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
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...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

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.

News Roundup
8:38 am
Mon April 16, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, April 16th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Rehashing the Tax Debate

Democrats at the state Capitol see political opportunity in tomorrow’s tax-filing deadline, and they intend to use it to hammer Republicans on their overhaul last year of the state tax code. Rick Pluta reports:

Democrats believe the issue of taxes is a political winner for them this year. In Lansing, Democrats hope the tax question will turn the odds in their favor to win the nine or more additional seats they need to take control of the state House. Their message will target seniors paying taxes on pension income for the first time and people who take advantage of tax breaks and deductions that won’t be available when they file next year.  At the same, Republicans cut taxes for many businesses. GOP leaders say the sweeping re-write was necessary to streamline and simplify Michigan’s taxes, and free up money for businesses to create jobs. 

Romney Leads Obama in MI Campaign Donations

Federal Election Commission records show Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney out-raised President Obama through the end of February, the Detroit Free Press reports. “Obama had raised about $1.6 million in Michigan. That's far more than Obama had raised in the state at this point four years ago, but still less than Romney's $2-million total… Obama and Romney each have one Michigan city that towers above all others for fund-raising power. For Obama, it's Ann Arbor, where his campaign has collected $243,603. At $450,691, Romney's sweet spot is Bloomfield Hills, where he grew up,” the Freep reports.

Amtrak Delays

Amtrak says there will be some train cancelations and delays for three days beginning today on the routes from Chicago to Port Huron and Pontiac, the Associated Press reports. “Amtrak says the service interruptions are necessary to allow track work. It says normal travel times should return by early May. The passenger rail service says certain trains will be canceled Monday through Wednesday, while slowdowns of up to 90 minutes will continue until the work is done,” the Associated Press reports.

It's Just Politics
4:08 pm
Fri April 13, 2012

Beneath the helmet: Why did Governor Snyder sign the helmet law repeal?

On this week's edition of, "It's Just Politics," we discuss the politics behind the helmet law repeal
Matthileo Flickr

Michigan is the 31st state to allow motorcyclists to ride without helmets. Gov. Rick Snyder signed the bill to lift the requirement on riders 21 years and older last night. But signing the repeal was not necessarily something the Governor wanted to to.

"This is one of those issues that the Governor says is, 'not on my agenda,' which is Snyder short-hand for, 'I don't want to deal with this,'" explains Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network and co-host of It's Just Politics.

Why'd he do it?

So, the Governor's signing of the repeal raises the question: if it wasn't on his agenda, why did he sign it?

"I talked to [the Governor's] office," Pluta explains, "and his thinking about this evolved. He said at first that it wasn't on his agenda and then, if he was going to do it, he wanted it to be in the context of a overhaul of the state's auto-insurance laws - there has been no overhaul - but, the Governor still signed it. His office says that this [signing] recognizes that he has a partnership with the Republican Legislature, and that this is something, clearly, a majority of the House and Senate wanted."

Did the Governor blink?

This, however, raises another question: did the Governor blink? Meaning, do Republican lawmakers now know, with the signing of this bill, that just because the Governor says an issue is "not on his agenda" that he will, eventually, support it if it's sent to his desk.

For example, there's been a lot of inside-political talk about whether Governor Snyder would, if the state House and Senate passed such a measure, sign right-to-work legislation.

Governor Snyder’s spokeswoman has said that a fierce debate over "right-to-work" and other labor issues won’t help Michigan rebuild its economy. The governor has said he hopes the Legislature will put off a measure that would outlaw compulsory union membership or dues to hold a job.

But there are Republicans, such as Representative Mike Shirkey, who disagree with the Governor and believe that now is the time to introduce right-to-work legislation. One has to wonder: will Governor Snyder's signing of the helmet-law repeal embolden certain Republican lawmakers to introduce legislation that they know Governor Snyder doesn't support?

A Balancing Act

"It speaks to the balancing act that [Governor Snyder] is engaged in," Pluta notes. "On the one hand, he's trying to get the Legislature to buy into his priorities - priorities that Conservatives and Tea Partiers in the Legislature in particular are not enthusiastic about. And, he gets to say, 'maybe it wasn't on my agenda but I respected your priorities - now, you can respect mine.' Or, is it the other way around? Does this fuel this idea that the Legislature can send something to the Governor that's not on his agenda and he's more likely than not to simply accept it," Pluta says.

It's Just Politics

"It's a motorcycle story," Pluta explains, "that is the next chapter in the saga of how the Governor relates to a Legislature that is not always on the same page as him."

Political Roundup
9:39 pm
Thu April 12, 2012

Immediate effect sheds national light on Michigan, so what?

Michigan Legislature.
Michigan Municipal League flickr

Every Thursday we speak with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

This week it’s all about the politics and policy behind immediate effect, and why it's gotten some national attention.

