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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Transportation
11:21 am
Fri February 4, 2011

Price tag for keeping the Zilwaukee Bridge clear of ice and snow

The Zilwaukee Bridge near Saginaw
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.

Economy
3:34 pm
Thu February 3, 2011

Report: How land speculators in Detroit make a buck

An old deli in Detroit. Buy cheap, sell high is the land speculator's motto.
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.

Read more
Environment
1:44 pm
Thu February 3, 2011

Comments: Should "non-native" Mute swans be managed?

The Michigan DNRE wants to stop the rehabilitation of Mute swans in the state.
David Slater Flickr

The Environment Report's Rebecca Williams produced a piece the other day on the Michigan DNRE's proposal to limit the number of Mute swans in the state (the swans with an orange bill).

The Michigan DNRE has been trying to reduce their population in the state for decades. By reducing Mute swan numbers, state wildlife officials hope to allow more room for native birds, such as Loons and Trumpeter swans (the USFWS says Mute swans were brought to the U.S. more than 100 years ago as "decorative waterfowl" for parks, zoos, and estates).

On February 10th, the Natural Resources Commission is expected to vote on a DNRE proposal that would make it illegal for wildlife rehabilitators to nurse Mute swans back to health.

The proposal, like any proposal to limit Mute swan numbers, has sparked a lot of debate.

We received several comments on the Environment Report web page about the proposal and about managing Mute swans in general.

Read more
Business
10:34 am
Thu February 3, 2011

Strong 4th quarter for Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical released its fourth quarter earnings report today and it was a good fourth quarter for the chemical giant. Its earnings nearly tripled. From the company's website:

  • The Company reported earnings of $0.37 per share, or $0.47 per share excluding certain items. This compares with earnings of $0.08 per share in the year-ago period, or $0.18 per share excluding certain items.
  • Sales of $13.8 billion rose 22 percent versus the same quarter last year.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

[Dow Chemical] has seen sales rebound in recent quarters on volume growth in basic chemicals, agriculture products and other units. Dow, whose chemicals are used in a wide range of products including diapers and products in the auto industry, has been restructuring to focus on higher-margin specialty products from commodities chemicals, which are more vulnerable to energy-price fluctuations.

Bloomberg News says the earnings are more than some analysts anticipated and come "amid increasing profit from caustic soda and plastics."

Winter storm
12:30 pm
Wed February 2, 2011

Winter Storm Pictures

The snow begins to come down in Ann Arbor around 7pm.
Tamar Charney Michigan Radio

The blizzard warnings are over and people in Michigan are spending the day digging out.

More than a foot of snow fell in many parts of the state.

The snow fall in Grand Rapids has almost eclipsed a record (16.1 inches in 24 hours). Reporter Lindsey Smith says the count stands at 15.9 inches as of this morning. There's still time to get .2 inches by 2pm, so the record may fall.

Click on the photos above to see a slideshow of the snow arriving around the state.

Politics
5:02 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Pete Hoekstra joins law firm - lobbying group

Pete Hoekstra will join former republican colleagues at the law firm
from Hoekstra's former congressional website

Update 5:02 p.m.:

A representative from Dickstein Shapiro LLP spoke with Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith. The rep. told Smith that Hoekstra plans to continue living in Holland. Hoekstra will apparently split his time (50/50) between home and Washington D.C. for now.

No word yet on whether Hoekstra is looking for a couch to crash on in D.C.

3:39 p.m.:

Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra has a new job.

He'll be working as a senior advisor to Dickstein Shapiro LLP, a law firm and lobbying group with offices in Washington D.C., California, Connecticut, and New York.

Going from a member on Capitol Hill to a member of a group that lobbies Capitol Hill is a common path for many former members of Congress.

Hoekstra will join former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and former Senator Tom Hutchinson at the firm.

In the firm's press release, Hoekstra said he looks forward to collaborating with Hutchinson and Hastert on a "daily basis," and using his expertise in "strategic and contingency planning":

"National security—from homegrown terrorism to cyberwarfare —continues, by necessity, to be a governmental imperative at all levels, and lawmakers in Washington make crucial decisions every day that impact corporations across America. As the Republican leadership in the U.S. House seeks to rein in federal spending, and as these important issues continue to loom large, there are few things more important than seasoned strategic counsel who understand the nuanced interworkings of government. Dickstein Shapiro has what it takes."

Before he left, Hoekstra was the ranking Republican and a former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Weather
4:37 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Winter storm approaching

It's almost here. A NOAA infared image showing water vapor - the brighter the colors, the more dense the water vapor
NOAA

Update - 4:37 p.m.:

Tonight's chance of snow 100%.

Be careful and have fun if you venture outside.

