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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News Roundup
10:12 am
Mon December 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Extension of unemployment benefits

Congress might debate whether to extend unemployment benefits this week. It's a decision that could impact tens of thousands of Michigan residents.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Unless Congress acts to continue extended unemployment benefits, it could be a grim holiday season for nearly 160,000 Michiganders.

An end to the extended benefits would immediately impact 61,000 state residents who are getting this federal aid after exhausting their 26 weeks of state-funded assistance.

Another 98,743 people who are receiving state benefits would no longer get additional help if they are still jobless after 26 weeks.

Experts worry about future of U.S. battery manufacturing

Some experts worry about the longevity of battery manufacturing in the U.S. In Michigan, battery manufacturing is seen as a new economy in the state. The companies have enjoyed investments from private and government entities. But can this type of green manufacturing compete? The Wall Street Journal reports on the current state of some battery manufacturers:

So far, the results have been disappointing. Some high-profile battery makers have stumbled, burdened by high manufacturing costs, strong competition from Asian rivals and a slower-than-expected rollout of electric vehicles. Now the companies are responding by cutting costs, scaling back production and trying to tap other markets, such as large-scale storage for the electricity grid.

State plans to consolidate office space for workers

State officials are hoping to save money by moving workers out of leased offices and into state-owned buildings. According to the Detroit Free Press:

In the last 10 years, the state has shed close to 20% of its workers, but hasn't made similar reductions in its office space. What's more, use of laptops, cell phones and other mobile technology means far fewer state employees need their own office space.

The paper reports leases cost the state around $90 million a year.

Politics
5:06 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

State officials launching preliminary review of Detroit's finances

The state of Michigan will conduct a preliminary review of Detroit's finances.
user andrea_44 Flickr

State Treasurer Andy Dillon announced today the state's intention to launch a preliminary review of Detroit's finances. The review will commence next Tuesday, according to Dillon's office. This post is being updated with information as it comes in.

Update 5:06 p.m.

MPRN's Laura Weber reports that State Treasurer Andy Dillon said he does not see bankruptcy as an option for Detroit.

“I don’t see that in the near-term, no, because if you look at the revenues coming into the general fund, it’s a fixable issue for the city,” said Dillon. “Now the longer-term debt may present an issue that we’ll have to figure out how to tackle down the road.”

Dillon said this is the first step in a review of Detroit’s finances and does not guarantee the city will be taken over by the state, but he said because Detroit is running out of money quickly, a review is time sensitive.

3:15 pm

Mayor Dave Bing released this statement on the state's preliminary financial review a few moments ago:

"While unfortunate, this decision by Governor Snyder is not unexpected.  We believe we have the right plan to address the City's fiscal crisis and we will continue to work with City Council, our unions and other stakeholders to achieve the necessary cuts and concessions, including pension, healthcare and work rule reform. I'm confident with yesterday's demonstration of solidarity and shared commitment that we will continue to make progress.  We are committed to full cooperation with the Governor's fiscal team, who has had full access to the City's financial information and plan for months."

Update 2:49 p.m.

You can see a list of reasons why Michigan State Treasurer Andy Dillon feels a preliminary review of Detroit's finances is in order. Dillon released a "Detroit Informational Memorandum."

In it, Dillion cites that Detroit has run deficits exceeding $100 million dating back to 2005.

Annual debt service requirements in Detroit for 2010 exceeded $539 million, according to the memo.

2:15 p.m.

A day after Detroit Mayor Bing stood with other city leaders to try to head off an impending state review of the city's finances, the Governor's office announces the review:

From MPRN's Rick Pluta:

State Treasurer Andy Dillon says the state will send in teams to review the finances of Detroit and Inkster. It is the first step in the process to name emergency managers to run the cities.  But Dillon says his hope is that early intervention will help avoid that. Detroit city leaders including Mayor Dave Bing have spoken out against a state review.

In a letter to Mayor Bing and City Council President Charles Pugh, State Treasurer Andy Dillon cited the mayor and city council's ongoing inability to work cooperatively to financially manage the city; Detroit's recurring operating deficits; and the likelihood that the city will run out of cash in the spring.