Hundred of bills have passed in the Michigan legislature with immediate effect tacked on. Democrats have cried foul, and issued a court challenge accusing Republicans of not taking required roll call votes.

This gets into a lot of procedural specifics and we’ve been reporting on this for a couple of weeks. Then suddenly, it hits the national stage when Rachel Maddow, a MSNBC host, picked up the story. Maddow called it “revolutionary and radical beyond radical.”

Demas says, “I think Maddow needs to calm down and maybe spend a little time in Michigan before she starts reporting on the intricacies of legislative procedure here.”

Read more
News Roundup
8:40 am
Thu April 12, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, April 12th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

MI Foreclosures Decline

Realty Trac is reporting that Michigan’s home foreclosure rate is improving. “Foreclosure filings were down nearly 20% during the first three months of the year compared to the fourth quarter of 2011. The decline was even steeper compared to the same time a year ago. Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac. He says nationally foreclosure numbers haven’t looked this good since before the recession started in 2008. Bloomquist expects there will be a spike in new home foreclosures in the second half of the year,” Steve Carmody reports.

Ag Industry Grows

A new Michigan State University study shows Michigan’s agriculture industry has grown dramatically throughout the recession. Lindsey Smith reports:

Agriculture contributed more than $90 billion to Michigan’s economy in 2010. The economic impact of farming, food processing and the supply chain is twice as much as it was in 2004. “(Agriculture’s) critical to what’s happening in the state. And the story about our growth I think is significant versus other sectors of the state’s economy that have clearly been in decline,” said Chris Peterson, director of the MSU Product Center. Peterson says growing demand for food in big countries like China and India are a major factor in agriculture’s growth in Michigan.The latest report shows 618,000 jobs come directly from Michigan’s food and agriculture business sector.

Kalamazoo River Sheen

Officials say material apparently dumped into a storm drain has created a miles-long sheen on the Kalamazoo River. The Associated Press reports:

The Battle Creek Enquirer reports police were notified Wednesday about a possible spill near Albion. Booms were placed in the river to collect the material. Authorities say it appears the unknown material was apparently dumped into a drain at the former Union Steel site… Crews have been working to clean the Kalamazoo River further downstream since a 2010 pipeline rupture spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil near Marshall.

News Roundup
8:34 am
Wed April 11, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, April 11th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Conflict of Interest in EM Ballot Challenge?

While state elections officials inspect petitions seeking a referendum that could overturn Michigan’s emergency manager law, one of the key decision-makers could have a conflict of interest. Rick Pluta reports:

One of the people in line to decide the fate of the referendum to challenge Michigan’s emergency manager law has a business interest in the outcome. Jeffrey Timmer is a partner at the Sterling Corporation. Sterling is a political consulting firm that works for the Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. That’s the group that’s filed several technical challenges to the petition in an effort to keep the question off the ballot…

While his firm tries to stop the referendum, Timmer also sits on the Board of State Canvassers. That’s the bipartisan panel that will make the initial ruling on the challenge. Timmer is a Republican who was appointed to the board in 2009. State elections officials say it is up to Timmer to decide whether he has a conflict and should recuse himself. Timmer did not return phone calls for comment.

EM for Muskegon Heights Schools

Governor Rick Snyder has determined a financial emergency exists in the Muskegon Heights school district. The next step is for the governor to appoint an emergency manager to the district. “Muskegon Heights Schools has run a deficit for at least six years in a row. The deficit is projected to be around $9.4 million by the end of this school year. Student enrollment has dropped by a third since 2006. Unlike any other city or school district, the school board in Muskegon Heights asked for a state takeover back in December. Emergency managers already run two school districts and four cities in Michigan. The City of Detroit is working under the terms of a consent agreement instead of an emergency manager,” Lindsey Smith reports.

High School Graduate Rates Remain Steady

The graduation rate for the high school class of 2011 in Michigan remained relatively steady compared to the previous year, despite new science and math requirements. Jennifer Guerra reports:

Wendy Zdeb-Roper is executive director of the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals. She says most educators had "a certain degree of trepidation" when the requirements were introduced because they were concerned about graduation rates and how students would fare. According to the Center for Educational Performance and Information, the average graduation rate dropped by only a little more than two percent – from 76 percent in 2010 to 74 percent in 2011. The new high school requirements were approved by then-Governor Jennifer Granholm in 2006.

Politics
7:28 am
Wed April 11, 2012

The Week in Michigan Politics

Contemplative Imaging Flickr

Every Wednesday morning, we speak with Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry about what's going on in state politics. This week: A group opposed to the repeal of the state's Emergency Manager law says the group pushing for a November ballot referendum has faulty petitions, a recall effort against Governor Snyder gets the go-ahead, and Muskegon Heights schools will soon be under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.

