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

Pages

It's Just Politics
5:48 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Dingell goes for 30; Snyder for Veep; U.P. secession; and an intra-party GOP fight

Flickr
Contemplative Imaging

Too busy to check in on all of the political news happening this week in Michigan? Or, maybe you just weren't able to fill your political appetite this week. Well, don't fret! Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta and I spent some time this afternoon taking a look at the week-that-was in Michigan politics in an extended edition of It's Just Politics.

On tap for this Friday:

  • A Florida political analyst sparks speculation about a possible Mitt Romney/Rick Snyder GOP presidential ticket
  • A group of unhappy Yoopers talks U.P. secession
  • Southeast Michigan Rep. John Dingell announces he'll run for a record 30th term in the U.S. House of Representatives
  • After a lot of "will he or won't he" talk, former Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz says he will not run as a Democrat in November against incumbent Rep. Tim Walberg
  • State Democrats caucus tomorrow to pick their presidential nominee and we ask: will it be President Barack Obama or President Barack Obama? (Our money is on President Barack Obama)
It's Just Politics
3:25 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Up in smoke: The hazy politics of pot in Michigan

It's Just Politics: May 4th, 2012
Eggrole Flickr

In this week's edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network and I take on the politics of pot. It's a hazy situation and an issue that's getting chronic attention in the state (okay, okay, enough with the drug innuendo).

Where things stand

In 2008 voters – by a pretty large margin - voted to make medical marijuana legal in the state. But, the law is confusing. Not only is there the fact that it’s still illegal under federal law, there are also questions about if and how dispensaries should be regulated; the medical conditions for which  medical marijuana should be prescribed; the size and location of marijuana plants that one is allowed to grow... I could go on and on.

Pluta: Exactly… there are more questions than answers when it comes to this law because it is so vague. So, this week, we’ve seen some measures to add clarity to the law. But, because this law was a voter-initiated and approved law, to  change it, any measure has to have a three fourths majority in both the state House and Senate. Something that’s not in this package is dispensaries – that’s in court right now, but some lawmakers don’t want to wait for a state Supreme Court ruling. They say dispensaries could cure some problems – especially what to do when someone who is legally growing marijuana has more weed than they can use. 

Clark: So, just this week state Representative Mike Callton introduced a measure to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries. But, Callton says he was against the medical marijuana law that passed in 2008.

Collton: “…I think what voters passed is nuts, just crazy insane.”

Pluta: So, why is he introducing this then?

Clark: That is, indeed the question.

Pluta: Callton and some others say it would be better for dispensaries to buy up, or otherwise take possession of, surplus pot instead of having it sold illegally on the street. There’s a division, though. Some Republicans basically consider dispensaries legalized dope dens.

Clark: So, that’s a debate that will take place probably this summer on dispensaries. What’s moving right now would require in-person doctor’s visits to get a medical marijuana card, a picture I.D., and police access to medical marijuana records.

Pluta: Medical marijuana advocates say some of this goes too far. In a couple of instances, it reverses what voters approved in the medical marijuana law and, so, they’re trying again. There is a petition drive in the field to put a question on the ballot to make Michigan a legalized marijuana state.  We’ll see if they can get enough signatures.

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News Roundup
8:39 am
Wed May 2, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

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

Student Loan Debt

A pair of Michigan lawmakers is warning that people with government-backed student loans will see their interest rate double - unless members of Congress can agree on a plan to maintain and pay for a lower rate. Sarah Hulett reports:

The interest rate for Stafford loans is set to go up to 6.8 percent on July 1st. The U.S. House passed a Republican-sponsored bill last week that would maintain a lower rate, and pay for it with cuts to public health programs. Michigan U.S. Representatives Gary Peters and Hansen Clarke are co-sponsors of a bill that would instead end six billion dollars’ worth of subsidies to the oil and gas industries. That's the cost to the federal government of keeping the lower interest rate.