Environment
12:04 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

What's the use? State cuts back on salmon stocking in Lake Huron

Juvenile Chinook salmon. Populations of the popular sport fish have collapse in Lake Huron.
USFWS

The sport fishery has been on the rocks in Lake Huron for quite some time.

We first reported on the collapse in Lake Huron back in 2006.

That's when Jim Johnson with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Alpena Fisheries Research Station explained to Lester Graham what was going on:

"There was a huge decline in the amount of nutrients available to zooplankton and phytoplankton in the middle of Lake Huron. These are the basic nutrient bits that fish eat. And it appears now to most of us in the scientific community that a large portion of the nutrients that used enter Lake Huron are now being trapped by zebra and quagga mussels and not finding their way to alewives and other prey fish."

Now we hear news that the state plans to cut salmon stocking in Lake Huron.

From the Associated Press:

Michigan plans a sharp cutback in Chinook stocking in Lake Huron next year, further evidence of the collapse of the lake's salmon fishery.

The state Department of Natural Resources said Friday it will place 693,000 spring Chinook fingerlings in Lake Huron in 2012. That's down from the nearly 1.5 million fed to the lake this year.

Acting DNR fisheries chief Jim Dexter says recreational harvest of Chinook has all but disappeared in the southern two-thirds of Lake Huron. The lake's only productive recreational fishery is in the northern section, where salmon are proving able to reproduce on their own.

Fish biologists blame Huron's Chinook drop-off on the unraveling of the food chain likely caused by invasive zebra and quagga mussels, which have gobbled up plankton needed by forage fish.

News Roundup
8:29 am
Fri December 2, 2011

In this morning's news...

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"Detroit needs to be run by Detroiters"

That's what Mayor Bing tweeted last night prior to his press conference with members of city council and other Detroit leaders. It was a show of unity against the threat of an impending state review of city finances.

The tweet continued, "We know what needs to be done and we are ready to do it."

Mayor Bing and leaders were reacting to what Mayor Bing said was Governor Snyder's intent to launch a 30-day review of the city's finances this week (Snyder said those claims are inaccurate).

Bing is proposing layoffs and steep cuts to the city's budget. He and members of the city council have been battling over the cuts.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported on the press conference last night:

Bing says it would be helpful if the state offered feedback on some of the city’s proposals, and was more clear about its expectations.

“I would appreciate if the state would come back and say what they don’t like about our plan, or what they do like, or can they enhance it,” Bing says. “I think they’ve got to be a party to this.”

Bing also repeated calls for the state to pay Detroit $220 million it owes from a 1998 revenue sharing agreement. Governor Snyder and Republicans in the state legislature have been cool to the idea.

Conyers asks U.S. Attorney General for review of Michigan's EM law

The threat of an emergency manager in Detroit led to a call for a review of Michigan's emergency manager law from U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit). Conyers is asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review the law.

The emergency manager law allows a state-appointed official to strip local officials of their power and to dissolve union contracts.

Jonathan Oosting of MLive.com reported on the request from Conyers:

Conyers asked Holder to consider two separate constitutional issues: Whether the law violates the Contract Clause by allowing EM's to terminate collective bargaining rights and whether is violates Article 4, Section 4 that provides for a republican form of government.

"The Supreme Court has previously held that this clause guarantees the people the right to a democratically elected form of government," he wrote. "It goes without saying that appointing an unelected manager in place of an elected mayor, city council and other public officials would be totally anithetical to the concept of democracy."

Faculty at CMU close to a new contract

After a long battle over a new contract that included a strike on the first day of classes, Central Michigan University says it has has a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract with the CMU Faculty Association. The Associated Press reports "the deal with the CMU Faculty Association was reached after a 14-hour negotiating session facilitated by a county judge. Details of the tentative agreement weren't released pending ratification."

Offbeat
4:44 pm
Thu December 1, 2011

Forget "high speed" trains, how about "mothership" trains?

The concept: A moving platform docks with a high speed train.
Priestmangoode

Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in Michigan for high speed higher speed rail.

For that, we'll get trains that can travel 110 m.p.h. for much of the Detroit to Chicago trip.

A modest boost in speed is about as much as we can ask for given the state of our infrastructure (over the summer, some passenger trains in Michigan were ordered to travel at 25 m.p.h. because of the sorry state of the tracks).

