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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Education
4:37 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Fact finder sides with CMU administration in dispute over salary and benefits

A state-appointed fact finder has issued a report on the dispute between the Central Michigan University Faculty Association and the administration.
CMU

The Central Michigan University Faculty Association held a strike on the first day of classes last August. The union said the CMU administration was not bargaining on their new contract in good faith.

A judge ordered the striking faculty members back to work and a state appointed fact finder heard both sides of the grievances in early September.

Now that fact finder, Barry Goldman, has let issued a report siding with the CMU administration on salary and benefit issues, according to Lindsay Knake of the Saginaw News.

More from the Saginaw News:

With salary adjustments, Goldman acknowledged in the report CMU has $228 million in unrestricted net assets, but said the university cannot be as generous with the funds as it appears.

“The CMU proposal of a zero increase in the first year and modest increases in subsequent years is not an unreasonable offer, all things considered. Circumstances are bad and getting worse. It would be extremely unwise for CMU to eat its seed corn,” Goldman’s statement said.

The administration’s offer includes a wage freeze for one year with increases equal to 4 percentage points over three years.

Golman also said the faculty should accept the health care plan being offered by the administration. His findings are non-binding, according to the Saginaw News.

Detroit
3:47 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Judge dismisses Tamara Greene lawsuit

Federal district court judge Gerald Rosen has dismissed a case brought by the family of Tamara Greene against the city of Detroit and former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Greene was killed in a shooting in Detroit back in 2003. Her family sued the city and Kilpatrick for sabotaging Tamara Greene's murder investigation.

There had been rumors that Greene danced at a party at the mayor's residence in 2002. It was never proven that the party happened.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

Schapka, the city lawyer on the case, had urged Rosen to dismiss the lawsuit, saying years of litigation, dozens of sworn depositions, 10,000 pages of Detroit police and fire documents and more than 11 million pages of police computer files dating from Greene’s death failed to substantiate the party rumor or prove that Kilpatrick or others obstructed Greene’s murder probe.

Two federal magistrates waded through 626,638 text messages retrieved from city-issued pagers during the period surrounding the party and Greene’s death, but only 36 had any relevance to the lawsuit and none shed any light on the killing or the murder investigation, the city said.

Read more
Auto/Economy
2:01 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Old General Motors facility sold to industrial contractor

The Associated Press reports that an industrial contractor has bought a former General Motors facility in Pontiac with plans to use the 6-acre property for an expansion.

More from a Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust press release:

An industrial contracting company has purchased the former GM ACG Penske facility on Oakland Avenue, with plans to expand its business at the six-acre property.

The RACER Trust sold the property, which includes a 32,000-square-foot building with multiple truck bays, to Lee Contracting, headquartered across the street from the ACG Penske facility, at 675 Oakland Ave.

Lee Contracting Founder and President Ed Lee said he plans to expand his more than 200-employee company, and the former ACG Penske property provides a perfect fit. “This was a great opportunity to build upon our business right here in Michigan,” he said. “Having this great site right across from our current facility provides us with a base to continue expanding the business.”

Lee Contracting is a single-source contractor specializing in complete turnkey solutions for industrial and manufacturing clients.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Transportation
11:26 am
Tue November 1, 2011

Does it make sense to invest more in Michigan's rail system?

The miles of railroad track in Michigan today matches the miles of track we had back in 1880.
Draft Michigan Rail Plan MDOT

This was an interesting graph I came across in MDOT's draft report, Michigan State Rail Plan.

The miles of railroad we have in the state today, match what we had back in 1880.

The state went from a peak of 9,059 miles in 1909, to 3,900 miles today - a decline of almost 60%.

It makes sense.

The internal combustion engine began competing with rail at the turn of the last century. Trucks and cars began moving more freight and people.

Read more
Auto/Economy
10:28 am
Tue November 1, 2011

Robots for the sick and elderly, Toyota unveils a plan

Toyota officials demonstrated their violin playing robot back in December of 2007. The company plans to sell robots that can help the sick and elderly.
screen grab from YouTube video

Officials from Toyota Motor Corporation say the company will start selling robots that help elderly and sick people. The Associated Press reports the company is "aiming for commercial products sometime after 2013."

From the Associated Press:

Toyota unveiled its ambitions for high-tech health care Tuesday, displaying experimental robots that the auto giant says can lift disabled patients from their hospital beds or help them walk.

