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Investigative
5:19 pm
Thu December 23, 2010

Michigan's $1.6-billion budget hole

The $1.6-billion in cuts will have to come from the $8.3-billion General Fund. It amounts to a 19% cut.
Lani Chisnell Michigan Radio

The state budget amounts to $47-billion.  There’s a predicted shortfall of $1.6-billion in the upcoming fiscal year budget.  But, maybe $1.6-billion out of $47-billion isn't that bad.  Just cut everything by three-and-a-half percent and, Voila!  Everything’s fixed.

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Taking care of the troops
5:13 pm
Thu December 23, 2010

Traveling soldiers, sailors get a place to relax

David Pope relaxes in the holiday lounge before his flight to Okinawa.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

A special lounge at Detroit Metro Airport is open for members of the military and their families traveling over the holidays.


David Pope checked into the lounge before his return flight to Okinawa, where he serves in the Navy. He says it’s nice to have a quiet spot away from other travelers to start the long trip:

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Oil Spill
4:21 pm
Thu December 23, 2010

Enbridge revises estimated amount of oil that spilled from ruptured pipeline

Crews working this summer to collect to oil in the Kalamazoo River near Battle Creek.
Steve Carmondy Michigan Radio

This week the energy company involved in an oil spill that reached the Kalamazoo River is revising the amount of total oil that leaked from a ruptured pipeline near Marshall. Enbridge Energy submitted the update to US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration this week.

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Environment
10:56 am
Thu December 23, 2010

A House of Straw

Joe and Shelly Trumpey with their two daughters, Autumn and Evelyn, in front of the strawbale home they built themselves.
Photo by Steve Charles

Step aside, Three Little Pigs. 

Strawbale buildings have come a long way from the flimsy huts a wolf could blow down.  The Trumpey family in Grass Lake, Michigan, built their 2,000 square foot home from straw, clay, field stones all sourced locally - and timber salvaged from trees killed by the emerald ash borer. 

They're living off the grid - everything they do: washing laundry, firing up the sawmill, watching TV -  is powered by their solar panels (with a small backup generator for those cloudy weeks in the winter).

Joe Trumpey says fire is a considerable risk before you seal up the straw walls with adobe. 

“When you’re building the building all the open straw is a huge fire hazard at that point so we were really careful not to have any smokers around and no open fires. Once it’s coated with mud the fire proofing is really in place.”

You can hear Joe and Shelly talk about the experience of building with straw.

The stats:

  • 1500 bales of straw
  • the 18-inch thick walls are insulated with the straw, plastered on either side with adobe mud - giving the Trumpeys 2-3 times the insulation value of a conventional home
  • 50 tons of field stones, dug from their own farmland
  • 7 years of planning, 2.5 years in the making
  • Cost: about $75 per square foot - but the family did 99% of the labor themselves

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Opinion
9:56 am
Thu December 23, 2010

Commentary: Dress for Success

I don’t know Jim Stamas personally. He is a state representative from Midland who will be the majority floor leader when the new legislature takes office next month.

He’s a fairly conservative Republican, and I’d guess that on some policy issues we might disagree. But he did something this week I thought totally appropriate. He is bringing back a dress code for the legislature. He thinks members ought to wear business attire when they are doing the people’s business.

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Christmas
8:26 am
Thu December 23, 2010

Online Christmas sales have Michigan tax officials saying 'Bah Humbug'

Online sales are reportedly up about 12 percent this holiday shopping season. That could be bad news for Michigan tax collectors.  Michigan residents are supposed to pay sales tax on items bought online, but few do. 


 Caleb Booth is a spokesman for the state Treasury Department.  He says the state lost out on $328 million dollars in uncollected sales taxes on online purchases in 2009. 

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Politics
7:38 am
Thu December 23, 2010

Debate will continue in the New Year over proposed bridge to Canada

Two joggers run under the Ambassador Bridge which connects Detroit to Windsor
J. Stephen Conn Flickr

Governor-elect Rick Snyder announced yesterday that he'll keep Kirk Steudle as Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation in his new administration. That could mean continued debate over whether to build a new bridge to connect Detroit to Canada, Laura Weber reports. As Weber explains:

Steudle has drawn heat from Republican lawmakers over the past few years for his support of a second bridge span between Detroit and Canada. The legislators were unhappy with a detailed traffic report from the department, but Steudle says that information will be rolled into continued analysis of the bridge. Governor-elect Snyder says just because he tapped Steudle to continue as director doesn’t mean the bridge will be built. But the discussion will continue.

