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
4:16 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Detroit city council unveils its cost-saving plans, calls for tax increase

Detroit is running out of money.

Last week, the mayor outlined some of his money saving ideas.

It's a plan that some on Detroit's city council said didn't go far enough.

Now, Detroit City Council is unveiling their plan.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the council's plan is a "is a last-ditch effort to avoid an emergency manager as the city faces the prospect of running out of cash by April..."

The Freep reports the council's plan would increase income taxes on Detroit residents from 2.5 percent to 3 percent, and nonresidents from 1.5 percent to 2 percent:

More from the Detroit Free Press:

As the city nears insolvency, Detroit City Council unveiled a rescue plan today that would increase income taxes by .5% on residents and nonresidents, lay off hundreds of firefighters and police officers and outsource ownership of the ailing busing system.

Other proposals include:

•Sharing health department services with a hospital or Wayne County.

•Cutting up to 2,300 workers.

•Eliminating subsidies to the Detroit Zoo, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Eastern Market, the Detroit Institute of the Arts and Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Museum.

•Demanding the Detroit Public School System pay its $15 million electric bill due to the city.

 

Some Council members have also floated the idea of a possible consent agreement, that would allow them to bypass the Mayor and implement the deeper cuts.

That would essentially give the Council most of the powers of an emergency manager, without stripping power from elected officials. It would require state approval.

Transportation
3:30 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Ann Arbor bridge project near Michigan Stadium set to begin next week

In Ann Arbor, the bridges along East Stadium Boulevard will soon be replaced.
annarborbridges.com

Demolition of two crumbling bridges near Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor will start November 28th, according to the city of Ann Arbor.

The Stadium Boulevard bridges were built in 1928 and they span South State Street and the Ann Arbor Railroad. The bridges have been in need of repair or replacement for some time and are considered "functionally obsolete."

The city of Ann Arbor was hoping federal transportation funds would come through to help rebuild the bridges. After missing out on one round, federal funding eventually did come through.

A $13.9 million grant from U.S. Department of Transportation's "Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery" (TIGER) program will help pay for part of the project. The remainder of the funding will come from the state of Michigan ($300,000), and the city of Ann Arbor ($6,600,000).

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Jobs
1:30 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Part of Obama's jobs bill signed into law today: Help for unemployed veterans

Last week, in my story on veterans and class, I reported on the rate of unemployment for veterans in Michigan. That rate was 13.1 percent last September, and it's likely much higher for Post 9-11 veterans (younger males tend to have higher unemployment rates).

Now, the federal government is stepping in to trying to improve the situation.

Today, President Obama signed into law the VOW to Hire Heroes Act, a law that will give companies thousands of dollars in tax credits for hiring unemployed veterans. It also beefs up employment training for veterans.

The Associated Press reports it passed both houses of Congress without a single "no" vote:

The legislation, which creates tax breaks for companies that hire jobless veterans, marks the first proposal from Obama's $447 billion jobs bill to be signed into law. The rest of the package of new taxes and spending has largely failed to garner support from Republican lawmakers.

"Because Democrats and Republicans came together, I'm proud to sign those proposals into law," Obama said during a signing ceremony Monday.

In a statement, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America released a statement praising the bill:

“With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this is a solid victory for the over 2.3 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families facing the toughest economy in decades. As Congress stalls on so many other issues, it’s good to see them come together in realizing that one of the smartest investments they can make is supporting the New Greatest Generation. While IAVA’s work in fighting veteran unemployment is not done, today is a big step in the right direction.”

According to the White House, the new law will give companies the following tax credits:

  • A "Returning Heroes Tax Credit" of up to $5,600 for businesses that hire veterans who have been looking for a job for more than six months
  • A "Wounded Warriors Tax Credit" of up to $9,600 for businesses that hire veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than six months.
Station News
10:56 am
Mon November 21, 2011

Ed Burrows, former Michigan Radio station manager, dies at 94

Edwin G. Burrows operating a reel to reel machine at Michigan Radio. Burrows was instrumental in securing federal funding for public radio. He helped to make sure radio was included in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.
Bentley Historical Library

Edwin G. Burrows who was Michigan Radio's station manager from 1948-1970 passed away yesterday at the age of 94.

Burrows was one of the leaders involved in securing federal funding for public radio through the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. Current.org has more on the interesting history of how radio was included in that legislation.

Below is the obituary from the family.

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Economy
3:31 pm
Thu November 17, 2011

U-M economic forecast: sluggish job growth

The nation's road to economic recovery will be a marathon, not a sprint. That's according to an economic forecast released today from the University of Michigan's Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics.

The economists write the U.S. economy has been battered by an oil price spike this past spring, the Japanese earthquake, and the European debt crisis.

Despite that, they say the chances of a double-dip recession are lessening:

From the report:

Economic news has improved a bit this fall, lessening the chances of a double dip. Output growth rebounded in the third quarter to register a 2.5 percent pace. Job gains have picked up a notch, averaging 117,000 since midyear. Consumer sentiment has reclaimed part of the ground lost since May. The economy remains vulnerable, however, as the main problems that have plagued this recovery persist.

