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

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."
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

It's here: The Michigan presidential primary.

You've got questions? We've got answers.

Join Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and me for seven minutes of pure-politics (you just gotta click the "listen" link above... really, it's that easy).

Want to know more about the Santorum campaign's so-called "dirty tricks"? We got that.

Want to know how Romney could win the state's popular vote... but Santorum could actually win more delegates? We got that, too.

Oh, and how about the latest poll numbers? Don't worry, we've got you covered.

So, take a listen... in seven minutes you'll get up to date on what you need to know about today's primary.

In this morning's news...

Feb 28, 2012
Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Primary Day Has Arrived

After weeks of counting down the days, Michigan's presidential primary has arrived. Polls are open until 8 p.m. and Michigan voters will find eleven Republicans on the GOP presidential ballot and President Obama, uncontested, on the Democratic ballot. Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul all held rallies yesterday across the state but, even with all the media attention, the Secretary of State’s office is predicting only between 15-20 percent of the state’s registered voters will turn out to the polls today.

Gas Prices Continue to Rise

Motorists are spending $4 for a gallon of regular gas in Troy and Okemos and other parts of Michigan may soon join them, Steve Carmody reports. From Carmody:

Michigan’s gasoline prices shot up 12 cents on Monday. Dustin Coupal is a co-founder of GasBuddy.com. He says increasing world demand for oil is pushing Michigan’s gasoline prices closer to record high territory. According to GasBuddy.com, Michigan’s average regular gas price is around $3.80 a gallon. The state set a record last May, when the average price hit $4.26 a gallon.

Detroit Violence

Mayor Dave Bing is pleading with Detroiters to “stop the madness” after another violent weekend in the city. Sarah Cwiek reports:

Bing’s plea comes after a shooting on the city’s east side left a six-year-old boy critically injured. Detroit Police have arrested a pair of 15-year-olds in the case. Chief Ralph Godbee says the two were on a carjacking spree when the shooting happened. Even crime-hardened Detroiters have been taken aback by the indiscriminate nature of recent violence. Two Detroit children have died violently in the past month, both in shootings that appeared to stem from petty disputes. The city is also reeling from news that a 14-year-old murdered his mother as she slept.

Cle0patra / Flickr

Election Day is here

After weeks of counting down the days, Michigan's presidential primary has arrived. Polls open this morning at 7 a.m. and Michigan voters will find eleven Republicans on the GOP presidential ballot and President Obama, uncontested, on the Democratic ballot. Votes for President Obama won't really count in today's primary, as the state Democratic Party will hold a caucus on May 5th.

Campaign finale

Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were the three major GOP candidates who spent the most time campaigning across the state over the past few days (if you're wondering where Newt Gingrich has been, you can read more about some political theories for his absence here). Here are just a few of the stories that came out of the candidates' campaign stops yesterday:

And, Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry; Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network Rick Pluta and I have been keeping an eye on the race:

Voter turnout

Election officials are, "expecting between 15 percent and 20 percent of the state's registered voters to cast ballots in the presidential primary election. About 21 percent of the state's registered voters participated in Michigan's 2008 presidential primary, when Republicans had a contested race but Hillary Rodham Clinton was the only major Democratic candidate on the ballot," the Associated Press reports.

In this morning's news...

Feb 27, 2012
Brother O'Mara / Flickr

GOP Candidates Making Final Stops in MI

Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul will all continue their campaigning across Michigan today ahead of the state’s presidential primary tomorrow. After a rally this morning in Rockford, Romney stops in Albion this afternoon and then travels to Royal Oak this evening where he’ll be joined by Governor Snyder. His main rival, Rick Santorum, will spend part of the morning addressing the Livonia/Farmington Hills Chamber of Commerce, then travels to Lansing for an afternoon rally and stops in Kalamazoo this evening. Meanwhile, Paul, who just began campaigning in the state this past weekend, has a visit to Detroit on his campaign schedule.

Voter Turnout

Predicting just how many voters will turn up at the polls tomorrow for the primary is tricky business, Steve Carmody reports. “We don’t have a turnout estimate at this point because it is a presidential primary and they do vary greatly from cycle to cycle,” Fred Woodhams, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, told Carmody. “Woodhams says August primaries generally bring in about 18 to 20 percent of eligible voters. But then again that’s August. Adding to the uncertainty is a host of local issues which may, or may not, boost turnout. Voters in parts of Oakland and Genesee Counties are electing people to vacant state house seats,” Carmody reports.

Meeting on West MI Nuclear Power

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will hold a public meeting to discuss safety violations at the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in South Haven this week.  “The plant had five unplanned shutdowns last year. As a result, the NRC downgraded the plant’s safety performance rating. Now it’s one of only four plants in the country with such a bad safety rating. 'It is not a routine meeting for the agency,' said NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng.  The meeting will run from 6 p.m. to -8:30 p.m. on Wednesday night in South Haven,” Lindsey Smith reports.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Four days. We are now four days away from the state’s super-important, all-encompassing presidential primary (just in case you don’t feel like doing the math – that would be Tuesday). At this point in the campaign, the most recent polls are showing Mitt Romney with a slight advantage over his main rival in the state, Rick Santorum.

Polling galore

“We have a Rasmussen poll that puts Mitt Romney ahead of Rick Santorum – outside of the margin of error – which would be an actual lead,” Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network explains. And, then there’s the new poll by Mitchell Research and Communications which also shows Romney in the lead but this one, “is inside the margin of error… a statistical tie. But, I think perhaps more important than specifically where the numbers are at, it’s what direction we’re seeing the race take,” Pluta notes.

