20, 2011

State jobless rate declines in December

Michigan's December unemployment rate was 11.7 percent
Khalilshah Flickr

Michigan's unemployment rate dropped in December to 11.7 percent. But, as Rick Pluta reports, the decline in the jobless rate was due mostly to people who have stopped looking for jobs:

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped steadily throughout 2010. But there are still 555,000 people in Michigan who are out of work and looking for jobs. Half of them have been looking for six months or more.

There was little new hiring last month. The number of people who simply stopped looking for work is the biggest reason for the decline in the jobless rate. The state Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth says the number of people who say they are available to work fell by 37,000.

When people who are looking for jobs, those who’ve quit looking, and part-time workers who’d like to be full-time are rolled together, Michigan’s rate of unemployment and under-employment is 21 percent.

Michigan’s unemployment rate in 2010 was 13.6 percent. That’s a drop of half a percentage point from the 2009 average.

State of the State
10:24 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Gov. Snyder supports new Detroit River bridge (and he says he's got a way to pay for it)

A downstream view of the Ambassador Bridge and downtown Detroit from the proposed location of the new bridge crossing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The controversial plan for a new bridge linking Detroit with Windsor, Ontario has a new very high profile supporter: Michigan’s new governor.

Rick Snyder voiced support for the Detroit River bridge project in his State of the State address last night. Last year, Republican state lawmakers rejected Canada’s offer of $550 million to help pay for Michigan’s share of the bridge.

But the Republican governor says he’s come up with a way to make the bridge a reality.  

Transportation Director Kirk  Steudle and I have secured a unique agreement with the federal Highway Administration to use this $550 million investment in our infrastructure towards the matching funds required for all federally funded highway projects across our state.

The bridge still faces opposition. The owners of the Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge have waged a long fight against a new bridge built and operated by anyone other than them.

Economy
10:13 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

U of M, MSU and Wayne State to work with Procter & Gamble

U of M will partner with Procter & Gamble on future research for consumer products
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble is teaming up with Michigan’s three leading research universities.

The University of Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State Universities will work with P&G to develop new products.

Daryl Weinert is the executive director of U of M’s Business Engagement Center. He says the collaboration will allow university researchers to move ‘at the speed of industry’.

It sends a message to the world when a company like P& G chooses a state like Michigan to do a collaboration like this.

Weinert says the state of Michigan will benefit because of the ripple effects of business investment. The program will eventually expand to other Michigan universities. Procter & Gamble has a similar research corridor in Ohio.

Politics
9:00 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Democratic response to Michigan Governor's State of the State address

Gretchen Whitmer, Senate Democratic Leader delivers the Democratic response to the State of the State speech
Michigan Senate Democrats

The Democratic response to Governor Snyder's State of the State address was delivered by Gretchen Whitmer, leader of the Michigan Senate Democrats. You can watch the response on the Michigan Senate Democrats website. The transcript of Whitmer's speech follows:

Good evening,

The election this past November saw Michigan government turn the page on an unproductive time of Michigan history.

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Auto/Economy
5:18 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Chrysler to build experimental hybrid minivans

There’s more than one kind of hybrid vehicle. But most people only know about electric hybrids that use batteries.

The U.S. Department of Energy has poured several billion dollars into helping companies develop advanced lithium-ion batteries.  But to hear Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne describe the effort, that's tantamount to picking a technology winner, before the race is finished.

The big problem with advanced batteries, says Marchionne, is they're really expensive. A big battery can increase the cost of a vehicle by a third.  

"And I don’t think we should prejudice the discussion by saying electrics are the answer," Marchionne said at a press event held at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor.  "They may be part of the answer."

Enter hydraulic hybrids. They tap into energy stored in high pressure canisters filled with fluid and nitrogen. They’re cheaper than electric hybrids, and already used in some big rigs and garbage trucks.

Now, using technology developed by the U.S. EPA., Chrysler will build and test a set of hydraulic hybrid minivans. The company hopes to see the same improvement in fuel efficiency as battery hybrids - about 30 to 35% -  but at a much lower cost.

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State Legislature
5:03 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Lawmakers move to repeal the Michigan Business Tax

Replacing the Michigan Business Tax is high on the legislature's agenda
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Senate Bill 1 has been introduced, and you can read it, in its entirety - here you go:

The Michigan business tax act, 2007 PA 36, MCL208.1101 to 208.1601, is repealed.

The bill was introduced by Senator Dave Hildenbrand and comes in advance of Governor Rick Snyder's State of the State address tonight.

Replacing the Michigan Business Tax was one of candidate Snyder's main promises to voters.

Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network filed a report on Senate Bill 1:

Senator Dave Hildenbrand...says his bill is more aggressive than a similar bill introduced by House Republicans, which only repeals part of the business tax:

"Well we wanted to send a strong message that we want to create a better business climate in this state so our job providers can provide jobs. It’s pretty clear, I think to all of us, that the Michigan Business Tax is an obstacle for employers to good create jobs, expand, for the ability for us to attract job providers to Michigan. So we’ve declared war on the Michigan Business Tax."