The proposed Detroit River International Crossing would compete with the Ambassador Bridge.

News Roundup
7:01 am
Thu December 23, 2010

In this morning's news...

Retailers Optimistic About Holiday Sales

New data show Michigan retailers are optimistic that they’ll see increased sales during the holiday season. The Michigan Retail Index showed November had the best monthly year-over-year sales increases since 1999.  The Index is put together by the Michigan Retailers Association and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The National Retail Federation predicts holiday sales will improve by 3.3% this year, Steve Carmody reports.

Snyder Announces Directors for State Police, Transportation

Governor-elect Rick Snyder announced yesterday that he’ll keep Kirk Steudle, current Director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, on the job in his new administration. Steudle has been director of the department since 2006. Snyder also announced that he will appoint State Police Lt. Col. Kriste Etue to be the Director of the Michigan State Police. Etue is currently the department’s deputy director and, when she begins the new job in January, will be the first woman to hold the post.  As The Detroit Free Press reports, Snyder:

…still needs to make several key cabinet additions. Still unfilled are director positions for the departments of human services, corrections and labor and economic growth.

Snyder takes the oath of office on January 1st, 2011.

Number of Homeless Kids Rise

The state has released its latest count of homeless children (grades K-12) in Michigan.  The state counted 23,000 in 2009-2010, up from 7,500 kids two years ago, Kyle Norris reports. Shereen Tabrizi, with the Michigan Department of Education’s office of field services, says the state’s high unemployment rate and foreclosures are some of the reasons for the increase.

Arts/Culture
10:17 pm
Wed December 22, 2010

Striking Detroit Symphony musicians play for homeless

A small group of striking musicians from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra brought holiday music to three area homeless shelters Wednesday.

 

The musicians’ made their final stop at the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park, which provides shelter and other services for homeless and other at-risk gay and lesbian teens.

 

But the free concert attracted more than just the shelter’s clients.

 

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Auto/Economy
7:53 pm
Wed December 22, 2010

The critics pick the "ugliest cars of the decade"

The car that inspired the ugly car selections. The Fiat Multipla wasn't sold in the U.S. so it didn't count in our poll.
user corvettec6r Wikimedia Commons

The auto analysts have weighed in and the car that tops the list (all together now)... The Pontiac Aztek!

Former Car & Driver editor Csaba Csere says of the Aztec:

If you have ever heard that saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, the Aztek is the application of that concept to a car.

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Politics
5:26 pm
Wed December 22, 2010

Warren Mayor asks Bing for meeting on DWSD

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts says he wants to "collaborate" with Bing on issues including the water dept.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts says he wants to meet with his Detroit counterpart to discuss how the region’s water and sewer system is managed.


The request comes in a letter sent today, days after a federal indictment detailed allegations of kickbacks and corruption related to water department contracts.

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Auto/Economy
4:44 pm
Wed December 22, 2010

Your 7 fugliest cars from the past decade

The Pontiac Aztek takes the cake in our Facebook poll.
IFCAR Wikimedia Commons

We asked our Facebook friends to give us their picks for ugliest car of the past decade.

As Tanya M. says, "clearly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

That's true Tanya... except when it comes to the Pontiac Aztek (sorry Elizabeth C.!).

If our Facebook friends were stranded on a desert island with twelve strangers, and they were the last ones standing, clearly they would not appreciate being given an Aztek as a tribute to their survival skills.

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Homeless Youth
4:27 pm
Wed December 22, 2010

Number of homeless kids in MI has tripled in the past few years

The Connection serves homeless youth in Livingston Co
The Connection

School districts reported 23,000 homeless kids in grades K-12, for last year’s school year.   But keep in mind, those were only the kids who actually showed up to school and who identified as homeless.

Lot’s of young people don’t want to admit they're homeless to an adult, or they don’t consider themselves homeless if they sleep on a friend’s couch for months at a time.

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Opinion
12:50 pm
Wed December 22, 2010

Commentary: The Coming Drama

Well, we finally have the official census figures, and for the first time in history, Michigan lost people in the course of a decade. Worse, we’ll have fewer members of Congress.

