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Environment & Science
3:08 pm
Mon May 14, 2012

West Michigan's White Lake sees cleanup progress

A map of the White Lake Area of Concern (shown in orange)
Michigan DEQ

The cleanup of one of Michigan's environmental "Areas of Concern" (AOC)  is now a step closer to being finished.

White Lake in Muskegon County is one of 43 sites around the Great Lakes region (14 are in Michigan) that have been designated for special cleanup because of heavy pollution that impairs their use.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality says White Lake has a history of contamination "with industrial discharges from leather processing and chemical companies."

Read more
Seeking Change
7:32 am
Mon May 14, 2012

Trying to end bullying, one text at a time

Tray Flickr

Last week in our Seeking Change series we heard about the kindness journal, an effort to get kids to write about being kind. One of the effects was fewer incidents of bullying among the kids who took part.Today we’re going to talk about cyber bullying. Paul McMullen is a father and he’s come up with a smartphone app, called Parenting Pride, to help combat cyber bullying among kids. It records text messages, but also aims to respect a teen’s desire for privacy. Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with McMullen about how he hopes to decrease bullying.

This story was informed by the Public Insight Network.

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Politics
4:40 pm
Fri May 11, 2012

Snyder wants e-retailers to collect Michigan sales tax

user Kcdtsg wikimedia commons

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is appealing to lawmakers in Washington to make online retailers collect state sales tax.

Melissa Anders from MLive.com reports that Gov. Snyder sent a letter to U.S. Senate leaders this week expressing his support for the Marketplace Fairness Act. The law would require companies doing business online to calculate sales tax based on customer location and collect the taxes on behalf of states.

Governor Snyder reportedly sees the law as "a way to level the playing field between brick-and-mortar shops and online retailers like Amazon.com and Overstock.com," Anders writes.

In the letter, Snyder also sights fiscal concerns:

"The Michigan Department of Treasury estimates that total revenue lost to e-commerce and mail-order purchases will amount to $872 million during fiscal years 2012 and 2013...it is crucial that the state has the tools to fairly collect the revenue that it is owed. The Marketplace Fairness act would provide states with the authority to do just that."

Michigan residents are already required to pay a "use tax" of 6 percent on their income tax returns for purchases made online. But it's difficult to enforce and few taxpayers heed the rule.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Health
1:15 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

Heart patients should ask more questions

Gabriela Camerotti Flikr

Patients with heart disease should ask their doctors more questions before undergoing elective heart procedures.

That's according to a study by the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
 
Marianne Udow-Phillips is Director of the Center and lead author of the study.   

She says whether or not Blue Cross/Blue Shield patients in the study underwent elective heart procedures depended more on where they received their care compared to whether or not it may have been the best option.

"We do believe that most of the use of these services is really more driven by physician preferences than patient preferences," said Udow-Phillips. "Patients do need to be more involved; they need to ask more questions of their physicians before they have a catheterization procedure.  There does need to be a better dialogue between physicians and patients."

The overall rate of these procedures have declined by 19-percent between 1997 and 2008.

Environment & Science
4:36 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Drilling rights auction brings in more than $4 million

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources auctioned off state-owned oil and natural gas drilling rights on more than 90,000 acres yesterday.

Here’s a recap of the auction results:

  • Total acres up for auction: 108,164.70
  • Total acres leased: 91,225.42
  • Total money raised: $4,118,848.60
  • Average bid per acre: $39.90

These auctions are typically held twice per year, in May and October.

The money raised from these biannual auctions has been steadily increasing since 2000, hitting peaks in 2008 and 2010.

In the first auction of 2008, the state leased all of the 149,000 available acres for more than $13 million. The last time the state had a 100 percent lease rate was in 1981.

The first auction in 2010 had a 99.6 percent lease rate and raised an unprecedented amount: more than $178 million.

The average bid per acre for that auction was $1,507, which far exceeds the average bids at any other auctions over the last 10 years, all of which have been under $100.

-Suzanne Jacobs, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Transportation
2:36 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Making public transit easier for Washtenaw Co. Spanish speakers

The Ride Facebook

Casa Latina, a new non-profit organization supporting Washtenaw County's Latino residents, has some interesting figures:

  • According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 30 percent of Washtenaw County community members who speak Spanish at home speak English ‘less than well’
  • Latinos make up 4 percent of Washtenaw County, yet 7.4 percent of those who use public transit are Latino
  • More than 70 percent of Spanish speakers in Washtenaw County are native-born US citizens, and 6.5 percent are naturalized citizens

With that in mind, Casa Latina has partnered with the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority (The Ride) to begin publishing a bus route and scheduling guide in Spanish.