From the NWS for southeast Michigan:

Very strong northeast winds will develop overnight and continue through Wednesday morning. Strong winds in excess of 35 mph will combine with the heavy snow to create blizzard conditions across all of southeastern Michigan. Significant blowing and drifting of snow will occur...helping to create whiteout conditions. Snowfall and wind gusts will decrease in intensity Wednesday afternoon...with snow diminishing by the early evening. Storm total snow accumulations of between 7 and 12 inches will be possible across much of southeastern Michigan...with 10 to 15 inches possible between the I 69 and m 46 corridors.

And for West Michigan:

As of 400 pm heavy snow was crossing the Michigan and Indiana border. Steady snow will continue to develop across the warning area late this afternoon. The heaviest snow will fall between midnight and mid morning on Wednesday. One to two inch per hour snow rates can be expected during this time. Storm total accumulations of 10 to 16 inches can be expected by Wednesday evening. By around 8 pm north to northeast winds will increase to 15 to 30 mph with higher gusts to 40 mph. These winds will continue into Wednesday morning before gradually diminishing. Considerable blowing and drifting snow is expected... Producing blizzard conditions and visibilities down to near zero.

 

Update - 12:00 p.m.:

The latest from the National Weather Service. Much of southern Michigan is under a blizzard warning (red in the map above) and the middle and upper part of the lower peninsula are under a winter storm watch (pink).

Poor folks in the UP. They're going to miss all the fun.

The National Weather Service says the Blizzard Warning will be in effect from 7pm tonight until 7am tomorrow for southeastern Michigan, and for West Michigan the warning will start around 5 p.m.

From the NWS:

This is a dangerous storm. Travel and commerce across the warning area are expected to be severely impacted by heavy snow and significant blowing and drifting snow late this afternoon through Wednesday.

Heavy snow and blowing and drifting snow will make clearing of roads difficult tonight into Wednesday. Conditions will improve late Wednesday afternoon into Wednesday evening as the snow diminishes and winds die down.

 

Monday, January 31st - 1:02 p.m.:

The winter storm is approaching. Here are some weather links to keep you up to date:

An animated radar from NOAA.gov

Forecasts for your part of the state

Watches, Warnings or Advisories for Michigan

This from NOAA's website:

A major winter storm is expected to impact the central United States over the next several days. Snow possible from the Northern and Central Plains into the Upper Midwest. Ice and snow possible across the Central and Southern Plains, central Mississippi Valley and Ohio Valley beginning early Tuesday. Blizzard Warnings are in effect over parts of Illinois and Indiana. Winter Storm Warnings, Winter Storm Watches, and Winter Weather Advisories are in effect from most of the central United States through the Midwest and into the Northeast.

Auto/Economy
2:31 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Congressman Upton: power grid not ready for electric vehicles

Is the grid ready for electirc vehicles?
user citizenofthedeep Flickr

Michigan Congressman Fred Upton met with the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce this morning during its "Legislative Connection Series" (tickets for the event went for $25 to $50).

The Kalamazoo Gazette reported that Upton talked about the future of energy in the country.

According to the report, Upton said gas prices might hit $4 a gallon by Memorial Day because of political instability and a moratorium on new off-shore drilling.

Higher gas prices, said Upton, will lead to more people buying up plug-in hybrid electric and fully electric cars. Something Upton feels the power grid is not ready for. From the article:

"We're going to need 30 to 40 percent more electricity by the end of the next decade, and we're not prepared," said Upton, Republican of St. Joseph.

Upton said he favors the development of more nuclear power plants and is going to look into why it takes so long to build a nuclear power plant in this country.

Read more
Weather
11:33 am
Tue February 1, 2011

Michigan Legislature closes in advance of storm

The Michigan Legislature will close Wednesday
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The announced closings continue. Now state government is getting in on the action.

From the Associated Press:

The expectation of a winter storm will close down the Michigan Legislature. The state Senate and House have canceled sessions and committee meetings previously scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday because of a snowstorm that's expected to dump more than a foot of snow in some parts of Michigan. Wind gusts of 20 to 30 mph also are expected Wednesday in some areas with temperatures around 20 degrees. Both chambers were open for business Tuesday. Legislative offices will be closed Wednesday but might be open Thursday depending on the weather.

Weather
11:08 am
Tue February 1, 2011

UM Flint closes for storm

The University of Michigan in Flint has announced it will close this evening and all day tomorrow. From their press release:

The University of Michigan-Flint campus will close today, Tuesday, February 1, 2011 at 4:00 PM in preparation for an approaching massive winter storm, and will remain closed for clean-up on Wednesday, February 2, 2011. All late afternoon and evening classes, activities, and events are canceled after 4pm today and through tomorrow. Critical personnel will report to work at their regularly scheduled shift time.

