Zoe Clark

Reporter/Producer

Zoe Clark is a producer as well as the co-host of the Friday afternoon segment It's Just Politics on Michigan Radio. She produces Morning Edition, Jack Lessenberry’s daily essays, and Michigan Radio’s local interviews, including those by All Things Considered host Jennifer White and Morning Edition host Christina Shockley. She is also a substitute on-air host. She has been at Michigan Radio since 2006.

Zoe began her collegiate studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She holds degrees in Communication Studies and Political Science from the University of Michigan and lives in Ann Arbor, where she was born and raised.

Email: zoeclark@umich.edu

Twitter: @ZoeMelina

Matthileo / Flickr

This week Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I took a look at the hullabaloo over vote counting at the state Capital.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Negotiations Continue in Detroit

The Detroit City Council vetted a proposed state deal to fend off insolvency yesterday. "The deal is formally called a “financial stability agreement.” The city and state have been trying to negotiate a deal for two weeks now. But after yesterday’s meeting, it’s clear the two sides are still a long way apart. The Council is expected to take up the issue again on Monday. The city and the state have until April 5th to reach some kind of deal, or Governor Snyder could choose to appoint an emergency manager," Sarah Cwiek reports. Detroit is facing a $200 million budget deficit and could run out of money by the end of May.

Autism Treatments

The state Legislature has sent Governor Snyder a package of bills that would require health insurance plans to offer coverage for childhood autism treatments. Rick Pluta reports:

Governor Snyder called for the autism mandate in his State of the State address. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley has a daughter with autism. He says the case can be made for extending the mandate to other mental health disorders, but autism was a good place to start. Calley says the requirement will save taxpayers money because more children with autism will grow to live independently instead of requiring government assistance. But on the same day, the Legislature sent him the bills, a state Senate committee eliminated funding in his Medicaid budget for treating autism.

MI Economic Recovery

Things looked bleak in Michigan in January 2009, when the state’s economic activity index fell to 60 points. But, as Rina Miller reports, in January of this year it was up to 98 points. “The index looks at payrolls, exports, sales tax revenues, unemployment claims and other factors. ‘We're starting to see some sustainable progress in coming out of the depths of the recession,’ Robert Dye, chief economist with Comerica Bank, explains. ‘And in January, we really see evidence of this resurgence of the auto industry permeating into other parts of the economy,’” Miller reports.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Snyder to Sign Helmet Law?

The state Senate approved a measure yesterday to end the requirement that motorcycle drivers over the age of 21 must wear a helmet. Now, it’s up to Governor Snyder to decide whether the measure will become law. Rick Pluta reports:

Governor Snyder has not said whether or not he’ll sign the legislation. The Senate bill would allow people 21 and over to ride without head protection – if they carry extra insurance coverage. But that did not persuade state Senator Roger Kahn, who is also a doctor. He says helmets save lives and protect against injuries that would otherwise be more severe. Advocates for repealing the law say safety training is more important than head protection. People in Michigan’s hospitality industry also support the repeal. They say there will be more Michigan motorcycle tourism without the helmet requirement.

Jobless Rate Continues Decline

The state’s unemployment rate continues to decline. Michigan's jobless rate fell in February to 8.8 percent, and the state's total workforce grew by 14,000, according to the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. The last time the state’s unemployment rate was below 9 percent was in September of 2008. Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush took a deeper look behind the numbers – you can find his report here.

Gas Prices Worry Retailers

Michigan retailers are becoming more concerned about the impact rising gasoline prices will have on sales. “Michigan’s average gas price leaped over four dollars a gallon this week. The Michigan Retailers Association released a survey Wednesday showing lower sales projections over the next three months. Tom Scott is with the Michigan Retailers Association. He says rising gas prices will force retailers to spend more to ship their products and discourage customers from coming into their stores,” Steve Carmody reports.

Kate.Gardner / Flickr

By now, you’ve probably heard all about the Asian Carp.

The invasive species is making its way up the Mississippi River and there’s concern that if the fish are able to get into the Great Lakes that they could drastically change the waters’ eco-system.

Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow and Michigan Republican Congressman Dave Camp introduced the Stop the Asian Carp Act last year. The legislation required the Army Corps of Engineers to create a plan to permanently separate the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan.

Stopping the Carp

I spoke with Senator Stabenow this week and asked her where things stand with the Army Corps of Engineers’ plan. “The Army Corps of Engineers is working on a plan to give us specific recommendations on how to separate the waters… The problem is they say they won’t have this done until 2015. And, so, what we’re trying to do is push them to get this done much quicker,” Stabenow explains.

The Mississippi River: Not the only entry point for the Carp

A lot of attention has been paid to the Mississippi River as the main entry point where the Carp could get into the Great Lakes. But, Stabenow explains, “We also, now, are looking more broadly than just the Illinois River and the Mississippi River going into Lake Michigan. We’ve found that there have been some fish seen going across Indiana – in the Wabash River. At certain times, during the year, it connects to the Maumee River in Ohio and then actually goes into Lake Erie. And, so, this is a real challenge for us. There is, I believe, nineteen different tributaries and ways to get into the Great Lakes – that’s my biggest worry.”

