Jennifer White

Host - All Things Considered

Jennifer White is Michigan Radio's All Things Considered host. Jenn has served as Executive Producer and host of the television program, "Out of the Blue: The Michigan Difference," on the Big Ten Network.

She was also the host of the nationally distributed public radio documentary "Finding Our Bootstraps: Americans Deal With Recession," and has served as Executive Producer and host of the public television programs "Out of the Box" and "Edible Legacies."

Recently, she has moderated several political forums, including gubernatorial and mayoral debates for both public radio and television. A native of Detroit and graduate of the University of Michigan, she has worked at Michigan Public Media since 1999, most recently as the station's Director of Media Outreach and Community Relations. From 2005-2009, she served as Station Manager for Michigan Television, WFUM-TV.

Legislation is being introduced in the state house aimed at supporting small businesses and startup companies in the alternative energy sectors.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Democratic State Representative Marcia Hovey-Wright. She spoke with Jennifer White.

Hovey-Wright says, "Basically it’s a revolving loan fund for alternative energy, green manufacturing which includes, wind, solar, advanced battery and biomass. The intention is to create good paying jobs with good benefits."

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Michigan Democrats hold their caucuses on Saturday May 5th. President Obama is expected to be confirmed as the democratic candidate.

Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry talks with Jennifer White about past and present Democratic caucuses.

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Every Thursday we take a look at Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

There’s an eight-bill package working its way through the legislature right now aimed at eliminating the personal property tax. This sounds like something that would affect individuals but this is actually a business tax.

Sikkema says, “This is basically a tax on business equipment, computer, office furniture and manufacturing equipment. It’s generally acknowledged to be a bad tax because it taxes new business purchases and business growth and investment.”

Demas indicates that some cities receive up to 40% of their tax base from the personal property tax. However, not all cities would be affected in the same way. Some cities wouldn’t be affected at all.

“The municipalities have been looking for ways that they can get some of that revenue replaced, but so far they haven’t had a lot of takers because their solution is a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the same money, and nobody really wants to tie the legislature’s hands with that," she says.

Sikkema believes eliminating the tax is a good move for Michigan. He says, “Other states, particularly in the Midwest have already eliminated it, principality Ohio. Michigan and Indiana are the only ones in the Great Lakes region that I’m aware of who currently collect the personal property tax.”

But he adds, “It’s not without its down side…for some it is a major source of revenue and republicans are trying to address that with this promise to replace it in the future.”

Demas adds, “I do think we do need to pay attention to however many communities there are that really rely on this and could be pushed over the edge, because certainly it’s not health for our state to have our cities keep getting financial managers.”

There’s an ongoing debate about how to sustainably fund the Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System.

According the Bridge Magazine, an online publication of the Center for Michigan, the retirement system is underfunded by $45 billion.

Bridge Magazine staff writer, Nancy Derringer, has taken an in-depth look at this issue.

Derringer notes that Senate bill 1040 would change the way the retirement system is funded. "If you are a new employee your contribution to the retire system would increase to 8%. And they currently pay 3 and 6.2 % of their salary. And then if you are a retiree you currently have your health care premiums 90% paid by the state and you pay 10%, that would switch to 80/20."

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The State House recently passed legislation that would allow an increase in the number of Michigan cyber schools.

Cyber schools provide instruction via the internet. There are two currently operating in Michigan.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Republican State Representative Dale Zorn. He voted in favor of the legislation after promising to vote against it.

Every Thursday we take a look at Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

The petition that would place Public Act 4, that's the emergency manager law, on the November ballot came before the State Board of Canvassers.  Earlier this week it was confirmed the group Stand up for Democracy had more than enough signatures to put the PA 4 up for repeal on the ballot. But then this question of whether the correct font size was used for the ballot was brought up.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 along party lines on whether to allow a challenge to the state's emergency manager law on the November ballot.

“It’s not really a surprise on a matter like this that you would see a split decision,” Demas says.

Demas adds that supporters of the petition were very upset about the deadlock, and says “they could have avoided all this if they had just gotten their petition approved before they circulated it, and if there was really a font issue, they would have been told.”

This question will most likely head to the State Court of Appeals. Ken Sikkema believes it’s important the courts make a decision consistent with similar cases.

He says, “If they in fact decide to keep this off the ballot, yes they will be criticized that they made a political decision, but if they can rest their decision upon the fact that its consistent with prior decisions then I think they are in fairly decent shape, otherwise the confidence and trust that some people have in the court is going to soften.”

The movie Chimpanzee from Disney Nature opens in theaters today.

It follows a young chimp, Oscar, who is separated from his troop, and is adopted by an alpha male named Freddie.

John Mitani was a scientific consultant on the film. He's a primate behavioral ecologist and University of Michigan Professor of Anthropology. Mitani’s research centers on the behavior of male chimps and why males co-operate.

According to Mitani, it's not uncommon for young chimps to be separated from their parents. Often they are adopted by close relatives. But what's unusual in this story is that Oscar was adopted by an adult male chimp "which rarely or never has been seen," Mitani says.

“It’s not as if male animals, male primates, male chimps are generally helpful to others. Why he should go out of his way to help this poor little helpless infant who was not obviously his own is really the thing that is quite interesting and unusual in this.”

