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.

He has won several state and national awards for his work, including a 2011 national Edward R. Murrow award for best audio news documentary on the future of coal in the United States.

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 "public radio junkie" since 1992. Much of Mark's storytelling philosophy was influenced through his close work with veteran CBC "réalisateur" David Candow.

Ways To Connect

Jame Fairbrother / Flickr

Update 3:50 p.m.:

The city of Flint did not get approval today from the state for a $20 million bond.   The city needs the money to pay its bills.

The state Treasurer’s office asked the State Administrative Board to table the bond request, which it was expected to approve. The Treasurer’s office is concerned that the city doesn’t have a plan to deal with its long-term debt.   

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling is optimistic the city will get some help from the state. 

“I’m confident the city of Flint and the state Treasurer’s office will work together on a short-term, if not a long-term solution here in the next few weeks.”

Flint faces a multi-million dollar budget deficit.   The city has laid off police officers and dozens of other employees and has reached pay cuts with other city unions. But it still might have trouble making payroll in the coming months. 

Update 2:50 p.m.:

The State Administration Board put off a decision on the city's budget plan this morning. The city wants to borrow money in the form of $20 million in bonds to cover its budget deficit.

The Flint Journal has an update from Flint City Councilman Josua Freeman:

By the end of this month or next month, the city will only have about $500,000 in cash on hand, Freeman said. That's not nearly enough money to meet the payroll expenses of $1.5 million to $2 million every two weeks, he added.
"If nothing changes and we don’t improve our cash flow, we're not going to have enough money to operate," Freeman said.

If the city cannot make payroll, a state takeover or Chapter 9 bankruptcy might be next.

12:42 p.m.

The city of Flint wants to issue bonds to cover it's $17 million budget deficit, but state officials have yet to green light that plan.

The State Administration Board was scheduled to vote on that plan today, but it appears plans have changed.

The Flint Journal is reporting the Board voted to remove the city's request from its agenda today. The Journal reports that led to a cancelation of a Flint City Council meeting scheduled for tomorrow:

Tomorrow's City Council meeting to discuss a $20 million bond request from the state has been canceled.
The meeting, which was scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, was canceled after The State Administration Board voted to remove the city's request from its meeting agenda this morning...That move came at the request of the state treasurer's office...City Council President Jackie Poplar said she was made aware of the situation and had no comment until she receives further information.

collection.chrysler.com

For $29.95 you can continue the buzz that started with the "Imported from Detroit" Super Bowl ad.

Chrysler is selling t-shirts with the "Imported from Detroit" logo on its Chrysler Collection website ('imported' from the USA, according to the website).

The Detroit Free Press asked a Chrysler spokesperson if the design will be on other items:

Chrysler spokeswoman Dianna Gutierrez said, “It’s too early to discuss. I don’t have any formal details to share at this time.”

The epic two-minute ad is still running on television in edited down one-minute and 30 second versions.

Ped Saunders / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids City Commission gave their support to a big motorcycle event scheduled to take place this summer. Organizers of a new big motorcycle rally were able to coax commissioners into supporting a shortened version of the original event.

user brewbooks / creative commons

With the impending bankruptcy of Borders Group Inc., we thought we'd give you a quick explanation of the two types of options facing the company.

Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Also known as "liquidation" or "straight bankruptcy." It sparks an 'everything must go' sale of the company's assets. The company may cease operations after filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

The company that owes the money files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in court. The company's assets are turned over to a bankruptcy trustee who then sells the assets and tries to pay back the company's creditors. In exchange, the company that owes the money is freed from having to pay all of its bills in full (unless some wrongdoing is found).

The details of Chapter 7 rules vary from state to state.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

Also known as "reorganization" bankruptcy used by many corporations (like K-Mart and General Motors).

After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the company that owes money typically keeps running its business and keeps its assets while going through a reorganization process overseen by the court.

A reorganization plan is put forth, and if the majority of creditors accept it, and the court accepts the plan - the company continues operating and repays its creditors under the reorganization plan.

Payment to creditors can come from the sale of assets, repayment from future profits, or from mergers or recapitalization.

The end of Borders

Borders Book Group Inc. can't pay its bills.