The company aims to commercialize products such as its "independent walk assist" device sometime after 2013 – seeking to position itself in an industry with great potential in Japan, one of the world's most rapidly aging nations.

Prices and overseas sales plans are still undecided.

Several years ago, the company demonstrated a violin playing robot:

The 1.5-metre tall Violin-playing Robot, equipped with a total of 17 joints in each of its hands and arms, uses precise control and coordination to achieve human-like agility. It could also be used to assist with domestic duties or nursing and medical care.

Here's a video of Toyota's robot playing Pomp and Circumstance:

Transportation
3:57 pm
Mon October 31, 2011

Detroit to Chicago in less than 4 hours? 3 upgrades for Michigan passenger rail

The 135 miles of rail line from Dearborn to Kalamazoo will be owned by the state of Michigan. The state is purchasing the line from Norfolk Southern Railway with the help of federal stimulus money. Once completed, the upgraded line will increase speeds.
MDOT

Most of the upgrades are happening along the Detroit to Chicago route. That's because this line was designated as a high speed rail corridor by the federal government back in 1992.

With that designation comes federal grant dollars.

And recently, it has meant hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars.

Read more
Politics
10:50 am
Mon October 31, 2011

Former Michigan assistant Attorney General suing over ouster

Former Michigan assistant Attorney General, Andrew Shirvell, explaining his actions on CNN last year.
screen grab from CNN report

Former Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell is doing what lawyers often do - he's suing.

Shirvell is going after a Detroit-based lawyer for delivering information that led to his firing from the Michigan Attorney General's Office.

While he was an assistant Attorney General, Shirvell used a blog to assail a University of Michigan student government president for promoting "a radical homosexual agenda" on campus.

He was later fired and is now being sued by Chris Armstrong, the former student government president, in federal court.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Now, Shirvell is suing attorney Deborah Gordon, who is representing U-M student Chris Armstrong. Shirvell claims Gordon fed information to investigators at the attorney general's office. He also has accused her of defamation.

Gordon says the lawsuit is "crazy." Shirvell expects the case will be combined with the pending lawsuit filed against him by Armstrong. Shirvell moved to North Babylon, N.Y., after leaving Michigan state government.

Shirvell explained his actions in an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper last year:

Offbeat
8:56 am
Mon October 31, 2011

A warning to Ann Arbor residents this morning

A warning from Ann Arbor Road workers.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Ann Arbor residents were warned about a potential danger lurking around the city today.

These are likely the smaller, softer, and less dangerous versions of true velociraptors.

Be alert today!

Auto/Economy
1:27 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Chrysler CEO says two-class pay system is not viable

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says he wants to eventually do away with the two-tier pay system.
user socialisbetter Flickr

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the two-class pay system currently in place will have to be replaced with a single wage system in the next round of contract talks with the United Auto Workers.

The UAW and Chrysler just approved a 4-year contract with the two-class pay system in place, so the next opportunity to revise the system won't come until the next round of contract negotiations.

More from the Associated Press:

Negotiations for that contract start in 2015.

He says the current system creates two classes of workers. New workers in the bottom tier make about half as much money as longtime UAW members.

Marchionne didn't say how he would come up with one wage. But it's likely he'll try to reduce the pay of top-tier workers. General Motors and Ford could follow and pay could be cut for most of the UAW's 112,000 members.

UAW workers approved a four-year contract with Chrysler on Wednesday. It includes raises for bottom-tier workers.

More on what Marchionne said comes from Changing Gears reporter, Pete Bigelow:

The structure is, “not something that can go on for a long period of time,” he said on a conference call to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings. Marchionne continued, saying, two-tiers is “not a viable structure on which to build our industrial footprint.”

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson provided some insights into the two-class pay system in a piece she produced last year for Changing Gears.

At the time, the starting rate for a "two-tier" worker was $14 an hour. The new contracts have pushed the starting rate for "two-tier" workers above $19 an hour.

Economy
12:45 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Whirlpool to cut 5,000 jobs to reduce costs

Whirlpool

Update 12:45 p.m.

Jeff Noel, a Whirlpool company spokesman, would not give Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith a number. When pressed further about the job losses expected in Michigan, Noel said it would be “a commensurate amount."

10:06 a.m.

In a cost cutting measure, the Benton Harbor-based company Whirlpool says it will cut 5,000 jobs. There's no word yet on how many of those job cuts will be in Michigan.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith is following the story and will have more for us later.

