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Politics
1:59 pm
Fri March 25, 2011

Supreme Court weighs sewage case

Patrick Brosset Flickr

Can a judge determine what happens when you flush your toilet? A case before the Supreme Court may decide that very question.From the AP

The Michigan Supreme Court said Thursday it will decide if local governments can be ordered to install a sewer system when private septic systems fail and spoil a lake, a case that centers on Lake Huron and a five-mile stretch in the Thumb region.

State regulators want Worth Township to install a sewer system, but an appeals court last year said the township isn't responsible for the problems of private property owners.

Some septic systems are failing in an area between M-25 and Lake Huron in Sanilac County, 80 miles northeast of Detroit. Waste is being discharged into the lake and its tributaries, and the lots are too small to build new systems.

In a brief order, the Supreme Court narrowed the issue: Does state law allow regulators and the courts to demand that a township install a sewer system when a lake is contaminated?

Township attorney Michael Woodworth said he's not surprised that the justices agreed to take the state's appeal.

"The case is one of statewide significance," he said. "There have been (local governments) that did not challenge the authority of the Department of Environmental Quality. What surprised the DEQ in this case is the township stepped back and said, 'Wait a minute.'"

Worth Township seemed ready to build a new sewage system as recently as 2008, but the cost kept them from proceeding.

Offbeat
4:19 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

Detroit guard held bomb for three weeks

User Gini Flickr

A package containing a bomb was held for three weeks at the McNamara Federal Building in downtown Detroit. From the Detroit News:

A security officer at the McNamara Federal Building stored a suspicious package that turned out to contain a bomb for three weeks before alerting authorities, said a spokesman for a union that represents guards at the site, who called the incident "a total embarrassment."

"He apparently set it aside," said David Wright, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 918, which represents the Federal Protective Service (FPS) employees, who guard the McNamara and other federal buildings around the country.

"It should have been left in place and he should have called in a canine detection unit to see if they could make a determination about it," he said Tuesday.

The package was eventually placed behind two dumpsters behind the McNamara Building on Michigan Avenue downtown around 10 a.m. Friday. The Detroit Police Department's bomb squad collected the device from there and moved it to Belle Isle, where it was detonated.

An FBI official said yesterday that the device had gone to FBI headquarters in Virginia for additional testing.

Read more
Sports
2:01 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

New MSU hockey coach to be announced today

Paul Nicholson Flickr

Will the real next Spartan hockey coach please stand up?

After conflicting reports, it seems as if the job may go to CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos. From WILX-TV:

Former Spartan Tom Anastos will be announced as the next Spartan hockey coach at a 4 p.m. press conference at Munn Ice Arena. Anastos played for Ron Mason at Michigan State from 1981-85 scoring 60 goals and 143 points in his 4-year career.

Over the last 13 years he has served as the commissioner of the CCHA. He currently serves as the president of the Hockey Commissioner's Association. They created College Hockey Inc. which is responsible for growing the sport of college hockey.

Anastos was the head coach at the University of Michigan-Dearborn from 1987-1990. He was then as assistant to Mason at Michigan State from 1990-1992. The 46-year old will be just the 6th coach in Michigan State history.

Anastos emerged from a field of approximately twenty candidates, including Danton Cole, a former Waverly High School hockey star, who many believed was set to replace for MSU's hockey coach Rick Comley.

Comley guided the Spartans to a national championship in 2007, and is the fourth all-time winningest coach.

Medicine
1:16 pm
Wed March 23, 2011

Update: Students react to WMU's $100 million donation

Western Michigan University campus in Kalamazoo
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Students of Western Michigan University are reacting to the donation of $100 million dollars to Western Michigan University for their medical school. MLive reports:

A few hours after the announcement of a $100 million cash gift to jump-start Western Michigan University’s medical school, the event was replayed on a video kiosk inside the Bern­hard Center and caught the at­tention of several students.

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Sports
4:00 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Update: Jalen Rose responds to ongoing controversy over "The Fab Five" documentary

Jalen Rose discusses comments he made about Grant Hill and Duke University in ESPN's "The Fab Five" documentary

Update:

Last Friday, Jalen Rose defended some of the comments that he made in the documentary "The Fab Five." Rose claims that Duke did not and would not recruit players like him, and also addresses his use of the term "Uncle Tom," which Rose used in the documentary and which has been a source of ongoing controversy.

Here is Rose, talking about the things he said in the documentary:

"As a seventeen-year old recruit, that's exactly how I felt."