One drawback to train travel is the number of stops along the way. Detroit to Chicago has stops in Dowagiac, Niles, and New Buffalo, Michigan.

What if the train could just slow down around those stops?

Behold the "Moving Platforms" concept from Paul Priestman of the English design group Priestmangoode (bob head while watching):

O.k. - this pie-in-the-sky idea has been around for awhile. New Scientist magazine writes that they first featured an article about a similar idea in 1969.

Priestman told CNN that its valuable to throw off the chains and think big:

While Priestman admits that it will be some time before his vision could be implemented, he says the time has come to rethink how we travel.

"This idea is a far-future thought but wouldn't it be brilliant to just re-evaluate and just re-think the whole process?" he says.

But why not dream big?

Meet George Jetson while you think about it:

Read more
Education
2:26 pm
Thu December 1, 2011

Should UM research assistants unionize? Michigan Attorney General weighs in

Members of the Graduate Employees Organization picketing on the North Campus of the University of Michigan in 2008. Many University administrators and deans maintain these research assistants are not "employees."
courtesy UM GEO

Some graduate student research assistants at the University of Michigan, also known as GSRAs, have wanted to unionize under the "Graduate Employee Organization" for decades.

A decision on whether attempts to unionize graduate students can move forward is coming up at a December 13 meeting of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.

The MERC is expected to vote whether to direct an administrative law judge to determine whether GSRAs are university "employees" or "students."

Many University of Michigan administrators and deans argue the GSRAs are students, not employees.

It they're determined to be employees, the 2,200 GSRAs can hold a vote on whether or not to unionize.

Now, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, on behalf of the people of Michigan, he says, has decided to jump into this administrative debate.

Read more
News Roundup
8:38 am
Thu December 1, 2011

In this morning's news...

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Several dozen Catholic parishes in Detroit might close

After a "year-long, parish-based pastoral and strategic planning process," the Archdiocese of Detroit revealed a plan for a smaller footprint in Detroit.

From an Archdiocese of Detroit statement:

  • Within five years, nine parishes are proposed to close.
  • In addition to the above, 60 parishes are proposed to merge down to 21, resulting in 39 fewer parishes.

The Detroit Free Press reports Detroit was one of the first archdioceses to close churches back in 1989. From the Freep:

In the last 10 years alone, about 40 parishes have closed or merged because of the priest shortage and changing demographics in Detroit and its inner-ring suburbs, reducing the number of parishes diocese-wide from 310 to 270.

Detroit unions to offer up their cost-saving ideas

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has been calling for concessions from Detroit's unions along with layoffs to fix the city's budget problems.

Today, unions in the city are expected to go before city council with their ideas.

From the Detroit News:

The city's 48 employee unions thus far have resisted Mayor Dave Bing's call for givebacks to help the city stave off a possible state takeover. Several deadlines imposed by Bing have come and gone...

A coalition of union leaders met Wednesday morning to hammer out ideas for the council to consider. Leaders will present options for cheaper health care and suggest alternatives to Bing's proposed 10 percent wage cut, according to a union leader familiar with the plan.

Governor Snyder heads to Delta College to deliver special message

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to help workers get the skills employers need in today's job market. Rick Pluta reports Snyder is looking for ways to bring down Michigan’s persistently high unemployment rate. Pluta says the Governor "will deliver his fifth special message of the year today where he is expected to outline a strategy to better match the skills workers have to positions that are available right now."

Politics
7:16 am
Thu December 1, 2011

Stun gun legislation working its way through Michigan legislature

Under legislation being considered in the Michigan legislature, individuals licensed to carry handguns could also carry a stun gun.
user jennuine captures Flickr

Stun guns might become another allowable concealed weapon in Michigan.

The Michigan Senate passed a measure that lifts a ban on stun guns last October. A similar measure is working its way through the Michigan House. From USA Today:

A measure working its way through the Michigan Legislature would make the state the nation's 45th to allow residents to carry stun guns as a means of self-defense. Wisconsin became the 44th on Nov. 1.

Stun guns, which shoot prongs carrying an electrical charge to temporarily incapacitate the person they strike, have been blamed in lawsuits for some deaths, but proponents insist they are far less dangerous than handguns.

