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
11:29 am
Fri November 11, 2011

Tea Party activists get fired up over Michigan health care exchange bill

user rosefirerising Flickr

The Michigan State Senate followed Governor Snyder's desire and passed a bill that, if adopted, would set up a statewide health care exchange. And the Tea Party is none too happy about the vote.

If state officials don't set up a statewide exchange by 2014, the state would have to enter a health care exchange system set up by the federal government.

The exchange, as political writer Susan Demas says, is like Travelocity for health care packages.

Demas wrote a piece on MLive about the Tea Party's reaction to the vote. She wrote that the activists warned Republicans "that there would be consequences for voting 'yes,'" and they accused Governor Snyder of trying to cozy up to the Obama administration.

Demas highlighted complaints from Scott Hagerstrom, the head of the free-market Americans for Prosperity of Michigan:

Hagerstrom called the passage of the health care exchange a "bribe" to get more federal dollars. 

"What they've done is basically declared war on the Tea Party and Tea Party activists," he declared. Joan Fabiano, a Tea Party activist from Holt who lobbied the Legislature against the health care exchange, also fired off a scathing statement against the Senate's action. 

She called it "a [sic] unnecessary set back [sic] in the freedom of Michigan citizens. . . . The hurried manner in which the bill was amended, passed through Committee and scheduled for a vote is an affront to every citizen of Michigan who was disenfranchised from having his or her vote heard. Voters will not forget this affront."

Senator Bruce Caswell (R-Hillsdale) might be on the Tea Party's list.

As Rick Pluta reported yesterday, Caswell was one of the Republicans arguing in favor of the exchange:

“I do not support putting this state in the position of having the federal government come in and basically take over regulation of health care,” said Caswell.

Veterans Day
7:00 am
Fri November 11, 2011

Two young veterans in Michigan share their stories

Staff Sergeant Vic Anthony Sasota and Captain Brandon Petrick of the Army's Great Lakes Battalion Lansing recruiting office. Petrick says he was the first in his family to serve in the military. Sasota joined in remembrance of his father.
Morse/Brush U.S. Army/Michigan Radio

There are close to 22 million veterans in the U.S., and around 1.7 million of them are less than 35 years old.

These young veterans volunteered for the military. And their reasons for joining depended on any number of things: a personal sense of duty to serve their country; following in a family member's footsteps; joining up with trusted friends; a chance to see the world; or a shot at a better life.

Whatever the reason, there's no doubt about the sacrifices these service members and their families have made.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have largely been sustained by multiple deployments from military personal, long tours, and shorter times between deployments. And the more deployments, the higher the risk.

Bernard Rostker is a Senior Fellow at the Rand Corporation and author of a book on the all-volunteer military. He said that over the last ten years, researchers were surprised by the number of people re-enlisting.

"This war was sustained not by recruiting, but by re-enlistments, and that surprised a lot of us who had been in the business a long time. The notion that a career military force would go to war and that they would then re-up at much higher rates, and that’s what we saw," said Rostker.

"Units that had re-enlistment goals, were achieving 125% of their re-enlistment goal," he said.

When I asked him why so many people re-upped, Rostker said it had a lot to do with today's military being a professional force.

"They had joined the military, because they wanted to join the military, and they were doing what they had been trained to do," said Rostker. "They were not just sitting around at garrison, they were out eagerly involved."

If you ask Captain Brandon Petrick and Staff Sergeant Vic Anthony Sasota at the Army's Great Lakes Battalion Lansing Company recruiting office, they likely would agree with Rostker.

They both served multiple tours in these wars.

You can hear part of my conversation with them (edited for radio) above.

Election 2011
11:00 am
Wed November 9, 2011

A new mayor in West Michigan, but he lost the vote count

Montague, Michigan is north of Muskegon.
Google Maps

In the  small West Michigan city of Montague, a new mayor was elected even though he had fewer votes than his challenger.

That's because his challenger had died a week before the election.