Several reports say the company is expected to file for bankruptcy sometime this week. From Reuters:

Bookseller Borders Group Inc is reviewing bids from liquidators to close hundreds of stores as it works out the final details of its impending bankruptcy filing, according to people close to the talks. The review is part of its plan to close about 200 of its 650 stores, which are a mix of Borders superstores and smaller Waldenbooks shops, these people said. The store closings will remove weak stores that have bled the retail chain's cash in recent years and provide immediate funds from the sale of inventory.

A Border's spokesman is quoted in the report saying, "Borders will not comment or speculate upon Borders' future course. If and when the company has something to disclose, it will do so."

President's Obama's Budget proposal and Michigan

President Obama released his budget proposal to Congress yesterday saying "Even as we cut out things that we can afford to do without, we have a responsibility to invest in those areas that will have the biggest impact in our future."

The Detroit Free Press says the President's budget is a "mixed bag" for Michigan. On the up side, the budget continues to invest in advanced vehicle technology research, it asks that a $7,500 rebate be put in place to encourage electric vehicle purchases (instead of a tax credit), and it would help the state avoid a big payment it owes the federal government for borrowing money to cover unemployment benefits.

And the down side? From the Freep: 

...it cuts in half a program to help poor people pay energy bills, cuts community block grants and Great Lakes restoration funding and ends plans to build an amphibious Marine Corps vehicle that could have created hundreds of Michigan jobs. 

A big day for Flint

The city of Flint will likely find out today whether it can go to the bond market to cover it's $17 million budget deficit.

The State Administrative Board is meeting today at 11 a.m. to decide the city's fate.

If the plan is not approved, the State of Michigan may eventually have to take over the city's finances.

City Administrator Greg Eason told WJRT

"This stabilization bond is critical to the survival of the city over the next three to five years."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

By some estimates, the city of Flint is facing a $17 million budget hole.

Flint's Mayor is hoping state officials will allow the city to go to the bond market to overcome the budget deficit.

The State Administrative Board is meeting tomorrow to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down to the city's request.

The Flint Journal reports:

A state board made up of Michigan's top elected officials (or their delegates) is expected on Tuesday to consider the city's application to issue $20 million in bonds, part of Flint Mayor Dayne Walling's budget plan.

The State Administrative Board meeting will take place at 11 a.m. in the Lake Superior Room of the Michigan Library and Historical Center in Lansing. The meetings are open to the public.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported that without the money, Mayor Walling said the city will have trouble making payroll in March:

“There is nothing more important for our city right now than the bond.   We’ve been carrying a crushing load of past deficits on our shoulders.  And we’ve come to the point where the pooled cash is not there to make payroll throughout the entire month of March without an infusion of cash,” said Mayor Walling.

If state officials do not approve of the bond plan, the state may eventually takeover Flint’s finances.

Ron Reiring / Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is in New Orleans gathering ideas on how to rebuild a devastated city.

The Associated Press reports:

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is meeting with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to discuss that city's recovery more than five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the 9th Ward and
other parts of the Gulf Coast. Bing spokeswoman Karen Dumas says that both mayors were
preparing to take a walking tour of parts of New Orleans on Monday, and that the city bears "a lot of similarities to Detroit."

Bing is working to strengthen Detroit's most viable neighborhoods while formulating plans to deal with huge swaths of vacant land. He has said incentives will be used to encourage people to move into certain areas of Detroit, which has lost more than half its population since peaking at nearly 2 million in the 1950s. He plans to present a study April 1.

Michigan Radio traveled to New Orleans last year to learn some lessons as well. Rebuilding Detroit Schools: ATale of Two Cities looked at school reform in Detroit and New Orleans. The program explored successes and failures in New Orleans to see whether the lessons learned in New Orleans could offer some insights for education reform in Detroit.

Lt. Governor talks more about the coming budget

He didn't liken the proposed state budget to an atomic bomb this time around, but Lt. Governor Brian Calley continues to talk about the big changes Governor Snyder is seeking with his budget proposal.

The Snyder Administration will unveil the budget proposal to the State Legislature this Thursday. The Muskegon Chronicle wrote about Calley's remarks made on Saturday:

Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley told the Muskegon County Republican Party that Gov. Rick Snyder's first proposed budget to be unveiled Thursday to state legislators will make good on the promise of “shared sacrifice” and a taxing system that is “simple, fair and efficient.”
He said the first weeks of the Snyder administration has laid the groundwork for the most extensive change in public policies this state has seen in generations.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra talks continue

The DSO is trying to avoid a cancelation of its entire season with stepped up talks between management and the striking musicians. Both sides were negotiating over the weekend, the Detroit News reports:

While both sides were tight-lipped Sunday, musicians spokesman Haden McKay did confirm late this afternoon that talks that began Friday to end the work stoppage and avert cancellation of the rest of the 2010-11 season were still ongoing.