Over the last thirty years, we’ve lost five seats in the House of Representatives. That’s equivalent to losing the voting power of the entire state of Connecticut. Put another way, we’re now back to having only one more representative than a century ago.

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Retail Sales
11:36 am
Wed December 22, 2010

Christmas sales strong for Michigan retailers

What's under the tree?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

It’s not Christmas yet, but Michigan retailers are in the holiday spirit. There are signs this will be the best holiday shopping season in Michigan in many years. 

When the holiday shopping season was getting started a month ago, a survey showed a majority of Michigan retailers were optimistic that they would see increased sales compared to last Christmas. The latest data is backing up that optimism.

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Politics
10:28 am
Wed December 22, 2010

Granholm: I've been doing a bit of reflection

Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov

Governor Jennifer Granholm has less than 10 days left in office.  The term-limited Democrat spoke with Michigan Radio's Morning Edition host Christina Shockley this morning about her 8 years in office and what she hopes for the future of the state.

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Politics
10:05 am
Wed December 22, 2010

The Week in State Politics with Jack Lessenberry

Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry

It's Wednesday, the day we speak with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's going on in state politics. On tap for today: Michigan gets hit hard by bad news from the census and Governor-elect Rick Snyder says he wants a 2-year budget plan for the state.

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News Roundup
7:50 am
Wed December 22, 2010

In this morning's news...

Census Numbers Released

The 2010 U.S. Census numbers were released yesterday and the news wasn’t great for the state. Michigan was the only state in the country that lost population in the past decade.  That means Michigan will lose a U.S. Representative in the House and lose some federal funding.  We can be sure that we’ll be hearing a lot about redistricting (that’s the re-drawing of legislative and Congressional districts that is done every 10 years after a census) in the coming years as Michigan will go from 15 U.S. House seats to 14. Michigan is one of 10 states that will lose at least one House seat.

Detroit Crime Drops

There are new FBI crime figures out and they show that violent crime in Detroit dropped by almost 8% in the first half of the year. The biggest reduction was in homicides (28%), which fell from 202 to 146. Robberies were also down by about 9%, Sarah Cwiek reports. However, the city did see a jump in the number of rapes and arsons.  Nationwide, violent crime was done about 6%.

Snyder Wants 2-Year Budget

Governor-elect Rick Snyder says he will propose a 2-year state budget once he becomes Governor.  Snyder also says he wants the legislature to pass the budget by July of next year.  The state is constitutionally mandated to pass a balanced state budget every year.  In past years, the legislature has gone down to the wire to pass a state budget on time. As The Associated Press reports:

Although Snyder has until March 14 to present a proposal for the budget year that starts Oct. 1, he plans to do it earlier. He also plans to deliver his first State of the State address in mid-January rather than at the more traditional end of the month. The Republican governor-elect already has told lawmakers and his staff that he wants to get a lot done in the 182 days between Jan. 1 and July 1, including passing a two-year budget, one year longer than normal for the state Michigan faces a shortfall of up to $1.7 billion in the next fiscal year, something Snyder will have to address in his budget proposal.

Governor-elect
6:32 am
Wed December 22, 2010

Snyder to name police, transportation directors

Governor-elect Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder is expected to name directors for the state's Department of Transportation and the Michigan State Police later today.

It's believed that Snyder will keep Kirk Steudle on as director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.  Steudle has been the director of the department since 2006.

Snyder is also expected to appoint Kriste Etue as director of the Michigan State Police.  She's currently the deputy director of the state police.

As The Detroit News reports, Etue will be the first woman to head the Michigan State Police:

She will be the second woman named to head a department in the Snyder administration. On Friday, Olga Dazzo was named director of the Department of Community Health.

Snyder is expected to make the announcement of both posts at a news conference today in Lansing.

Environment
5:50 pm
Tue December 21, 2010

There's hope! Days getting longer in northern hemisphere

Sunrise during the winter solstice in Stonehenge in 2005
Tom Goskar - Flickr

I was hoping to get to this post sooner, but the day just got away from me.

Today seemed unusually short. That's because it IS the shortest day of the year.

And soon, very soon, the days in the northern hemisphere will start to get longer.

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