Mark Brush

Reporter/Producer

Mark is a senior reporter/producer at Michigan Radio where he's been working to develop the station's online news content since 2010.

From 2000 to 2006, he worked as the technical director and senior producer for Michigan Radio's regional environmental news service known as the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

From 2006 to 2010, as the unit's co-manager and senior producer, Mark helped transition the GLRC into an award-winning national news service known as The Environment Report. The service was heard on more that 130 stations around the country including WBEZ in Chicago, WAMU in Washington D.C., KUOW in Seattle, and KWMU in St. Louis.

Mark is a graduate of the University of Michigan ('00 MS in Environmental Policy and Planning & '91 BA in Political Science) and has been "a board certified public radio junkie" since 1992. He discovered public radio on his commutes to work in his trusty 1984 VW Rabbit. Much of Mark's storytelling philosophy was influenced through his close work with veteran CBC "réalisateur" David Candow.

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Politics & Government
8:31 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Michigan's unemployment rate has dropped, but there's more to the story

8.4% of the willing worker bees in Michigan can't find work.
user russavia wikimedia commons

Michigan's rate of unemployment has dropped to 8.4%.  A decline, even a small one, might be portrayed as good news.

But to put the number in perspective, you have to consider what the folks at the Bureau of Labor Statistics are measuring. The unemployment rate measures the number of people in the labor force that are out of work.

A measure of the buzzing bees

Think of the labor force as the number of people who have their worker bee wings buzzing. They're revved up and ready to work.

Read more
Business
11:16 am
Thu January 23, 2014

Leaders call for immigration reform to help save Detroit

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan speaking in support of the immigration plan with Gov. Snyder looking on (left).
screen shot from LiveStream

Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit leaders announced their immigration reform plan this morning at the Hispanic-owned Ideal Group in Detroit.

The plan calls for federal changes that would allow immigrants to live, work, and hopefully create jobs in the city of Detroit.

More from Gov. Snyder’s press release:

Detroit must harness the power of skilled immigrants to grow its economy, increase its tax base and reverse its population decline, Gov. Rick Snyder said today as he urged federal action on his proposal that increases employment-based visas for immigrants.

“We want the world to know that Detroit is open for business,” Snyder said. “Legal immigration helped to build this great city and is just as critical to its comeback. Immigrants create jobs and Detroit is a great value opportunity in terms of business costs and overall quality of life.

The plan calls for the federal government to secure 50,000 employment-based visas for skilled immigrants (employment-based second preference visas, or EB-2 visas).

The visas would require that the visa holders reside and work in the city of Detroit.

Gov. Snyder's office cited the following statistics in support of the plan:

Read more
Detroit Bankruptcy
4:44 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

State leaders hope to join in on 'Grand Bargain' for Detroit pensions and the DIA

Gov. Snyder flanked by Bolger (right) and Richardville (left) making the announcement.
Gov. Snyder

Update 5:00 p.m. from Rick Pluta:

Governor Rick Snyder has proposed committing up to $350 million to help mitigate cuts to Detroit pension benefits – as well as keep assets of the Detroit Institute of Arts off the auction block.

The state’s offer would play out over 20 years and would match money raised from private donations to make sure DIA paintings, sculptures, and other works of art don’t get sold off to pay pension benefits that are central to the bankruptcy negotiations.

“This is not bailout,” he said. “This is a settlement. I want to be very clear about that.”

Snyder said one of the conditions would have to be creditors dropping any legal claims to DIA asserts.

“This is not geared toward the bondholders, bankers, or people on Wall Street,” he said. “This is geared towards Michiganders that worked really hard in our state and have a pension and are looking at a difficult situation – how do we improve that situation?” 

The governor says he hopes the state’s offer will help move the city through bankruptcy more quickly, which would be a good deal for the state.

The proposal must still be adopted by the Legislature. Republican leaders say hearings will begin very soon.

“We have some questions, some ‘t’s’ that need be crossed, some ‘i’s’ that need to be dotted, but in general is something that’s very positive and being received that way,” said state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe). “So, we will consider it over the next few weeks. We will look in detail, and consider it as best we can.”