From the Muskegon Chronicle:

Montague has a new mayor for the first time in 20 years despite more votes being cast for the longtime incumbent who died a week before the election.

Henry Roesler Jr., who was seeking his 11th consecutive term as mayor, received the most votes cast in the city's mayoral election, but his votes don't officially count based on state law. Therefore, Kevin Erb, the challenger, won the two-year term.

State law says votes for a deceased candidate are void.

Election 2011
12:25 am
Wed November 9, 2011

Jackson Mayor Karen Dunigan defeated by challenger

Jackson Mayor Karen Dunigan (at podium). She was defeated by challenger Martin Griffin, himself a former mayor of Jackson.
Michigan Municipal League

A former mayor in Jackson, Michigan will become mayor once again.

Martin Griffin defeated incumbent Mayor Karen Dunigan.

The Jackson Citizen Patriot reports that Griffin won the seat again after a five-year absence:

Griffin, who was mayor from 1995 to 2006, had 2,199 votes or 62 percent to Dunigan's 1,340 or 38 percent, according to unofficial results from the Jackson County Clerk's office.

"I just feel great," said Griffin, who was celebrating his victory at the Night Light. "I think the people want city government to move forward. I think they're tired of the bickering"...

Dunigan said it was an honor to be mayor and she was proud of what she did even though she was not re-elected.

"I know if nothing else, I elevated the position of the mayor in the city and I did bring back the respect that position holds," Dunigan said.

Dunigan said she's not sure whether she'll run for the seat again, but she plans to stay involved in the community.

Election 2011
11:58 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Ann Arbor approves millages, gets new council member

Voters approve money for streets and sidewalks in Ann Arbor.
user ellenm1 Flickr

Residents in the city of Ann Arbor voted in favor of two millages.

One increases their taxes to pay for sidewalk repairs. The other is a renewal for street maintenance.

More from AnnArbor.com's Ryan Stanton:

City officials were confident heading into the election the street millage — which brings in about $9.1 million a year and is essential to paying for streets and bridges in Ann Arbor — would be renewed. But they were less certain about the sidewalk millage.

Ann Arbor's city code currently requires property owners to maintain the sidewalks adjacent to their properties...

City officials say passage of the millage marks a shift away from an admittedly unpopular program that's placed a heavy burden on individuals.

And the Ann Arbor City Council will get a fresh face.

Jane Lumm, an independent, defeated incumbent Stephen Rapundalo in the city's 2nd Ward race.

Again, more from AnnArbor.com:

Cheers erupted shortly before 8:30 p.m. at her election night party at Paesano on Washtenaw Avenue where Lumm later gave a victory speech to a crowd of several dozen supporters.

Percentage-wise, Lumm picked up 60 percent of the vote. Rapundalo is said to be with supporters at his private residence and is not welcoming the media.

Election 2011
11:54 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Dayne Walling wins Flint mayoral race in shadow of EM announcement

The person elected as mayor of Flint might not have any power if an emergency manager is appointed.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Update 11:54 p.m.

Flint mayor Dayne Walling claims victory.

Walling easily won re-election over challenger Darryl Buchanan.

But Walling's victory is tempered by the Governor deciding that the city of Flint is facing a financial emergency.

Governor Snyder will likely name an emergency manager to run the city.   Mayor Walling says he looks forward to working with whoever is appointed.

Read more
Election 2011
11:35 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Michigan State Representative Paul Scott has been recalled

Update 11:35 p.m.

Rick Pluta just called in to say that Michigan State Representative Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) has been recalled. Scott conceded defeat saying his campaign did their best, they came up short, and that he will not rule out running again in the future.

Scott is the first sitting state lawmaker to be recalled since 1983.

Read more
Election 2011
11:24 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Kalamazoo votes to chill out on marijuana enforcement

Kalamazoo voters supported an effort aimed at making possession of a small amount of marijuana a "low" priority for police.
USFWS

Voters in Kalamazoo voted to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a "low" local police priority.

Supporters of the effort said police in the city should instead focus on violent crime.