News Roundup
9:18 am
Tue April 10, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

MI Court Lifts I.E. Suspension

The Michigan Court of Appeals has lifted a lower court order that delayed when two state laws took effect. The case is part of a procedural fight between Democrats and Republicans at the state Capitol. Rick Pluta reports:

State House Democrats sued Republicans for ignoring their motions for record roll call votes on a procedure, known as immediate effect, that allows a law to take effect as soon as the governor signs it – instead of three months after the end of a legislative session. Democrats won a court order last week that says Republicans have to recognize their motions for roll call votes. It also suspended two laws – one that forbids graduate teaching assistants from organizing a union, and another that bars teacher contracts that include paycheck deduction of union dues. The Court of Appeals lifted that order and took control of the case. But there will be another hearing on the case before the Court of Appeals makes a final ruling.

EM Repeal Petition Opposed

The group Stand Up for Democracy has been trying to overturn the state’s emergency manager law… they’re trying to get a measure to repeal the law on the November ballot. They’ve submitted petitions containing more than 225,000 signatures. But, now, opponents of that campaign say those petitions are flawed. "The group Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility says the petitions aren’t legal because the heading is printed in a smaller font than what is required. A printer's affidavit says the heading size is correct. State election officials are expected to make a decision by late April," the Associated Press reports.

Flint Budget

Flint’s emergency manager and his staff are working this week to wrap up a budget plan for the city. Steve Carmody reports:

The plan will include a request for up to $20 million in bonds to help close the city’s massive budget deficit. Flint Finance Director Jerry Ambrose hopes the plan will be ready to submit to the state by early next week. He says the budget plan will address the need to do “less with less." Ambrose says layoffs and furlough days are likely. Michael Brown, the city's emergency manager, is negotiating with Flint’s city unions,  hoping to reach agreement on deep contract concessions. Flint firefighters have already reached a tentative deal with the city.

Politics
6:25 pm
Mon April 9, 2012

Congratulations, outsider: You're now an insider

Running for office as a "political outsider" can win you an election. The problem: the second you win, you're no longer an outsider

Every week Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of state politics. And, this week it's all about the political Catch-22 of running for office  as a 'political outsider.'

So, dear citizen, you think that things aren't working in Lansing or in Washington, D.C.

That's bad. Very, bad.

So, you decide to run for office. You file the paperwork, you campaign... and you win as a political outsider! Maybe, you even beat a long-time political incumbent. You're now off to the state Capital - or, even, the nation's Capital - and you're ready to shake things up.

That's good.

Well, actually... it just might be bad.

Why, you ask? Because the moment you take the oath of office, good citizen, you are now part of the system - you are a political insider. You, now, are an incumbent.

So, being a political insider is bad?

Not necessarily.

It can actually be good... take a listen (at the link above) and find out why.

News Roundup
9:11 am
Mon April 9, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

Snyder Recall

A group that wants to oust Governor Snyder will launch its second effort to collect enough signatures to put a recall question on the November ballot. “It will go before an Election Commission this afternoon looking for permission to let the petition drive go forward. The group Michigan Rising gathered half a million signatures last year, but that was well short of the 800,000 names of registered voters needed to put a recall question on the ballot. The group will ask an elections panel in Washtenaw County – where the governor lives – to approve its petition. Michigan Rising cites the state’s emergency manager law and cuts to school funding as the reasons to recall the governor. If the petition is approved, the recall campaign will have six months to gather signatures,” Rick Pluta reports.

State Fairgrounds

Governor Snyder is set to sign legislation today that will allow the state to sell the Michigan state fairgrounds. Tracy Samilton reports:

The Michigan state fair was first held in 1849, making it the second oldest state fair in the country. But the event lost money most years after 1970… Attendance dropped 39% over the final eight years of the Fair’s existence. In 2009, Governor Jennifer Granholm ended all state funding for the fair, and it closed. Today, Governor Snyder will sign bills which will authorize the state to sell the property. The 157 acre property is located just east of Woodward Avenue, close to 8 Mile.

Palisades Nuclear Plant Offline

Operators of the Palisades nuclear plant in southwestern Michigan say they've taken it offline for refueling. The Associated Press reports:

The plant has been under Nuclear Regulatory Commission scrutiny because of a series of safety problems in recent months. Operators say crews removed the plant from service about 10:30 a.m. on Sunday. A restart date hasn't been announced. During the outage, Entergy says crews will place 64 new fuel assemblies. Other major work includes an inspection of the reactor vessel head, replacement of five control rod seal packages, an inspection of the moisture separator and re-heater heat exchangers,\ and an inspection of the plant's two steam generators.

Politics
12:31 pm
Sat March 31, 2012

Michigan's Democratic lawmakers cry foul over how Republicans are counting their votes

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.

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News Roundup
8:31 am
Fri March 30, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, March 30th, 2012
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.

News Roundup
8:58 am
Thu March 29, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news...

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.

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