Friday and Saturday's talks were indirect, with each side making its case to an unnamed intermediary, who then communicated it to the other party in a form of shuttle diplomacy. McKay did not specify whether today's talks were face-to-face or indirect.

Aretha Franklin Honored

Aretha Franklin was honored last evening at the 53rd Grammy Awards. The Detroit News writes:

A noticeably slimmer Aretha Franklin appeared in a videotaped message at the 53rd Grammy Awards, following a tribute to the singer that kicked off today's awards show. She thanked fans for their support since her "hospitalization" but didn't get into any specifics of her illness, and she apologized for not being at the ceremony in person. "Next year, OK?" she said.

A video of what some of the artists think of Aretha:

In case you missed it...

Feb 11, 2011
user cpstorm / Flickr

Big news in Egypt today as Hosni Mubarak stepped aside and the future of the entire Middle East seemingly changed overnight.

Now the military is in power and people are wondering what is next for the Egyptian people - Will there be years of military rule, or will the country move quickly toward free and fair elections?

Our Marketing Director, Steve Chrypinski mentioned a story he heard earlier in the week that gave him some insights into how the military in Egypt operates.

Mubarak steps down

Feb 11, 2011
BBC News

Update 3:21 p.m.:

President Obama made remarks today about the events in Egypt:

Obama said in Egypt "the wheel of history has changed at a blinding pace,"  and that the United States will continue to be a "friend and partner of Egypt" and "asks for a peaceful transition to democracy."

Obama said the people in Egypt are saying, "for the first time in my life, I really count," and that the "people of Egypt call for a government that is responsive to their boundless aspirations."

Obama said the events in Egypt were peaceful and powerful - "this is the power of human dignity and it can never be denied."

Obama likened the events in Egypt to people in Germany taking down the Berlin Wall, Gandhi's movement in India, and Martin Luther King's movement here at home. He said it was "non-violence - moral force - that bent the arc of history toward justice once more."

"There's something in the soul that cries out for freedom," Obama said.

Update 3:00 p.m.:

President Obama's press conference:

[Live stream has ended]

Update 2:39 p.m.:

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra spoke with Mohamed El-Sayed today. El-Sayed is an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan. He was born and raised in Egypt and gave this heartfelt reaction to the events unfolding today in Egypt:

MOHAMED EL-SAYED: Well I want to tell you that this was the moment of my whole life. People might not believe it, but it is the truth. You just live your life and there is a moment that you would like to have lived.
GUERRA: What do you mean by that?
MOHAMED EL-SAYED: What I mean by that is in your whole life, there is a moment that you wish to see happen and when it happens, you thank God that you're alive to see it because in a way you start thinking that it might not happen at all. And then you lose hope. And then suddenly you get hope again and then it happens and then you feel: I am really glad that I'm witnessing this moment, not just because it's a historical moment and you're part of the people, it's just because you have lived your life wishing that the people of Egypt would see what the people in the U.S. take for granted: their freedom, their ability to talk and govern themselves.

Update 1:15pm:

President Obama was scheduled to speak at 1:30 p.m. today. He's now schedued to speak at 3 p.m.:

Update 12:58 p.m.:

The military now heads up Egypt. The BBC reports:

The head of the new high military council, Field Marshal Tantawi, has greeted crowds outside the presidential palace, according to AFP.

Asked about the military - including Defence Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi - now being in charge, Mohamed ElBaradei tells the BBC: "I think it is not going to just be Tantawi, but the whole military leadership. I also understand that they are going to reach out to all sections of Egyptian society. I hope it will want to share power with civilians through the transitional period. I hope we will have a presidential council, a government of national unity and have enough time - perhaps a year - to prepare for genuine and free elections."

You can watch Al Jazeera's live coverage of events here.

Update 11:56 a.m.:

President Obama is expected to make a statement at 1:30 p.m. today.