Chicago shipping interests

Recently, we’ve been hearing more about the idea of permanently separating the waterways rather than a temporary solution. “I believe that we ought to be closing the [Chicago] locks until we get to a permanent solution. But, there is a lot of pushback from Illinois and Chicago,” Stabenow says. Those who work in commercial shipping in Chicago are against the idea of closing the locks. They say it would hurt their multi-million dollar business interests. “Personally, I’d say the other side’s interests are – not that we don’t respect them – but they’re small in terms of economic impact compared to what could happen having the fish go into the Great Lakes.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Snyder to Hold Town hall Meeting

Governor Snyder will be part of a town hall meeting today in Detroit to talk about the city’s finances. “The meeting comes as state and city leaders are trying to finalize a deal to resolve major cash flow problems. A state review team has determined Detroit is in “severe financial stress”. The city’s deficit is nearly $200 million. Snyder says he’s trying to be transparent about the financial situation. He’s expected to go over the facts at the town hall meeting. He’ll also field questions and probably some criticism from the audience,” Lindsey Smith reports.

State Senate to Take Up Helmet Law

The Michigan Senate is expected to vote tomorrow on a measure to repeal the state’s motorcycle helmet law – and send it to Governor Snyder’s desk, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

The measure was stalled because Governor Snyder wants the helmet law to be part of a larger discussion on finding savings in Michigan’s no-fault insurance system. State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said he wants to get the law on the books in time for the new motorcycle riding season. Governor Snyder has not said what he would do if a helmet law repeal reaches his desk. Supporters of the helmet law say it saves lives and prevents expensive-to-treat head injuries.

Case Against Militia Group Dismissed

A judge dismissed key charges yesterday against members of a Michigan militia who were accused of plotting war against the government, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The decision is an embarrassment for the government, which secretly planted an informant and an FBI agent inside the Hutaree militia and claimed members were armed for war in rural southern Michigan. Detroit federal Judge Victoria Roberts made her decision five days after prosecutors rested their case. Her decision affects all seven militia members who've been on trial since Feb. 13. Only weapons charges remain against two of the defendants.

Ifmuth / Flickr

Every Wednesday, Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry takes a look at the week in state politics. On tap for this morning: the latest in Detroit's financial situation and what the arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court over the Affordable Care Act could mean for Michigan.

Matthileo Capitol / Flickr

Update 3/27/2012:

"The Michigan Supreme Court - in a decision that breaks along party-lines -  has upheld a state law that will let Republicans on the Oakland County Commission redraw their district lines. The Supreme Court says the law complies with the state constitution, regardless of whether it was designed to give one party a political advantage. The Supreme Court's three Democrats dissented from the decision," Rick Pluta reports.

Original Post 3/23/2012:

This week, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I decided to take a look at the political shenanigans playing out in Oakland County.

The Back-story

“There is a fight between Oakland County politicians – Democrats versus Republicans. It’s about the murky, dirty, filthy process of drawing new district lines for politicians to run in. In Oakland County, [the redrawing] is done by a bi-partisan panel. In this case, it’s a panel that has more Democrats than Republicans and the Democrats drew a map that the Republicans didn’t like,” Pluta explains.

So, some Republican lawmakers from Oakland County decided to have the state legislature change the redrawing rules. They devised a measure to allow the County Commission, which is controlled by Republicans, to redraw the lines. The measure was then passed by the state’s Republican-controlled House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder.

Democrats cried foul. They challenged the new law and, last month, Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette overturned it. Collette ruled the law violated the Michigan Constitution and that the governor and the Legislature illegally interfered in a local political question.

The question over the legality of the law made its way to the state’s highest court this week. On Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides.

Politically-motivated maps

Republicans all along contended that the reason for the new law was to save taxpayers money. Democrats, and many pundits, said it was pure politics: that the GOP changed the rules so that Republican dominance on the County Board wouldn’t be challenged. But, this kind of claim is always hard to prove. Hard to prove… unless you have emails.

Busted: GOP emails released

This week, emails between Republican Oakland County officials and GOP lawmakers were released after the Oakland County Democratic Party filed a Freedom of Information Act. The emails appear to show, “officials in the offices of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s office and state Representatives – primarily Rep. Eileen Kowall – basically plotting and trying to find a rationale to kick this redistricting process back over to the County Commission where Republicans would control it,” Pluta explains.

‘It’s gonna be ugly’

In one email, Rep. Kowall wrote, “I guess it would also help to have (a) legitimate explanation as to why we waited until now, after redistricting plans have been submitted, to take these bills up.” She also wrote, “The quicker things move the better, ’cause it’s gonna be ugly.”

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Healthcare Overhaul

Michigan is one of 26 states challenging the federal Affordable Care Act in arguments that begin today before the U-S Supreme Court. Meanwhile, “there is a fight in the Michigan Legislature over moving ahead with the internet exchanges required by the law to help people find affordable insurance. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a Republican, says the state should wait for a ruling. Governor Rick Snyder says exactly the opposite. He says the state can’t afford to wait – that a delay could cost federal dollars and doom Michigan’s ability to adopt its own system if the federal healthcare law is upheld,” Rick Pluta reports.

