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Politics
5:19 pm
Thu February 9, 2012

The politics behind Governor Snyder's budget

Michigan State Capitol Building
User: mattileo/flickr

Governor Rick Snyder today presented his budget proposal for the fiscal year 2013, which begins this October.  He calls for modest increases in K-12 education, state police, and cities.

Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service joined Michigan Radio's Jennifer White to talk about the governor’s budget proposal.

There were no big spending cuts or structural changes. Sikkema is not surprised.

“We did big things last year. Now let’s just solidify them and continue in the direction we’re going in,” says Sikkema.

The Governor has proposed a public safety initiative that includes a 16 percent funding boost for the Michigan State Police, an additional $15 million in “law enforcement enhancement,” and about $5 million for youth employment program in high crime areas.

Michigan has numerous cities with high crime rates.  Demas says, “Now that we do have some more money in the surplus, it’s probably not a surprise that this was an area that we went to.”

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Environment
9:30 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Northern Michigan fruit growers brace for a changing climate

Cherry grower Jim Nugent prunes his trees.
Photo by Bob Allen/Interlochen Public Radio

by Bob Allen for The Environment Report

Warmer temperatures and melting snow are less than ideal for winter sports and outdoor festivals. But the weird weather has northern Michigan fruit growers holding their breath, hoping to avoid disaster.

In his more than 20 years as an agricultural extension agent in the Traverse City area, Duke Elsner says this is the most bizarre winter weather he’s ever seen.

“The ups and downs have just been remarkable. The inability to hang on to a cold period for any length of time has been very strange.”

A gradual drop in temperature at the beginning of winter and holding there below freezing for long periods are the ideal conditions for plant to become frost hardy, and hardiness is what protects them from getting damaged by cold.

But when temps bounce up into the 40’s and 50’s as they’ve done frequently this winter, some of that hardiness is lost.

“Our trees and vines can take below zero in a normal winter. I sure wouldn’t want to drop below zero at this point in time, I’ll say that.”

That’s fruit grower Jim Nugent. He and a couple of his neighbors are doing the yearly chore of pruning his cherry trees.  With long-handled saws, they reach up eight or ten feet to strip away branches and limbs.

Nugent knows his orchard is vulnerable right now because of a loss of winter hardiness. But there’s not a lot he can do about it.

Things could go either way at this point.

A sudden drop to zero would be serious.

But orchards still may slide by unscathed. If temps gradually drop below freezing and stay there, trees will regain some of their hardiness.

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Auto/Economy
3:15 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

Chrysler CEO Marchionne announces early bonuses

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne praised workers, saying "It took an incredible team effort to bring about such remarkable results, and you should be proud."
wikimedia commons

Last week, we reported an Associated Press estimate that predicted a $1,500 profit-sharing bonus for Chryslers hourly employees based on the automaker's earnings figures contractual obligations with workers.

Now an email from Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne to UAW members posted by the Detroit News suggests the bonuses will go out early.

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Offbeat
2:34 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Lessons on life and compost at the Ann Arbor ReSkilling Festival

A woman shares her cattail mat weaving skills at the Ann Arbor ReSkilling Festival.
Nell Gable

Long ago, before iPads and Wifi, it wasn’t “cool” or trendy to know how to do things such as mend your own clothes, can fruit or turn old food into compost—it was imperative. And just as valuable as the skills themselves, were the people from whom you learned them.

Now, face-to-face social interaction is often limited to the times when we look up from whatever screen we’re lost in while we wait for the next text message or email to arrive.

Some people in Ann Arbor are hoping to break this cycle by regaining valuable yet forgotten skills and reclaiming community bonds.

The movement takes shape in the form of the Ann Arbor ReSkilling Festival. According to the festival website, "reskilling" is all about sharing often abandoned skills for “resilient, low-energy living,” in a face-to-face community setting.

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Education
2:58 pm
Fri February 3, 2012

Supreme Court won't intervene in U-M grad student union effort

The Michigan Supreme Court
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

    The Michigan Supreme Court today rejected requests by the state attorney general and a g roup supported by a conservative think tank to intervene in effort to unionize graduate student research assistants at the University of Michigan.    

Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a request with the state Supreme Court to stop a hearing about whether certain graduate students at the University of Michigan can unionize.

Attorney General spokesman John Selleck says they "respect the decision of the Supreme Court."

"I'm happy that the Supreme Court denied the Attorney General's motion to intervene in our hearing," says Irene Yeh, a graduate student research assistant (GSRA) at the University of Michigan. "I'm glad it looks like GSRAs will have the right to decide whether we want to unionize."