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

A Republican state lawmaker has introduced a measure to make medical marijuana dispensaries legal in communities that want them. “State Representative Mike Callton has unveiled legislation to legalize dispensaries and allow the facilities to buy growers’ excess amounts of marijuana. He says that would help keep surplus medical marijuana off the black market. Right now, the legal status of medical marijuana dispensaries is waiting on a ruling from the state Supreme Court. Michigan voters approved the state’s medical marijuana law in 2008. The law makes no mention of dispensaries for medical marijuana cardholders,” Rick Pluta reports.

Federal Money for Community Health

Ten community health centers in Michigan will get more almost $20 million in federal funds. Sarah Cwiek reports:

Those health centers are key primary care providers for uninsured and underinsured people in many communities. The money is part of about $11 billion provided to community health clinics through the national health care reform law. Dr. Anand Parekh, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Science and Medicine with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, calls the health centers “an important safety net.” Parekh says the Obama administration isn’t focused on legal challenges that could void parts or all of health care reform. Instead, he says they are in “full implementation mode.”

Politics
7:51 am
Wed May 2, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

It's Wednesday, which means it's the morning that we speak with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's going on in state politics. This week: the Pontiac School District could be the next district under emergency management, Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin travels to Afghanistan along with President Obama, and why changes to the state's Personal Property Tax are moving so quickly through the state Senate.

News Roundup
8:13 am
Tue May 1, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Chrysler sales rise in April

Based on strong demand for Jeep and Chrysler brand cars and trucks, Chrysler says its U.S. auto sales rose in April by 20 percent. The Associated Press reports:

The company said it sold more than 141,000 vehicles, its best April in four years. It was the 25th straight month that Chrysler posted year-over-year sales gains. Chrysler says its sales were led by the 200 midsize sedan with a 61 percent increase over April of last year. Jeep Wrangler SUV sales were up 35 percent. All major automakers are scheduled to report April sales figures on Tuesday. Sales are expected to slow a bit from the blistering pace of February and March. Auto research site Edmunds.com expects sales to rise 2 percent over April of 2011 to nearly 1.2 million cars and trucks.

Review team to Pontiac school district

Pontiac’s Interim Superintendent Walter Burt says a state review team is coming to his school district to review the district’s finances, The Oakland Press reports. From the Press:

The state is expected to send a review team to the Pontiac school district as school officials struggle to meet the mandatory plan to eliminate a $24.5 million deficit. This step by the state brings the district closer to having a state emergency manager put in place to run district operations. The Michigan Department of Education has been withholding the April 20 state aid of $1.25 million because district officials have not so far been able to satisfy the first year’s part of the three-year deficit reduction plan… Once it reviews district books, the team would make recommendations to the Pontiac Board of Education, which would be expected to give a stamp of approval to carrying out those proposals.

Personal Property Tax rolls on in state Legislature

The effort to phase out Michigan’s tax on industrial equipment is expected to clear a major hurdle this week as a state Senate committee wraps up hearings on the plan. “A vote in the full Senate could come as soon as this week. Manufacturers say Michigan’s tax on industrial equipment, also known as the Personal Property Tax, is a drag on the state’s economic recovery. The Senate plan would eliminate the tax on industrial equipment by 2022. But local governments rely on that revenue to pay for everything from police and fire to parks and libraries. Communities with a lot of factories would be hit hardest by the loss of tax revenue. Local officials complain the phase-out plan does not guarantee they’ll recover all the lost revenue, which would force cuts to services or force local tax hikes to make up the difference,” Rick Pluta reports.

It's Just Politics
2:40 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Size does matter... in emergency manager repeal

Fourteen point font…

That is what is standing in the way, apparently, of you getting to decide whether or not the state’s emergency manager law stays intact. As Rick Pluta, co-host of It's Just Politics, notes the whole emergency manager repeal was stopped in its tracks, "by an attorney with a pica ruler." And it, quite literally means, size does matter... at least when it comes to petition drives in Michigan.

