Jake Neher

MPRN Capitol Reporter

Jake Neher is a state Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network. 

He joined MPRN in September of 2012. Before that he served as a reporter and anchor for WFUV Public Radio in the Bronx, New York, and as News Director for KBRW Public Radio in Barrow, Alaska. He has been working in radio in some capacity since he was 15 years old.

A native of southeast Michigan, Jake graduated from Central Michigan University in 2010. He has a master's degree in public communications from Fordham University.

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Education
5:37 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

State approves loan for Detroit Public Schools requested by emergency manager

Credit Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

A state emergency loan board  agreed to lend the Detroit Public Schools $111 million to make up for a funding shortfall, on the same day state schools superintendent Mike Flanagan approved the district's new deficit elimination plan.

The state expects to lend about 200 school districts money to help them start the school year. That is normal in Michigan, which doesn’t send its first school aid payments until October.

But in Detroit, the process has pitted the school board in the state’s largest district against its emergency manager.

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Politics & Government
9:19 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Audit finds problems with prisoner education programs in Michigan

Prison bars
Credit Ken Mayer / Flickr

A new audit shows problems in Michigan’s prisoner education program.

The state auditor general’s office says the Michigan Department of Corrections failed to identify prisoners who qualify for federal assistance to take classes. It also shows the department failed to make sure the programs were effective.

Russ Marlan is a spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Corrections. He says the department agrees with the report’s findings and is working to fix those problems.

“Having a third party come in and look at your operations and give you recommendations about how to improve I think is a good thing. And so, we’re going to take these recommendations and move forward and hopefully improve our prison education and vocational education,” says Marlan.

Marlan says the department has already taken steps to improve the programs over the last three years. 

Transportation
9:31 pm
Fri August 15, 2014

Gov. Snyder says Metro Detroit flood underpins need for more road funding

Snyder has spent much of his first term as governor urging lawmakers to boost state infrastructure spending by more than a billion dollars a year.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder says massive flooding this week in and around Detroit reinforces the need to boost state spending on roads. Snyder says Michigan’s crumbling infrastructure may have played a role in the floods, although it’s too early to tell for sure.

“I don’t want to be premature, but you would imagine it would have some consequences in terms of magnifying the effect on the freeway flooding,” Snyder told reporters as he surveyed damage at homes and schools in Royal Oak on Friday. “That wouldn’t have affected the homes, but in terms of the freeway challenges.”

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Transportation
5:29 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Michigan Senate leader wants ideas, "anything from anyone," to fix Michigan's roads

Pothole in a road.
Pothole in a road. Wikimedia Commons

Democrats in the state Senate say talks over how to pay to fix Michigan’s roads are “back to square one.”

A legislative work group met for the first time today to find a way to boost state road funding.

The Senate left Lansing in June for its summer break after failing to pass a number of plans to fix the roads.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says this is a new starting point.

“We’ve come close to getting the votes necessary to fix this longstanding problem. But quite frankly, we’re looking at all ideas now – newer ideas,” said Richardville. “And we’re not afraid to entertain anything from anyone.”

Senate Democrats want to revisit a plan that would raise the state’s gas tax to increase funding for roads. That plan came closest to winning approval in the Senate in June. But Richardville says that plan is “all but off the table now.”

Robert McCann is a spokesperson for the state Senate Democrats.

“The unfortunate reality of that is that it means we’re still further behind than we were three months ago, really, when there was a plan on the table that our side of the aisle put up votes for,” said McCann. “And, unfortunately, it was the Republicans that couldn’t get their own caucus in place to get that passed.”

Most estimates say Michigan needs to boost infrastructure spending by between $1 billion and $2 billion a year to keep the roads from getting worse. 

Education
8:34 pm
Wed August 13, 2014

State releases school rankings and ratings, education groups call info “confusing”

More of Michigan’s lowest performing schools are turning around, that’s according to the state’s annual school accountability report
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

More Michigan schools are meeting goals in areas such as student performance on standardized tests and graduation rates. That’s according to the state’s annual school accountability report, which was released Wednesday.

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Politics & Government
6:54 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Gov. Snyder tours southeast Michigan flood zone by air

Governor Rick Snyder says the state is working hard to help Detroit and surrounding communities deal with massive flooding.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder says numerous state agencies are helping Detroit and surrounding communities deal with massive floods.