Lansing Budget

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero will tell the city council tonight how he plans to cut nearly $5 million to balance his city’s budget. Steve Carmody reports:

Last fall, the mayor’s office was predicting the city might be facing up to a $15 million shortfall. Mayor Bernero says voter approval of a special public safety millage, lower health care costs and more state revenue sharing money than expected has improved Lansing’s revenue picture. However, Bernero says painful cuts are still needed to balance the city’s budget. Bernero says without additional concessions from the city’s unions Lansing will have to institute employee furlough days and possibly layoffs of some non-public safety employees.

MI SUPCO

The Michigan Supreme Court says a lawsuit challenging health insurance for the domestic partners of state employees won't be placed on a fast track, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The court on Friday declined to take the case away from the Michigan appeals court. The lone dissenter was Justice Stephen Markman, who says it's an important matter that deserves "expedited consideration" from the Supreme Court. Attorney General Bill Schuette is challenging the Civil Service Commission's decision to extend benefits to domestic partners or other unrelated adults living with some state employees. Lawmakers tried to overturn it but didn't have enough votes last year.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Concealed Weapons Changes?

Under a new proposal in the state Senate, people with concealed weapon permits could carry handguns in more places if they get additional training. “A bill that would overhaul parts of the state's concealed weapons law was approved Thursday by the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.The bill wouldn't eliminate "no carry" zones such as schools, stadiums and churches. But licensed carriers who get training beyond what's already required in state law could get exemptions that would allow them to carry guns in those zones,” the Associated Press reports.

LGBT Protections

Democratic state Senator Rebecca Warren is calling for an expansion of Michigan’s civil rights law to protect people who are gay, lesbian or transgender from discrimination. Rick Pluta reports:

Warren says expanding the civil rights law would send a message that Michigan is trying to attract creative workers and entrepreneurs. Warren says the legislation would have no effect on the amendment that outlaws same-sex marriage and civil unions in Michigan. She doubts her bill will clear the Legislature in this session, but she wants to make sure the issue doesn’t go dormant. She also wants the bill to serve as a counterpoint to another bill that would outlaw local gay rights ordinances like the ones on the books in 18 Michigan communities.

Spartans Are Out

Michigan State University is out. The Spartan’s men’s basketball team lost 57-44 last night in their NCAA Sweet 16 tournament game against Louisville. “Tough defense by Louisville led to the defeat,” NPR’s Mike Pesca explains. “Some couch and garbage fires were reported near Michigan State University,” after the game, the Associated Press notes. But, no injuries have been reported.

In this morning's news...

Mar 22, 2012
Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Financial Crisis in Detroit

The state review team looking at Detroit’s finances yesterday formally declared the city to be in “severe financial distress.” Sarah Cwiek reports:

This means the review team will recommend some kind of state intervention in Detroit—whether it’s a consent agreement outlining steps the city must take to get out of financial distress (and likely giving elected officials some greater powers to take them), or appointing an emergency manager for the city. But, a Judge has issued an injunction forbidding a consent agreement before March 29th. The review team’s deadline to make a recommendation is March 26th. The state is appealing the injunction. Arguments are slated for today in the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Oakland County Redistricting

A fight over drawing Oakland County commission districts has made its way up to the state Supreme Court. Rick Pluta reports:

The legal battle pits Democrats in Oakland County against Republicans in the Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder. The issue is a state law that will toss out Oakland County’s current county commission map that was drawn by a board led by Democrats. The state law will turn that job over to the Oakland County Commission, which has a GOP majority. Hundreds of e-mails to and from county officials that were made public appear to show partisan motives behind the law. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the law soon. The court has a slim Republican majority.

Crops Threatened

It’s been an unseasonably warm month and that could jeopardize the state’s fruit crops. “While it's not unusual to have warm spells in early spring, it is unusual is for temperatures to average 40 degrees higher than normal for several weeks,” Rina Miller reports. "This is pretty much unprecedented," Matthew Grieshop, assistant professor at Michigan State University says. "It was back in the early 40s that we last had weather like this, and based on our experience, it looks pretty grim for the fruit growers."

Contemplative Imaging / Flickr

There sure was lots of news this week about Michigan's emergency manager law - from legal wrangling over how the Open Meetings Act affects how financial decisions are made to the reappointment of Flint's Mayor. Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry took a look this morning at the latest.

Ifmuth / Flickr

Every week, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I have been taking a look at the politics behind the state's news headlines. This week: we take a look at what a possible consent agreement for the city of Detroit means for the relationship between Governor Rick Snyder and Mayor Dave Bing.

Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

Update 9:30 a.m.

The Associated Press reports more than 100 homes were severely damaged and 13 homes were destroyed in last night's F3 tornado in Dexter.

It appears people were warned in time.  Miraculously, there have been no reports of serious injuries or deaths.

From the Associated Press:

Initial estimates indicate the tornado that hit Dexter, northwest of Ann Arbor, Thursday evening was packing winds of around 135 mph, National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Freitag said Friday. He said it was on the ground for about a half hour and plowed a path about 10 miles long.

Dexter firefighter Dave Wisley told the Dexter Leader there are multiple gas leaks reported, but no fires have been reported.

The Red Cross reports officials are assessing affected neighborhoods this morning. 

Two shelters have been set up in the wake of last night's storms to provide health services, mental health services, food, water and basic needs.