From the Associated Press:

Appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. says it will cut 5,000 jobs in an effort as it faces soft demand and higher costs for materials.

The jobs to be cut are mostly in North America and Europe. They include 1,200 salaried positions and the closing of the company's Fort Smith, Ark., plant.

The company expects the moves will save $400 million by the end of 2013.

Whirlpool also says its third-quarter net income more than doubled to $177 million, or $2.27 per share, from $79 million, or $1.02 per share. Adjusted earnings of $2.35 per share fell short of analyst expectations for $2.75 per share.

The company, whose brands include Maytag and KitchenAid, has been squeezed by higher costs for materials such as steel and copper.

Bloomberg News reports that Whirlpool employs 71,000 people around the world "at 66 manufacturing and research sites.":

Whirlpool follows European rival Electrolux AB (ELUXB) with a more muted outlook for the year. The Swedish company said today that it will deepen cost cuts after lowering a forecast for growth in Europe and North America this year. Whirlpool said reductions in Europe and North America account for about 10 percent of all employees in those regions. The company has a global workforce of 71,000 at 66 manufacturing and research sites.

Politics
11:59 am
Fri October 28, 2011

Michigan lawmaker wants to increase amount of time legislators can serve

Lawmakers are limited in the number of terms they can serve in Lansing by the state Constitution. Some say these limits lead to ineffective governing.
user aunt owwee Flickr

In 1992, Michigan voters amended the state Constitution and put limits on the number of terms legislators in Lansing can serve.

State representatives in Michigan are limited to three terms.

State senators are limited to two terms.

Last year, the state had a massive influx of new legislators in Lansing because of term limits. More than half of them were replaced.

Now, one representative in Lansing wants to extend how much time a legislator can serve.

More from the Associated Press:

Rep. Rick Olson plans to offer a resolution next month allowing lawmakers to serve a total of 14 years in either the House or Senate while letting each year's session run only from January through June.

The Saline Republican told reporters Friday after taping public television's "Off the Record" program that he doesn't think the current term limits allowing just three two-year terms in the House and two four-year terms in the Senate are giving lawmakers enough time to learn the job.

The former Adrian Public Schools business manager wants lawmakers to serve up to 14 years in just one chamber if they choose. His proposal would take effect after 2014 so most current lawmakers couldn't extend their stays.

It also would let the governor call special sessions if needed.

Politics
2:07 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Increased spending in state high court races, Michigan tops the list

A report by the Brennan Center for Justice, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, and the Justice at State Campaign says the outside money being spent in state high court races amounts to a "hostile takeover of judicial elections."

The authors of the report, the New Politics of Judicial Elections 2009-2010, wrote that $16.8 million was spent on television advertising for state high court elections in the 2009-10 election cycle — "making 2009-10 the costliest non-presidential election cycle for TV spending in judicial elections."

According to the report, more television campaign ads for state high court elections ran in Michigan than in any other state during the 2010 election cycle.

10,781 ads ran in Michigan. That total accounts for 29 percent of the total state high court campaign ads to run across the country.

And for total money spent on these campaigns, Michigan is at the top.

From the report:

Michigan, ranked sixth in candidate fundraising, surges to No. 1 when all sources of money, including independent TV ads, are considered.

The Top Ten states by total spending on state high court elections, 2009-2010:

Read more
History
11:59 am
Thu October 27, 2011

Michigan's first governor is the youngest state governor in American history

Stevens T. Mason - Michigan's 1st Governor. He served from 1835 to 1840. He was 23 when he was first elected and is the youngest Governor in American history.
wikimedia commons

They called him the "boy Governor" because he was elected to be Michigan's first Governor at age 23.

Today is Stevens T. Mason's 200th Birthday.

At noon today, a statement from Michigan's 48th Governor, Rick Snyder, will be read about the state's first Governor. The governor's offices says the statement will be read "during a ceremony honoring Mason hosted by the Michigan Historical Commission." 

The ceremony is at noon today at Detroit’s Capitol Park, "the location of Michigan’s first Capitol and Mason’s burial site."

Here's Governor Snyder's statement:

“The story of Michigan’s first governor is the story of Michigan’s birth.  Although his actions often made him unpopular in his time, today we owe Stevens T. Mason thanks for his relentless pursuit of statehood.