Snyder flew to Metro Detroit to survey the damage himself.

Snyder flew back from a trip to the Upper Peninsula to see the flood damage firsthand from a Michigan State Police helicopter. Many freeways and major roads were closed in Metro Detroit; some sections of roads were swept away in flood waters.

Snyder there’s only so much public officials can do to prevent that kind of damage.

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Education
5:50 pm
Mon August 11, 2014

11 Michigan charter school authorizers face suspension

Credit Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

​Michigan’s top education official says he might stop 11 charter school authorizers from opening new schools. 

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan says they would be able to continue to operate the charters they already oversee. It’s a reaction to a recent Detroit Free Press series that suggested conflicts of interest, a lack of transparency, and mixed academic results in Michigan charters.

Gary Naeyaert directs the Great Lakes Education Project – a lobbying group which advocates for charter schools. He says Flanagan did not evaluate the authorizers fairly before putting them on the list.

“To take all of the students of an authorizer’s portfolio and lump them all together and treat them as if they’re one big school building, that’s just not the way that it is out there,” Naeyaert said.

Some charter school critics say Superintendent Flanagan’s warning does not go far enough. They say bad charter schools and their authorizers should be shut down right away.

Education
11:12 am
Mon August 11, 2014

State Board of Education to unveil plans this week on charter school issues

Credit Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The state Board of Education will urge the state Legislature to revisit Michigan’s charter school law. It’s a reaction to a recent Detroit Free Press series that suggested conflicts of interest, a lack of transparency, and mixed academic results in Michigan charters.

John Austin is the president of the state Board of Education.

“We need clarity on who’s policing the system and when they pull the trigger and who’s responsible for shutting down schools or preventing authorizers from authorizing new schools.”

State Superintendent of Schools Mike Flanagan says he’s already considering using his authority to stop some institutions from authorizing charters. Charter school supporters say Michigan already has some of the toughest regulations on charters in the country.

Politics & Government
4:23 pm
Fri August 8, 2014

State housing agency director to resign after charging lavish travel expenses

Scott Woosley
Credit Todd Walsh / Michigan Historic Preservation Office

The head of Michigan’s housing authority is resigning. That’s after public documents showed Scott Woosley racked up big bills while traveling on state business.

    

Woosley asked to be reimbursed for over $200,000 in expenses since 2012. That’s according to public records released this week by the Michigan Democratic Party, which obtained them through the Freedom of Information Act.

The documents show Woosley ate at pricey restaurants and stayed at luxury hotels while traveling on behalf of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA).

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Politics & Government
5:50 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Democrats blast state housing director for lavish expenses

Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Lon Johnson
Credit Facebook

Michigan Democrats are blasting the head of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) for racking up tens of thousands of dollars in expenses.

The Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) released public documents Thursday showing items expensed by MSHDA Director Scott Woosley since 2012. They include things like lavish meals and hotels costing between $400 and $500 a night.

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Politics & Government
4:37 pm
Wed August 6, 2014

More voters cast ballots in primary than expected, but turnout still low

Voter turnout was under 8 percent in yesterday's primary elections.
Credit Keith Ivey / Flickr

More than 82% of all registered voters sat out Michigan’s primary election this week. 

That’s not the all-time low some observers predicted before the election, but they say the number is still dismal. And many of them expect low voter turnout again for Michigan’s general election in November.

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Environment & Science
5:35 pm
Thu July 31, 2014

Environmentalists pan proposed fracking rules as comment period ends

A fracking gas well.

Michiganders have until the end of Thursday to tell state officials what they think of proposed new rules for fracking.

The rules would require oil and gas companies to do more water quality testing and provide more information to the public.

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Education
8:13 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

100+ show up to give input on new standardized test

A public hearing on new standardized tests drew a standing room only crowd Wednesday in Lansing.
Credit Jake Neher / MPRN

Michigan education officials are in the process of finding a new standardized test … again.

More than a hundred people were in Lansing Wednesday to tell the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) what they want out of a new assessment.

MDE had already chosen the Smarter Balanced assessment three years ago. But many lawmakers were not happy with that test because it’s aligned with the controversial Common Core school standards.

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Politics & Government
3:46 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

State board rejects petition to raise Michigan's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour

Credit sushi ina / flickr

A state elections board has rejected a petition to raise Michigan’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour in a 3 to 1 vote.