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Developing
3:15 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

Chicago-bound Amtrak train in Michigan derails near Jackson

An Amtrak train collided with a semi-truck near Jackson, Michigan
(JTV)

Update 3:15 p.m. - Workers hope to reopen rail line tomorrow

10 people were injured today when an Amtrak train collided with a semi-truck between Ann Arbor and Jackson.   None of the injuries were life-threatening.

The accident derailed the train’s engine and two passenger cars.   The collision also heavily damaged the tracks and the crossing. 

But a company spokesman says they hope to reopen the line by tomorrow morning.

David Pidgeon is a spokesman for Norfolk-Southern, which owns and operates the railroad that runs across southern Michigan.

 “Six passenger trains a day use that particular line…and another four to five trains of freight (a day) also use that line," says Pidgeon, "So we need to get that line open…as safely and efficiently as possible.”

While the section of track is being repaired, passengers are making part of their trip by bus.

2:17 p.m. - 10 injured

MLive.com reports that "a total of 10 people were injured" in this morning's Amtrak derailment in Leoni Township.

Blackman-Leoni Township Public Safety Director Mike Jester said all were taken to Allegiance Health with non-life threatening injuries. Authorities had previously reported six injured.

11:50 a.m. - Passengers re-routed

A westbound Amtrak train collided with a truck this morning between Jackson and Ann Arbor.

There were no life-threatening injuries. The collision left the train’s engine on its side and knocked two passenger cars off the tracks.    

Marc Magliari is an Amtrak spokesman. He says  Amtrak will bus passengers around the crash site while repairs are under way. 

“Passengers who are ticketed …let’s say eastbound passed Jackson…would be taken by chartered motorcoach…to the Ann Arbor station where they’ll meet another train and continue on," says Magliari.

 It’s unclear how long it will take to remove the derailed train and repair the damage done to the rails. 

About a half million passengers rode on Amtrak’s Wolverine line last year. 

Here's video from the Jackson Citizen Patriot speaking with Blackman-Leoni Township Public Safety Director Mike Jester:

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Environment
1:46 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

What life off of the Endangered Species List could mean for Michigan wolves

The wolf population in Michigan is now being controlled by the state. In Minnesota, officials are considering a hunting season.
user metassus Flickr

As of last Friday, wolves in Michigan are no longer a federally protected “endangered species.”

On December 21, 2011 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced in Washington that Gray wolf populations in the Western Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin have exceeded recovery goals and are stable enough to be removed from the Endangered Species List.

The current populations in each state are:

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Crime
5:47 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Auto thefts down in Michigan, but thieves still like old trucks

Trucks top the list for vehicle thefts in Michigan.
user silas216 Flickr

Michigan Radio's Laura Weber has been looking into car theft in the state and she has some good news unless you happen to be the owner of a 10-to-15-year-old truck.

That's because, Weber says, according to a recent report from Michigan's Automobile Theft Prevention Authority, the number of car thefts in the state fell roughly nine percent between 2009 and 2010. But the top ten most-stolen vehicle's in Michigan in 2010 were all older model pickup trucks.

To add some context to these findings Weber spoke with Dan Vartanian from the prevention authority:

He said theft-prevention technology is becoming standard on newer vehicles, which helps bring down the number of break-ins, but he said auto-thieves are shifting tactics to steal cars.

“We’re finding car-jackings are becoming more popular, which is a more dangerous form of theft than a would-be thief coming by and picking up your car in the driveway or on the street," said Vartanian. "So we’re concerned about that, obviously, and we’re making efforts to curb that as well.”

Regarding pickups specifically, Vartanian told Weber:

“Well, they’re not always all pickup trucks. But for the last several years they predominant type of vehicle has been the pickup truck. Reason? Very simply, if you were to ask an auto thief what vehicle is the easiest vehicle to steal on the road, they would say various Chrysler products made up of pickup trucks. The parts are interchangeable with other vehicles, they’re easy to steal...Passenger vehicles become more and more sophisticated with anti-theft locking devices, with GPS devices and so-on that are installed in passenger vehicles. Older trucks lack this type of technology." 

Bellow is a list of the top ten most-stolen models in Michigan according to ATPA, which also found that the most popular color for stolen vehicles in 2010 was black.