The back-story

The Board of State Canvassers yesterday morning deadlocked along party lines (two Republicans vs. two Democrats) on whether to put a referendum challenging the state's controversial emergency manager law on the ballot. Though Stand Up for Democracy, the group pushing to put a repeal on the ballot, had gathered more than 200,000 valid signatures (40,000 more than what was actually needed), Republicans on the board pointed to the use of an incorrect type size on the petition itself as grounds for denying it access to the November ballot.

In this week's edition of It's Just Politics, Pluta and I take a look at the politics behind the board's decision... and, I should tell you:  it's a little unsettling.

"Hyper-partisan"

"There's this board, the Board of State Canvassers, it's bi-partisan: two Democrats and two Republicans. They get to decide whether or not a petition - in this case, the petition to repeal the state's emergency manager law - gets on the ballot. This board is not non-partisan. In fact, it is hyper-partisan. [These board members] are chosen by their parties to represent their party's interests," Pluta explains. But, it's not just their party's interests that these board members are representing... they're also representing their own paychecks.

Conflict of interest?

"Jeff Timmer, one of the Republicans on the Board of State Canvassers, [who voted against allowing the petition to go on the November ballot] works for The Sterling Corporation, the political consulting firm that was actually behind the challenge to this ballot's font-size," Pluta explains. "The opponents of the referendum, Citizens for  Fiscal Responsibility, is a Sterling client. Sterling and the Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility even share a business address."

But, Timmer isn't the only one with a possible conflict of interest. "There's a Democrat on the board, Julie Matuzak, she voted to to approve a different petition - one backed by unions. And her day job with the American Federation of Teachers was to run the signature-gathering for that petition drive. So, she voted to let a petition go forward when it was her job to get [that petition] on the ballot," Pluta explains.

Doomed from the beginning?

On the same day that the emergency manager petition was not approved, three other proposals were given the OK. It begs the question: was this emergency manager petition in trouble from the beginning? Was there anything that Stand Up for Democracy could have done to inoculate themselves?

"Well, actually, they could have gone to the election board before they even started to gather the signatures and make sure that they were in compliance [with the font size] but they decided against this. They said even if they had gotten the OK that it still would have seen legal challenges," Pluta explains.

"And, I have seen this before – this sort of paranoia that keeps people from going to the board first and then they get knee-capped like this after they’ve gone to the trouble and expense of gathering the signatures. Some campaign professionals I know are just smacking their heads over this. The attorney for Stand Up For Democracy says they didn’t want to get bogged down in legal challenges before they even got started. But, you know, two union-led petition drives that are just anathema to Republicans – including the one to preempt a right to work law – were recently approved," says Pluta.

What happens now?

So, here we are: for now, the state’s emergency manager law will not be on the ballot in November. But, the attorney for Stand Up for Democracy says they're going to appeal this decision to the state Court of Appeals. And, what will happen there? "More politics," Pluta explains. "People will be looking to see what appeals court  panel gets the case and whether it's made up of judges with Republican ties or judges with ties to Democrats," Pluta says.

And, wouldn't we all just be shocked - shocked, I say - if this repeal becomes politicized in the courts...

News Roundup
9:06 am
Thu April 26, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, April 26th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

EM Repeal on November Ballot?

State elections officials say the campaign to reverse Michigan’s emergency manager law appears to have gathered enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. But, the petition drive still faces at least one more challenge. Rick Pluta reports:

About 161,000 petition signatures were required. The state Bureau of Elections says the group Stand Up For Democracy has gathered more than 203,000 signatures and that’s plenty more names than they needed to qualify for the ballot. But opponents of the referendum drive say they will challenge the petition for technical violations of the law that specifies the size of the type used on petitions.  An evenly divided, bipartisan state elections board may reject the petitions on those grounds, or it could rule the campaign was still in substantial compliance of the law. Either way, the losers are very likely to take their grievance to the Michigan Court of Appeals to decide the fate of the ballot question.