In a press release, Charo Ledón, Executive Director of Casa Latina, commented, "This effort will help many of our fellow community members effectively use the bus system to get to and from work, school and the grocery store. It's a big step for Spanish-speakers to be able to fully participate in our community."

And a Spanish translation might just be the first step.

Carrie Rheingans, also with Casa Latina said, "In working with TheRide, we learned that there are folks who would like to see the Ride Guide published in other languages, too, and we applaud TheRide for trying this pilot project in Spanish first with Casa Latina." 

According to the release, The Ride's new website will allow users to find information in several languages.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. If you want to learn how to be a part of our network, click here.

Transportation
2:07 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Traffic deaths fell by 5 percent in Michigan last year

user dori wikimedia commons

Traffic deaths in Michigan fell by 5 percent last year, according to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.

  • 937 people in Michigan were killed in 2010,
  • 889 in 2011.

Nationally, road deaths fell by almost 2-percent during 2011.

Communications manager for the Office of Highway Safety Planning Anne Readette said a decline in drunk driving and high seat belt use helped the situation.  

"Just a few years ago, Michigan had a 98 percent [seat] belt use rate... and we know that certainly has played a significant role in what we're seeing in traffic deaths," said Readette. 

Readett said her office focuses on communicating their latest safety messages to young men - the drivers most likely to drink and drive and to not wear seat belts.

Here are a few more notable items from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning's press release:

  • Cell phone-involved crashes decreased from 881 in 2010 to 821 in 2011. Cell phone-involved fatal crashes increased from four in 2010 to six in 2011. (Michigan cannot track crashes involving texting specifically.)
  • Commercial motor vehicle-involved fatalities fell 23 percent, from 95 in 2010 to 73 in 2011.
  • Motorcyclist fatalities dropped 13 percent, from 125 in 2010 to 109 in 2011.
  • Bicyclist fatalities were down 17 percent, from 29 in 2010 to 24 in 2011.
  • Pedestrian fatalities increased 6 percent, from 131 in 2010 to 140 in 2011.
  • The number of car-deer crashes declined 4 percent, from 55,867 in 2010 to 53,592 in 2011.
Developing: Detroit Police
1:15 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Detroit police station evacuated

Update 1:55 p.m.

The Detroit News reports that three police officers have been temporarily quarantined, including the officer who handled the letter and two who were in the immediate vicinity.

The News quotes Inspector Don Johnson of the Homeland Security Unit of the Detroit Police Department:

"The officer who was exposed doesn't appear to be in any pain or distress at this time. At this point, we are treating it more as a hazmat situation rather than a bomb situation."

1:15 p.m.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are responding to a situation at a Detroit Police Station.

The police station at the corner of Schaefer and Grand River was evacuated and a Hazmat team dispatched after a suspicious powder fell out of a mailed envelope.  The envelope had no return address.

Hazmat crews are still analyzing the substance.

Arts & Culture
6:02 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Water Hill 2012: Creating a new spring music tradition in Ann Arbor (Video)

The Appleseed Collective performs during the Water Hill Music Festical in Ann Arbor
Meg Cramer Michigan Radio

This past Sunday marked the second successful Water Hill Music Festival.

Named after the west-side Ann Arbor neighborhood that hosts it, the festival features local musicians playing on porches while visitors wander and listen.

While some acts were invited by friends who lent their stoops for the afternoon, many live in the neighborhood and simply took the opportunity to show off their musical talents to the community.

Take a look at the video below to hear from a few of the bands and see the crowds of kids, parents and dogs enjoying music and sunshine.

Politics
10:19 am
Mon May 7, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 2nd
Brother O'Mara Flickr

State could be forced to pay new Detroit officials' salaries

Under the consent agreement with the state, the city of Detroit will have to appoint new officials to lead the city out of its financial crisis. Who will pay the salaries for these new officials is a new bone of contention according to Jonathan Oosting at MLive:

The [consent] agreement... requires the formation of a nine-member Financial Advisory Board to oversee city budgets and hiring of a Program Management Director to oversee implementation of key initiatives.

The deal calls for the city and state to split the salaries of advisory board members, who each will make $25,000 a year, while the city is required to cover the full salary of the PMD, expected to earn triple figures.