  1. For those affected by the tornado in Dexter the shelter is at the Mill Creek Middle School in Dexter. The school is located at 7305 Dexter-Ann Arbor Rd.
  2. For those affected by flooding at the Park Place Apartments in Ann Arbor a second shelter in Ann Arbor has been set up. This shelter is at the Salvation Army at 100 Arbana Drive in Ann Arbor.

AnnArbor.com reports on power outages in Dexter:

An estimated 4,000 homes were without power this morning in Washtenaw County, most of them in the Dexter area.

Paul Ganz, regional manager for DTE Energy, said it was an "all-out call-out.''

"Dexter is a priority today,'' he said.

10:39 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra traveled to the Huron Farms neighborhood, where dozens of houses were damaged by the tornado: roofs torn off, siding blown into the street, whole walls missing.

Some houses were completely destroyed, reduced to nothing more than a heaping pile of wood.

Monica Waidley and her family were among the lucky ones. She says the tornado didn’t touch their house:

"We were in the basement watching things fly through the air out of our backdoor; peoples’ lives landing in our backyards, it was really scary."

The Waidleys were visiting their friend, Vicki Shieck, who also lives in the neighborhood. Shieck says she was "down in the basement, doing the tornado tuck" when the tornado hit. Her house was spared, with just a little bit of window and roof damage.

Shieck says the tornado "literally went kitty corner" between her and her neighbors' house, before it careened up the path and destroyed nearby houses.

Residents were seen leaving the neighborhood with suitcases, some carrying whatever valuables they could.

There have been no reports that anyone was injured or killed.

9:15 p.m.

A powerful tornado touched down in Dexter, Michigan at 5:33 p.m. Thursday evening.

The tornado demolished homes and damaged many others, uprooting trees and power lines.

It appears that no one was seriously injured or killed.

There were also reports of funnel clouds in Northfield Township and Saline, but trained spotters did not report any actual tornados.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark traveled to the scene and reported seeing homes with roofs and exterior walls stripped off. 

The Detroit Free Press reports that at least 50 homes are damaged:

...with roofs torn off, walls missing and interior rooms now exposed in Dexter. Debris litters the neighborhood. Insulation from houses float in large puddles in the streets and yard.

AnnArbor.com reports the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department says so far, no deaths or serious injuries have been reported:

Police and rescuers are searching door to door to confirm that, spokesman Derrick Jackson said in an e-mailed message.

A shelter has been set up at Mill Creek School and people who need shelter can go there, he said. People who have power were advised to stay in their homes.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Snyder to Outline Detroit Consent Agreement

Governor Snyder will outline a proposed consent agreement for the city of Detroit today. Sarah Cwiek reports:

Snyder and State Treasurer Andy Dillon, who leads the state review team looking at Detroit’s finances, have suggested a consent agreement for weeks. That measure could give the city’s elected officials broad powers similar to those of an emergency manager. City officials acknowledge that without some major action, Detroit will go broke in the next couple of months, with a $45-50 million shortfall expected by early summer. And it’s likely the only way to avoid emergency manager. Both Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council would have to sign off on a consent agreement.

Flint Finances

Michael Brown, Flint’s emergency manager, says he wants to borrow between $15 and $20 million to help pay for past city deficits. “Brown discussed the plans Monday at a meeting where Flint Mayor Dayne Walling also delivered a State of the City address. Brown says the city will pursue fiscal stabilization bonds while working to plug a projected $20 million gap between revenues and expenses in the 2013 budget. He says the city is meeting with municipal unions to discuss cost-cutting, but he expects the city's work force will shrink as it deals with the projected deficit,” the Associated Press reports.

Abortion Debate Continues in Lansing

The debate over abortion is expected to resume today at the state Capitol. Rick Pluta reports:

The state House is expected vote on measures to make it a crime to intimidate or coerce a woman into aborting a pregnancy. The legislation would create a new crime of coercing a woman to have an abortion against her will. It would cover anything from the threat of violence to refusing to pay child support or getting a woman fired from a job. No one is arguing in favor of allowing people to intimidate a woman into having an abortion. But opponents of the package say it should not single out as victims only women who are coerced into having an abortion. They say women who are threatened because they want to end a pregnancy should have the same protections.

We’ve known for awhile that Detroit’s finances are reaching a crisis point. It’s believed the city could run out of money within the next few months. News broke yesterday evening that the Snyder Administration will try to remedy the situation. Governor Snyder will lay out details of a proposed consent agreement to members of the Detroit City Council today. A consent agreement would give the city’s elected officials broad powers… similar to those of an emergency manager.

In this morning's news...

Mar 12, 2012
Brother O'Mara / Flickr

State Senate Takes up Autism Mandate

Measures on the state Senate calendar this week would require health plans to pay for autism treatments for children. “One bill would set up a fund to reimburse insurance companies for the costs of the treatments. Supporters say early treatment of autism helps children transition to healthy lives. But some supporters of the mandate say it does not go far enough. The autism insurance mandate has the support of Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley – who has a daughter with autism,” Rick Pluta reports.