The Detroit Free Press quoted U-M economist Joan Crary about the slow addition of jobs to the U.S. economy:

On the positive side, the U.S. economy added 700,000 jobs last year and 1.5 million this year, and the U-M economists predicted that the nation will add nearly 4 million jobs over the next two years.

But that will be enough to bring the unemployment rate down only moderately, from its current national rate around 9% to 8.8% in late 2012 and 8.5% in late 2013.

"The unemployment rate begins to creep down but remains uncomfortably high even at the end of 2013— 4½ years after the official end of the recession," Crary said.

In their report, the U-M economists noted the potential impact of a political stalemate in Washington D.C.:

In the current political environment, it also seems unlikely that Congress will pass any new stimulus measures. We have assumed the payroll tax holiday and investment tax incentives will be held over for another year, but neither of those extensions is a sure thing. We may well end up with a fiscal policy that doesn’t address either our short- or long-term problems.

The group is expected to put out a report on Michigan's economy tomorrow.

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Environment
4:40 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

EPA revises estimate for oil collected in Enbridge pipeline break

Enbridge's broken pipeline. When this part of oil pipeline 6b burst near Talmadge Creek in July 2010, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of gallons of diluted bitumen oil spilled into the creek and into the Kalamazoo River.
NTSB

There’s a new estimate of the amount of oil that’s been sucked out of the  Kalamazoo River.  And it’s higher than the amount of oil Enbridge Energy claims leaked from its pipeline 16 months ago.  

Enbridge Energy claims a little more than 843 thousand gallons of crude oil leaked from its pipeline near Marshall in July, 2010. But the Environmental Protection Agency says it has recovered more than 1.1 million gallons of oil from the Kalamazoo River during the 16 month cleanup. The EPA says it’s still investigating how much oil leaked from Enbridge’s pipeline.  

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Auto/Economy
2:56 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Michigan's unemployment rate ticks downward

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta reports, "the combination of a slight increase in jobs and a lot of people who quit looking for work led to Michigan's unemployment to drop by half a percentage point last month to 10.6 percent."

More from the Detroit Free Press:

Michigan’s unemployment rate is moving in the right direction again, dropping half a percentage point during October to 10.6%, the state’s Department of Technology, Management & Budget reported today.

But the state’s labor markets remain far from healthy. The jobless rate decline in October was due mainly to fewer unemployed people actively seeking employment, said Rick Waclawek, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. Such “discouraged” workers are no longer counted in the calculation of the unemployment rate.

Politics
2:39 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Report: Michigan and other states raising taxes on the poor

Michigan did not fall on the list of states taxing two parent families of four with incomes below the poverty line.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

The report was put out by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Its authors write there is "significant room for improvement" in how states tax low-income families. Some of it is inevitable, they write, since states are facing "the most difficult fiscal conditions in decades.":

But a few states have moved significantly backward in this area, raising taxes on low-income working families in order to finance tax cuts that benefit corporations and wealthy individuals.  Michigan, New Jersey, and Wisconsin, for example, have scaled back their EITCs [Earned Income Tax Credits] over the last two years while cutting business taxes, taxes on the wealthiest families, or both.

The Associated Press' Kathy Barks Hoffman wrote about the report. She writes that Michigan's low-income families will lose around $260 million annually next year, while businesses will be getting "a $1.1 billion tax break starting in January and a $1.7 billion tax break the year after":

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder originally wanted to eliminate the state Earned Income Tax Credit, but agreed to reduce it from 20 percent of the federal credit to 6 percent for tax year 2012. He said earlier this year that the state needed to make cuts to balance the budget and noted no cuts were being made in Medicaid programs providing health care to low-income working families. He also has said the business tax cuts will create employment opportunities.

Culture of Class
7:00 am
Wed November 16, 2011

Military service and the upwardly mobile

A family tradition of military service. Trevor Schewe (left) served in the Coast Guard. His brother Ryan (center) served in the Air Force. And his Dad Steve (right) served in the Army.
courtesy of Trevor Schewe

The country has been at war for the last decade, but less than one percent of the U.S. population has been on active military duty in that time.

That’s a stark difference from World War II, when just about everyone had a relative serving overseas.

As part of our series on socioeconomic class, we wanted to find out who joins the military these days and why. And we wanted to know whether their service to our country can help them get ahead in life.

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Politics
1:11 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

Flint, Michigan gets ready for a state takevoer

Elected leaders in Flint will lose their power once a state-appointed emergency manager takes over.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is getting ready for a state takeover. The city's re-elected mayor, Dayne Walling and Flint City Council may have no power once a state-appointed emergency manager is in place.

From the Flint Journal:

Today is the deadline for Flint Mayor Dayne Walling to request a hearing on the state's recommendation that an emergency manager take over the city's finances.

And all signs point to an impending state takeover.

Walling said today that he will not request a hearing, and city council members say they're bracing for a takeover.