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Politics
3:19 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Update: Gadhafi's momentum halted following strikes

Johan Jonsson Flickr

The progress made by forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi has been halted, according to a U.S. official. CNN reports:

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's momentum has been stopped and rebels have been able to hold onto areas that Gadhafi's forces had been poised to take over, a U.S. official said Monday.

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Sports
1:28 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Insult to (metaphorical) injury: Duke's Smith performs stunning crossover on Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr.

Above: Duke's Nolan Smith performs a crossover on Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr.

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What's Working
12:05 pm
Mon March 21, 2011

Wind energy takes off in Michigan

user eXtension Ag Energy / flickr

Rick Wilson, the project manager for Heritage Sustainable Energy, is our guest this week as our “What’s Working” series continues. Based in Traverse City, Heritage Sustainable Energy is a wind power company that has been managing the installation of wind turbines in both the Lower and Upper Peninsulas of Michigan. Heritage is in the process of installing and expanding wind farms in the state, and is already producing roughly 40 megawatts of power.

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Offbeat
5:06 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

Four Loko for sale again in Michigan

Four Loko makes a return to Michigan

Michigan residents can once again buy flavored malt beverages like Four Loko. The caffeine infused alcoholic drink was banned by many states and by the Food and Drug Administration last year. Caffeine can make it difficult for consumers to realize just how much alcohol they’ve consumed.

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Politics
3:22 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

President Obama speaks about Libya

President Obama gives a statement on the situation in Libya
C-Span

President Obama gave a statement today regarding the ongoing situation in Libya.

From ABC News:

President Obama today gave an ultimatum to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that he must immediately implement a ceasefire in all parts of Libya and allow international humanitarian assistance or risk military action against his regime.

Read more
Politics
2:07 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

Judge blocks controversial Wisconsin union bargaining law

Joe Gratz Flickr

A judge has temporarily blocked Wisconsin's controversial new law affecting collective bargaining rights in the state. Here the update from the New York Times:

A judge issued a temporary restraining order on Friday that prevents Wisconsin’s new law cutting collective bargaining rights for public workers from taking effect, at least for now.

The decision, issued by Judge Maryann Sumi of the Dane County Circuit Court, temporarily bars Wisconsin’s secretary of state from publishing the controversial law, one of the procedural requirements for it to come into effect in the state.

Publication had been expected late next week, but Judge Sumi’s ruling delays that until at least March 29, when she plans to hold a full hearing on a lawsuit that questions the validity of the collective bargaining law based on the speedy manner in which it was carried out earlier this month.

An appeal is possible even before then.

Opponents of the measure said they hoped the decision was but the first of many that would ultimately undo legislation that has split the state and drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators to the state capital over a matter of many weeks.

Supporters of the measure, however, said the judge’s decision was merely a blip, certain to be overturned as various legal efforts make their way fully through the court system.

Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker has said that the law will shield taxpayers and improve Wisconsin's business climate.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Offbeat
1:37 pm
Fri March 18, 2011

In case you missed it...

User cccpstorm Flickr

On Wednesday, Fresh Air interviewed Dr. Gregg Bloche about the dangers that rising health care costs pose to patients and to doctor's adherence to the Hippocratic Oath.

From NPR's website:

In most medical schools, students recite the Hippocratic Oath together to mark the start of their professional careers. The soon-to-be physicians swear to uphold the ethical standards of the medical profession and promise to stand for their patients without compromise.

Though the oath has been rewritten over the centuries, the essence of it has remained the same: "In each house I go, I go only for the good of my patients."

But the principles of the oath, says Dr. Gregg Bloche, are under an "unprecedented threat." In The Hippocratic Myth, Bloche details how doctors are under constant pressure to compromise or ration their care in order to please lawmakers, lawyers and insurance companies.

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Politics
4:48 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Budget protests continue in Lansing

Thousands 6rally on at the state capitol building
(photo by Laura Weber/MPRN)

UPDATE:  A growing number of angry labor-movement supporters are showing up at the state Capitol to protest Republican proposals to tax pensions and limit union control.  A drum circle played on the Capitol lawn, surrounded by thousands of protesters with signs, a 15-foot inflated eagle, and flapping American and U-A-W flags.

There were big, hulking men in hardhats, businesspeople in suits, and young parents pushing strollers.   

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Postal service
4:16 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

No fowarding address: USPS mulls cuts to post office locations

Joey Rozier Flickr

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that the U.S. Postal Service is hoping to close a series of post offices around the country to save money. From the article:

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Environment
2:46 pm
Wed March 16, 2011

Michigan species affected by power plant emissions

The common loon is one of nine Michigan species vulnerable to mercury poisoning and other toxins from power plants
Andrew Reding flickr

The National Wildlife Foundation has released a report on Michigan wildlife hurt by power plant emissions.