  1. 2000 Dodge Ram Pickup
  2. 1999 Dodge Ram Pickup
  3. 2002 Dodge Ram Pickup
  4. 1998 Ford Pickup
  5. 1997 Dodge Ram Pickup
  6. 1998 Dodge Ram Pickup
  7. 2003 Dodge Ram Pickup
  8. 1996 Chevrolet Pickup
  9. 1999 Ford Pickup
  10. 1997 Chevrolet Pickup

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Flint
1:54 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

Flint Emergency Manager Brown to hold public meeting with residents

The Flint Journal reports Michael Brown will host a meeting in each of Flint's nine wards.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The Flint Journal reports that Michael Brown, the recently appointed emergency manager in Flint, will hold his first public meeting since taking up the post last December.

The event is part of a series of meetings Brown will host aimed at creating a dialogue with residents.

The Flint Journal writes:

"It's the first public meeting since he took office," said city Council President Scott Kincaid, who represents [Flint's] 9th Ward. "(The 9th Ward residents) care about the community, they care about the neighborhood. They want to know about public safety. They want to know their taxes aren't being raised."

Brown is expected to discuss his plan for turning the city's finances around, as well as the results of the city's recent audit and other financial challenges facing Flint.

"He's going to talk about how we got where we are," Kincaid said. "It didn't just happen overnight."

A press release from the city of Flint says the meeting are intended to " provide an opportunity for residents to meet the emergency manager and members of his team" as well as " give residents an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback

The release also quotes Brown:

“Community engagement is vital in this process. It’s important for residents to have a clear picture of the city’s resources, responsibilities, and those things that are necessary, moving forward, as we get the city’s financial house in order,” said Brown.

A list of all of the meeting times and locations can be found here.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
3:20 pm
Fri January 27, 2012

"Choose Life" plates: what will they pay for?

The newsroom 8-ball says: "Answer hazy, try again later."

As we reported earlier this week, a proposal in the state legislature that would create a "Choose Life" specialty Michigan license plate cleared a Senate committee and has made its way to the chamber floor. If the proposal passes, proceeds from the plates would go to a newly-formed organization called the Choose Life Michigan Fund.

A Facebook fan responded, writing:  "These 'pregnancy resource centers' and 'other prolife entities' actively evangelize and attempt to convert vulnerable women to their version of Christianity."

This comment got us wondering, if the proposal passes, what exactly will money from the plates pay for?

MPRN's Capitol Bureau Chief Rick Pluta weighed in on the question of whether or not the proposed legislation would allow pro-life groups to use money raised by the state to proselytize in any way.

Read more
Environment
10:54 am
Thu January 26, 2012

Power line fight in the U.P.

There’s a fight brewing about whether Michigan’s Upper Peninsula needs two new power lines. The high voltage lines would cut through northern woodlands to bring electricity from Wisconsin to the U.P. Energy companies say the single existing line is maxed out.

An announcement by WE Energies of Milwaukee sparked this debate last fall. The company said it would phase out an old coal burning power plant in Marquette over the next five years. To keep the plant going would mean investing millions in new pollution controls.

People in the U.P. were worried about where their power would come from, and they were upset about the prospect of losing 170 jobs at the Presque Isle power plant.

WE Energies favors building new power lines to send electricity from Wisconsin to the U.P. That plan was put on a fast track for regulatory approval.

But then a couple of weeks ago, WE Energies and Wolverine Power based in northern lower Michigan announced a joint venture.

They’re now looking at upgrading the plant in Marquette to meet stricter pollution rules.

Read more
Science/Medicine
3:25 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

Gates Foundation gives MSU $5.8 million to combat disease in Africa

Stephen Obaro, a professor in MSU's Department of Pediatrics and Human Development, will lead a research team in Nigeria studying bacterial diseases in children.
msu.edu

Michigan State University will use a $5.8 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to study bacterial diseases in sub-Saharan Africa, the leading cause of death for children in the region.

The AP writes:

The bacterial diseases include pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis and they kill more people in the area than malaria. The Nigeria-based project involves collecting local data on the diseases and promoting the use and development of vaccines.

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Station News
6:30 am
Wed January 25, 2012

TECHNICAL PROBLEMS: News e-mail sending old stories

Attention Michigan Radio news e-mail subscribers:

In the last two days we have experienced technical difficulties with our daily news e-mail.

We have been editing story tags in some of our older stories which has resulted in a database error.

These older stories were re-entered into the database as new stories.

We regret the problem and apologize for any confusion it may have caused. We're working to resolve the issue.

Thanks for your patience!

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Politics
4:01 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

"Choose Life" specialty plate clears Michigan Senate committee

According to a report from the Guttmacher Institute, 25 states offer "Choose Life" plates.
user Snappy.joneS Flickr

Last week, Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark reported on a bill introduced in the Michigan Legislature that would "create a specialty license plate to raise money for the Right to Life of Michigan Fund."