The Associated Press reports:

President Barack Obama learned of President Hosni Mubarak's decision to resign during a White House meeting. And then, like people all over the world, Obama watched television coverage of history unfolding. The White House said Obama watched news coverage of the hoopla in Cairo for several minutes on a television set just outside the Oval Office. The stunning announcement came one day after Mubarak surprised the people of his country and the White House by refusing to resign.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Egyptian diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei  had a conversation just moments ago with NPR's Robert Siegel. From NPR's The Two Way:

Hearing the news that Mubarak was stepping down, "reminded me of the moment I received the Nobel Peace Prize." But today, was "more emotional. ... We are emancipating 85 million people who have been repressed for decades."

Update 11:26 a.m.:

The BBC has live video of Tahrir Square in Egypt.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says: "The announcement took everyone by surprise and caused immediate and riotous celebration in Tahrir Square."

"Around Cairo, drivers are honking their horns in celebration and guns are being fired into the air. The huge crowds are rejoicing. However, the army takeover looks very much like a coup. The constitution has been breached. Officially, the speaker of parliament should be taking over. Instead it is the army leadership. Egypt moves into a very uncertain future."

Update 11:19 a.m.:

From the Two Way - The BBC's transcription of the vice president's statement:

"In the name of God the merciful, the compassionate, citizens, during these very difficult circumstances Egypt is going through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down from the office of president of the republic and has charged the high council of the armed forces to administer the affairs of the country. May God help everybody."

11:09 a.m.

We're getting reports that Mubarak has stepped down. NPR's Two Way is live blogging the event:

Al-Jazeera reports:

"He's gone. He's resigned. 30 years of Mubarak rule is over. Omar Suleiman says: 'President Hosni Mubarak has waived the office of president.' "

The New York Times reports:

President Hosni Mubarak left the Egyptian capital for his resort home in Sharm el-Sheik on Friday and was expected to make a statement, state television said, amid indications that a transfer of power was under way.

The Egyptian military issued a communiqué pledging to carry out a variety of constitutional reforms in a statement notable for its commanding tone. The military’s statement alluded to the delegation of power to Vice President Omar Suleiman and it suggested that the military would supervise implementation of the reforms.

Rich Allosi / Flickr

The national economy added 49,000 manufacturing jobs in January. That’s more new jobs than in health care, retail or any other major sector of the economy.

It’s good news for the Midwest, where thousands of manufacturing workers are expected to be hired over the next few years.

The number of students enrolled in manufacturing training and engineering courses is on the rise at two year colleges. But some employers say they still have a hard time finding qualified candidates.

Michigan Radio’s Changing Gears project is looking at the economic future of the Midwest.

Michelle Kanu filed this report from Cleveland:

Joe Shlabotnik / Flickr

Pssst... don't forget. Valentine's Day is Monday... four more shopping days (five if you count the actual day as a shopping day).

Judging by my colleagues here at the station, a couple of us are prepared, some are waiting for the weekend, and some will wait until that last minute.

Are you ready?

Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton

Here's a copy of the President's "Win the Future" speech at Northern Michigan University today:

Hello, Marquette!  It is good to be in the U.P.  It is good to be at Northern Michigan University! 

So, I have to say, I think some folks on my staff have it out for me.  Not because it’s 10 degrees here – I can handle that.  It’s because for the second time in two weeks, not long after my Bears went down, they’ve sent me to a town with a bunch of Green Bay Packer fans, even if we are in Michigan.  But I congratulate all the fans here, and we’ll see the Packers at the White House.

Of course, I haven’t come to Marquette to talk about winning the Super Bowl.  I’ve come here because it’s towns like this where the jobs and businesses of tomorrow will take root.  It’s towns like this where our economic future will be won.

The U.S. Army / Flickr

Update 12:40 p.m.:

We will carry the live feed of President Obama's speech in Marquette on our website at 1pm.

Update 12:01 p.m.:

Governor Snyder has released the following statement about President Obama's trip to Marquette:

“All Michiganders can take great pride in the national recognition earned by Northern Michigan University and the communities of Marquette County.  Their partnership to expand high-speed wireless internet services through NMU’s WiMAX network wisely recognizes the critical need to enhance online availability in the 21st century.  This cutting-edge approach benefits students and families while providing an essential tool that drives business development.