Sports
2:32 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

UM's Brady Hoke named Big Ten "Coach of the Year"

Brady Hoke awaits the media at his first press conference as Michigan's head coach earlier this year.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The University of Michigan's first-year head football coach was given Big Ten "Coach of the Year" honors by other conference coaches and by members of the media.

Hoke led the Wolverines to a 10-2 season overall, including a win against rival Ohio State.

From MGoBlue.com:

The Big Ten Conference announced Wednesday (Nov. 30) that University of Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke was chosen as the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year, as selected by conference coaches, and the Dave McClain Coach of the Year, as picked by the media.

Hoke is the sixth first-year coach to earn the McClain Coach of the Year award, which dates back to 1972 and is named for the former Wisconsin coach. This is the inaugural awarding of the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year honor, which pays tribute to Ohio State's Woody Hayes and Michigan's Bo Schembechler.

MGoBlue.com reports Hoke joins former Michigan coach Fielding Yost as the only coaches in Michigan's history to win at least 10 games in their first season as head coach.

Auto/Economy
1:36 pm
Wed November 30, 2011

Time for a little bubbly? Analysts say car sales get a Black Friday boost

Analysts say car sales are climbing.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

It could be time to crack open a modestly-priced bottle of champagne.

Analysts say, like the recent good news about retail purchases, November auto sales "may have run at the fastest pace in more than two years."

From Bloomberg News:

Light-vehicle deliveries in November, to be released Thursday, may have run at a 13.4 million seasonally adjusted annual rate, the average of 14 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That would top the 12.3 million pace of a year earlier and October's 13.3 million rate, which was the best month since sales were helped by "cash for clunkers" in August 2009...

"November was a good retail environment for consumers overall," Erich Merkle, Ford's sales analyst, said . Consumers have been "sitting on the sidelines for quite some time. Black Friday provided that reason to get out there."

The head of Toyota's U.S. sales unit said there's a lot of pent up demand among consumers, "it's starting to push industry sales regardless of whether the economy is flat or going up."

Politics
11:48 am
Wed November 30, 2011

State faces backlog of 20,000 medical marijuana cards

bobdoran Flickr

An official from Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said an equipment malfunction led to a backlog in printing around 20,000 cards for medical marijuana patients, according to the Saginaw News.

The newspaper reports the backlog goes back to medical marijuana applications received since last July.

Celeste Clarkson, compliance section manager with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs spoke at a seminar on medical marijuana enforcement in Saginaw Township.

From the Saginaw News:

The state has continued to print up to 800 cards a day for medical marijuana patients and caregivers, but the volume of applications has approaches 1,500 a day. Once an application has been approved, the state has five days to print a card under state rules.

The state is reviewing how best to catch up on the backlog, she said...

The state has received nearly 200,000 medical marijuana applications through the end of October with 120,597 active patients, according to state figures.

The state has 45,531 active caregiver registry card users. A caregiver must have one card for each patient and may have no more than five patients. A caregiver can provide no more than 12 marijuana plants for each patients.

The state has denied 14,288 applications, she said. Those denied may reapply.

Politics
9:18 am
Wed November 30, 2011

In this morning's news...

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Detroit Mayor Bing says city can avert financial crisis on its own

Layoffs are coming in Detroit after an audit revealed the city could run out of money by April. Mayor Bing says he believes the city can make cuts and avoid a potential takeover from a state-appointed emergency manager.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing held fast Tuesday to his assertion that his administration can manage the city through its fiscal crisis for the next 18 months with a plan that calls for union concessions and at least 1,000 employee layoffs.

In a wide-ranging interview, the mayor said he received a list of layoff recommendations from his department heads Tuesday and expects to identify workers who will be laid off by Dec. 5. Layoff notices would follow immediately and job eliminations would be effective 90 to 120 days after notices are sent.

Herman Cain speaks at Hillsdale College

After yesterday's revelation that Republican presidential candidate hopeful Herman Cain was "reassessing" his campaign, the candidate did not mention his problems during last night's speech at Hillsdale College. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported:

Cain did not talk about the allegations of sexual harassment made by numerous women against him nor the allegation made this week that he’s been involved in a 13 year affair with a Georgia woman.    

The allegations anger supporters like Gary Shilling.  But Shilling says his anger is not directed at Cain.   

"He’s being crucified…by the press," said Shilling after listening to Cain's speech.  