As MLive.com first reported this weekend, some city leaders believe the state may end up assuming full responsibility for those costs.

Some council members feel the Headlee Act prevents the state from mandating new services without compensating the city for those services.

Oosting reports Detroit City Council is expected to meet in a closed door session with the city's law department this afternoon.

U.S. Attorney General says violence in Detroit is "unacceptable"

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told thousands of people gathered at an NAACP fundraising dinner that violence in Detroit is "unacceptable."

He told the crowd last night in Detroit that his administration is directing "unprecedented" resources nationally in order to reduce young people's exposure to crime.

Holder said an average of two young black men get killed each week in Detroit. He called the statistic "shocking."

Higher train speeds between Detroit and Chicago

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says Michigan, Illinois and Indiana are each contributing $200,000 for a study looking into the creation of a high-speed rail corridor between Chicago and Detroit.

LaHood says the study will seek ways to cut Amtrak passenger train times between the cities and to more efficiently move goods.

The Department of Transportation says the study will build on the progress that Michigan has made in achieving 110 mile per hour service between Kalamazoo and Porter, Indiana.

Environment
5:12 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

As fracking debate continues in Michigan, Obama weighs in

A natural gas well.
World Resources Institute

Hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has created no shortage of controversy recently. And as Michigan Radio's Rebecca Williams reported last week, debate over this controversial method of extracting oil and gas from deep inside shale deposits has made its way to the Michigan statehouse.

Read more
Politics
3:08 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Unnamed air carrier shows interest in Detroit's City Airport

A runway map of Detroit's City Airport
faa.gov

Detroit's Coleman A. Young International Airport, also called City Airport, might soon be seeing passengers for the first time since 2000.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Jason Watt, general manager of the Coleman A. Young International Airport, told the City Council on Thursday that the city has a letter of intent from a carrier interested in re-establishing scheduled passenger travel. He would not publicly identify the company.

The facility is still open for private pilots and cargo carriers, the Free Press reports, but prior to Thursday's anonymous show if interest, the airport's future wasn't looking particularly bright as city officials work to scale down Detroit's budget.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
10:08 am
Thu May 3, 2012

Petition to recall Randy Richardville rejected

www.misenategop.com

A petition to recall the Republican majority leader of the Michigan Senate has been rejected by a Monroe County board. The Board of Canvassers met yesterday and said the petition language was unclear. Monroe County Clerk Sharon Lemasters says the petition was rejected because at least one section was vague.

Education
4:10 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Pontiac school finances face state scrutiny

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan
Michigan.gov

The state is set to take a preliminary look at the financial situation of Pontiac's public schools, a step that could eventually lead to the appointment of an emergency manager.

Read more
Business
1:56 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Huntington Bank plans to open branches in Michigan Meijer stores

Ohio-based Huntington Bank says it plans to open branches in dozens of Meijer stores in Michigan. The bank and the Grand Rapids-based retailer have announced a 10-year partnership.

They say this will add 500 jobs for Huntington Bank in Michigan. The branches will operate with extended hours, giving shoppers time to conduct business on evenings and weekends. Huntington has partnered with another Grand Rapids based company, Steelcase, to design the branches.

Auto/Economy
3:51 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Michigan is home to the Motor City, but what if young people stop driving?

user (Buchanan-Hermit) wikimedia commons

In a state like Michigan, with a history that's virtually inseparable from that of the automobile, it might be hard to imagine a life without cars. But according to  a recent report, an increasing number of the nation's young people are choosing to drive less or not to drive at all.

The report found that:

Read more
Environment
10:57 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Michigan DNR wants to resolve encroachment conflicts on public land

The Department of Natural Resources has started a program to help people resolve issues of encroachment on public land.

MDNR officials say they want to work with people who are trespassing, by having either a permanent-structure or historical-encroachment.

They say they're writing to property owners with known encroachments on public land, telling them they're eligible to resolve their cases without penalty.

Applications will be accepted through December 31.

Arts
5:00 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Empty Detroit police station? How about an art gallery?

An architectural rendering of the updated precinct
555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios

A non-profit arts organization is setting up shop inside a vacant police precinct in southwest Detroit.

The old 3rd Precinct is now owned by the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios. The organization is run by volunteers and, according to it's website, provides "affordable studios and workspace, gallery space, exhibition programs, arts education programs, and an artist in residency program."