“At the state level, we are working aggressively to provide additional online and self-service alternatives for Michigan residents.  Expanding wireless capabilities in the Upper Peninsula complements our efforts and provides welcome conveniences to U.P. customers.  The President is right to highlight this initiative as a model of cooperation and innovation.  We welcome the President to Michigan and look forward to him sharing this Upper Peninsula success story across America.  We also applaud NMU and the Marquette area as they get their well-deserved attention on the national stage.  They are outstanding ambassadors for the Upper Peninsula and our entire state.”

Update: 10:58 a.m.:

Marquette, Michigan?? Wish we were going to Hawaii instead....

President Obama and his entourage of staff are flying aboard Air Force 1 to Marquette (Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is making his final flight).

The White House press corps is traveling along and they're not looking forward to the extreme cold temps.

Here's a "pool report" from the press:

Marine One touched down at Andrews approx 9:35 am. POTUS, wearing overcoat but no hat or gloves, on AF1 5 minutes later, followed by staff including Jarrett , Sutphen, Mastromonaco, and Gibbs, making his final flight as press secretary.

AF1 rolling, with a flight time of just over 2 hrs from Andrews to Marquette, where the temp is said to be in single digits with a wind chill of -19. Pool fondly remembering travel pool in Hawaii just over a month ago.

7:12 a.m.

President Barack Obama will visit the city of Marquette in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula today. The President will visit Northern Michigan University to promote his administration’s National Wireless Initiative.

It’s a program the President first announced during last month’s State of the Union Address.

The initiative would bring high speed wireless internet access to 98 percent of the nation’s population within five years.

Some say it’s a lofty goal, considering such technology is only now being built in major cities.

The initiative is part of the White House’s new focus on innovation and competitiveness as a way to “win the future.”

Resch Strategies

Budget schmudget.

The real debate in this state is over how we self-identify.

The Michigander vs. Michiganian debate rears up every so often.

We last heard about it during last fall's gubernatorial race.

Democratic candidate Virg Bernero preferred Michiganian, while Republican candidate Rick Snyder preferred Michigander (my spell check likes neither, by the way).

Snyder grabbed the victory and told the crowd to drop all the divisive labels... except one. From MLive:

Snyder told his victory party in Detroit that it was time to "drop the labels" of party, ideology and geography. "There is only one label that matters and that label is Michigander."

Survey says

The Lansing-based PR firm Resch Strategies decided to feel the state's pulse on this question. They contacted 600 Michiganians/Michiganders at the end of January and asked them, "Do you consider yourself a (ROTATE:  Michigander or a Michiganian)"?

The results:

  • 58% said Michigander
  • 12% said Michiganian
  • 7% said both
  • 11% said neither
  • 12% didn’t know

 

Online Poll (warning, extremely scientific)

We thought we'd try to gauge your preference:

 

Muhammad Ghafari / Flickr

Many reports that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is stepping down. You can follow live blogging on this story from NPR's The Two Way:

Breaking news from Egypt: President Hosni Mubarak is expected to address his nation tonight (local time), and the leader of his political party says Mubarak may step down. The story is developing and there are conflicting reports about what Mubarak may or may not say. We will pass along information from major news outlets and NPR staff in Cairo.

(10:45 a.m. ET: The story is moving quickly, so we're switching to a live-blog approach. Our updates will flow into the box below automatically. If you look below the box, you can read our original post and two earlier updates.)

Rich Evenhouse / creative commons

Profit-sharing checks to GM's 45,000 workers are expected to break a record. The news comes as GM is tallying its profit numbers for 2010. The company will release the amount of the checks soon.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

General Motors Co. is planning to pay its hourly workers in the U.S. at least $3,000 each in profit-sharing payouts, the largest amount ever, after the company's return to profitability in 2010, people familiar with the matter said...The auto maker is trying to tow the line between fiscal prudence and expectations that it will share recent gains with workers as the company heads into labor negotiations with the United Auto Workers.

Other U.S. automakers are also sharing the wealth.

Ford Motor Company paid hourly workers more than $5,000, "more than the company was required to pay under the profit-sharing formula in its contract with the UAW," according to the Wall Street Journal.

And Chrysler gave their workers $750 despite the company's losses in 2010.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the checks are expected to be handed out in the months ahead, and the size of the checks could help the automaker in its negotiation with the United Auto Workers union. From the Freep:

The Detroit Three, which will negotiate new labor contracts with the UAW this year, may be giving higher-than-required payments to autoworkers as part of a strategy to convince the rank and file to keep labor costs flat in return for bigger profit sharing in the future, labor experts previously told the Free Press.