The governor’s offer came as Detroit bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes refused to allow an evaluation of DIA assets to go ahead. Detroit’s creditors could still challenge the plan in bankruptcy court.

The state’s share would match contributions from private donors. It would come from money the state gets annually from the 1998 nationwide settlement between states and tobacco companies. The plan will be part of the governor’s budget proposal to be delivered Feb. 5.

Update 4:44 p.m.

Gov. Snyder and Sen. Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), and Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) announced that they plan to support legislation aimed at saving Detroit pensions and DIA art.

From their press release:

Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and House Speaker Jase Bolger announced they are working with the Michigan state legislature to allocate up to $350 million over the next 20 years to be combined with funds raised by private Michigan foundations to assist in saving retiree pensions. The governor recommends these state funds would come from tobacco settlement revenues...

“We are working on a fiscally sound mediation solution with clear conditions.  We will not participate in a bailout, nor allow these funds to go anywhere other than directly to retiree pensions,” said Snyder.  “This is an opportunity to work together to find solutions that will allow Detroit to get on a firm foundation faster, help pensioners, and ultimately save the Michigan taxpayers millions in the long run.  I want to applaud the foundations for taking this unprecedented and generous step and the mediators for facilitating these discussions.”

Snyder said there would be "strict conditions on any funds allocated towards the settlement." Money from the state, he said, must solely go toward pensions and that "independent fiduciaries manage the pension funds going forward."

Detroit's emergency manager released a statement after today's announcement saying in part:

"The level of proposed investment by the philanthropic community and the State will go far in helping reach a timely and positive resolution of the City's financial emergency.  A mutually agreed resolution to outstanding bankruptcy issues is the best way to help the City restore basic and public safety services to its 700,000 residents.  It is now time for the remaining parties to set aside the bargaining rhetoric and step forward and join this settlement to help this great city regain its footing and become once again an attractive place to live, work and invest."

MPRN will have more for us later.

11:43 a.m.

Many political deals have been dubbed a "grand bargain."

This "grand bargain" involves private money and potential state money to save Detroiters' pensions and the artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

This morning federal mediators involved in the Detroit bankruptcy released a statement saying in part:

"We are advised that the governor of the State of Michigan, Rick Snyder, intends to announce soon his support for significant state participation in the plan to help protect the pensions of city of Detroit retirees, support the DIA, and revitalize the city in the aftermath of the bankruptcy. The governor  has indicated that he will engage with the Michigan Legislature to help secure this support for the plan."

Gov. Snyder is expected to hold a press conference at 3:30 announcing more details of the plan.

He'll be joined by Sen. Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), and Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall). It's a sign that these legislative leaders are supportive of the plan.

Chief bankruptcy mediator Judge Gerald Rosen struck a deal with private foundations that pledged more than $300 million to help Detroit solve the pension/art problem.

With that money pledged, state leaders took note and are deciding whether to try to match the money pledged by the foundations.

Earlier reports stated that the plan calls for sending Detroit $350 million over 20 years. 

We'll find out more details later today.

How Michigan legislators will react to this plan is anyone's guess. In their statement, federal mediators urged that "all parties approach the issue with an open mind."

Politics & Government
2:21 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Report that Dave Agema is a no-show at today's RNC meeting in Washington D.C.

Dave Agema speaks to the media when we was a State Representative.
Dave Agema Facebook

The Republican National Committee is holding its winter meeting in Washington D.C. The meeting starts today and runs through Friday.

But Detroit Free Press Washington D.C. correspondent Todd Spangler reports embattled Michigan RNC committeeman Dave Agema is not in attendance:

A hotel in Washington where he was booked to stay two nights beginning tonight said his reservation was canceled. As has been the case for a week, calls from the Free Press to Agema's home in Grandville have gone unreturned.

Spangler reports that former Michigan Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land is at the meetings and she confirmed that she had not seen Agema.

Calls for Agema's resignation have been growing within the Republican Party. Go here to see why. 