Foreclosure Rates

Most Michigan cities saw their home foreclosure rates tumble during the first quarter of the year. One analyst says that might signal a trend for the rest of 2012. “Home foreclosure filings dropped between 20% and 30% in Detroit, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids during the first three months of the year. That's compared to the first quarter of 2011, according to Realty Trac.  Lansing was the only Michigan city on Realty Trac’s list to see an increase in home foreclosure filings between January and March,” Steve Carmody reports.

Michigan Wildfire

Officials say a wildfire in the northern Lower Peninsula has burned at least 1,500 acres and forced the evacuation of about 50 homes, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

WWTV/WWUP reports the fire burned near Mack Lake in Oscoda County's Mentor Township. The U.S. Forest Service says the fire was about 90 percent contained as of Thursday morning. There were no reports of injuries or structures being burned. An American Red Cross shelter was set up in the nearby community of Mio. Officials say rain was helping firefighting efforts. The fire is in the area of the Huron National Forest… The Oscoda County sheriff's department says the evacuated homes include some small subdivisions and most of them are seasonal.

News Roundup
8:29 am
Wed April 25, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Gov. Snyder to Hold Online Town Hall

Governor Snyder is set to hold another virtual town hall meeting this afternoon in Lansing. Questions can be posted to the governor’s website, to his Facebook page www.facebook.com/rickformichigan or on twitter by sending messages to @OneToughNerd and using the hashtag #AskGovSnyder. The Governor last held a town hall meeting in March to discuss Detroit's financial crisis. You can watch the town hall, beginning this afternoon at 12:15 p.m., at www.livestream.com/snyderlive.

Residents Question Lansing Budget

City residents are questioning how Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero plans to spend money from a recent property tax hike. Steve Carmody reports:

The tax hike was approved last year. Many voters expected the money would be spent to hire back dozens of police officers and firefighters laid off in recent years. But Mayor Bernero's plan calls for bringing back just seven public safety officers. Bernero says he’d like to hire more cops, but the city can’t afford it. Some Lansing city council members complain the mayor wants to spend money on rehabbing a building for the police department. That's money they say could be spent hiring police officers. The city council has until the middle of May to approve or change the mayor’s budget proposal.

Federal Money for MSU’s Rare Isotope Project

Michigan’s Democratic Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow say a Senate subcommittee has significantly increased the recommended annual funding for a planned $600 million physics research facility at Michigan State University, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The Michigan Democrats said Tuesday that the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water has budgeted $30 million in the 2013 fiscal year for the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. That's up from $22 million that President Barack Obama recommended Feb. 13 in his budget proposal. About $55 million in funding was stipulated by the original agreement. Michigan State won a national competition to land the project in December 2008, and design work is under way. Levin and Stabenow say construction of the facility will create about 5,000 construction jobs, with 400 permanent jobs after completion.

Politics
7:42 am
Wed April 25, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

This week we take a look at the politics behind Detroit's financial crisis
JS Fauxtaugraphy Flickr

Every Wednesday, we talk with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about the week in state politics. This morning we take a deeper look at the politics behind Detroit's financial crisis. Mayor Dave Bing's office presented the Detroit City Council with an austere budget this week that would cut some 2500 city jobs and slash $250 million from the city's budget. We ask: will such a drastic budget actually get passed by the July 1st deadline?

News Roundup
8:28 am
Tue April 24, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, April 24th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Flint EM Presents Budget

Next year, the city of Flint will charge residents higher fees in exchange for less services. The budget plan unveiled last night was greeted with anger from city residents and city council members. Steve Carmody reports:

The Flint city budget plan calls for trimming 20 percent of city government workers from the payroll... The plan also raises city sewer and lighting fees. The average property owner will pay an additional $200 in city fees in fiscal year 2013. Emergency manager Michael Brown says the spending cuts and fee hikes are needed to close a $25 million gap in next year’s budget. The city of Flint also wants the state to let it sell $18 million in bonds to pay off the city’s past debt. Brown says he hopes to hear back from the state on the fiscal stabilization bond request sometime next month. Brown says there’s no other way for Flint to close out the debt that the city’s accrued over the past two years.

