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11:27 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

Grand Rapids officials discuss pros, cons, of week-long biker event

lehcar1477 Creative Commons

Organizers of the proposed “River City Bike Week” expect the five-day event will attract between 50,000 and 60,000 people. But some worry the group is overestimating the economic benefits and underestimating the noise, traffic and potential crime they say is associated with biker clubs.

Kyle Davis is an avid Harley rider from the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming. He’s been missing the annual biker week in Sturgis, MI and would be thrilled to have something like that in Grand Rapids.

“It’s going to be noisy I can tell you that but for the most part, a lot of the Harley community around here gives back to the community a lot. I know my brother has muscular dystrophy and they do a big huge fundraiser every year. So they’re really misunderstood in my point of view.”

If the city allows the event, River City Bike Week organizer Tracy Holt says part of the proceeds would benefit the Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation that helps give Grand Rapids students the tools they need to succeed. She says they'll have bike builders, vendors, stunts, races, and concerts by ZZ Top, the Steve Miller Band and the Doobie Brothers.

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Politics
5:51 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

Detroit City Council hears about EMS "management" problems

The Detroit City Council got a briefing on chronic troubles with the city’s Emergency Medical Services Monday.

EMS Chief Jerald James told the Council that only 19 of the city’s 47  EMS vehicles are in use right now. The other 27 are awaiting repair.

James also  says the understaffed department also has the money to hire 57 new employees--but  can’t find people to fill those positions.

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Auto/Economy
5:13 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

Retailers have item pricing law in their sights

Steve Carmody

Retailers say they are more hopeful than they’ve been in many years that Michigan is close to repealing the law that requires them to put a price sticker on every item they sell. But unions and Democrats say they will put up a fight to preserve what they say is a significant consumer protection.

James Hallan is the president of the Michigan Retailers Association. He says store-owners were pleased to hear in Governor Rick Snyder’s State of the State address that he is on their side. And Hallan says retailers hope the Legislature’s large Republican majorities will go along with scrapping the 35-year-old law.

“We have a new administration that is progressive. We have a legislative body that is progressive, and technology has come a long ways from where it was in 1976. Cell phones were not around in 1976. You look at all the new technology, and it’s time we embrace this and not walk away from it."

But not everyone is on board. Chris Michalakis is with the United Food and Commercial Workers union. He says the item-pricing law remains popular with the public.

“What we’re hoping is our Republican governor and our Republican majorities in the House and the Senate will listen to consumers and members of their community and when they look to change this law, do it in a way that voters are comfortable with and do it in a way that protects consumers and protects jobs.”

Employee unions say the law remains popular with the public for a reason and, if anything, the item pricing law should be more strongly enforced.

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Politics
4:32 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

Lawmakers seek a 2-year budget cycle for Michigan

The Michigan House of Representatives
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The state could be headed toward a two-year budget cycle.

Governor Rick Snyder and many lawmakers say they need to start thinking farther into the future when putting together a budget.

However, creating a two-year budget cycle would require an amendment to the Michigan Constitution. The Legislature would have to put it on the ballot for voters to approve.

State Senator John Proos says that could and should happen, but it will take time. He says in the meantime lawmakers can create a two-year projection:

"That’s something that every year instead of scrambling to fix a budget hole and not really telling the whole story about what our budget will look like out into the future, this will give us the time instead to say our revenue picture and expenditure picture is going to look like X. Once we’ve made that determination, then we can say are we actually getting value for the tax dollars that we’re spending."

Proos is expected to introduce a measure that would amend the constitution to create a two-year budget cycle as well as a part-time Legislature.

Proos says for now it’s important to complete work on the budget by Governor Snyder’s May 31st deadline.

Population
3:50 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

"America's Dying Cities" - 3 are in Michigan

The old train station in Detroit has become the city's poster child of decay.
Kate Mereand Flickr

In case you missed it, Newsweek Magazine put out a Top Ten list last Friday. This top ten list was called "American's Dying Cities."

There's nothing like a provocative headline to get people to peek in.

For Michigan, it's the usual suspects: Flint and Detroit.