More than likely, there will be many more closings announced. WDIV's website has a pretty good roundup of announced closings. They say six closings have been announced so far.

Politics
8:43 am
Tue February 1, 2011

Snyder Report: a frank look at Michigan's finances? (audio)

The state spends more than it takes in.
Citizen's Guide to Michigan's Financial Health Michigan Governor's office

Governor Snyder says he wants you to understand the state's budget crisis. He's rolled out a guide to help you do that.

It's called the "Citizen's Guide to Michigan's Financial Health."

Michigan Radio's Morning Edition Host, Christina Shockley, spoke with Lester Graham this morning.

Graham heads up Michigan Watch, Michigan Radio's investigative unit.

Graham took a look at the Guide and gave us his first impressions. You can listen to the audio here:

News Roundup
8:15 am
Tue February 1, 2011

In this morning's news...

Big snow band headed our way.
National Weather Service

Gearing up for snow

People in the state are gearing up for the coming storm that's expected to dump around a foot of snow in the region in less than 24 hours. Survival instincts are kicking in as people flock to grocery stores, gas stations, and hardware stores. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports some plow drivers are getting their sleep now in anticipation of staying up for the next couple of days. Andy Northey, the owner of R & A Lawn Maintenance and Landscaping in Plainwell, said:

"We're not going to be able to keep up with all the snow that’s expected," said Northey, whose company clears snow from residential and commercial properties from Allegan to Kalamazoo to Battle Creek. "Absolutely no way."

The Detroit News reports that Delta airlines is allowing people to change their flight plans without charging an extra fee:

Delta and other airlines encouraged passengers to change their travel dates. Anyone scheduled to fly this week can switch their flight to a time through Feb. 8 without incurring a fee, said Delta. The waiver involved Michigan and 19 other states expected to be hammered by the storm. The states range from Nebraska to Maine, and Wisconsin to Oklahoma.

The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for the southern part of Michigan as the dense snow band travels across the state. The warning takes effect around 5 p.m. for the western part of the state and around 7 p.m. for the eastern half. The warning will last through much of the day tomorrow.

Snyder releases report on state's finances

Governor Rick Snyder released the "Citizen's Guide to Financial Health" yesterday around 3 p.m. The Governor said the report is "a plain-English, easy-to-understand look at Michigan's financial situation and the challenges ahead."

One of the more controversial parts of the report said that state employees are over-compensated compared to their private sector counterparts. Many state employees and union members are disputing the numbers in the report. The Detroit Free Press said that Snyder called the report a 'call to action':

"Here are the facts; let's solve the problem," he told 430 people who attended the Business Leaders for Michigan Summit in Lansing. "Now we can have an intelligent discussion about what we need to have to put the state on the road to success."

Snyder is expected to release his budget proposal for the state's next fiscal year on February 17th.

Red Cross looking for blood

Bad winter weather has hampered the Red Cross' blood supply. They've made pleas before, and now with a big storm bearing down on the Midwest, they're renewing those pleas. Monica Stoneking, communications manager for the American Red Cross, was quoted in today's Bay City Times:

"Those who live in the path of the storm are asked to schedule a donation time when it is safe to travel," Stoneking said. "All blood types are needed, but there is a special need for donors with O-Negative and B-Negative blood."

The Red Cross says 18,000 expected blood donations have gone uncollected over the last several weeks due to bad winter weather.

Politics
5:30 pm
Mon January 31, 2011

Snyder report: state workers making more than twice their private sector counterparts

Legislators are looking for places to trim the budget as they stare at a $1.8 billion budget hole.

Reducing state employee compensation is on the list.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder released a report today that says public employees are making more than twice their private sector counterparts.

The Detroit Free Press says the "Citizen’s Guide to Michigan’s Financial Health," may be sending a signal about "one way the new governor expects to address...the budget shortfall." From the Freep:

He said the overall compensation of the average private sector workers fell 13% from 2000-09 while rising 19% for state employees and 13% for local government workers. For state workers, the average annual compensation -- $53,453 in salary, $31,623 in fringes and $13,000 for insurance-- was more than twice that of the private sector, the report said.

The governor was quoted as saying, "I'd be careful about over generalizing on this data but it does show an important trend that needs to be addressed."

Rick Pluta from the Michigan Public Radio Network reports:

Public employee unions and advocates for human services question some of the data used in the report. They also say they’d like to see Snyder’s plans for investing in schools and infrastructure, as well as protecting people hurt by the economy.