Detroit Light Rail

A group with plans to build a privately funded light rail line in Detroit says it has the money it needs to construct it, and to run it for ten years. Backers laid out their case in a feasibility study submitted to the federal government. “The M-1 rail line would run along a three-mile stretch of Woodward Avenue in Detroit. Supporters say it’s an important project – especially at a time when the city of Detroit is cutting back dramatically on its spending. The project was nearly derailed late last year – after Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Governor Rick Snyder pulled their support in favor of a rapid bus system. The mayor and governor now say they think both projects should move forward... Construction is expected to begin in early 2013, and be completed in 2015,” Sarah Hulett reports.

More Options to Stop Carp

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has added three options to a list of possible measures for preventing Asian carp and other invasive species from entering the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

In December, the corps released a draft report suggesting methods such as overfishing, ultraviolet light, water guns and introducing native predators in Chicago-area rivers and canals that link the two massive aquatic systems. A final version issued last week also raised the possibility of freezing or drying sections of the waterways, or zapping organisms with carbon dioxide pellets. Next, the corps will decide which options merit further consideration. The report is part of a series as officials develop a strategy for halting species invasions of the Great Lakes, possibly including permanent separation of the two drainage basins.

Politics
7:18 am
Tue April 24, 2012

Gov. Snyder set to hold online town hall tomorrow afternoon

Photo courtesy of the Snyder Administration

Governor Rick Snyder is scheduled to hold an online town hall meeting tomorrow afternoon at 12:15 p.m. The Associated Press reports:

The event will be streamed live at www.livestream.com/snyderlive . Questions can be submitted by calling 517-335-7858, posting a question at www.michigan.gov/townhall or sending a Twitter message to (at)onetoughnerd using the hashtag (hash)AskGovSnyder. Snyder spokeswoman Geralyn Lasher says the Republican governor will host the town hall meeting for about 45 minutes.

The Governor last held a town hall meeting in March to discuss Detroit's financial crisis. Meanwhile, in a speech to business leaders yesterday, the Governor said that he wants to see a stronger sense of urgency for action in Detroit. Rick Pluta reports:

Snyder’s vision includes Detroit being a manufacturing center that exports goods across the world; and a welcoming place for immigrants. He said the city also needs to reverse the trend of young families fleeing the city. Snyder said the two groups that left Detroit in the greatest numbers over the past decade were adults aged 25 to 29, and children between five and nine. The governor said progress is being made, but he wants to see a greater sense of urgency. The governor said municipal bankruptcy is still not out of the question for Detroit.

News Roundup
8:28 am
Mon April 23, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, April 23rd, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Statewide Education Conference

State officials and educators will gather today in East Lansing for the 17th annual Governor’s Education Summit. “Last year, Governor Rick Snyder called for an overhaul in how students are educated. This year, organizers say they’ll examine ways to build an education system that begins with pre-school and continues to college or post-secondary job training,” Rick Pluta reports. Lt. Gov. Brian Calley will address the conference this morning.

Budgeting Detroit

Detroit’s budget process gets started in earnest this week. Sarah Cwiek reports:

The Detroit City Council will dig into a detailed version of Mayor Dave Bing’s proposed budget for the first time today. Everyone acknowledges it will be a painful, multi-year process of cutting city spending – as outlined in Detroit’s consent agreement with the state. State and city officials have said Detroit needs to focus on delivering its “core services” effectively – and slashing or even ending most others. The proposed budget would eliminate the city’s health, human services, and workforce development departments.