More from the Kalamazoo Gazette:

All votes are in and Kalamazoo citizens voted to make a small amount of marijuana use a low priority for Kalamazoo’s law enforcers on Tuesday night.

The ballot initiative passed with 4,649 "yes" votes to 2,416 that voted it down.

The proposal read: “Shall the Kalamazoo City Charter be amended such that the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of usable marijuana by adults 21 years or older is the lowest priority of law enforcement personnel?”

Kalamazoo is the first city in the state to have such charter language.

The city's Public Safety director has said that the result of the vote will most likely not effect how police in the city do their job.

Election 2011
11:09 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Lansing voters pass public safety and road millage

Lansing voters decided whether or not to increase their taxes to pay for public safety services.
Joel Dinda Flickr

Update 11:09 p.m.

Voters rejected it in May, but supported it in November.

Lansing residents have voted to increase their taxes to pay for public safety.

From the Lansing State Journal:

The city of Lansing’s millage proposal passed with all precincts reporting, according to unofficial results.

Nearly 52 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the millage.

The five-year, 4-mill proposal will generate $7.6 million in the first year for police and fire services and local road maintenance.

Read more
Election 2011
11:01 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Detroit voters approve new city charter

Detroit voters have cast their ballots this evening.
user ccpablocosta Flickr

Voters in Detroit have capped a two-year process by approving a new city charter.

Detroiters voted to open the charter up for an overhaul in 2009, amidst questions about whether the current city charter enabled corruption.

An elected charter commission spent two years putting together the proposal. It faced stiff resistance from some prominent Detroit figures, including several Detroit City Council members.

But in the end, the new charter passed overwhelmingly, with about 58% of the vote.

Read more
Election 2011
9:59 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Close mayoral race in Benton Harbor, EM's proposals defeated

Benton Harbor
Google Maps

West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith called in with these unofficial election results from the city of Benton Harbor.

In the race for Benton Harbor mayor, the city is reporting this result:

  • James Hightower has 681 votes
  • Wilce Cooke has 673 votes

It's a close race, so we'll have to watch how this one is "officially" called.

And whether the winner ends up being Hightower or Cooke, neither will have any official power.

The city is still under the power of state-appointed emergency manager Joe Harris.

Smith reports that all seven of Harris' proposed charter amendments in the city were voted down.

Politics
5:14 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Don't forget, Election Day is tomorrow! (a resource to help)

Update 9:16 a.m.

Our Facebook users are not having much luck with this resource. Some are seeing their ballot, while others are not. This message appears when searching on Publius:

Due to limited resources in 2011, only some jurisdictions have interactive sample ballot information. All polling locations are current. We hope to have everything back where it should be in 2012.

Monday, November 7, 5:14 p.m.

Election Day is tomorrow.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m in Michigan.

It's an easy-to-miss election because there are not a lot of high profile campaigns going on, but there are likely some important local issues in your area.

Here's a resource that might help with your election research:

Publius - find out what's on your ballot

Publius is a great resource.

Enter your name and city and up pops your polling location and it shows you what exactly will be on your ballot.

A good place to start. If the issues don't look familiar, more research is warranted.

Science/Medicine
4:18 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

Michigan DHS says parents negligent for refusing more cancer treatment

A family from Michigan's Upper Peninsula is refusing additional chemotherapy and radiation treatments for their 10-year-old son, according to a report from WLUC-TV in Marquette, MI.

Jacob Stieler of Skandia, Michigan was diagnosed with a rare form cancer known as "Ewing Sarcoma." He was treated, an is considered cancer-free, but doctors say he still needs additional treatments.

Read more
Politics
11:51 am
Mon November 7, 2011

Michigan's charitible giving tax credit expires at the end of the year

The Michigan charitable giving tax credit expires at the end of this year.
John Morgan Flickr

(*Editor's note - Michigan Radio, as a licensee of the University of Michigan, benefits from this tax credit)

The Michigan charitable giving tax credit expires at the end of the year, and charities are expecting the amount people donate to charities to drop as a result.