But many will be surprised that Grand Rapids also made the list.

No doubt about it, there are many urban areas around the country that are in decay. The question is, how do you measure the decay?

The writers at Newsweek said they looked at the latest census numbers (it's difficult to tell who at Newsweek looked at the numbers because there's no byline as far as I can tell):

We used the most recent data from the Census Bureau on every metropolitan area with a population exceeding 100,000 to find the 30 cities that suffered the steepest population decline between 2000 and 2009. Then, in an attempt to look ahead toward the future of these regions, we analyzed demographic changes to find which ones experienced the biggest drop in the number of residents under 18. In this way, we can see which cities may have an even greater population decline ahead due to a shrinking population of young people.

It's also difficult to tell which direction this list goes.

The cities are listed in their scrolling widget in one direction, and in their "view all" list in the opposite direction. So, for what's it's worth, here's the list (from their "view all" view):

  1. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  2. Flint, Michigan
  3. South Bend, Indiana
  4. Detroit, Michigan
  5. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  6. Cleveland, Ohio
  7. Rochester, New York
  8. Hialeah, Florida
  9. Vallejo, California
  10. New Orleans, Louisiana
Crime
12:39 pm
Mon January 24, 2011

Detroit Police Chief: We've ID'ed precinct gunman

Detroit Police Chief, Ralph Godbee.
City of Detroit

Detroit Police have identified 38-year-old Lamar Moore as the man who wounded four officers with a shotgun at a northwest Detroit precinct Sunday.

Officers returned fire, killing Moore. The four wounded officers survived and are doing well.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee says police know one of Moore’s relatives is set to be sentenced for a double homicide, and was also a suspect in another crime.

But Godbee says it’s still too early to speculate about a motive.

“To get into this individual’s mind…I wouldn’t venture to do that. Suffice it to say we still have a lot of investigative work to do.”

Godbee says the department will immediately put metal detectors and other “interim security measures” in precincts.

He says the department will also mount a comprehensive investigation into new security protocols in the wake of the shooting.

Auto/Economy
11:30 am
Mon January 24, 2011

Report: GM to add more jobs at Flint Assembly Plant

An announcement at Flint Assembly this morning.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Update 11:30 a.m.:

Steve Carmody called in with this update from the news conference:

GM announced that it will add 750 jobs to its Flint Assembly Plant by adding a third shift. No new hires will be made. The pool of workers will come from two places:

  1. people being reactivated from various layoff pools
  2. workers who would like to return to Flint after they were transferred to another plant

10:21 a.m.:

GM is planning a news conference at 10:30am this morning.

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Crime
11:07 am
Mon January 24, 2011

4 Detroit police officers shot at precinct

Update: 11:07 a.m.:

The Detroit Free Press has an update on the shooting at a Detroit police station yesterday:

Police today identified the man they say shot four officers in the Detroit Police Department’s Northwestern District Sunday as Lamar Deshea Moore.

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr said they don't know what the shooter's motive was. The police chief said Lamar Deshea Moore has a relative who is being prosecuted on murder charges today.

Godbee said security changes will be made at the station.

Here's where the police station is located:



View Larger Map

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Auto/Economy
11:05 am
Mon January 24, 2011

Report: GM sells more cars in China than in U.S.

General Motors headquaters in Detroit. GM says it sold more cars in China last year than it did in the U.S.

More signs that China's economy is growing.

The Associated Press reports:

General Motors says it sold more cars and trucks in China last year than it did in the U.S. for the first time in its 102-year history.

The company sold 2.35 million vehicles in China. That's about 136,000 more than it sold in the U.S.

The AP report says GM sold 2.35 million vehicles in China - 136,000 more vehicles than it sold in the U.S. in 2010.

The country's population is 4 times bigger than the U.S. population (according to World Bank numbers):

  • China's population: 1,331,460,000
  • U.S. population: 307,006,550
What's Working
9:06 am
Mon January 24, 2011

Creating a fashion industry out of old auto supplier factories

With the New Year, Michigan Radio began a new series called, "What's Working." Every week, we'll take a look at an idea that's helping to improve the state's economy and our lives.