Frost Damage to Cherry Crops

Northern Michigan's tart cherry growers are starting to report serious damage from a hard freeze that followed a late-winter heat wave, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

A week-long hot spell in mid-March triggered widespread budding well ahead of normal. Then typical cold weather returned, with temperatures dipping into the 20s on the night of March 25th. Longtime Leelanau County fruit farmer Dave Alpers has 550 acres of tart cherries and 100 acres of sweet cherries in Leland and Suttons Bay townships, about 15 miles north of Traverse City. He tells the Traverse City Record-Eagle that he's finding 80 to 90 percent of the buds on the area's tart cherries have been killed, as have about 40 to 60 percent of the apple buds. The northwestern Lower Peninsula produces about four-fifths of U.S. tart cherries.

It's Just Politics
2:15 pm
Fri April 20, 2012

Role reversal: Michigan Democrats talk taxes as Republicans stay mum

Contemplative Imaging Flickr

Every week, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I take a look at state politics.This week: it's all about the politics of taxes. It was Tax Day this week and that brought out plenty of politicians ready to talk about taxes... but, they weren't the usual suspects.

Dems: It's About Taxes

"We had Democrats coming out and talking about taxes which is kind of an inversion of the way that the political world usually works. On Tax Day, you usually get Republicans coming out talking about how taxes are too high... But [this week] you saw Lansing Democrats coming out and reminding people that 2012 was when seniors who have pension income were taxed on that income for the first time and that the dozen or so tax breaks that people used to be able to apply to their state income taxes are no longer," Pluta explains.

GOP: It's About the Economy

Republicans, instead, focused on an economic message with Governor Snyder tweeting about the state's declining unemployment rate. "The Republican message, right now, is framed a lot more around the economy, not taxes... They're really not even trying to get in front of the tax message. What they're trying to get in front of is the message that 'whatever it is that we're doing, it's working.'"

All Politics is Local... Really?

It's important to note that it's not just state Democrats beating the tax drum. "In this age where most elections are really nationalized, especially in presidential election years, what Democrats are saying and doing in Lansing fits in pretty snuggly alongside what we're hearing from Democrats in Washington  and what President Obama is saying about Republicans, and tax policy, and who should be paying more in taxes," Pluta explains. So, although former U.S. House Speaker Tip O'Neill made the "all politics is local" line famous, it certainly doesn't hurt state Democrats to be in step with their party's national talking-points.

__________________

This week certainly had it's share of political news: Governor Snyder made a surprise trip to Afghanistan, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed the autism mandate into law and three (out of nine) members were appointed to Detroit's Financial Advisory Board. Pluta and I take a look at these stories and more in an extended edition of It's Just Politics. You can hear the show below:

News Roundup
9:12 am
Fri April 20, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, April 20th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Struggling School Districts

Michigan school districts are struggling with growing budget deficits and even relatively wealthy districts are facing unprecedented cuts. Jennifer Guerra reports:

The Ann Arbor Public School district faces a $17.8 million deficit. The district's budget for the 2011-12 school year is $183 million. Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen met with the district's Board of Education on Wednesday, where he laid out three possible plans to deal with the deficit in Ann Arbor – each one progressively more severe. Ann Arbor School Board president Deb Mexicotte says the cuts are "reaching the bone," and "if you keep cutting, you’re going to reach the place where you can no longer maintain what you do well." The major difference between Ann Arbor and many other struggling school districts is that Ann Arbor has around $18 million in so-called "rainy day funds" from which it can pull.

Detroit Finances

Governor Snyder’s office released the names of three members appointed to the Detroit Financial Advisory Board yesterday. The consent agreement the city signed with the state earlier this month calls for the creation of the nine-member board which will have oversight over the city’s finances. “Former state Treasurer Robert Bowman, currently president and CEO of Major League Baseball Advanced Media LP, is the joint appointee of Snyder and Bing. Darrell Burks, currently a senior partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, will be one of three individuals appointed by Gov. Snyder, and Ken Whipple, chairman of the board of Korn/Ferry International, is Treasurer Dillon’s appointee to the FAB,” a press release from the Snyder administration explains. Six appointments to the board are left.