Detroit Financial Review

The state team that is reviewing Detroit’s finances has avoided a scheduled court date—and possible contempt of court--by disbanding a controversial sub-committee. Sarah Cwiek reports:

An Ingham County Circuit Court Judge had ordered the team to appear in court today. That same judge had earlier ruled the team must meet in public to comply with the state's Open Meetings Act. They did, but quickly formed a sub-committee that had planned to meet in private to “advise the committee of the possible statutory options for its recommendation" to Governor Snyder. But State Treasurer Andy Dillon, who leads the review team, says they decided not to push the issue. The team has already declared that “severe fiscal stress” exists in the city. Barring drastic changes or an unexpected influx of money, officials expect the city to run out cash before the end of the fiscal year. 

State of the City: Flint

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling is scheduled to deliver a State of the City address this evening. “The Flint Journal reports that Monday's remarks will be about 20 minutes shorter to accommodate the City Council meeting. Walling said his speech will be part of the meeting at City Hall. Council meetings were cut to once each month by emergency manager Michael Brown. Brown is to talk about Flint's finances during the meeting. He is a former acting mayor of the city and was appointed in November by Gov. Rick Snyder,” the Associated Press reports.

thetoad / flickr

On Fridays Rick Pluta and I have been taking a look at politics in the state. But, before we could really get into our main topic of the week – state ballot proposals - we had a confession to make: We’re having a hard time getting over the Michigan primary. It might even be fair to say that we’re slightly obsessed. “Oh, primary, why can’t I quit you?” Pluta asked. It’s just too tough to quit.

Remnants of a primary

Yes, we know. The primary was almost two weeks ago. But a mere ten days can’t keep us from a good news story. “We saw earlier this week a Santorum campaign organizer in the state, John Yob – the Yob name is a venerable one in Michigan Republican politics – trying to organize a rally at the state party headquarters to, figuratively, at least, pound on the doors and demand justice for an even division of the primary delegates,” Pluta explains. You can find last week’s conversation over so-called “dele-gate” here.

The rally fizzles

Pluta went to report on the rally for Michigan Radio but, “very few people showed up… very, very few people.” Nevertheless, Pluta notes, “that it does raise the prospect of a convention fight - a floor fight - that would really be kind of an intra-party referendum on the leadership of the state GOP and a fight over who sits at the table when big decisions are made.” (Just in case you can’t get enough intra-party squabbles – and, if that’s the case you get major ‘political junkie’ points – you can find another darn good intra-party fight story here).

Now onto the feature presentation: Ballot proposals

Ok, we got the Michigan presidential primary out of our systems – at least for this week – and got to talking about the topic we had initially planned: a look at the various ballot proposals that were unveiled this week at the Capital. We saw a petition drive launched to create accountability in election spending. “Basically to require corporations to disclose when they spend money on their own political communication, primarily television advertising,” Pluta explains.

Also unveiled was a labor-rights ballot proposal. This got us to thinking about the politics behind ballot proposals. Sure, the folks behind these proposals are passionate about their causes and want their laws passed but there’s also the fact that ballot proposals can get out the vote in November.

The infamous Rovian-strategy

That would be Karl Rove, the so-called mastermind behind President George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004. “A lot of people believed that a Republican strategy to put a lot of wedge issues – social questions – on statewide ballots succeeded in drawing out conservative Evangelical voters to the benefit of Republican candidates. And, what people are seeing now with these ballot proposals, especially the union-rights ballot proposal, is an effort to [replicate] that,” Pluta explains.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Corporations to Disclose Political Spending?

A ballot campaign is trying to amend the state constitution to require businesses to tell the public when they run their own political ads.  A petition drive will try to put the question to voters on the November ballot. Rick Pluta reports:

The amendment takes aim at the 2010 Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited political expenditures by corporations as a long as they are not coordinated with a candidate’s campaign. The amendment would require businesses to report political expenditures within 24 hours and identify themselves on their ads. Unions are specifically excluded. Benson says labor organizations are bound by other disclosure laws.

“Occupy” Homes

A group of anti-foreclosure activists says Chase bank continues to wrongly foreclose on people’s homes. And as part of the “Occupy our Homes” movement, they plan to fight for eight Metro Detroit homeowners they say are victims. “Chase bank and other mortgage lenders signed a consent agreement with the federal government in the wake of the national foreclosure crisis. The group says they want Chase to work with the homeowners—but they’ll physically defend the home from foreclosure if necessary. They’re also taking up the case of seven other families across Metro Detroit,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

Detroit Corruption

Detroit businessman Bobby Ferguson, a friend of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, obtained more than $55 million through extortion and other illegal conduct, according to federal records. “The allegations surfaced in a seizure warrant affidavit that was unsealed Thursday… The affidavit provides the most detailed account to date of the alleged trail running through the racketeering conspiracy case against Ferguson and Kilpatrick. It says Ferguson spent a fraction of the cash on his kids' college education, his girlfriend and construction equipment. The 43-year-old Ferguson is awaiting trial in separate federal corruption and bid-rigging cases,” the Associated Press reports.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Snyder on Public Safety

Governor Rick Snyder delivered an address on public safety yesterday in Flint. Rick Pluta reports:

The governor presented his plan to fight high crime rates in Michigan cities in front of a room filled with police officers, prosecutors, and other local government officials. The plan has 34 separate initiatives and would cost tens of millions of dollars. Governor Snyder wants to hire and train 180 new state troopers to work in high-crime cities, put more scientists in crime labs, and place parole officers in local police departments. But the governor says he also wants to link welfare benefits to school attendance, attack urban blight, and start up a 15 million dollar urban jobs program. The governor says he will submit a budget request to the Legislature within two weeks.