Politics & Government
5:01 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

3 things that have Republicans calling for Dave Agema's resignation

Then-State Rep. Dave Agema (left) reacts after a woman stood and demanded Agema "speak to us in a professional manner."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Dave Agema served from 2006 to 2012 as a state representative in the Michigan Legislature. He hit his term limit and moved on to other things in 2012.

Now he represents Michigan as a member of the Republican National Committee. Many Republicans wish he weren't.

Some are naming names and calling for his ouster. Others aren’t calling him out by name but are “asking for more civility,” as MPRN’s Rick Pluta reported:

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Environment & Science
12:16 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Student captures video of Lake Michigan ice with a drone and a GoPro camera

Ice sheets on Lake Michigan shot with a drone.
screen shot from WZZM video

Spend a little over a thousand bucks and you too could capture some images that will grab the attention of your local TV station.

WZZM-TV in West Michigan featured a story about Hope College sophomore Jeff Zita.

Zita was curious about the ice forming on the lake and sent up his chopper. Here's the news segment (Click here if you can't see the video):

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Culture
3:52 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King Jr.'s forgotten visit to the University of Michigan's campus

Martin Luther King speaking at UM's Hill Auditorium in 1962.
Bentley Historical Library

The University of Michigan celebrates the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by holding annual symposiums on campus.

But it seems no one knew of King’s visit to campus in 1962 until an enterprising person at the Bentley Historical Library combed through their collection.

The Michigan Daily picks up the story from here (Haley Goldberg wrote about the discovery in 2012):

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Business
1:29 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

The end of 'net neutrality' and what it might mean for you

Erik Hersman Flickr

State of Opportunity's Kimberly Springer tells us how "the specter of an exclusive, our boutique, access internet looms" after the recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision striking down many of the FCC's "net neutrality" rules.

For the privileged, the demise of net neutrality might mean paying even more for broadband access to Netflix or YouTube---no more buffering...buffering...buffering? But for the less privileged, losing net neutrality puts all of the world's information further out of reach and condemning some to "pay to play" deals. 

Go here to read more.

Environment & Science
12:42 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Managers at Sleeping Bear Dunes want take down more diseased Beech trees

A beech tree in Michigan killed by beech bark disease.
Joseph O'Brien U.S. Forest Service

For a beech tree, the end comes in two parts.

It starts with the wooly beech scale opening up a wound, then a fungus gets into that wound and can eventually kill the tree (either by girdling it or by weakening it until it falls over).

The disease has been around in Canada and parts of the U.S. for more than a century. It was discovered in Michigan in 2000.

Read more
Politics & Government
1:12 pm
Thu January 16, 2014

Gov. Snyder proposes $350 million in state aid for Detroit

Gov. Rick Snyder delivering a State of the State address.
gophouse.com

Foundations and individuals have stepped up to pledge big dollars to the struggling city of Detroit, and now Gov. Rick Synder is floating a plan to send Detroit $350 million over 20 years.

The Detroit Free Press named an anonymous source when reporting the plan this morning.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) confirmed today that Snyder has floated the plan.

Read more
The Environment Report
9:38 am
Thu January 16, 2014

Can sewage treatment plants protect fish from the chemicals in the water?

The USGS found that a third of all the male smallmouth bass they sampled had intersex traits.
micropterus_dolomieu Wikimedia commons

So you know the saying, right? Stuff flows downhill? Myron Erickson knows a lot about that "stuff."

He heads up the sewage treatment plant that sits along the Grand River in Wyoming, Michigan (right next to Grand Rapids).

The screening room is where they take out the "grit." Erickson calls them "knick knacks."

"It's a small particle like sand, and also all things that come to us in sewage, like peas, and corn, and peanuts," says Erickson.

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The Environment Report
9:05 am
Tue January 14, 2014

What should we do about the trace chemicals found in drinking water?

Lack of funds threaten to shut down a monitoring system for southeast Michigan's drinking water.
user william_warby Flickr

The radio version of this story.

Before I talk about the small bits of chemicals often found in drinking water, I want to direct some attention to the national water contamination story going on now because I think it reveals something.