Pontiac EM's Water Plans

Pontiac Emergency Manager Louis Schimmel says Oakland County has agreed to issue $55 million in bonds for the municipal water and wastewater treatment systems, helping the city get out of debt, the Associated Press reports. "The plan would make the water system a stand-alone public corporation. Schimmel said Thursday that the move is projected to save about $52 million over 30 years. He says the savings plus the $55 million in cash will hasten his departure, "which should make some people happy. Schimmel says he may be able to finish reorganizing Pontiac's finances this this year, rather than in 2013," the AP reports.

News Roundup
8:54 am
Thu April 19, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, April 19th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Presidential Visit

President Obama made a broad, impassioned case for his re-election in Metro Detroit yesterday. Sarah Cwiek reports:

The President resurrected the “change” theme of his 2008 campaign. He said change is a slow process. But he touted some milestones of his first term, including health care reform and the resurgence of the U.S. auto industry. The Henry Ford Museum hosted the first of the two Metro Detroit fundraisers for the President. He then moved on to a private fundraiser at the Bingham Farms home of businesswoman Denise Ilitch. The top price for a ticket there: $40,000.

The President was last in the state in January when he spoke about college affordability at the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor.

Snyder in Afghanistan

Governor Snyder made a surprise trip to Afghanistan this week to meet with Michigan Air and Army Guard units. The trip was organized by the U.S. Department of Defense. In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Snyder said the trip made him more committed to helping returning veterans.“I can tell from the experiences that I’ve had, it just makes me even more determined to say, for the hard work, the wonderful effort our service people are doing for us in all these countries, we need to a better job of helping them find a job, their health care.” Snyder, along with the Governors of Rhode Island and South Dakota, first stopped in Kuwait and, after his stay in Afghanistan, will travel to Germany before returning back to Michigan.

Calley Signs Autism Bill

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley signed a bill into law yesterday that will require insurance companies to cover childhood autism treatments. Rick Pluta reports:

Calley signed the bill to the applause of families and activists who’ve spent years lobbying for the coverage mandate. The issue is a personal one for Calley, who has a daughter with autism. He says early treatments help autistic children grow up to be self-sufficient and will save taxpayers money on special education and public assistance. Calley says there will also be more and better services for families now that autism specialists know their services will be covered. He says the administration has not taken a position on extending the coverage mandate to mental health conditions.

The lieutenant governor signed the legislation because Governor Snyder is overseas.

Read more
Politics
2:32 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

MI Sen. Levin supports President Obama's plan to target oil speculators

Senator Carl Levin favors President Obama's plan to provide better oversight of energy markets
Jeffrey Simms Photography Flickr

President Obama is setting his sights on oil-market speculators. The President laid out a plan this week that would make it easier for the government to regulate oil trading markets.

There’s concern in the Obama administration that speculators are artificially driving up the price of oil. The President’s plan would increase spending to provide better oversight of energy markets. It would also increase penalties against those who engage in illegal trading.

Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin is in favor of the President's plan. He thinks more regulation of the markets is needed. "This is not a situation where the market is governing – where the usual rules of supply and demand govern. As a matter of fact, if supply and demand were the driving force here, gas prices would be going down. Not up," Levin says.

The President concedes that his plan will not immediately lower gas prices. But he says it will prevent market manipulation which, in turn, will help consumers.

News Roundup
9:05 am
Wed April 18, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, April 18th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Personal Property Tax

A plan was unveiled yesterday at the state Capitol to phase out the tax on most manufacturing equipment. Rick Pluta reports:

Local governments collect about $400 million in revenue a year from the industrial property tax, also known as the personal property tax. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley helped design the plan to get rid of the tax over the next several years. He says Michigan is unique in how it taxes industrial property - and he says it’s driving investments to other states and countries. But local leaders say the way the phase-out is drafted now, it would force disinvestment in schools, and city services. That’s because it does not replace all the revenue lost to local governments. The communities that would be most affected are industrial cities with the most factories.