Offbeat
11:35 am
Mon January 31, 2011

Saline wins "Snowman Building Champion of the Free World" trophy

The city of Zeeland placed second in the snowman making contest (second out of three cities).
Abby deRoo

Looking at the photos... they don't really look like snowmen - more like snowbots, but I guess that's the kind of quality you can expect when the goal is quantity.

The cities of Zeeland, St. Clair and Saline took part in a snowman building contest over the weekend.

As Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported, the goal of the contest was to see who could build the most snowmen (at least 4ft. tall) in a 2 hour period with 50 volunteers.

The volunteers employed garbage cans, pickle buckets, and Pam cooking spray to help them churn the snow creatures out.

The city of Saline came out on top winning the soon-to-be coveted, wood-carved trophy known as "Frosty."

Here are the final tallies:

1st Place - Saline with 483 snowmen like creatures

2nd place - Zeeland with 268

3rd place - St. Clair with 113

St. Clair Downtown Development Director Dan Lockwood blamed their poor showing on "terrible packing snow."

The Grand Rapids Press has several photos of the contest as it took place in Zeeland.

You be the judge, do they need to tighten up their definition of a snowman? Or should snowbots count?

On the Radio
7:25 pm
Fri January 28, 2011

In case you missed it...

C.P. Storm Flickr

Michigan Radio broadcasts hundreds of stories, interviews, and commentaries every week (anyone care to tally them up? - my guess is around 600 pieces in one week).

Whether these pieces come from our local reporters, NPR's reporters, NPR shows, shows from American Public Media, Public Radio International, or the BBC, it's impossible to keep up with ALL the stories coming over the airwaves.

Read more
Politics
3:07 pm
Fri January 28, 2011

Governor Snyder's plan to make up the budget shortfall

Governor Snyder makes no bones about wanting to get rid of the Michigan Business Tax. Some details of his plan were revealed today.

But by getting rid of the business tax, the state will be left with $1.5 billion tacked onto its existing projected deficit for the next fiscal year.

Today, the Governor spoke to the Michigan Press Association at the Detroit Marriott. In his speech, he addressed how he plans to make up the shortfall.

From the Associated Press:

Gov. Rick Snyder says he wants to include most tax breaks in the budget rather than burying them in the tax code...Snyder says it's imperative to get rid of the Michigan Business Tax, which he considers "a dumb tax." To make up the revenue lost by having a lower corporate income tax, he wants to look at existing tax breaks and get rid of those that aren't moving the state forward. The governor says tax breaks should be included in the budget so they can be debated and weighed on their merits.

The Detroit Free Press reported on Snyder's speech as well. The Governor said that one of the "biggest tasks as the chief executive of the state is to find the elusive “they” in state government." From the Freep:

Snyder said his first days in office were a revelation. “The IT guys were in hooking up my computer and I had a square screen,” he said, explaining that it didn’t make sense because the larger, landscape computer screens are better and less expensive. “They told me ‘It’s been 10 years and they said that’s what we had to do,’” Snyder said the IT guys told him. “Almost on a daily basis, I hear about ‘they’ and they tend to have a different opinion that I have. I need to find out who they are and where they reside.

Politics
1:57 pm
Fri January 28, 2011

Snyder's business tax plan revealed

Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (foreground) and Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley during Governor Snyder's State of the State address.
gophouse.com

Governor Snyder has said he wants to do away with the complex, "job-killing" Michigan Business Tax, and replace it with a more simplified flat tax for businesses in the state.

Read more
Politics
12:01 pm
Fri January 28, 2011

Governor Snyder's first big test?

Some republicans in the Michigan legislature are beginning their push for a repeal of the state's Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

It's a credit that bell-weather conservatives, like Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, have supported on the federal level.

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Auto/Economy
1:07 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

GM plans to "go green" without government help

GM says it won't apply for low-interest government loans.
user santoshkrishnan wikimedia commons

The new GM has been turning a corner of late. It posted three profitable quarters last year:

  • $865 million in the first quarter
  • $1.6 billion in the second quarter
  • $2.1 billion in the third quarter

(still waiting on fourth quarter numbers)

Now, in another sign of financial health, the auto company says it will no longer seek government loans to help it modernize factories:

From the Associated Press:

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Science/Medicine
12:59 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

Bad weather leads to low blood supply for American Red Cross

The Red Cross says their blood supply is running low
Staff Sgt. Joshua Strang U.S. Air Force photo

Bad winter weather through the eastern half of the U.S. has caused the cancelation of more than 14,000 blood and platelet donations, according to the American Red Cross.

They say they haven't seen the blood supply diminish this badly, during this season, for the past ten years.

With more bad weather likely, the Red Cross has put out an appeal for more donations from eligible blood donors "to help boost its blood supply back up to sufficient levels."

Read more

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