The water is bad in West Virginia

The nation has its eyes on a nine-county area in West Virginia that’s under a state of emergency. A coal-processing chemical leaked into a river and poisoned the drinking water there. Cleanup is ongoing. As they attempt to flush the chemical out of their drinking water systems, officials are trying to determine what level of the chemical is safe.

Ken Ward Jr. of the West Virgina Gazette reports that local and federal officials are saying that "1 part per million" of  crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol (the coal processing chemical) is safe for people to drink.

But Ward is having a tough time finding out what they based that number on:

Read more
Environment & Science
1:38 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Wolf researchers keeping an eye on a potential ice bridge to Isle Royale

The ice forming north of Isle Royale on Jan. 1, 2014.
MODIS NASA

Update: Friday, February 7, 2014

The ice bridge to Isle Royale has formed. See our post here.

Original post: January 9, 2014

Wolves first came to Isle Royale in Lake Superior by crossing an ice bridge in the late 1940s, but these ice bridges have not been forming as often in recent years and the wolf population on Isle Royale has been suffering as a result.

Read more
Offbeat
11:23 am
Wed January 8, 2014

World notices that a) it's cold, and b) Michigan has a city named Hell

The headline makes it in print. The photo behind the headline is not of Hell, Michigan. It's the lighthouse at St. Joseph, Michigan.
Steven Clark Twitter

Hell, Mich., got down to 13 degrees below zero Fahrenheit during the deep freeze, and headline writers around the web jumped for joy.

The BBC has a short video describing how "Town of Hell Freezes over in the US."

Time Magazine declares, "It's Official: Hell Has Frozen Over."

Read more
Environment & Science
1:56 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Could the extreme cold weather be tied to a warming climate?

Purple signifies the extreme cold in the U.S.
Credit NWS

The temperatures certainly are extreme. Last night, it was colder in Michigan than it was at the South Pole.

Parts of the state saw temperatures reach 16 below zero with wind chills exceeding 40 below zero.

The "polar vortex" has brought air to the Midwest that normally stays way up in the arctic.

Read more
Opinion
10:50 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Fun inside the polar vortex, throwing boiling water in the air

Lester Graham with a cup of boiling water.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

If you haven't been online in the last 24 hours, or you didn't watch it being done on Anderson Cooper's show over and over last night, then you're in for a treat.

It used to be a something kids in Alaska or in Canada's Northern Territories did for fun.

But with the combination of cold weather and social media, those of us in the Lower 48 can play too (and some of us are burning ourselves).

Life in the polar vortex allows you to do this:

So why does the boiling water suddenly turn into what appears to be a cloud of steam?

Well, it's not steam. They're just tiny ice crystals. LiveScience had Mark Seeley, a climatologist at the University of Minnesota, explains:

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Offbeat
5:08 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Even the Fairy Garden Village of Ann Arbor couldn't escape the snow

Fairy Garden Village of Ann Arbor evacuated due to heavy snow.
Credit Mike Perini / Michigan Radio

No word on the whereabouts of the fairy village warming centers... or whether fairies have water pipes in their houses.

Weather
12:24 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Flint area gets 'Top 10' record-breaking snowfall, Detroit... not so much

Digging out of the record-breaking snow in Flint.
Taryn Nitz Instagram

People are digging out from the snowstorm in much of Michigan today. 

So did this snowstorm break records in Michigan?

In Detroit, 10.6 inches fell during the storm, not enough to crack the top-10 list for snowstorms in this area.

Here are the biggest snowfalls recorded in the Detroit area according to the National Weather Service. Most of these storms occurred prior to 1930.

Read more
12:04 pm
Fri January 3, 2014

Part of the Fifth Third Ballpark north of Grand Rapids is on fire

Lead in text: 
The ball park is in Comstock Park, Michigan. This from MLive.
PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, MI -- Dispatchers are requesting a full fire response to Fifth Third Ballpark on a report of a fire inside one of the guest suites inside the stadium area. Arriving firefighters found "a heavy column of smoke" and flames showing from the outside of the suite just after 11 a.m.

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