Kalamazoo River Opens

Calhoun County Health officials are opening up a three mile section of the Kalamazoo River near Marshall this morning. It’s the first time the river has opened to the public since more than 800,000 gallons of oil spilled into the river in July 2010. “It’s just a tiny portion of the 37 total miles of the river that have been closed since the underground Enbridge pipeline ruptured. Crews have recovered more than a million gallons of oil from the river. Calhoun County Health officials say people using the river may still see small oil flecks or oil sheen. But they say an assessment of that portion of the river shows it is safe for public recreation. Health officials hope to open the rest of the river to public recreation as soon as July,” Lindsey Smith reports.

Utility Refunds

Customers of DTE Energy Co. and CMS Energy Corp.'s Consumers Energy unit are expected to get a refund soon, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The Michigan Public Service Commission on Tuesday ordered DTE and its gas subsidiary MichCon to refund $30.9 million to 2.1 million electric and 1.2 million gas customers. Consumers Energy must refund $25.4 million to its 6.8 million electric and gas customers. The refund is for money collected from customers to support the Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund, which provides assistance to low-income utility customers. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled last year that energy legislation didn't include provisions for LIEEF and that the PSC shouldn't administer the program anymore.

Politics
7:20 am
Wed April 18, 2012

The Week in Michigan Politics

Ifmuth Flickr

Every Wednesday, we take a look at the week's state politics with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry. This morning: state lawmakers are back in Lansing after a two-week spring break, an overhaul of the state's Personal Property Tax could be coming, and President Obama is set to spend this evening fundraising in Southeast Michigan.

Newsmaker Interviews
5:23 pm
Tue April 17, 2012

Congressman Clarke says suspend foreclosures, keep homes occupied

Congressman Hansen Clarke represents Michigan's 13th Congressional District.

Although Michigan’s foreclosure activity declined in the first quarter of 2012, Michigan still has the 7th highest foreclosure rate in the country.

Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke represents Michigan’s 13th district. This week he's in Washington D. C. and hopes to introduce a bill that would suspend home foreclosures nationally for up to three years.

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News Roundup
8:00 am
Tue April 17, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

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They’re Back: Lawmakers Return to Lansing

After a two-week break, lawmakers are heading back to the state Capitol today. And, today’s tax filing deadline has kicked off political sparring over the state’s tax overhaul. “Democrats say a lot of the changes made last year should be reversed. That includes restoring the exemption for pension income. They are also calling to restore a dozen credits and deductions, including the tax breaks for raising children and charitable donations. Republicans say the tax overhaul made taxes more simple and fair and treats all income the same, regardless of its source,” Rick Pluta reports.

President Obama to Visit SE MI

President Obama is scheduled to attend two fundraisers tomorrow in suburban Detroit. The Associated Press reports:

The president plans to attend an evening event at the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn. Later, he's set to appear at the Bingham Farms home of Denise Ilitch. She's the daughter of Mike and Marian Ilitch, owners of Little Caesar's Pizza, the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers. That event could collect up to $40,000 per donor… The president could raise $1 million at Wednesday's events. Obama last visited Michigan on January 27th when he spoke on higher education funding at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Engler: Tax Decisions Need to Be Made Quickly

Former Michigan Governor John Engler says politicians in Washington need to make important decisions now, despite the general election coming in November. Engler spoke to a gathering at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids yesterday. Lindsey Smith reports:

Engler says politicians have a lot of tough decisions to make to keep the U.S. competitive globally. That includes decisions on energy and education; but most importantly, he says, decisions about the tax code and the federal deficit. Engler says those decisions need to made as quickly as possible. Engler said lawmakers need to make long-term decisions about the tax code instead of one time quick fixes he says only add uncertainty for U.S. businesses. Engler says uncertainty about energy prices and the future of the new national health care law are also dragging down the economy.

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