From the AP:

The 7,000-square-foot ex-precinct has been stripped to raw concrete. Its 21 jail cells remain intact.

555 wants to put in a gallery space, build seven private studio spaces and an Education and Programming Studio.

As for the jail cells, 555 says they're "ready to be used for creativity."

555 plans to hold a fundraiser in their new space this evening featuring "food and drink, live aerial performance and music."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
3:40 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Contrasting Michigan policy, Toledo mayor considers domestic partner benefits

Toledo Mayor Mike Bell
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

Late last year, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a controversial law barring many live-in partners of state employees from receiving government health benefits. Snyder and some members of the state legislature cited cost as the primary reason behind the ban. But critics of the law, including the ACLU of Michigan, said the law unfairly targeted same-sex couples.

Now, just south of the border, things might be moving in the opposite direction.

According to a story in the Toledo Blade, the city's Mayor Mike Bell is planning to bring legislation concerning domestic partner benefits before the city council. The measure would give Toledo city employees the opportunity to extend their health care benefits to cover their live-in partners, provided couples sign up for the city's Domestic Partner Registry.

More from the Blade:

Both heterosexual and same-sex couples would be eligible for benefits under the proposed law...

"What we're trying to do is bring our city, form the standpoint of human resources and affirmative-action policies, in line with what's happening nationally," Mayor Bell said. "We're not the first train pulling out of the station here, we're actually in a way trying to catch up with the policies that make companies and cities competitive in the state of Ohio."

Other cities, including Cleveland and Columbus, along with Lucas County, the University of Toledo, Owens Corning, and the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, offer benefits to domestic partners of employees, according to information provided by the mayor's office.

But, the Blade reports, some council members are already voicing misgivings about the policy:

George Sarantou said he has many questions about the proposed law and is concerned it could be too costly for a city that has struggled financially in recent years.

"Cost is always a factor when you're dealing with a budget," Councilman Sarantou said...

Councilman Rob Ludeman, meanwhile, expressed both financial and moral concerns about the proposed law. During his last term, Mr. Ludeman was one of two councilmen who voted against the Domestic Partner Registry.

"A lot of it was my own religious beliefs, but I think I represented a conservative constituency who were opposed to it, gay and straight people," Mr. Ludeman said.

Mayor Bell told the Blade that he doesn't believe the benefits will present any financial strain and said it comes down to fairness:

"When you're the mayor, you represent everybody," the mayor said. "Inside the city we have a lot of different lifestyles. All I'm trying to do is be fair to everybody. ... I'm trying to adjust our polices to the obvious that's in front of us right now at this particular time in history."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
5:17 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

Michigan election officials deadlocked on challenge to emergency manager law

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers deadlocked 2-2 along party lines this morning on whether to allow a challenge to the state's emergency manager law on the November ballot.

Update 5:17 p.m.

MPRN's Rick Pluta filed audio on the scene at today's Board of State Canvassers meeting. Here's what it sounded like - first the chants of "Shame!" from the crowd after the Board had a deadlocked, which meant the question would not be put to voters in November - and then the response from Herb Sanders, the attorney for the Stand Up for Democracy campaign.

Sanders says the next stop is the Michigan Court of Appeals.

12:27 p.m.

The Detroit News has more on the scene at the Board of State Canvassers meeting this morning:

Democrats Julie Matuzak and James Water voted to approve the petitions while Republicans Jeffrey Timmer and Norman Shinkle voted against it.

More than 140 supporters of repealing Public Act 4 began chanting "Shame, Shame, Shame" and shouting down the board members as "fascists" as they tried to exit the heated meeting.

An attorney arguing for the Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, the group challenging the validity of the petitions, says the law uses the term "shall" - as in petitions "shall" use certain font and type sizes.

"'Shall,' in legal parlance, is a mandatory term," Pirich said. "It didn't say 'get in the ball park', it said it 'shall.' "We believe the petition is fatally flawed in that regard."

Herb Sanders, the attorney representing Stand Up For Democracy, a coalition of groups that launched the petition campaign, noted several Court of Appeals petition cases where the court used a standard of "substantial compliance" to determine a petition's validity.

11:59 a.m

The Board of State Canvassers has deadlocked along party lines on whether to put the referendum challenge to the emergency manager law on the ballot. Republicans on the board pointed to the use of an incorrect type size on the petition as grounds for denying it access to the November ballot. The ballot campaign can now go to the state Court of Appeals.

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