Bing Delivers State of the City Address

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing delivered his third State of the City address last night. Sarah Cwiek reports:

Bing gave few details about how he’ll deal with the city’s most immediate threat: running out of cash. Bing said both he and Governor Snyder “agree that an emergency manager is not the best option” for Detroit. Bing has hammered out tentative cost-saving agreements with the city’s major unions. But they have yet to be ratified by members. The state could grant Detroit’s elected officials powers to impose new contracts and make other sweeping changes through a consent agreement. That’s seen as an increasingly likely option for the state to help Detroit get through its cash crunch.

State’s Unemployment Rate Drops

The state’s unemployment rate is continuing to drop. The state’s seasonally unadjusted rate was 9 percent in January. “During the past year, Michigan’s unemployment rate is down nearly two full percentage points. The state’s unemployment rate is now at its lowest mark since September 2008.  It’s also about five percentage points lower than at the height of the recession in 2009. Manufacturing and Professional services saw the biggest jump in new hires,” Steve Carmody reports.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Bing to Address Detroit

Mayor Dave Bing is set to deliver his State of the City address this evening at the Erma Henderson Auditorium at the Detroit City Hall. “Bing will deliver his third State of the City address as he, the City Council and union leaders seek fiscal answers to keep the state from appointing an emergency manager… A preliminary review from the state showed a nearly $200 million general fund deficit for 2011. A review team is looking over the city's books to determine if a financial emergency exists, a step that could lead to Gov. Rick Snyder appointing an emergency manager,” the Associated Press reports.

Anti “Right to Work” Ballot Drive Underway

Unions and progressive groups have launched a ballot drive as a push back against what they say is a wave of anti-labor measures from Republicans in Lansing. Rick Pluta reports:

The campaign wants to put a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot. It would prohibit Michigan from becoming a "right-to-work" state that allows employees to opt out of paying union dues. It would also pre-empt a host of other laws that would restrict union organizing and fundraising. Opponents of the ballot drive said it’s motivated more by a desire of union leaders to drive voter turnout in November than to guarantee workers’ rights. Union and progressive groups launched the ballot drive today. They have until July 9 to collect enough signatures of registered voters to qualify for the November ballot.

Prop 2 Arguments Begin Today

The U.S. Circuit Court in Cincinnati will hear arguments today over Michigan’s constitutional amendment that bars state universities from considering race in college admissions."Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved ‘Proposition 2’ in 2006. Mark Rosenbaum is with the American Civil Liberties Union. He says Prop 2 violates the U.S. Constitution by forbidding the consideration of race, while other factors like whether a college applicant’s parent is an alumnus, are still permitted. Last year, a federal appellate court ruled against Prop 2,” Steve Carmody reports. The case could eventually end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Allieosmar / Flickr

Governor Snyder is set to deliver an address on public safety in Flint today. Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw are among the country's top 10 most violent cities. Christina Shockley spoke with Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry about what we're likely to hear from the Governor later this morning.

The FBI ranks Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw among the ten American cities with the highest violent crime rates.

Kriste Etue is the Director of the Michigan State Police.  She says the lack of good jobs and the decline of police officers in the state has an impact on crime.

"The state of Michigan has lost nearly 3,400 police officers, so I’m sure that has some impact on the crime in our various cities."

The Michigan State Police is reaching out to returning veterans to join the state police force.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Union Bargaining Rights

Unions and progressive groups plan to unveil a ballot campaign later today to preempt efforts to pass a right-to-work law in Michigan. “The so-called Protect Our Jobs campaign would block efforts to enact a right-to-work law that would forbid compulsory union dues as a condition of employment. It would also preempt about 80 measures pending before the Legislature that would enact restrictions on unions and union organizing. The campaign would do that by having voters approve an amendment to the state constitution. To get on the ballot, the campaign will have to collect more 323,000 signatures of registered voters in a six month window," Rick Pluta reports.

Snyder to Deliver Public Safety Address

Governor Snyder will deliver an address on public safety in Flint tomorrow. The Associated Press reports:

Snyder plans to call for $4.5 million to reopen the Flint city lockup to free space in the Genesee County Jail. Flint emergency manager Michael Brown has said opening the lockup is important because criminals are "laughing at the system." Snyder says it's unacceptable that Flint, Detroit, Pontiac and Saginaw rank among the nation's top 10 in violent crime rates for cities with at least 50,000 people. His plan's expected to include $15 million for what he has called law enforcement "enhancements." He also says changes must include crime prevention and criminal justice reforms.