Today, we hear from Joe Faris, founder of Motor City Denim. When the auto industry downsized, auto suppliers were affected. Many of them lost business, got rid of employees, or even went into bankruptcy. What’s left are the suppliers' factories, and a highly-skilled workforce. Faris is working to mold the infrastructure of former, or smaller, auto suppliers into one that can support a fashion industry. Motor City Denim is now a subsidiary of TD Industrial Coverings. TD Industrial Coverings used to only manufacture protective coverings for the robots used to assemble cars. Now, TD industrial is getting ready to also make jeans.

You can listen to the interview here:

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News Roundup
8:39 am
Mon January 24, 2011

In this morning's news...

Four Shot at Detroit Police Station

Four Detroit police officers were shot by a gunman yesterday inside of a Detroit police station. The gunman walked into the city’s 6th Precinct just before 4:30 p.m. yesterday and wounded four officers. Officers returned gunfire and the gunman was shot and killed. The four wounded officers were taken to a hospital and are expected to recover.

Granholm to Teach in California

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is set to teach at the University of California-Berkeley. Granholm told Politico.com that she and her husband, Dan Mulhern, will teach at the university. Granholm says the two will also write a book together about her time as Michigan’s 47th Governor. Though she plans to teach in California, Granholm will continue to live in Michigan with her family. Politico also reports that Granholm will be a paid contributor to NBC’s Sunday news program, Meet the Press.

2011 NAIAS Ends

Yesterday was the last day of the North American International Auto Show and, according to The Detroit Free Press, 735,370 people attended the public days at this year’s show. That turnout is an increase from last year's attendance of 714,137. As Detroit Free Press reports:

The number of people attending the show has been climbing since 2009 when 650,517 people were there for public days.

State Legislature
7:07 am
Mon January 24, 2011

Snyder: Michigan's finances should be easier to understand

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to make government finances easier for taxpayers to understand. Snyder says having the public understand the state’s budget troubles is a critical part of solving the problem. Rick Pluta reports:

Governor Snyder recently told local officials his administration is developing a model for explaining the state budget that could be adopted by cities, townships, and villages.

Snyder is a retired computer company CEO and investor with a degree in accounting. He says the idea came to him while he was examining the document that explains how state government spends its money. 

"If you’ve tried to look at it, and I don’t know if you have… I’m an old CPA and there should be a warning label – not made for human consumption," Snyder said.

Snyder says he’d like state aid to local governments to be tied, in part, to how well they explain their finances to their citizens. Cuts to revenue sharing payments are expected to be part of addressing a budget deficit, but Snyder says he’d like to reward local governments that find ways to save money and innovate.

Jennifer Granholm
6:37 am
Mon January 24, 2011

Former Governor to teach in California

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov/gov

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is set to teach at the University of California – Berkeley. In an interview with Politico.com, Granholm says she and her husband, Dan Mulhern, will also write a book together about her experience as governor.

Though she plans to teach in California, Granholm will continue to live in Michigan.

Politico also reports that Granholm will be a paid contributor to NBC’s Sunday news program, Meet the Press.

Politico reports:

The common theme of the courses and book will be the lessons Michigan holds for the rest of the country as “the canary in the coal mine — the state hardest hit by the loss of traditional manufacturing jobs,” she said. “We want to be able to have the nation draw lessons, good and bad, about what can happen if the United States doesn’t take a more active role” in job creation.

As the Detroit Free Press reports, "The online article was her first announcement since leaving the governor’s office Jan. 1, as Republican Rick Snyder assumed the reins of state government."

Michigan Supreme Court
10:52 am
Sat January 22, 2011

Is a golf course a public park?

Google's view of Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor, MI
Google Maps

The Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday on the dispute around Jean Klock Park in Benton Harbor.

In 1917, some land along Lake Michigan was given to the city of Benton Harbor. The "Friends of Jean Klock Park" describe the gift this way:

In 1917, John and Carrie Klock deeded a half mile of lake Michigan frontage to the City of Benton Harbor Michigan in memory of their deceased daughter Jean. Their gift consisted of 90 acres of globally rare natural resources that included Great Lakes Dunes, a Great Lakes Marsh and interdunal wetlands. The donated land was named Jean Klock Park and was dedicated "FOR THE CHILDREN" - "in perpetuity" - "FOREVER."