The charitable giving credit was ended as part of Governor Snyder's effort to pay for a business tax cut of more than $1.5 billion.

The credit allows Michigan taxpayers to essentially double their contribution when they give to community foundations, homeless shelters, food banks and public institutions (such as Michigan universities, museums, public libraries, and public broadcasting stations).

For a single filer, half their contribution can come off their Michigan tax bill up to a $200 contribution. Joint filers can take half of a $400 contribution.

Brian Conner of the Detroit News wrote a piece on the expected effects of the credit's expiration.

Conner writes that charities in Michigan don't quite know how much of their donations are tied to the credit, but the expect to take some kind of a hit.

Read more
News Roundup
11:01 am
Mon November 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

Republican candidates to debate in Michigan this Wednesday

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports the nationally televised Republican presidential debate will be held at Oakland University this Wednesday. The debate will begin at 8 p.m. and coverage on CNBC will start at 7 p.m. The economy is expected to be a major focus of the debate.

The University has a series of events planned around the debate.

UM nurses approves 3-year contract

Nurses working at the University of Michigan Health System have been working without a contract since July 1. Now they've agreed to a three year deal with UMHS.

From the Detroit News:

The University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council's membership this past weekend approved a new contract that includes a phasing in of health insurance premium increases and includes 3 percent wage increases the first and second years and 4 percent the third year of the contract, plus step increases, said Katie Oppenheim , president of the nurse council.

New Visitor Center for the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge

U.S. Representative John Dingell's dream of an international wildlife refuge along the Detroit River flyway became a reality in 2001. And the Refuge continues to receive investments.

The Associated Press reports the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is getting almost $1.4 million for work next year at the site of a future visitor's center. Officials plan to announce the funding in Trenton today. They are also marking the completion of $1.2 million in cleanup and restoration at the Refuge Gateway.

News Roundup
9:05 am
Fri November 4, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit bus drivers refuse to drive

Drivers refused to go on their routes after a fellow driver was involved in an altercation with passengers. More from the Associated Press:

Dan Lijana, a spokesman for Mayor Dave Bing, tells The Associated Press that Detroit Department of Transportation drivers reported to work early Friday but refused to drive. He says the mayor's office believes it's in response to Thursday's altercation at downtown's Rosa Parks Transit Center.

WDIV-TV broadcast video of the altercation it says was submitted by a viewer and shows a driver backing away from several people.

Mayor Bing's office just put this out over Twitter:

We are in discussion with the bus drivers’ union and are optimistic DDOT buses will be operational today. #Detroit

Supreme Court wants more info on emergency manager case

The Michigan Supreme Court says it wants more information before deciding whether to hear a case challenging Michigan's new emergency manager law. Rick Pluta of the Michigan Public Radio Network reports:

The Supreme Court gave both sides until mid-December to file arguments on why the justices should circumvent the usual path of a lawsuit through the appeals process, and why they should win in the end.

An emergency manager for Highland Park schools?

Detroit Mayor Bing has speculated that Detroit might eventually need an emergency manager. Now, there's speculation that Highland Park schools might also need an EM.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports:

Highland Park schools could be Michigan’s second school district to get an emergency manager. The state moved a step closer to that scenario today.

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed a 10-member team to comb through the troubled school district’s finances – and maybe help it avoid a state takeover.

Transportation
2:17 pm
Thu November 3, 2011

Detroit International Bridge Company found in contempt of court

The Ambassador Bridge. The Michigan Department of Transportation and the owners of the bridge are having conflicts over new construction connecting the bridge to local roads and highways.
Jim Wallace Flickr

A Judge has found the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge in contempt of court.

Update 2:17 p.m.

Here's an update from the Associated Press with reaction from the Ambassador Bridge owners:

DETROIT (AP) - The company that owns the Ambassador Bridge says a judge is wrong to find it in contempt for failing to finish work on a project linking the U.S.-Canada span with two Detroit interstates.

Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards will wait until Jan. 12 to order a penalty, but he wants bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Maroun at that hearing.

Detroit International Bridge Company says piers have been properly built and more work will be completed by January. It says it will appeal the judge's contempt order announced Thursday.

The state of Michigan sued the company after it failed to meet a deadline to finish its part of a $230 million project to improve traffic at the bridge linking Detroit and Ontario.

Read more
News Roundup
9:33 am
Thu November 3, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit Mayor Bing says city might need emergency manager

In an interview with the Detroit News, Mayor Bing said the city is facing a coming budget crises, and if it comes down to the city being run by an emergency manager, he'd consider the job.

More from the Detroit News:

Mayor Dave Bing on Wednesday said Detroit is quickly running out of cash and may require the intervention of an emergency manager, a role he is seriously considering if the governor asks.

The mayor, in an interview Wednesday, said he is troubled by a confidential Ernst & Young financial report that shows the city could run out of money by February and the fact that employee unions have not been willing to come to the table to renegotiate their contracts.

Bing said he's "got to have a heart-to-heart" talk with himself because he's already overworked and rarely sees his family, but "tough decisions need to be made."

"I'm giving that serious thought," said Bing, who is more than two years into his first term. "With an emergency manager it gives you, I think, authority and leverage to do some of the things that need to be done.

 Michigan recovery second fastest, but outlook pessimistic  The state is on a path to recovery, but it's not necessarily a rosy path.  The Detroit News reports: 

Michigan's economy is recovering from the recession at the second-fastest pace in the U.S., lifted by reviving carmakers and local manufacturers, according to a new index of state growth.

The home of Motown was topped only by North Dakota, where an oil boom is raising incomes at the nation's quickest rate... [according to] the new Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States Index...

"In a slow recovery like you have today, it doesn't take all that much growth to stand out," said Mark Vitner, an economist who works for Wells Fargo & Co. in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Michigan Radio's Rina Miller took a look at Michigan's seemingly mixed economic messages. She spoke with Bob Tomarelli, an analyst with IHS who said:

"So while they are getting a nice short-term burst that’s adding to payrolls and creating some jobs, or at least bringing some jobs back, it is not expected to keep up at that pace, and in the long run is actually expected to decline."

Anti-bullying measure passes Senate

The Michigan Senate passed an anti-bullying measure yesterday. More from Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network:

All school districts in Michigan may soon be required to adopt anti-bullying policies to help protect students from ridicule, humiliation and physical threats.

An anti-bullying bill approved by the state Senate would not, however, protect students from bullying done by teachers, school employees or parents.

The measure also does not protect students from cyber-bullying on home computers, nor does it list the traits or characteristics that are protected from bullying— such as gender, race or sexual orientation.

Politics
11:37 am
Wed November 2, 2011

Video: A visit with Michigan militia members

A Michigan militia member speaking with Rina Miller.
Pete Tombers

Here's a video we produced back in February of 2010.

It gives us a quick look at a militia in Michigan and helps us understand why people participate in militias.

Running themes for participating are a distrust of the government and being ready should society break down.

One member says, "I'm worried about the damage that government interference has done to the economy. How much of your tax dollars are sent to other countries? Countries that people can't even pronounce, so I think you need to narrow taxation down to exactly what's spelled out in the Constitution."

Interviews by Rina Miller and video by Pete Tombers. Michigan Radio's multimedia producer Mercedes Mejia produced the video.

Offbeat
11:10 am
Wed November 2, 2011

Squirrel blamed in Grand Rapids for power outage

A red squirrel in Michigan.
Steve Burt Flickr

Colder weather means squirrels are looking for indoor homes and places to cache their food. Some are more aggressive in establishing their indoor domiciles than others.

From the Associated Press:

Officials at Consumers Energy are blaming a squirrel for knocking out electrical service to about 10,000 customers yesterday in the Grand Rapids area. The critter managed to get into a piece of equipment at a substation, briefly knocking out power.

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