The report says nine species in the state are affected by power plant toxins.  Mercury  is the most dangerous toxin for some species, including the large-mouth bass and the common loon.  

Lee Sprague is on the Tribal Council of the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.

"What we do know with mercury it really affects all life systems, from the very base of the food chain all the way up."

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Budget Protests
4:21 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Protests to continue in Lansing tomorrow

User P.E.C. Flickr

More protests are planned to take place at the state Capitol tomorrow. From the Daily Tribune:

Opponents of the proposed tax on pensions plan to rally at the state Capitol from 9 a.m to 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 15, with speakers between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

"We don't think it's fair the governor increases tax on seniors and the poor while giving breaks to business and cutting services," said Mark Horbeck, of AARP Michigan, a sponsor of the rally. "Seniors and the working poor are going to be asked to pay more taxes. What do they get in return? Less services and a business tax cut."

Other groups expected to attend include the Michigan League for Human Services and the state employee retirement association, as well as lawmakers from both parties, said Horbeck, though he declined to name the lawmakers.

AARP is one of the sponsors of the rally, but the rally was really the brainchild of Mary Lee Woodward of Oxford, a General Motors retiree who launched a Facebook page to protest the proposed tax.

She says she launched the Facebook page as soon as the governor made his budget proposal to the Legislature last month. Other efforts include passing out fliers of the upcoming rally.

Taxing her pension, Woodward says, could force her to choose between her home and her car.

State Sen. John Pappageorge  R-Troy, sits on both the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will deal with both Snyder's tax proposals and spending plans.

He says it's too early to tell whether taxing pensions is an idea that will eventually pass the Legislature.

"There's not sufficient support yet because we haven't had a chance to dig into it yet and see if we like it as is or if we can improve on it," Pappageorge said. "The point is it's just a little too early. You can't just look at pensions, you have to look at the whole picture and see if we're doing this as fairly as possible."

The protest comes just days after the legislature added a $100 expenditure item to the governor's tax code bill, thereby making it impossible for Michigan voters to repeal.

The state Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that legislation that included expenditures was immune to repeal by voters.

Budget Protests
2:31 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Ann Arbor rally one of many against state budget

Brit Satchwell says proposed budget cuts will hurt students
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Update 2:31 p.m.:

A spokesperson from the Governor’s office responded via email with the following:

"The proposed budget and tax plan is based on fairness and preserving core safety net services – while improving and strengthening our economy so ALL can prosper and benefit."

2:06 p.m.:

A handful of people gathered in Ann Arbor on Monday to speak against Governor Snyder’s proposed budget for an event organized by Progress Michigan, a progressive organization. The speakers included union representatives, city officials, and individuals.

Lois Richardson is Mayor Pro-Tem of Ypsilanti and voiced criticism of the budget. She says cuts to revenue sharing and historic tax credits will devastate Ypsilanti and other cities. Richardson says the changes will affect everyone in the state of Michigan, not just those who relied directly on the funding.

Brit Satchwell is the President of the Ann Arbor teacher’s union. He says students will feel the cuts the most:

“I’m a sixth grade math teacher and I’m here to tell you, the kids don’t get a makeover year. You don’t get to do sixth grade again because the adults messed it up.”

Satchwell also said school districts like Ann Arbor have already been cutting their budgets for the past few years.

This was one of several events held across the state in preparation for a protest scheduled for Wednesday at the Capitol.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio News

What's Working
12:44 pm
Mon March 14, 2011

Helping prisoners adjust to life after release

Tim Pierce, Los Gatos Creative Commons

This Monday, Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley sits down with Mary King as part of our year-long “What’s Working” series. King is the community coordinator in Washtenaw County for the Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative (MPRI). The MPRI aims to increase public safety and reduce crime and recidivism by providing supportive services to citizens recently released from prison. The services provided include assistance with locating housing, employment, substance abuse treatment, transportation, and mental health treatment.

In addition to helping released felons get back on their feet in their communities, Ms. King says the MPRI can produce financial savings for the state by reducing the number of prisons in Michigan. While there are many factors that contribute to fluctuations in the prison population, King says recently there has been a substantial decline in the recidivism rate in Michigan, thanks in part to the MPRI.

“What we do know is that returns to prison for people who have been released – which used to be about one for every two people that were released from prison were back within two years – that number has gone down to one in three.”