“When Congress refused to act on a petition to grant statehood, Mason initiated a territorial census to prove the territory qualified under the Ordinance of 1787.  When Congress refused to seat Michigan’s delegates, Mason reached a resolution that ended the dispute over the Toledo Territory and gave Michigan the western reaches of the Upper Peninsula.  And when Michigan’s own people refused to accept the terms of this agreement, Mason forged ahead and led a new convention that resulted in Michigan joining the Union.  All by the age of 25. 

“Michigan has a rich, fascinating history of innovators, builders and leaders like Stevens T. Mason who helped turn Michigan’s unsettled wilderness into a state that eventually became an industrial powerhouse.  When we remember them, we remember and are inspired by the qualities of the people who made our state great.” 

Auto/Economy
11:27 am
Thu October 27, 2011

Chrysler reports profits for second consecutive quarter

Ricardo Giaviti Flickr

On the heels of the approval of a four-year contract with the United Auto Workers comes news of a 3rd quarter profit from Chrysler.

The company reported a profit of $212 million for the 3rd quarter (July, August, and September). The company had reported a second quarter profit earlier this year ($181 million for the months of April, May, June).

From Chrysler's press release:

Chrysler Group LLC today reported preliminary net income of $212 million for the third quarter, compared with a net loss of $84 million a year ago, as the Company continues to increase sales and benefit from its alliance with Fiat S.p.A.

In the third quarter of 2011, net revenue was $13.1 billion, a 19 percent increase from the third quarter of 2010, driven by increased demand for Chrysler Group’s 16 all-new or significantly refreshed cars and trucks.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said these profits show the company is back on track:

"In the third quarter, Chrysler Group achieved increased sales and positive financial results, totally in line with the plan we laid out in November 2009. And in October, together with the United Auto Workers, we crafted a solid four-year contract that will support us in our growth plans and significantly reward our employees for their contribution to the revival of Chrysler," said Marchionne.

The Detroit Free Press reports the company "predicted it would make between $200 million and $500 million this year."

Economy
4:31 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

Governor Snyder wants more investment in Michigan's infrastructure

Governor Snyder said that every dollar invested in Michigan roads and bridges saves six dollars in the future.
user nirbhao Flickr

In a speech today directed toward the Michigan Legislature, Governor Snyder expressed his desire to improve just about every bit of infrastructure in the state.

Roads, bridges, airports, ports, rail, water lines, sewage pipes, and broadband Internet connectivity - it was all on the table, and the Michigan Governor said the state's infrastructure was suffering from a lack of investment.

The Governor said the state's economic recovery is tied to investing in all these bits of infrastructure, and that there is "no time to waste."

Read more
News Roundup
9:36 am
Wed October 26, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit school cited for overcrowding

Last week, the Detroit News reported on overcrowding in DPS classrooms. They reported on 55 kindergartners in a class at Nolan Elementary School, and that a science course in a DPS high school had 72 students. Now there's news of one school being cited by the city's fire department.

From the Detroit News:

A Detroit public school was cited Tuesday by the Detroit Fire Marshal's Office for overcrowding after a parent complained to fire officials that too many children were in her son's kindergarten class.

Lt. Gerod Funderburg of the Detroit Fire Department said the fire marshal's office issued a citation at Nolan Elementary School, 1150 Lantz.

"They went out today and issued a ticket for overcrowding," Funderburg said.

Detroit home prices on the rebound?

Home prices have been sliding in Detroit prior to the Great Recession, but there are some good signs in Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Low inventories of homes on the market and increased demand have hoisted metro Detroit home prices by 6.1% since the beginning of the year, according to research by IHS Global Insight.

So are home prices finally on the rebound after five years in decline -- or is this a temporary lull before another big drop during the fall?

Most industry experts don't expect a huge drop, but IHS has forecast another 5% to 10% home price decline nationwide before recovery begins.

An analyst told the Free Press that because Detroit entered the housing slump before the rest of the country, it might recover ahead of the rest of the country as well - especially as the region adds more jobs.

Smashed pumpkins on the morning commute

From the Associated Press:

It was no treat driving on a Detroit-area freeway after a truck dumped a load of pumpkins during the morning commute.

Hundreds of pumpkins were scattered Wednesday across several lanes of traffic on eastbound Interstate 696 in Farmington Hills.

Many of the pumpkins were pulverized as drivers passed through. Video from a traffic camera showed motorists slowly making their way through the pre-Halloween mess.

WWJ-AM reports snow plows later were used to clear what remained of the pumpkins from the roadway.

Michigan State Police Sgt. James Kemp tells the Detroit Free Press that one motorist had a smashed  windshield, but no injuries were reported.