Steven Depolo / Flickr

Appointed officials in Grand Rapids agreed to scale back the wage increases they recently received.

In a press release, the City officials said they were "responding to Governor Rick Snyder's call for realigning public employee compensation."

City Manager Gregory Sundstrom, City Attorney Catherine Mish, and City Treasurer Lauri Parks said they will return to their salary levels that were in effect in 2009.

City Treasurer Albert Mooney agreed to return 2% of his salary increase.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that if their request is granted:

Sundstrom's pay will fall back to $142,000; Mish's pay will return to $114,092; Parks' pay will go back to $93.731; and Mooney's pay will fall to $108,755.

The officials said in 2010, "appointed officials again led by example, voluntarily accepting an additional 10% reduction in overall compensation." This included turning down a 2.5% pay increase that was scheduled to take effect on June 30, 2010.

The Grand Rapids officials say the the 2.5% pay increase was "received, and is still being enjoyed today,  by all of the City's unionized workforce."

The city is in the middle of re-negotiating it's collective contracts with the City's unionized workforce. And the negotiations are "difficult" as Mayor George Hearwell said in his State of the City address last Saturday.

As Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported, Heartwell said:

The city’s financial future depends on city employees taking further concessions in pay and benefits.

"There’s no doubt in my mind that unless we tackle this problem today, we cannot be sustainable over the long term," says Heartwell.

The vast majority of the city's workforce in Grand Rapids is unionized.

I called up City Attorney Catherine Mish, one of the officials taking the pay cuts. I asked her whether she and the others are sending a signal to the city's unionized employees:

"I would have to say 'yes.' We're hoping the unions agree to similar concessions."

Mish said the unions are under current contracts that run from July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013.

NOAA

It's winter... It's cold... And it's getting colder.

The National Weather Service says cold air is sweeping down onto the lower 48:

A frigid arctic air mass will continue to surge southward east of the Rockies today and Wednesday as a strong frontal system pushes southward through Texas and northern Mexico. As a result, high temperatures across the southern plains will be almost 40 degrees below normal on Wednesday and up to 30 degrees below normal on Thursday.

It looks like the frigid temperatures will be here until Friday when we'll see temperatures in the 20s again.

Here's the forecast for southeast Michigan from the National Weather Service:

Tonight: Scattered flurries before 7pm. Partly cloudy, with a low around 2. Wind chill values as low as -14. West wind between 13 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph.
Wednesday: A chance of flurries after 2pm. Mostly sunny, with a high near 14. Wind chill values as low as -15. West wind between 15 and 18 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.
Wednesday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 0. Wind chill values as low as -11. West wind between 8 and 13 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph.
Thursday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 14. Wind chill values as low as -13. West southwest wind between 9 and 14 mph, with gusts as high as 18 mph.
Thursday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 2. West southwest wind between 9 and 15 mph.

 

And the forecast for West Michigan:

Tonight: A 40 percent chance of snow showers. Partly cloudy, with a low around 7. Wind chill values as low as -8. West wind between 13 and 18 mph, with gusts as high as 26 mph.
Wednesday: A 50 percent chance of snow showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 16. Wind chill values as low as -8. Breezy, with a west wind between 14 and 20 mph, with gusts as high as 29 mph.
Wednesday Night: A 50 percent chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 6. Wind chill values as low as -8. West northwest wind between 7 and 16 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph.
Thursday: A 40 percent chance of snow showers. Partly sunny, with a high near 16. Wind chill values as low as -9. West southwest wind between 10 and 16 mph, with gusts as high as 24 mph.
Thursday Night: A 40 percent chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 9. Southwest wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 23 mph.

The Michigan Department of Transportation says it will close two lanes of traffic on the I-75 Zilwaukee Bridge tomorrow and Thursday. From MDOT:

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) will close the two left lanes in both directions of I-75 on the Zilwaukee Bridge in Saginaw County. These double-lane closures will be in effect 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. daily on Wednesday, Feb. 9, and Thursday, Feb. 10.
The closures are necessary to accommodate survey work on I-75.
Two lanes (ramp and drive) will remain open on northbound lanes on Wednesday, and on southbound lanes on Thursday.
Crews will close the two left lanes on both days.