The film took three years to make, and actually follows two main groups of chimps, one filmed in west Africa and one filmed in east Africa. Through the magic of movie making we get one story. Mitani recognizes the film has two qualities. One scientific and the other purely entertaining.

You can see the movie trailer here:

Michigan State Capitol
Jimmy Emerson / Flickr

Every Thursday we speak with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week it’s all about campaign finance. Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White discusses the money behind presidential and state races.

Although Michigan’s foreclosure activity declined in the first quarter of 2012, Michigan still has the 7th highest foreclosure rate in the country.

Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke represents Michigan’s 13th district. This week he's in Washington D. C. and hopes to introduce a bill that would suspend home foreclosures nationally for up to three years.

Michigan Municipal League / flickr

Every Thursday we speak with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week it’s all about the politics and policy behind immediate effect, and why it's gotten some national attention.

Hundred of bills have passed in the Michigan legislature with immediate effect tacked on. Democrats have cried foul, and issued a court challenge accusing Republicans of not taking required roll call votes.

This gets into a lot of procedural specifics and we’ve been reporting on this for a couple of weeks. Then suddenly, it hits the national stage when Rachel Maddow, a MSNBC host, picked up the story. Maddow called it “revolutionary and radical beyond radical.”

Demas says, “I think Maddow needs to calm down and maybe spend a little time in Michigan before she starts reporting on the intricacies of legislative procedure here.”

Photos courtesy of Nicole Bouchard.

This week we’ve been talking about autism, what we know about it, and how autism coverage is changing in Michigan.

Twenty-two-year-old twin sisters Michelle and Nicole Bouchard both have Asperger’s syndrome. It’s commonly thought to be at the milder end of the autism spectrum.  

Michelle says school wasn't easy. "There was a list of things they told me I couldn't do. I couldn't go to college, I couldn't find a job...it was a big struggle for me," she says.

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The Michigan Legislature passed a series of autism coverage bills that have been sent to Governor Snyder for his approval.

Lt. Governor Brian Calley was been a central advocate of the bills. He also has a 5-year-old daughter with autism.

The bills would change Michigan insurance code, which would require that certain evidence-based therapies be covered, up to certain limits.

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This week we’ll be taking a closer look at autism.

A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control found that about 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism or a related disorder – a significant increase in diagnosis.

Dr. Richard Solomon is a Medical Director of the P.L.A.Y Project at The Ann Arbor Center of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

Many of us have family traditions that are linked to our ethic or cultural roots.

Earlier this year we asked listeners to share a special family tradition or family recipe. We got recipes from listeners that tie back to their ethic roots, some from Trinidad, Holland and Poland.

And, there was also a little contest. Our winners were sisters Dianne Johns and Holly Godbey. They revived their Lebanese family tradition of baking Easter cookies.

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The Detroit City Council signed off on a consent agreement with the state of Michigan Wednesday afternoon.

Mayor Dave Bing signed the agreement from his hospital bed. Bing is being treated for acute pulmonary embolism.

Alison Swan

Alison Swan is a poet and an award winning environmentalist. She's adjunct professor at Western Michigan University.

Not too long ago Swan published her first collection of poetry, Dog Heart. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White sat down with Swan to talk about the new book.

Swan says she finds her inspiration from the wild places of Michigan.

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Gov. Snyder's administration and Detroit officials have been working towards a consent agreement to address the city's financial crisis. Legal challenges have stalled the Detroit City Council’s ability to vote on an agreement with the state.

Tuesday afternoon Detroit City Council decided there are too many unresolved legal questions about the consent agreement and decided not to vote, but they try again on Wednesday.

Michigan Radio's Detroit reporter Sarah Cwiek explains those uncertainties and what we might expect to see happen next.

Scott Martelle is a journalist and author. His new book Detroit: A Biography chronicles the history of the city from the 17oo's to the present day. He was also a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit News.

Martelle believes there was a point in history when Detroit had an opportunity to diversify its manufacturing.

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Every Thursday we speak with political analysts Ken Sikkema and Susan Demas to get a better understanding of what's happening in state politics.

Last week we focused on Detroit's financial situation. This week it's all about what's going on in Lansing.

The repeal of the helmet law is on Gov. Snyder’s desk. Republican lawmakers recently created a measure that allowed Oakland County to redraw district lines, it was challenged in court, but the Republican Majority Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Republican lawmakers.

So, it this politics as usual? Susan says "It's certainly has had a political tinge to it that I think perhaps we might have expected from a Republican-led legislature." Demas adds, "There hasn't been a lot of day light between Gov. Snyder and the legislature. One exception is on domestic partner benefits for universities, but that's one of the rare few."

Sikkema agrees, "The governor has pretty much stuck with his Republican colleagues and hasn't had much controversy."

At an open meeting of the financial review team in charge of evaluating the city of Detroit’s finances, protesters on Monday afternoon interrupted the meeting chanting, “No take over.”

The financial review team reaffirmed that a financial emergency does exist in the city and that a consent agreement was their preferred approach to fixing the city’s finances.

The city of Detroit and Michigan have yet to come to an agreement on how to stabilize the city’s finances.

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