Kemp says police stopped the truck and the driver could be cited for having an unstable load.

Environment
3:40 pm
Tue October 25, 2011

Northern Lights in Michigan... in case you missed the show last night

Last night's northern lights as seen in near Martin, Michigan.
user lakefxnet YouTube

Last night, some people in Michigan and in states as far south as Arkansas looked up and saw a spectacular aurora borealis display.

Here's a time lapse look at the lights that were visible last night near Martin, Michigan:

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Auto/Economy
2:00 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

General Motors to invest $325 million at Warren transmission plant

General Motors officials said they will "create or retain" 418 jobs with a $325 million investment at a suburban Detroit transmission plant. The company says it will invest "in tools and equipment to support production of future electric vehicle components."

So which is it? Are they creating or retaining the jobs?

According this report in Crain's Detroit Business, 360 jobs will be created at the plant in Warren, Michigan as a result of the new UAW contract:

The company would not say how many of the 418 jobs will be new positions. But a summary of GM’s new four-year contract with the UAW said 360 jobs will be added at the plant for a new transmission that originally was to have been built in Mexico. The union said that the jobs were brought to the U.S. as part of the new contract.

At this point, GM is not revealing the timing for the project.

According to GM, 679 current employees at  the plant in Warren make transmissions for the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and the Chevrolet Malibu sedan.

From a GM press release:

“This investment in the future recognizes the excellent work force and operation of this plant,” said GM Manufacturing Manager Gerald Johnson. “While we aren’t sharing many details about this product, I can tell you that this investment demonstrates how GM, working with our UAW partners, continues to innovate and bring new electrification solutions to our customers.”

The 2.1 million square-foot plant, equivalent to the area of 15 city blocks, produced more than 338,000 transmissions in 2010.

“We are very proud of the membership of UAW Local 909 whose hard work and dedication to building quality products is why this new electric drive unit module is being built in the United States,” said Joe Ashton, UAW vice president representing the GM Department.  “These good paying, middle class jobs are very important for the State of Michigan and the Metro Detroit area.  It is the UAW’s goal to increase employment at GM and show the world that we can compete with anyone.”

Environment
2:43 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Exotic animals killed in Ohio puts spotlight on Michigan bill

The tragedy that unfolded for the exotic animals near Zanesville, Ohio on Tuesday night and Wednesday highlighted the lack of regulation in Ohio for a particular type of animal compound.

Terry Thompson kept bears, tigers, lions, monkeys, and other animals on his property.

He reportedly did not display them to the public for compensation, and was not required to carry a permit from the USDA. And an Ohio state law regulating exotic animals had expired.

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Breaking
12:41 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court: Recall effort against state representative Paul Scott can go forward

Update 12:41 p.m.

Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook issed a statement in response to the Michigan Supreme Court's decision to allow the recall of Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) to go forward.

In the statement, Cook said voters are "fed up with the decisions" made in Lansing this year. He cited cuts to public education, taxes on pensions, and tax breaks for businesses as reasons for the recall.

From Cook's statement:

"Today’s decision allows those constituents to hold their representative accountable for his actions.  That’s what the law allows for and that’s what the courts have upheld today. We need lawmakers to stand up for our kids, not CEOs.  It is our sincere hope that this recall sends that message loud and clear to politicians in Lansing."

11:37 a.m.

More from the Associated Press:

The Genesee County clerk says a recall election targeting Republican Rep. Paul Scott of Grand Blanc is back on the Nov. 8 ballot.

County Clerk Michael Carr says Thursday his office received an order from the Michigan Supreme Court that puts the recall question back on the ballot.

The order reverses an earlier decision from a lower court that would have allowed Scott to avoid a recall election in November.

The effort to recall Scott is financed and backed by the Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers union. The MEA is unhappy with Scott, the chairman of the House Education Committee, for his leadership role in new laws that weaken the role of teacher tenure in the state.

A Michigan lawmaker has not faced a recall election since 2008.

11:06 a.m.

This just came in from the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta:

Michigan Supreme Court has reversed a lower court and says the recall question targeting state Representative Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) may go forward. If the question is certified, the recall question will go on the November ballot.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported on the recall campaign yesterday.

Paul Scott is among about a dozen Republican lawmakers targeted for recall by the Michigan Education Association. The Scott recall campaign is the only one that collected enough signatures to get the recall on the November ballot.

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