Rebecca Bolwitt / Flickr

After a ten-month investigation, the results are in.

From the Associated Press:

A government investigation into Toyota safety problems has found no electronic flaws to account for reports of sudden, unintentional acceleration. Transportation officials and engineers with NASA say two mechanical safety defects previously identified by the government - sticking accelerator pedals and gas pedals that can become trapped in floor mats - are the only known causes for the reports of runaway Toyotas. Both issues were the subject of large recalls by Toyota.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says the department's 10-month study has concluded there is no electronic-based cause of unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas.

Toyota has recalled more than 12 million vehicles globally since fall 2009 for a series of safety issues. The company has denied that electronics are to blame.

The "Imported from Detroit" commercial stirred a lot of pride around these parts, and on Michigan Radio's Facebook page.

We posted it last night and the "likes" and comments about pride started flowing:

  • "Gave me chills and made me proud to be a born in Detroiter."
  • "This is the kind of thing we need for our area. This commercial gave me goose bumps."
  • "Great commercial! I'm proud to be from Michigan!"
  • "Chills...I almost started crying! But, I have had almost 14 beers."

Just up I-96, the profs at MSU's Department of Advertising, Public Relations, and Retailing, who release an annual ranking of Super Bowl commercials, put the Chrysler ad in third place – tied with the ads from Audi, PepsiMax, Hyundai, and Bud-Light.

First and second place went to German car-maker Volkswagen (first went to the Darth Vader ad, and second went to the VW Beetle ad).

When I asked them, "why third?"  MSU instructor and the organizer behind the MSU rankings, Bob Kolt, said the margin between 1st and 3rd was quite small, "If a few professors had changed their ranking of the commercial slightly, it could have easily been put in the top spot."

Michigan Radio

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow plans to introduce legislation that would change government incentives for buying electric cars.

Right now, the incentive for the purchase of an electric car comes when you file your taxes in the form of a tax credit.

Stabenow's legislation, the Charging America Forward Act, would give consumers a rebate of up to $7,500 at the time of purchase.

The Senator says a rebate would do more to spur consumers to adopt electric vehicles. From Stabenow's statement:

"Michigan is already a leader in emerging hi-tech battery and electric car production. Other countries are acting to develop their own advanced vehicle markets because they realize the tremendous economic potential this new technology represents.  These initiatives will allow Michigan innovators to continue to out-compete the world and create new jobs here"

Naturally, GM spokesman Greg Martin says the company likes the rebate idea, saying "we are pleased to see Senator Stabenow's legislation that integrates all of the components necessary for successful acceleration of electric vehicles in the marketplace.  We look forward to working with Congress on legislation that leads to widespread adoption of electric vehicles."

The Associated Press says Stabenow also wants the incentives to go beyond just consumers:

Stabenow also wants tax credits for investments into electric vehicle recharging stations and for businesses that buy hybrid trucks. It also seeks more funding to develop the nation's advanced battery industry.

And the Detroit Free Press says this bill supports the Obama Administration's plan to get 1 million "plug-in or advanced-technology" cars on the road by 2015. The Freep says it's a goal that "can be reached only if it is supported by aggressive government incentives that also spur the development of infrastructure."

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton is following this story, and will have an update later today.

Police in Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is expected to reveal his plan for getting police officials to live in Detroit this morning. As Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports:

Detroit had a residency requirement until 1999, when the state Legislature outlawed it. Now more than half the officers on the police force live outside the city limits. Mayor Bing has said he believes neighborhoods are safer when the cops who patrol them live there too.

Not all police officials agree with Mayor Bing and say they can live outside city limits and still be effective for the residents of Detroit.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will have more Mayor Bing's proposal later today.

A replacement for the Michigan State Fair?

The Michigan State Fair was canceled in 2009 after budget cuts and declining attendance. Now the Associated Press is reporting that another cast aside in Michigan might fill the gap.

The AP reports that the "Great Lakes Agricultural Fair" would be held in and around the Pontiac Silverdome and would be run without any state funding. From the AP:

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and U.S. Rep. Gary Peters are expected to be among those on hand Monday to unveil plans for the Great Lakes Agricultural Fair…The annual festival would feature a farm market, live animals and musical performances.