Republicans unveil plan to keep heat on

With dramatic cuts in federal funding for home heating assistance coming, Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives say they want to keep the heat on this winter for low-income residents.

From the Associated Press:

Lawmakers said they want to put $62 million into the state's emergency relief fund to help keep the heat on. The money would come from federal funds that Republicans say could be used for the heating program.

"It's a budgetary and statutory fix that protects families, prioritizes spending and keeps costs down for Michigan's ratepayers," said House Speaker James Bolger of Marshall.

The plan also would formalize the end of a utility charge. An appeals court in July struck down the financing system used by Michigan's Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund.

Weather
7:45 am
Wed November 30, 2011

Snow totals reach up to 9.5 inches around parts of Michigan

Much of Michigan was painted white overnight.

The National Weather Service was predicting totals of an inch yesterday afternoon, and up to six inches overnight in parts of southern Michigan. It appears a bit more snow fell than predicted.

From the Associated Press:

Storms brought heavy snow to parts of southern Michigan, with up to 9.5 inches reported in the Lansing area.

The National Weather Service says 7 to 9.5 inches of snow fell by Wednesday morning around Lansing. That came after heavy rains flooded some areas Tuesday.

Winter storm watches were issued. The storms left thousands without power.

The Saginaw area had reports of about 6 inches of snow. In southeast Michigan, the weather service says the Detroit area got anywhere from a dusting to about 3 inches.

The weather service says snow totals in the Jackson and Battle Creek areas were up to 5 inches, while Kalamazoo had 3 to 4 inches. Grand Rapids, however, avoided the snow.

Tuesday's rains closed several roadways, including part of the Southfield Freeway near Detroit.

Environment
1:41 pm
Tue November 29, 2011

Mining in the UP, what does the state get in return?

Drilling began at the Eagle Mine this past September. This aerial photo was taken in September of 2011. The mine is 25 miles northwest of Marquette, Michigan.
Kennecott Eagle Minerals

Drilling continues in Michigan's Upper Peninsula for potentially valuable ore deposits after a judge turned down a request from environmental groups to stop the mine's development.

Kennecott Eagle Minerals is drilling 25 miles northwest of Marquette primarily for nickel and copper, but palladium, gold, and silver could also turn up in the deposit.

Kennecott, a subsidiary of the London-based Rio Tinto Group, began drilling in September.

The ore deposit the company is after is about a mile away from the mine's opening (and about 1,000 to 1,500 feet underground). They're not expected to reach the deposit until sometime in 2013.

Around 50 percent of the deposit is under state-owned land, so it belongs to the collective "we" - the citizens of Michigan.

So what are we getting in return?

Read more
Politics
11:52 am
Tue November 29, 2011

Michigan legislature passes anti-bullying bill

Update 11:52 a.m.

Equality Michigan, an advocacy group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, released a statement in response to the passage of the anti-bullying bill:

We’re thrilled that we were able to eliminate the destructive ‘license to bully’ that the Senate first approved in October. National outrage provoked by the last-minute substitution to allow bullying based on religious beliefs is a clear indicator that our Senate majority is out of touch with the voters.

That being said, we’re disappointed by the weak version of the bill passed today. Directed by the biases of a few, our Senate missed another opportunity to do right by our kids. Today’s bill will do little to stem the tide of bullying because it doesn’t enumerate commonly targeted characteristics. Case studies have found that school employees are unlikely to recognize and report incidents when bias bullying is not placed deliberately on their radar. Both Oregon and Washington passed weak bills like this one and had to go back and revise them years later when data showed the initial bills had failed. This kind of delay is not an acceptable response to Michigan's bullying crisis.

11:19 a.m.

An anti-bullying bill has cleared the Michigan legislature after the Senate passed the House sponsored bill this morning.

The bill, HB 4163, steers clear of controversial language included in an earlier Senate version of the bill (SB 137). That bill protected statements based on moral or religious beliefs.

From SB 137:

This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil's parent or guardian.

The bill as passed by the Legislature would require all school districts to adopt anti-bullying policies.

Some Democrats say the bill does not go far enough to protect kids from cyber bullying or to protect gay and lesbian students.

The anti-bullying legislation now goes to the desk of Governor Rick Snyder.