Governor Rick Snyder wants to replace the Michigan Business Tax with a flat tax on large businesses. Snyder is expected to talk more about his plans for economic development during his State of the State address tonight.

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Commentary
4:14 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

And, As for the Democrats

There’s a lot of speculation today as to what Governor Snyder will say when he makes his first State of the State speech tonight.

Well, we’ll find out soon enough. However, I’m also interested in what the Democrats are going to say in response. Now, there are a lot of people who think whatever they say won’t matter much.

After all, the Dems were pounded into the ground in the last election. They lost a record twenty seats in the House, where the Republicans have a sixty-three to forty-seven seat edge.

And they are in a lot worse shape in the state senate, where they now hold only a dozen seats out of thirty-eight. That’s the weakest position they’ve been in since 1954.

Nevertheless, what goes around does tend to come around. Nobody thinks Governor Snyder‘s honeymoon with the voters will last forever. Nor is it likely that all of his fellow Republicans in the legislature are always going to support what he wants to do.

These are also not normal times. Michigan has lost nearly a million jobs in the last decade, and has the highest unemployment rate of any major state in the nation. Additionally, it’s clear that our method of funding state government is broken.

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Politics
3:31 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Detroit councilwoman: Time to lawyer up over water issue

William Warby Flickr

Detroit City Councilwoman JoAnn Watson says she wants the city to lawyer up in preparation for a fight over the city’s massive water system.

Legislation introduced at the state Capitol this week would transfer the majority of control over the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the suburbs. The bill would create a regional authority that would manage rates and contracts.

Watson urged her colleagues to hire an attorney to prepare to fight the move:

"If we sit and wait and do 'Kumbaya up in Lansing while they got their hands on our water system, we’re going to be in trouble, and the citizens here are going to be blaming everybody up here for not being armed and ready. We need to be armed and ready with litigation, and go to court."

Former governor Jennifer Granholm vetoed a similar bill several years ago. But the idea has gained new traction in Lansing, with a Republican governor and Republican-controlled House and Senate.

A recent federal indictment also renewed interest in revamping how the department is governed. The indictment detailed allegations of kickbacks and corruption related to water department contracts.

Economy
2:58 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Dow chief meets with President Obama and China's President Hu Jintao

Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical speaking at the ground breaking of Dow Kokam, an advanced battery manufacturing plant in Michigan.
Dow Chemical

The CEO of Dow Chemical, Andrew Liveris, met with President Obama and China's President Hu this afternoon along with leaders from 17 other businesses in the U.S. and China.

President Obama says he's stressing the importance of  increasing exports to China and increasing investment in the United States, "both critical to supporting millions of American jobs." 

President Obama and President Hu made statements to the press before their meeting. From the press pool report:

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Arts/Culture
1:52 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Artpod: Ukulele helps ease the pain

A ukulele jam at Marshall Music in Lansing
Kyle Norris Michigan Radio

On today's Artpod, we'll take a look at why sales of the ukulele are doing so well.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

When times are tough, and people are losing jobs, making music can be a comfort. Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris sits in on a ukulele jam at Oz's Music in Ann Arbor, and talks to the folks at Elderly Instruments in East Lansing to see how the little instrument is selling.

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State of the State
1:09 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

Snyder set to deliver first State of the State address tonight

Governor Rick Snyder delivering his first inaugural address on January 1st, 2011
Corvair Owner Flickr

Updated at 1 pm: 

Governor Snyder says the economy will be the focus of his first State of the State speech tonight.

That should come as no surprise, considering Michigan has a massive budget deficit and one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.

Snyder says he’ll talk about economic development, and about a state partnership with the University of Michigan, as reported in this story on annarbor.com. He says he also plans to present a “report card” on some key issues: 

We’re going to have probably 21 different measures in five different areas. Things about the economy, about the health of our people in the state, public safety issues, a number of different areas. Education.

Snyder says the report card, or “dashboard” as he calls it, will be revisited in each of his State of the State addresses to see whether laws and policies are improving things. A spokeswoman for the governor says it will be made available on a Web site that's slated to go live later today.

8:08 a.m.:

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his first State of the State address tonight at 7 p.m.. He'll deliver the speech to a joint session of the Michigan legislature in the state's Capitol building in Lansing. Though details of the speech have not been released, we do know the speech is expected to last about 40 minutes and is likely to focus on ways to improve and reinvent the state's economy.

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Economy
12:53 pm
Wed January 19, 2011

West Michigan economy in the middle of “significant turnaround”

GVSU economist Hari Singh tells business leaders "last year there was a glimmer of hope, today the sun is rising"
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The annual West Michigan Economic forecast was held today in Grand Rapids. Hari Singh is an economist at Grand Valley State University. He expects employment will increase 2% in the region this year .

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