The all-important TREND moving towards Romney

Rather than just looking at one or two polls, political campaigns tend to look at the actual trend of the numbers: are the numbers moving in the direction of one candidate or the other over a certain period of time and what the spread is between the numbers. “A lot of times, a lot of the media focuses on ‘if the election were held today, then this would be the result’ kind of coverage. And, political professionals certainly care about that… but, they care more about what the spread is, what the gap is, between the candidates and what direction everything is taking. And, right now, everything seems to be moving in Mitt Romney’s direction,” Pluta explains.

So, where’s Newt?

Newt Gingrich, who, just a few short weeks ago was seen as Mitt Romney’s main rival for the GOP nomination, has not actively campaigned in the state. “We have confirmed, what we have long suspected: Gingrich is really leaving Michigan to Rick Santorum to chew on Mitt Romney,” Pluta explains.

In this morning news...

Feb 24, 2012
Brother O'Mara / Flickr

4 Days To Go: MI Presidential Primary

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney will speak at Ford Field today in Detroit as part of a speech to the Detroit Economic Club. The Detroit Free Press has an interesting article detailing how the Romney campaign and the DEC plan to make the stadium appear more crowded for the event. Meanwhile, Rick Santorum plans to be in Walled Lake and St. Clair Shores today and then travel to Troy tomorrow. Ron Paul has announced several visits throughout the state this weekend, including a stop at Central Michigan University tomorrow. Michigan's presidential primary is Tuesday.

Highland Park

The Highland Park school board has cleared the way for Governor Snyder to quickly re-appoint an emergency manager, Sarah Cwiek reports. From Cwiek:

The board chose not to appeal the state’s finding of a financial emergency in the district. It was the second time a state review team made that finding. But the emergency manager Governor Snyder had already appointed, Jack Martin, had to step down to comply with a court ruling that voided the appointment process. So the state had to quickly re-do the whole process this week. The board fought the decision and lost the first time, but decided not to appeal this time… In the meantime, the state has approved an emergency aid package that should keep Highland Park schools open--at least temporarily--and get teachers paid, though not until next week at the earliest. But that money would also follow students if they choose to leave the district.

Winter Weather

It appears winter might finally be making an appearance in Southern Michigan. A winter storm, “is bringing wet snow, slippery roads and school closings to southern Michigan, with up to 9 inches forecast in parts of the state. The National Weather Service says winter storm warnings were in effect for much of the southern Lower Peninsula on Friday. About 5 to 8 inches was expected in areas including Grand Rapids, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek. Parts of southeast Michigan could get up to 8 inches,” the Associated Press reports.

Photo courtesy of the Governor's office

Almost 30 Michigan lawmakers jumped into a cold pool yesterday outside of the state's Capitol building. They raised some $20,000 for Special Olympics Michigan. "Proceeds from these plunges help support year-round sports training and athletic competition for more than 20,670 children and adults with intellectual disabilities in Michigan," the Special Olympics Michigan website explains.

After Lt. Governor Brian Calley jumped into the chilly waters  yesterday afternoon, Governor Snyder (@onetoughnerd) tweeted: Who knew @briancalley had such mad hops?

And, just in case you want to see it to believe it, the Michigan Information and Research Service posted this video of many of the lawmakers (many dressed in costumes) taking the plunge:

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

We are five days away from Michigan’s Presidential Primary. It is next Tuesday, February 28th.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White is joined by 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, to discuss where the Republican presidential candidates stand today in the state.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are in a statistical dead heat. Sikkema says, “It’s a very fluid situation….and anything can happen on Tuesday.”

We're down to five days, now. Five days before the state holds its all-important presidential primary, and two new polls show a tightening race between front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum.

"An NBC News/Marist Poll released Wednesday shows 37 percent of 1,147 likely Michigan GOP primary voters backing Romney, 35 percent Santorum and 13 percent Ron Paul. Eight percent support Newt Gingrich, and 4 percent are undecided," the Associated Press reports. And, "a new EPIC-MRA poll of 400 likely voters shows Santorum with 37 percent, Romney 34 percent, Paul 10 percent and Gingrich 7 percent. Twelve percent were undecided," the AP notes.

The four Republican candidates debated last night in Arizona, possibly the last debate of this 2012 primary.

About 30 minutes into the debate, a subject close to many Michiganders hearts and pocketbooks - the auto bailout - was brought up.  The AP reports:

All of the GOP presidential candidates say they oppose President Barack Obama's decision to bail out failing automakers... Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul all say they'd have refused giving government money to General Motors and Chrysler. Gingrich says it wouldn't have been a tough decision -- he says that other operations in the auto industry outside of Detroit were doing fine. Romney says that his own approach to the auto industry calling for a structured bankruptcy would have been better. He says that some of the money used in the bailout was wasted.

Paul says he opposes all bailouts and says just because a bailout was successful doesn't mean it should have been done.

Just in case you're craving more post-debate analysis this morning, you can check out the stories below. And, is it just me, or is there a whole lotta fightin' words in these headlines ("duels," "attacks," "jabs," "draws fire")!?

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

By now, it's probably not news to you that Michigan holds the nation’s next presidential primary on February 28th. And, it’s likely to be a doozy.

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