Ford to increase production

If the amount of Super Bowl ads from car makers didn't clue you in, here's another sign that automakers are expecting much better sales this year. The Detroit Free Press reports that Ford Motor Company plans to boost factory production in the U.S.:

Ford Motor Co. says it will increase U.S. factory production by 13% in the first quarter due to higher sales. Ken Czubay, vice president of U.S. sales, says Ford is studying additional shifts at plants that are now running on overtime. The Dearborn-based automaker said retail sales to individual buyers rose 27% in January. Global marketing chief Jim Farley said to expect further increases through the year.

user cpstorm / Flickr

Here are a few stories that either I heard, my colleagues and friends heard, or pieces that our online friends found interesting on Michigan Radio this week.

(We want to hear about your favorites! Please add them to the comments section below)

GOP House Leader / Flickr

A federal judge in Mississippi tossed out a lawsuit aimed at challenging the health care reform law. The dismissal comes the same week a federal judge in Florida ruled that the whole law was unconstitutional.

Politico.com reports:

Ten individuals without health insurance argued that the law’s requirement to buy insurance violated their rights. One of the plaintiffs is Mississippi Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant. Judge Keith Starrett said the individuals didn’t prove they have proper standing to challenge the law because they didn’t prove the mandate would apply to them. The suit was thrown out on procedural grounds.

It's not the first time lawsuits challenging the health care law have been tossed. Politico writes, "about two dozen lawsuits have been filed against the health care reform law since it was passed in March. Thirteen have now been thrown out over procedural matters such as a right to bring the suit."

Keeping score

NPR's Health blog went to their "go-to overhaul scorekeeper" Julie Rover for a tally on how challenges to the health care law have fared in court. The bloggers on "Shots" wrote:

The judicial scorecard on the law has pretty much followed party lines. Two judges who found the law constitutional were appointed by Democrats. Two who found the requirement for most people to have health insurance unconstitutional were appointed by Republicans.

The several dismissals issued for the health care court challenges, like the one today, have not followed any party ties.

The unemployment rate fell .4 percentage points in January to 9.0%.

Keith Hall, the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics said today:

In January, employment increased in manufacturing and retail trade, while job losses occurred in transportation and warehousing and in construction.  Employment in most other major industries changed little. Manufacturing employment grew by 49,000 over the month and has increased by 161,000 since a recent low point in December 2009.

The Associated Press reports:

The unemployment rate has fallen by eight-tenths of a percentage point in the past two months. That's the steepest two-month drop in nearly 53 years. But part of that drop has occurred as many of those out of work gave up on their job searches. When unemployed people stop looking for jobs, the government no longer counts them as unemployed.

Officially, there are about 13.9 million people in the country out of work. The AP says "that's still about double the total who were out of work before the recession began in December 2007."

The unemployment rate in Michigan stands at 11.7% as of December. New numbers should be out in the coming week.

user myself / wikimedia commons

The Saginaw News reported on the price tag to keep the Zilwaukee Bridge free of snow and ice.

The don't use cheap salt which would result in corrosion of the multi-million dollar bridge. They use a more expensive melting agent - calcium magnesium acetate.

The News reported that the Michigan Department of Transportation used $236,640 worth of the stuff to keep the bridge clear last year:

The Michigan Department of Transportation spent $1,392 a ton to dump 170 tons of calcium magnesium acetate on the 8,000-foot-long bridge on Interstate 75 over the Saginaw River last winter.

Gregg Brunner, manager of the Bay City Transportation Service Center, told the News that MDOT "spends about $800,000 to $1 million a year to maintain the six-lane bridge year round with a four-member crew."

Around 31,000 cars and trucks pass over the bridge daily.

The mile-and-a-half  Zilwaukee Bride had an infamous beginning. It was built so freighters could pass under it on the Saginaw River.

The project was plagued with accidents, "spalling", and the discovery of PCBs. It cost the state $117.5 million to build the bridge and it was opened back in 1988.

Bob Jagendorf / Flickr

"If you walked up to him on the street, you wouldn't know that he was a land baron. He's a guy in blue jeans walking around looking like he's working on somebody's building."

- Detroit city attorney Avery Williams talking about Detroit land speculator Michael Kelly.

Christine MacDonald of the Detroit News has a story on how land speculators make money in the city of Detroit.

MacDonald profiles one of the more prolific speculators, Michael Kelly.

The business model for a successful land speculator in Detroit is simple - buy a lot of land for a little money, then sit on the property until it sells for more than you paid for it.

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