News Roundup
9:07 am
Tue November 29, 2011

In this morning's news...

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More for-profit schools coming to Michigan?

The Republican-led legislature is planning to resume its push to allow more charter schools in the state. The Associated Press reports the discussions will start in the House Education Committee this week:

The education committee has scheduled hearings for Tuesday and Wednesday on the legislation that would end some numerical and geographical limits on charter schools. It narrowly passed the Republican-led Senate in October.

The state has roughly 250 charter schools. Supporters say more should be allowed to boost educational options in public schools.

Democrats say it appears to be an effort to help charter schools that are sometimes run by for-profit companies at the expense of other schools.

Democratic Sen. Rebekah Warren of Ann Arbor on Tuesday plans to propose a constitutional amendment to ban for-profit schools. It's unlikely that proposal would advance in the Republican-led Legislature.

Remembering Frederik Meijer

The man who started "Meijer Thrifty Acres" with his father in 1962 died last Friday at the age of 91 after suffering a stroke. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported on today's public visitation:

Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi says they’re expecting at least 10,000 people to travel to Grand Rapids Tuesday for the public visitation.

“The Meijer family wanted to give the community an opportunity to pay their respects to Fred because he meant so much to so many people, not just in Grand Rapids but really in the state of Michigan,” Guglielmi said.

The public visitation will take place at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids from from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. There will be a private funeral tomorrow at a Grand Rapids church.

Wet weather, rain turning to snow

The rain is falling, and the National Weather Service says snow is on the way.

Counties in the south and southeast part of the state have a mix of winter storm watches, flood watches, and flood warnings.

Rain will fall until late afternoon. That could turn to snow later with accumulations of around an inch.  Later tonight the winds will pick up and snow accumulations could be around 2 to 6 inches for much of the south and southeast part of the state.

Economy
12:53 pm
Mon November 28, 2011

Police layoffs in Inkster, Michigan

The city is facing a multi-million dollar deficit.
City of Inkster

The city of Inkster is laying off twelve police officers amid a budget crisis. WXYZ-TV confirmed the layoffs with Inkster Police Chief Gregory Gaskin:

From WXYZ-TV:

Effective today, Gaskin confirms twelve police officers will be laid-off. Two other officers have resigned and four civilians were laid-off last week.

Chief Gaskin says some lieutenants and sergeants have also been demoted as part of their reorganization plan to make sure there is still an adequate number of officers to respond to calls.

On November 9, the state Treasury Department announced that the city was in "probable financial stress." Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported a state-appointed emergency manager could be next:

Treasury spokesman Terry Stanton says the city is having trouble solving a multi-million dollar deficit.  "And the review also found city official have proposed unrealistic budgets and failed to make budget revisions in a timely manner," Stanton says.

News Roundup
9:15 am
Mon November 28, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit Public Schools face fines for truancy

For the 2012-2011 school year, Detroit Public Schools had an attendance record that fell below 75 percent for 46 days, according to the Detroit News. School districts that fall below 75 percent face fines.

More from the Detroit News:

State officials are weighing how much to penalize Detroit Public Schools for persistent truancy, a problem that could cost the financially troubled district up to $25.9 million, according to documents obtained by The Detroit News.

In the past school year, attendance at DPS fell below the state minimum of 75 percent on 46 days. The district says it is bracing for a loss of  the full amount, though the Michigan Department of Education expects a much lower final figure.

Low attendance naturally leads to poorer performing schools.

 

Cash assistance cut-off

Some Michigan families will find out today and tomorrow whether they're cut off from state cash assistance. A new state law puts a four-year cap on cash assistance.  Rick Pluta reports "the state Department of Human Services is holding two days of “rocket docket” hearings. People challenging their cutoff are expected to show up first thing in the morning, and wait their turn to make their case to a magistrate and a caseworker. They will be told before they leave whether they still qualify."

There are expected to be some protests outside of some DHS offices today.

Snow Wednesday

Snow is coming this week, according to the National Weather Service. Rain is expected to turn to snow late Tuesday night, early Wednesday morning. The Detroit Free Press quotes NWS Hydro Meteorological Technician Debra Elliott:

“It looks like, for the most part, 1 to 3 inches of snow will be possible west of U.S. 23, and east of U.S. 23, we’re looking for less than an inch of accumulation,” Elliott said, adding that the snow could affect Wednesday’s morning commute. “That could be a little bit of a mess for people, especially on the west side of 23.”