Home Prices Tick Up

After years of rollercoaster prices, Michigan home prices may finally be stabilizing. Steve Carmody reports:

Alex Villacorta is with Clear Capitol. He says an improving job picture, stronger consumer confidence and more investors buying cheap homes are all contributing to a more stable real estate market. But as with all things real estate, 'Location…location…location' is what matters. Villacorta says Grand Rapids’ home sale prices are up about six percent compared with a year ago, while home prices in Lansing and Flint continue to decline.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Santorum Rally

It's been almost a week since Michigan's presidential primary but Rick Santorum’s campaign is organizing a rally today in front of the state Republican Party headquarters in Lansing. Rick Pluta reports:

The rally is to protest how state GOP leaders awarded both of Michigan’s at-large delegates to Mitt Romney for winning a majority of the statewide vote. Santorum says the vote was so close that he and Romney each would have gotten a delegate – until GOP leaders friendly to Romney changed the rules after the election last Tuesday. The Santorum campaign has also asked the Republican National Committee to investigate the Michigan GOP.

MSU Nuclear Science

Scientists from across the country are in Washington D.C. today to ask Congress to support Michigan State University’s $600 million nuclear science facility. Rina Miller reports:

The scientists want lawmakers to declare MSU’s Facility for Rare Isotope Beams a national priority, and to keep funding intact. Brad Sherrill is chief scientist of what’s called F-RIB. He believes the facility will bring $1 billion into Michigan – including hundreds of new jobs and thousands of scientific visitors. The primary research at F-RIB will be to understand the basic forces that hold atoms together. MSU was expecting $55 million from the federal government for the project, but the Obama administration budgeted only $22 million.

Stormy Weather

Tens of thousands of Michigan homes and businesses are without power after a winter storm brought up to 15 inches of snow and blacked out more than a quarter-million electricity customers, the Associated Press reports. “The storm that hit Friday also triggered deadly tornadoes across the Midwest. CMS Energy Corporation says about 51,000 customers remained without service at 4 p.m. Sunday, down from 147,000. DTE Energy Company says about 5,000 of 120,000 customers remained powerless at 4 p.m. Sunday,” the AP notes.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Though the state's primary was almost a week ago, the Rick Santorum campaign is continuing to dispute the primary's results. The campaign has taken their fight over the way the Michigan Republican Party apportioned two of the state's at-large delegates to the Republican National Committee.

The campaign is also organizing a rally to be held later today in front of the Michigan Republican headquarters in Lansing. Santorum supporters will call on Michigan GOP leaders to reconsider their decision to award both the party’s statewide delegates to Mitt Romney.

They say party leaders changed the rules to avoid awarding one apiece to Romney and Santorum, who ran a close second in last week’s Michigan primary and won half of the state’s congressional districts.

Last week, after the committee voted in favor of giving the two at-large delegates to Romney, Mike Cox, the state's former Attorney General - and Romney supporter - called the decision, "kind of like third world voting."

A state Republican spokesman says that decision is now in the hands of the national GOP and calls the rally a needless distraction from the focus on helping Republicans win in November.

We took a closer look at the controversy over so-called "dele-gate" on Friday. You can take a listen at the link above.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

It’s a Delegate-Situation

The Michigan Republican Party has awarded both of Michigan’s statewide at-large delegates to the Republican national convention this summer to Mitt Romney. “The decision by the Michigan Republican Party’s credentials committee was based on Romney’s slim majority of the popular vote in Tuesday’s primary. But some people are crying foul. They say Rick Santorum’s close runner-up finish entitles him to one of the at-large delegates... A spokesman for the Rick Santorum campaign says the decision calls into question the “legitimacy” of the state’s Republican Party leadership,” Rick Pluta reports. The decision means Romney will be awarded 16 of the state’s delegates; Santorum will receive 14.

Money, Money, Money… Money

Meanwhile, a new report from the Michigan Campaign Finance Network shows Super PACS outspent the candidates in the state's presidential primary. Steve Carmody reports:

Winner Mitt Romney’s campaign spent one and a half million dollars on TV ads during the primary campaign. A pro-Romney Super Pac spent nearly two million dollars during the campaign. Runner-up Rick Santorum spent just under a million dollars, while a pro-Santorum Super Pac spent over a million dollars. Breaking down the numbers, Romney and his Super Pac spent about $8.45 for each vote the former Massachusetts governor received in the primary. Santorum and his Super Pac spent about $5.81 per primary vote in Michigan. Third place finisher Ron Paul spent a relatively frugal 48 cents per vote.

EM for Muskegon Heights Public Schools?

A review team will hold a meeting in Lansing this morning to take a look into the finances of the Muskegon Public Schools. “The district in western Michigan has a budget deficit of $8.5 million for the current year. The state says this morning's meeting is being held in accordance with Michigan's Open Meetings Act,” the Associated Press reports. The findings of the review team could lead to an emergency manager being appointed to the district. The district has run a deficit for at least six years in a row.

Update 5:11 p.m. - Santorum camp questions legitimacy of Michigan's Republican Party leadership after delegate flap

The Michigan Republican Party has awarded both of Michigan’s statewide at-large delegates to the Republican national convention this coming summer to Mitt Romney.

The decision by the Michigan Republican Party’s credentials committee was based on Romney’s slim majority of the popular vote in Tuesday’s primary.

But some people are crying foul. They say Rick Santorum’s close runner-up finish entitles him to one of the at-large delegates. And they say the rules were changed at the last minute to benefit Romney.

Matt Frendeway, spokesman for the state Republican Party, says that’s not true.