Before the MPRI came about, King says different agencies worked in local communities throughout the state to connect returning citizens with services they needed. Unfortunately, these localized efforts often lacked both communication with one another and an understanding of what services were most effective to reduce recidivism, says King.

Read more
Crime
5:10 pm
Fri March 11, 2011

Eastern Michigan University suffers security breach of personal information

Over 45 EMU students have been left vulnerable to identity theft
mconnors morgueFile

Officials at Eastern Michigan University are investigating two former student employees who allegedly stole personal information when they worked for the University. At least 45 EMU students could now be vulnerable to identity theft.

Walter Kraft is EMU’s Vice President of Communications and said the university discovered the breach during another investigation. He says the university is working with federal authorities to investigate the breach:

"We’re obviously pursuing it aggressively. Our department of public safety has notified federal authorities that are joining us in the investigation."

Students whose information was compromised have been contacted. EMU officials have not said if the stolen information was used.

Though the investigation is ongoing, Kraft encourages those with questions to visit the University's website for more information.

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio News

State Legislature
4:40 pm
Fri March 11, 2011

Emergency Financial Manager controversy continues

The scene in Lansing, from February 26
User P.E.C. Flickr

As protests continue in Madison over a controversial bill removing collecting bargaining rights from some public unions, attention is drifting to Michigan.

Governor Snyder has responded to reports and protests by saying that he does not want to follow Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's example, reiterating in an interview with WXYZ that he is eager to solve problems--including the specifics on $180 million dollars worth of concessions from state employees--through the collective bargaining process, and that he "was hired to solve Michigan's issues."

But whether Governor Snyder wants attention from national media or not, it is happening, including a ten-minute report on last night's Rachel Maddow Show.

But what does the law actually say? What is an Emergency Financial Manager? How are they appointed?

The following is taken from the "Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Public Act 72 of 1990, Local Government Fiscal Responsibility Act, and the Appointment of Emergency Financial Managers."

And if the title wasn't a clue, the explanation is a little long.

From the FAQ:

 What triggers the Act?

Among the conditions specified in the Act are the failure by a unit of local government to pay creditors, the failure to make timely pension contributions, and payless paydays. In addition, certain officials, or residents, of a unit of local government may request a preliminary review under the Act, as may either the State Senate or House of Representatives.

What happens when the Act is triggered?

The State Treasurer conducts a preliminary review of the financial condition of the unit of local government. Once that review is concluded, the State Treasurer reports the result to the Governor. If a serious financial problem is found to exist in the unit of local government, the Governor then appoints a financial review team to conduct a more detailed review of the financial condition of the unit of local government.

What is the purpose of a Financial Review Team?

...[A] Financial Review Team...conduct[s] a more detailed review of the financial condition of the unit of local government. A Financial Review Team generally has 60 days (generally 30 days in the case of school districts) to complete its work and file its report. A Financial Review Team report must reach one of the following three conclusions:

-- A serious financial problem does not exist in the unit of local government, or

-- A serious financial problem exists in the unit of local government, but a Consent Agreement containing a plan to resolve the problem has been adopted, or

-- A local government financial emergency exists because no satisfactory plan exists to resolve the serious financial problem.

If the third conclusion is reached, or if a unit of local government signs, but subsequently violates a Consent Agreement, then a financial emergency is determined to exist in the unit of local government and an Emergency Financial Manager is appointed.

Who appoints Emergency Financial Managers?

For units of local government other than school districts, Emergency Financial Managers are appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board, which consists of the State Treasurer, the Director of the Department of Management and Budget, and the Director of the Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. Emergency Financial Managers for school districts are appointed by the Governor, subject to the advice and consent of the State Senate

 

New Powers for EMFs

But a bill passed by the Michigan Senate this week expands the Emergency Financial Managers' powers to include ending union-approved contracts. Holland radio station WHTC reports:

After days of debate and protests, the State Senate passes a bill to give more power to emergency financial managers appointed to cities or school districts.  The 26-to-12 vote, which followed party lines, will allow emergency managers to cancel workers union contracts.

Democrats have said passing the bill would undermine collective bargaining in the affected communities or schools, while Republicans contend the legislation would help target municipalities or districts before their financial problems reach critical levels.

Six localities or school districts are currently affected by the law. From the Chicago Tribune:

The current state law related to emergency financial managers is affecting about a half-dozen local communities and schools at this time. Only Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Ecorse and the Detroit Public Schools have state-appointed emergency financial managers in place.

The bill has passed the House and the Senate and is on its way back to the House, where approval is required for some minor changes.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio News

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