The Journal reports that the Flint City Council voted against appealing an impending appointment of an emergency manager takeover to the Ingham County Circuit Court.

Mayor Walling told reporters after he was sworn in that he plans on sticking around.

From Steve Carmody's report:

Walling insists Flint city government can move forward with his agenda, despite the looming reality that the governor will soon choose an emergency manager to take over running city government. 

“If this emergency manager is here for a few months…if they are here for a year or two…I look forward to serving my full four year term that I was sworn into today," Walling told reporters after the ceremony.

Walling will be interviewed by Michigan Radio's Jennifer White today. We'll post that interview later.

Detroit
11:51 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Fire at the old Packard Plant in Detroit

Some of the remains of the old Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit. Firefighters say they respond to fires at the plant monthly.
Becky Stern Flickr

A fire has been burning since at least 6:45 a.m. this morning in the old Packard Plant in Detroit.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

The fire was still burning at about 11 a.m., one of numerous blazes that firefighters respond to monthly at the plant, he said.

"When they’re over there with 30 (firefighters), that leaves holes in the city," Varnas said. "That’s why we have to stop these fires."

Arson Capt. Patrick McNulty said firefighters are only allowed to spray the blaze from outside the ruins of the old plant.

"There's standing orders not to go in there," McNulty said. "Too dangerous for the firefighters."

Offbeat
10:45 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Man stumbles upon $1,160, turns it in, now giving to charity

wikimedia commons

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus reported on the find by an attorney from Howell, Jules Fiani.

They report that Fiani found $1,160 in a white envelope outside of a Dairy Queen last May. He turned the found money into police, but when no one claimed it, the police returned it to him.

From the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus:

Although Fiani could keep the money, he said, "It's all going to charitable organizations."

"It's found money and it's the right thing to do," Fiani said. "I wish I had more to give away."

The first $250 is earmarked for the Sheriff's Department's Shop With a Cop program, which pairs underprivileged children in the community with a police officer to shop for Christmas gifts.

"It's been really exciting dropping money off," Fiani said Thursday, noting that so far he's made donations to Make-A-Wish and Gleaners Community Food Bank.

Veterans Day
5:17 pm
Fri November 11, 2011

The "unfinished business" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

Master Sergeant Orlando Garcia featured in a story by Britain's Channel 4 News on PTSD in the U.S. Army.
Britain's Channel 4 News screenshot

Earlier today I posted the stories of two young veterans who had served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Multiple tours overseas is common in today's military. Re-enlistments helped keep these wars supplied with soldiers over the last ten years.

The problem, as Bernard Rostker of the Rand Corporation put it, "the more you go the more you’re exposed, the more likely you will eventually have some adverse psychological reactions."

Rostker is a former Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, and a former senior policy advisor on recruitment for the Secretary of Defense.

He said the propensity to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is cumulative. And with soldiers serving multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, they're more at risk than a soldier serving a single tour.

PTSD can show up much later in life.

"This is going to be a huge concern for the military," said Rostker.

"Rand did a study, it was a random telephone interview of large numbers of vets using screening techniques for PTSD, and came to the conclusion that there was a huge number of unreported cases. It was controversial with the Department of Defense who looked at the number of people being treated versus those identified with PTSD and noticed lots were going untreated," said Rostker.

In 2010, Britain's Channel 4 News did an excellent piece on the challenges facing today's military.

You can view it here:

 

Bernard Rostker said the military has come a long way in its understanding of the psychological effects of war.

"We’re much more aware of it today, but it’s still the unfinished business of this war," said Rostker.

Veterans Day
2:39 pm
Fri November 11, 2011

Spartans play Tarheels tonight on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier

Hoops on an aircraft carrier. MSU will play North Carolina Chapel Hill tonight at 7 p.m. President Obama will attend.
MSU

The "Quicken Loans Carrier Classic" will be played on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson stationed in San Diego in honor of Veteran's Day (the nuclear powered carrier is famed for being the ship from which Osama bin Laden's body was buried at sea).

Michigan State University will play North Carolina in an NCAA Division 1 basketball game to be broadcast on ESPN starting at 7 p.m.

President Barack Obama will attend "the first ever aircraft carrier to host a Division 1 college basketball game."

MSU Coach Tom Izzo's reaction to the game was captured in this ESPN blog post - they quoted Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis:

“I saw him tear up today,’’ Hollis said of Izzo’s emotions when he boarded the USS Carl Vinson on Thursday. “He was emotional. He lives for these kinds of things. The Final Four is special, but this will rank up there in his mind.’’

It already has -- and the tipoff hasn’t even occurred yet.

“My first impression far superseded what I thought it could be about seven or eight years ago when we tried to get this thing together,’’ Izzo said. “At first we were going to play two military schools. But if you could have seen our players’ eyes. There was such an appreciation for what we’re doing. It’s bigger than the game. It’s bigger than North Carolina or Michigan State. It’s a dream come true for us.’’

Here's a video of the MSU team's shoot around:

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.

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