Today, the city of Benton Harbor has leased part of the park to the Harbor Shores Community Redevelop Corporation. The Redevelop Corporation used the land, including sand dunes along the Lake Michigan shoreline for 3 holes of an 18 hole golf course.

Residents didn't like it and they filed a lawsuit. The case made it to the Michigan Supreme Court yesterday.

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Politics
9:56 am
Sat January 22, 2011

Snyder: communities that innovate will be rewarded

In the world of corporate business, bonuses, perks and cash incentives rule the day. They're used to drive productivity.

Governor Snyder, a former corporate president, is bringing that mentality to Lansing.

Now, he says he wants to reward local governments that find better, cheaper ways to provide services.

Rick Pluta, of the Michigan Public Radio Network, says Snyder's budget proposal will call for cash incentives that encourage cities and townships to innovate.

Rick filed this report saying the Governor's announcement was a small bit of welcome news to local officials bracing for more budget cuts from the state:

Governor Snyder outlined his idea at a drop-by with local government officials meeting in Lansing.

He says local governments provide most of the services that people use, and the state should reward the ones that find ways to consolidate, cut costs, and innovate:

"So it's really to create an environment to say, here's a positive incentive to be the very best...so people first and foremost in Michigan and then people around the country and the world will look at Michigan are going to look and say, these people have their act together, this is the place to be, this is the place to have your kids grow up and succeed."

The governor provided few details.

He says those will wait for his budget proposal next month, and a special address on government reform that he will deliver in March.

homelessness
5:31 pm
Fri January 21, 2011

State agencies to receive less money in 2011 to prevent homelessness

Officials from Community Rebuilders with a number of people who've gone through thier programs for the homeless.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The federal department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week its granting $56 million dollars to Michigan to prevent homelessness. The money funds 269 separate programs all over the state.

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Politics
4:49 pm
Fri January 21, 2011

Autism insurance coverage campaign begins again

Michigan lawmakers will again consider requiring insurance companies to cover autism treatment.
parenting-skill-info.com

A new effort is under way to require Michigan insurance companies to cover some treatments for autism. Statistics  show 1 in 150 children is born with the disorder.

State Senator Tupac Hunter says it costs Michigan families an average of $30,000 out of pocket each year to treat an autistic child – an expense most can’t afford.

Hunter says parents and advocacy groups were disappointed when last year’s autism insurance legislation stalled in the Senate.

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Law Enforcement
4:42 pm
Fri January 21, 2011

Immigration bust in West Michigan

Update 4:41p.m.:

77 people are in custody following a 4-day operation in West Michigan by the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.

Federal agents arrested the men and women in 7 counties; from Ludington south to Michigan, Indiana line. 

Khaalid Walls is with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Office. He says they were arrested for their illegal immigrant status, but a few, he says face criminal charges.

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Auto/Economy
4:38 pm
Fri January 21, 2011

IRS won't process some returns until Feb. 14

Taxpayers who itemize deductions have to delay filing their returns until February 14 because of changes in the federal tax law.
levistaxes.com

Some Michigan taxpayers getting ready to tackle their returns may have to wait before filing because last-minute federal tax law changes caused a delay in processing.

If you file a simple federal tax return – that is, you don’t itemize your deductions -- you can do that right now.

Otherwise, you’ll need to wait a few weeks.

Luis Garcia is with the Detroit office of the IRS. He says the agency is updating its programs to reflect the tax law changes.

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Politics
4:29 pm
Fri January 21, 2011

Court says resident can challenge tribe's casino plans

A federal appeals court has ruled that a Wayland Township resident has the legal standing to sue to stop the development of a casino.

The Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians recently announced their plans to open the casino in Wayland Township south of Grand Rapids:

The Associated Press reports that the federal appeals court will allow David Patchak to "challenge how the federal government placed the land in trust for the Gun Lake Tribe of Pottawatomi Indians."

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