Environment
3:18 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

1 in 4 in Michigan buy optional state park pass, $6 million extra raised

The little "P" on your license plate sticker means you paid the extra $10 to get into Michigan's parks. The new system raised extra money for the parks this year.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

The new system to help fund Michigan state parks was a success in its first year.

Before the "Recreation Passport" system was put in place, park visitors had to buy annual or daily window stickers.

Now, people can get access to the parks by paying an extra $10 when registering their motor vehicle at the Michigan Secretary of State (window stickers and daily passes are still an option if you didn't pay extra at the Secretary of State).

The $10 annual fee is a lot less than the $24 people used to pay for an annual window sticker, but because more people participated, more money was raised.

From the MDNR:

In 2011, the program's first year, the DNR set a goal of 24.3 percent participation by Michigan motorists. Final tallies for the first year show that the goal was met and exceeded, with 24.7 percent of Michigan motorists checking "Yes" to support the Recreation Passport when renewing their motor vehicle registration. In total, the revenue generated by the sale of the Recreation Passport was $18,816,500.

Those who paid extra for access to Michigan's state parks have a tiny "P" printed on their license plate renewal sticker (the rectangular sticker on the upper-right part of the Michigan license plate).

Michigan DNR spokesperson Mary Dettloff says park rangers have gotten really good at spotting that tiny "P" from a distance.

For 2011, that little "P" signifies $6 million in extra revenue for the park system.

When lawmakers set up the new program, they anticipated the extra revenue. The $6 million will be be broken up according to a formula in the law:

  • State Parks - Capital Outlay (50 percent): $3,043,250
  • State Parks - Maintenance (30 percent): $1,825,950
  • Local Park Grants (10 percent): $608,650
  • State Forest Recreation (7 percent): $426,055
  • Cultural/Historical Facilities in State Parks (2.75 percent): $167,379
  • Marketing (0.25 percent): $15,216


The MDNR recently announced the recipients for local park grants. The local grants range from a minimum of $7,500 to a maximum of $30,000. MDNR officials say if revenues increase with the new "Recreation Passport" program, the maximum grant amount will increase as well.

24.7 percent participated in the program this year. Next year's goal is 30 percent.

Environment
1:39 pm
Wed November 23, 2011

Judge approves permit for Kennecott mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Resistance to the Kennecott mine project has been going on since the project was first proposed. n 500) near the area. (Photo by Chris McCarus)
Chris McCarus Environment Report

A judge has allowed a controversial mining project in the Upper Peninsula to go forward.

From the Associated Press:

A judge has upheld state regulators' decision to let Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. build a nickel and copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield of Ingham County on Wednesday sided against the National Wildlife Federation and other opponents of the mine being constructed in northwestern Marquette County. She ruled the Department of Environmental Quality acted lawfully when it issued a permit allowing the company to build and operate the mine.

An attorney for the wildlife federation says the group hasn't decided whether to appeal.

Kennecott Eagle is targeting an underground ore deposit that is expected to yield up to 300 million pounds of nickel and about 200 million pounds of copper, plus smaller amounts of other metals.

The company began blasting the mine entrance in September.

The controversy around the mine comes from fears of water pollution in the UP.

Mining operations in the U.S. haven't had the best environmental track record. Some old mining operations have left behind some pretty nasty legacy pollution problems (look up the "Berkeley Pit" in Butte, Montana for an example).

Back in 2005, Chris McCarus looked at the controversy surrounding the then proposed nickel mine in the UP for The Environment Report. McCarus reported:

Michelle Halle is a lawyer for the National Wildlife Federation and a local resident. She's got one question.

"I’m always interested in the answer to the question about whether he believes that a mine can exist with 100% perfect track record."

It’s a rhetorical question. She’s confident that the company won’t be able to meet the newer, stricter standards for getting a permit to mine.

"No human error, no design flaws, no natural disasters that are going to cause an impact... I don’t think that any company can say yes to that honestly."

Halle's 2005 hunch was wrong. Kennecott Eagle Minerals Co. did get the permit from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and now a judge says development of the mine can go forward.

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