The Board of State Canvassers says the campaign failed to collect enough valid signatures to move forward.

John Pirich is with the group opposing the minimum wage proposal. He praised the board for throwing out dozens of duplicate signatures.

“I’m 100% confident that what we’ve shown them in terms of duplication will be confirmed by any review of any of them.”

Groups that support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour could challenge the decision in court. They say the elections board went out of its way to throw out petition signatures.

*This post has been updated.

Politics & Government
11:25 am
Thu July 24, 2014

State elections board approves petition to allow wolf hunting in Michigan's UP

A wolf in a snow storm at the Seney National Wildlife Refuge.
Larry McGahey Flickr

A petition that would allow future wolf hunts in the Upper Peninsula is headed to the state Legislature.

The initiative would allow the hunts regardless of how two anti-wolf hunting referendums turn out.

A state elections board approved almost 300,000 petition signatures for the proposal today.

State lawmakers have 40 days to pass the measure. Otherwise, it will go on the statewide ballot in November.

Bob LaBrant is with the group that gathered the signatures. He says it’s clear the Legislature supports wolf hunting and will approve the measure.

“We think the Legislature, who’s already dealt with this subject twice only to be frustrated by referendums, will prevail in the end.”

The petition could still be challenged in court. Opponents of wolf hunting say it deals with too many issues unrelated to wolf hunting.

*This post has been updated.

Politics & Government
5:41 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Snyder: Pensioner approval of grand bargain sets Detroit up for faster recovery

One of the aims of the "grand bargain" is to protect artwork at the DIA from liquidation.
Credit Maia C/Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder is praising Detroit pensioners for approving the city’s bankruptcy restructuring plan.

The so-called “grand bargain” is designed to prevent deep cuts to retirement benefits and protect city-owned artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Snyder says the vote this week makes it more likely the city will emerge from bankruptcy soon.

“I really appreciate retirees taking that positive vote because it was hard,” he told reporters Tuesday at an appearance in Detroit.

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Economy
10:22 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Henry Paulson tells Michigan to seek out Chinese investment

Paulson and Gov. Rick Snyder speak to reporters Monday at Ford Field in Detroit.
Credit Jake Neher / MPRN

Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says foreign investment and immigration will be critical to turning around Michigan’s economy.

The former aide to President George W. Bush spoke before the Detroit Economic Club Monday afternoon with Gov. Rick Snyder.

“Make Michigan attractive for investment, period. OK? Make it attractive,” said Paulson.

He says Michigan should especially look to China to help boost the state’s economy. He says many Chinese businesses are looking to expand overseas, and Michigan needs to make it clear they are welcome.

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Politics & Government
10:57 pm
Sun July 20, 2014

Top state House Dem: Road solution not likely before November election

State House Minority Leader Tim Greimel says a vote on road funding likely won't come until the Legislature's lame duck session.
Credit WKAR-TV

The top Democrat in the state House says a road funding solution will probably have to wait until after the November election.

State House Minority Leader Tim Greimel says too many lawmakers are not willing to make the tough vote until they’re past their reelection bids. That’s because boosting infrastructure spending by more than a billion dollars a year would likely mean raising taxes to pay for it.

“I think there’s a very high likelihood that it doesn’t occur until lame duck, unfortunately,” said Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, on an appearance over the weekend on the Michigan Public Television program Off the Record.

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Health
6:48 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

State could become more transparent about infection rates at hospitals

The state is reviewing its policies on requiring hospitals to disclose their infection rates.
Credit click / morgueFile

The state’s top health official says Michigan could be more transparent about how many people get infections while at hospitals.

A recent MLive.com series suggests the state has withheld that information from the public. That includes infection rates at specific hospitals.

Jim Haveman, director of the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), says that information is becoming more important for many patients.

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Politics & Government
5:44 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

State attorney general’s office unveils law guides for vets and military personnel

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette introduces new legal guides for veterans and military families Thursday in Detroit.
Credit Jake Neher / MPRN

Michigan veterans and active duty military families now have new resources to help handle legal issues. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette released two new legal guides Thursday.

“Sometimes trying to help veterans in transition coming back from a deployment, it can get a bit complicated,” said Schuette.

“It could be anything from child custody to divorce to employment issues, what have you. And so what we’re trying to do is put out a practical guide to try to help veterans across Michigan.”

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