Now, the Associated Press reports that the bill has cleared its first legislative hurdle, garnering unanimous approval  from the Michigan Senate Transportation Committee.

From the AP:

The legislation would allow Michigan residents to buy a "Choose Life" license plate with a portion of the money going to Right to Life. The organization says the money would go to abortion prevention projects.

The bill will now make its way to the state Senate floor, the Associated Press reports.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
2:25 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Former Michigan state representative Waters joins race for Congress

Former state representative Mary Waters jumps into the race for Michigan's 14th District.
Mary Waters' Facebook profile

The race for Michigan's 14th Congressional District just got more crowded. The Detroit Free Press reports today that former state Rep. Mary Waters has thrown her hat in the ring, competing for a congressional seat representing the western half of Detroit.

Waters, a Democrat from Detroit, will be facing U.S. Reps. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township), Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit), and Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence for her party's nomination, the Free Press reports.

While Waters nearly won a congressional seat back in 2008, the Free Press writes, her recent record is a bit more rocky:

Waters’ fortunes faded when she pleaded guilty in 2010 to a misdemeanor count of filing a false tax return related to a bribery scandal involving her one-time boyfriend Sam Riddle. She tried to withdraw her plea, but the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the plea last year and Waters was sentenced to one year of probation.

Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta reported last year on a related story involving Waters and Sam Riddle:

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Politics
3:27 pm
Fri January 20, 2012

Grilling the governor: Snyder faces tough questions during online town hall

Screen cap from online town hall meeting

Wednesday evening, Michigan's Governor Rick Snyder hosted an online town hall meeting, soliciting questions via email and social networking sites while responding through a streaming video feed on his Facebook profile.

Just prior to the event, there were over 3,500 questions submitted, including:

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Politics
8:39 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

LISTEN: 2012 State of State address

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

 

From the Associated Press:

An upbeat Gov. Rick Snyder says Michigan now is adding jobs and living within its means and is poised for an even better year ahead if lawmakers approve new projects boosting the economy such as a bridge linking Detroit and Canada.

Snyder made the comments during his second State of the State address Wednesday at the Capitol.

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Politics
5:00 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

Troy City Council approves scaled-back transit center plan

Rendering of proposed transit center
troymi.gov

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Troy City Council has effectively reversed course from their decision last month to block construction of a transit center using federal dollars.

The Freep reports that during a meeting Tuesday night, council members voted 4-3 in favor of approving a plan with a slightly reduced cost---the new project will use roughly $6.3 million from a federal transportation grant as opposed to $8.5 million in the earlier proposal.

From the Free Press:

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Politics
3:48 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Michigan Congressman Amash sticks to principles, in Boehner's craw

Facebook

With the U.S. House of Representatives starting off a new session today and Senators coming back to work next week, both parties will be eager to make headway on their respective legislative agendas.

For congressional leaders, part of this means making sure their party members fall in line when it's time to vote and don't stray across the aisle.

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Environment
10:57 am
Tue January 17, 2012

Strange winter weather affects some parts of tourist economy

It's been wet enough, just not cold enough.
Patrick Feller Flickr

The arrival of winter in Michigan is not supposed to last long.

The cold snap earlier this week is expected to give way early next week to temperatures back in the forties.

The lack of snow is taking a toll on some parts of the state’s tourism economy.

Forecaster Mike Boguth says northern Michigan might set a record this year for the least amount of snowfall ever. Boguth works at the National Weather Service office in Gaylord.

He says what little snow there is now could melt next week when temperatures rise.

“We don’t see any signs of cold weather coming back after we get by this week.”

Most ski resorts up north opened in December. That’s because nighttime temperatures have been cold enough to make snow.

But for businesses that depend on snowmobile traffic this time of year, things couldn’t be much worse. They’ve had just one weekend of business all winter. That was this past weekend which included the Martin Luther King holiday.

Dave Ramsey owns Beaver Creek Resort near Gaylord. He says just enough snow fell late last week to open the trails.

Still, more than half his cabins were empty this weekend when he would usually have a waiting list.

“Every hotel in Gaylord every motel and little cabin cluster will just about fill to capacity on every major holiday if we have good snow.”

The weather could also create problems for the North America Vasa. The cross-country ski race near Traverse City could draw 1,000 racers the second weekend in February.

The VASA trail has three inches of base but no snow-making capacity.

-Peter Payette for The Environment Report

So what's up with this weather? Wunderground.com's Dr. Jeff Masters explains.

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