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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Offbeat
11:33 am
Mon February 3, 2014

So is there 'anything more American than America'? A look at Chrysler's Super Bowl ad

Bob Dylan in Chrysler's latest Super Bowl ad.
YouTube

"Is there anything more American than America?"

That was the opening line of this year's Chrysler ad featuring Bob Dylan during last night's Super Bowl.

People reacted quickly to the head-scratching question on Twitter:

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Auto
11:20 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Fiat and Chrysler reorganize under a new name

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne called the announcement, "one of the most important days in my career at Fiat and Chrysler."
user dgtmedia-simone wikimedia commons

Remember "DaimlerChrysler"? Well, that didn't go so well.

Maybe "Fiat Chrysler Automobiles" will fare much better.

The company that owns Chrysler Group LLC, Fiat SpA, announced the name change today: 

Today, the Board of Directors of Fiat S.p.A. (“Fiat”) approved a corporate reorganization and the formation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (“FCA”) as a fully-integrated global automaker...

In order to establish a true peer to the major global automotive groups, in both scale and capital market appeal, the Board has decided to establish Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V., organized in the Netherlands, as the parent company of the Group. FCA’s common shares will be listed in New York and Milan.

The newly formed company's stock will be traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Current Fiat shareholders will receive one share of FCA for each Fiat share they're holding.

The newly named company released its new logo as well today. A logo they say "lends itself to an extraordinary range of symbolic interpretations."

CEO of Fiat and Chrysler Sergio Marchionne called the corporate reorganization "one of the most important days in my career at Fiat and Chrysler."

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Education
5:33 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

A quick preview of our documentary on high-stakes testing

Dustin Dwyer and Kimberly Springer from our State of Opportunity team share "five teasers" about the upcoming documentary on high-stakes testing. The documentary will air (and be online) this Thursday.

Here's one thing that Dwyer will explore in the documentary: How the "bad" label can harm a school in an otherwise wealthy district.

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Politics & Culture
5:25 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Stateside for Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014

Hundreds of thousands of people packed Cobo Center in Detroit over the past two weeks for the North American International Auto Show. There were lots of hot cars and new models, but what about actual transportation in the city itself?

On today's show, we'll ask what would better public transportation mean for Detroit – a place so deeply rooted in car culture.

And then, you've no doubt heard that the Super Bowl happens. We'll talk to the Kalamazoo author of "Sportuality." She's pushing for a bit more spirituality in everyday sports.

But first on the show, we talk about a new report that found the state's poorest children have failed to make up any ground in their reading skills in the past decade.

According to the the latest Kids Count report, 81% of low income 4th-graders in Michigan are not reading proficiently.

Michigan is among six states that have seen no improvement in that rate since 2003.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell is the project director for Kids Count Michigan and she joined us today.

*Listen to the audio above.

Auto
1:39 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Ford's hourly workers will receive $8,800 bonus check

A Ford worker at the Kansas City Assembly plant.
Ford Motor Company Flickr

Ford Motor Company had one of its best years ever, and under its contract with the UAW, the company will give a portion of its annual North American profit to the nearly 47,000 hourly workers who help build the profitable cars and trucks.

Last year, Ford's profit in North America was $8.8 billion, so each of those workers will receive an $8,800 bonus check. The payout breaks last year's bonus of $8,300.

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Offbeat
11:13 am
Tue January 28, 2014

First 'snow day' in 36 years; University of Michigan students rejoice

U-M student 'Elsa the Snow Queen' reacts to the news.
user kajeburns Twitter

It's similar to a 100-year flood event. It just doesn't happen that often.

So when it does, students celebrate. That's what happened last night when the University of Michigan called off classes for the first time in 36 years. 

The student journalists over at the Michigan Daily collected the best reactions on Twitter to the news.

Here are the best stunned faces, celebratory waffles, and trips to the liquor store:

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Weather
11:24 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Air from the North Pole on its way, snowfall records set in parts of Michigan

Lola enjoying the snow in Michigan.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Extreme cold temperatures are coming our way again.

The National Weather Service says this round of cold air, which will be with us through midday Wednesday, is coming from a very cold place.

The air mass and the associated surface high pressure with it is literally coming from the North Pole and heading nearly due south into the central U.S. by Tuesday. Widespread subzero lows are expected north of the Ohio River by this time, and subfreezing highs are expected well into the Deep South.

And with cold temperatures, comes snow.

We normally get around a foot of snow in southeast Michigan for the month of January. But this year the Flint and Detroit areas set snowfall records for the month.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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