“Even before Tuesday night’s vote, this is exactly the way we intended to allocate the delegates. There’s no backdoor deals, no smoke-filled rooms, as some people might allege,” said Frendeway.

A spokesman for the Rick Santorum campaign says the decision calls into question the “legitimacy” of the state’s Republican Party leadership.

1:17 p.m.

This just in from Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing Bureau Chief:

The Michigan Republican Party has awarded both the state's at-large national convention delegates to Mitt Romney, despite a close vote in Tuesday's primary.

A spokesman for top rival Rick Santorum says the decision by party leaders calls into questions the "legitimacy" of the Michigan Republican Party.

Former state Attorney General Mike Cox chairs the state GOP credentials committee and is a Romney supporter. But he tells the news service MIRS.dot.com that the committee's decision is "kind of like third world voting." Santorum and Romney evenly split the state's congressional districts -- and the delegates that go with them. That makes the delegate count 16 for Romney and 14 for Santorum.

Late yesterday afternoon it looked as thought the delegates would be evenly split - 15 to 15 - between Romney and Santorum. The official voting totals from Tuesday's presidential primary have not yet been certified by the Secretary of State.

Emergency Manager Law Gets a Challenge

Opponents are a step closer to a public vote on Michigan’s law that gives state-appointed emergency managers authority over local governments. They filed petitions yesterday that would put a referendum on the law on the state’s November ballot. “State elections officials have 60 days to determine if the ballot drive collected enough valid signatures of registered voters. To succeed, they need more than 161,000 signatures. If the petitions are certified, the law will be suspended until after the election in November. There are five Michigan cities or school districts currently under the control of emergency managers,” Rick Pluta reports.

Concerns over Michigan Nuclear Power Plant

Officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission answered questions about safety violations at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant last night. Lindsey Smith reports:

Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission were trying to ease the community’s concerns after 5 unplanned shutdowns last year (4 we’re reactor shutdowns). During the three hour long meeting regulators detailed safety violations and actions the agency will take this year to further scrutinize the plant. They reassured repeatedly that the plant is operating safely. Entergy officials chose not to attend this meeting hosted voluntarily by the NRC. However, the company must attend a normal, annual meeting with the NRC in South Haven on March 21st.

Winter Weather

A winter storm has left as much as 16 inches of snow in parts of the Upper Peninsula. “The storm that hit Tuesday eased by Wednesday afternoon, but not before leaving more than a foot of snow in parts of northern Michigan. The National Weather Service says 10 to 16 inches fell in the Iron Mountain area, while the Ironwood area got up to 14 inches and the Menominee area up to 13 inches,” the Associated Press reports.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Mitt Romney won the state's popular vote in Michigan's presidential primary last night, which is why many media organizations across the state, and nationally, are reporting a Michigan "win" for Romney.

But the picture on the final delegate count is still not clear.

The unofficial results are not in, but Rick Santorum's campaign held a conference call just a few minutes ago to report that they have unofficial voting data from the state.

A spokesman for Santorum says their numbers show that Santorum and his main rival in yesterday's presidential primary, Romney, will both be awarded one delegate each based on the state's popular vote.

The campaign spokesman went on to say that the latest numbers that they have (again, let's be clear, these have not been certified by the Secretary of State) show that both Santorum and Romney each won 7 congressional districts.

This would mean that each candidate won 14 delegates from those districts (because each congressional district delivers 2 delegates)... plus one delegate each from the popular vote. This, of course, would be a tie: 15 delegates each.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Well, the Michigan primary is over. Mitt Romney eked out a win in the state's popular vote (the delegate count is still being tallied). So, now it's time for the national media to move on to Super Tuesday states. But, it wouldn’t be a true morning-after-election without a little post-primary analysis, right?

  • Politico: Mitt Romney wins Ugly - "Romney could have been summing up his own candidacy when he said in his victory speech here: “We didn’t win by a lot but we won by enough and that’s what counts.”
  • Politico: 5 Takeaways from Arizona and Michigan - "It wasn’t pretty, and [Romney] carried Michigan by a smaller margin than in 2008, but the bottom line is that Romney was in a major political fight Tuesday — and he won... If he had lost Michigan, it’s hard to gauge the level of panic that would have unfolded within GOP ranks."
  • The New York Times: Romney faces stubborn question, despite victories - "[Romney] continues to face questions about whether, should he win the nomination, he will be able to capture the energy of the conservative constituencies that have propelled the party when it has had electoral success in recent years, especially evangelicals and the Tea Party movement."
  • Wall Street Journal: Santorum looks for silver lining - "Santorum must hope that keeping it close in Michigan still will provide a jolt of momentum—not to mention an infusion of cash and volunteers —as he turns his attention to Saturday's caucuses in Washington state and the 10 Super Tuesday contests that loom less than a week away."
  • Marketplace: Post-primary, what Michigan voters are concerned about - "We heard so much about the bailout... What we didn't hear about was the fact that there are still a ton of people in Michigan who owe more on their homes than they're worth... that's going to be a really, really important issue among Michigan voters come November."
  • NPR.org: Santorum left to mourn what could have been in Michigan - "Santorum and his campaign will likely look back on Michigan's 2012 primary not only as a heartbreaking loss in the battle against Mitt Romney but also as a historic lost opportunity."

Pages