Stateside with Cynthia Canty

Monday through Thursday @ 3:00 p.m. & 10 p.m.

Conversations about what matters in Michigan.

Stateside with Cynthia Canty covers a wide range of Michigan news and policy issues — as well as culture and lifestyle stories. In keeping with Michigan Radio’s broad coverage across southern Michigan, Stateside with Cynthia Canty will focus on topics and events that matter to people all across the state.

ARLIS Reference / Flickr

We've just marked the 25th anniversary of one of the most catastrophic man-made environmental disasters, the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

It was just after midnight on March 24, 1989 when the Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound. 11 million gallons of crude oil gushed into the pristine waters.

The clean-up effort was staggering. Among those called to help was U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Commander Thomas Haas. He was a chemist and an expert in hazmat cleanup. Twenty-five years later, that Lt. Commander is the president of Grand Valley State University.

“We had to figure out what clean meant,” Haas said.

Wikimedia Commons

Blight is one of the biggest challenges facing Detroit.

Should we tear down and start fresh? Or selectively look at the properties and see what can be preserved?

According to a report from the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, 78,506 building in the city are decayed or at risk of decaying.

That’s 30% of the cities structures.

It will cost $850 million to demolish the blighted homes and commercial buildings. Clearing industrial sites could cost a billion dollars more.

user: Al / flickr

Governor Rick Snyder signed a new minimum wage law in May that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.40 to $9.25 an hour by 2018.

But the fight is not over.

Raise Michigan, a group of unions, nonprofits and liberal advocacy groups, wants to put forth a ballot initiative that will ask voters to amend the law and raise minimum wage eventually to $10.10 an hour.

Chris Gautz is the Capitol Correspondent for Crain’s Detroit Business. He joined Cynthia on Stateside today to talk about the group’s plans to meet at the Capitol this Thursday with the Board of State Canvassers.

Read his article in Crain’s Detroit Business here.

*Listen to the full interview with Chris Gautz above.

Today on Stateside:

·         It's the fourth anniversary of the Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River. How long will it be until the river is clean? Could it ever be truly clean?

·         39 years ago this week, Jimmy Hoffa disappeared. PBS is presenting a new documentary titled, “Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa?” It will feature retired FBI agent Greg Stejskal.

·         Oakland County native Liz Larin released a new CD titled “Hurricane” and she shared her music-making process with us on Stateside.

·         Members of Congress want to speed up the recall process and get problem vehicles repaired.

·         Detroit pensioners voted to accept the pension cuts in the Grand Bargain.

*Listen to full show above.

Ian Freimuth / Flickr

Detroit pensioners voted to accept the pension cuts and allow the Detroit Institute of Arts to become an independent institution. In response, bond insurers who could lose billions in Detroit’s bankruptcy are preparing to fight.

Detroit Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer joined us today on Stateside to talk about what this means for Detroit.

Police and fire pensioners voted 82% in favor. General retirement pensioners voted 73% in favor. 

Two big bond insurers, Syncora and Financial Guaranty Insurance Company are promising to fight this agreement. 

Jimmy Hoffa on WESW-TV's Morning Exchange program sometime between 1971 and 1975.
WEWS-TV / YouTube

Thirty-nine years ago this month, Jimmy Hoffa was last seen having lunch at a restaurant in Bloomfield Township in Oakland County.

Retired FBI agent, Greg Stejskal, will appear in the new PBS documentary “Who Killed Jimmy Hoffa?”

He joined us today on Stateside to revisit the mystery of the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance.

Stejskal was a new agent with the FBI in Detroit in the summer of 1975 when Hoffa disappeared. The investigation into his disappearance was declared a Bureau "Special," which meant most of the agents in the Detroit office became involved.

One of Stejskal’s duties was to conduct neighborhood interviews around the Machus Red Fox restaurant, the last place where Hoffa was seen.

Liz Larin Performing with Bump.
Peter Schorn / Flickr

Oakland County-based singer-songwriter and producer Liz Larin is coming to the Ark in Ann Arbor on August 3. She joins us today on Stateside to talk about her new CD “Hurricane.”

Larin started with a band in the 1980s and evolved from there as an artist. She plays almost all of the instruments and sings all of the vocals on her record. She even creates the visual images seen when she plays on stage. She said since the 80s, she has become more confident in her musical instincts.

“I hone the songs until the idea is as clear as possible and as visual as possible,” Larin said. “I want the listener to be able to listen to it and picture something – to the right of them, to the left of them – and what is actually going on while they are moving through the music.”

She says "Hurricane" has a narrative arc - a hero’s journey.

“It starts with the idea that everything that you thought about yourself and about the world, it just doesn’t fit anymore,” Larin said. “And you realize you have to go and find yourself and you have to find out what reality is for you.”

Larin said the title track “Hurricane” is the feeling of change. The track “Super Hero” is the story of a parent and a parent’s love for a child.

Enbridge Energy oil spill
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This week marks four years since a pipeline operated by Enbridge Energy burst. It was a segment of Line 6B located just downstream from the pump station in Marshall.

The result? More than 1,000,000 gallons of oil have been recovered from Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith and The Environment Report’s Rebecca Williams joined Stateside to talk about the effects of the spill four years later.

The spill affected about 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River, from Marshall downstream close to Kalamazoo. The bulk of the oil has been cleaned up. Smith said the river is still useable; you can swim, fish, and do other things that you could do before the spill. 

However, cleanup is still going on. The EPA is dredging Morrow Lake this summer and there are still areas of the river that are closed. Williams said there might always be some oil left in the area.

“What agencies here in Michigan have said is that you often don’t want to take all the oil out of sensitive habitats because you could end up doing more damage,” Williams said.

Smith said the dredging process can be very invasive and hurt a lot of habitats. After the ordered dredging is over, there will be more passive collection, that won’t be as harsh on the environment.

Lawmakers ordered the Michigan Department of Education to stop preparing for the Smarter Balanced Assessment and return to a revamped MEAP test.

How is this playing out for the teachers and administrators who have to teach and give this overhauled MEAP test?

William Heath is the Superintendent of the Morrice Area Schools and the Principal at Morrice Junior and Senior High School in Shiawassee County.  He said the changes have been very difficult.

“We need some consistency. We need a target to shoot at. We don’t need the target to keep moving around,” he said.

Heath said they are judged by the growth from the previous year and when the assessment changes, they don’t know how they can measure that growth.

“If we are taking different tests, it’s a weird science experiment that there is too many variables in there. It’s going to make it that much harder to realize what exactly our students know and don’t know,” Heath said.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Wikimedia Commons

"Baroque on Beaver" is a classic music festival held on Beaver Island running from July 25 to August 3.

Anne Glendon heads the Beaver Island Cultural Arts Association.

She said there will be about 50 musicians at the festival. Most of them have lived in Michigan or have strong ties to the island.  The concerts are held in different venues on the island. There is a variety of music playing as well, such as chamber music, jazz, and baroque, of course.

“It’s quirky, just like the island and we wouldn’t have it any other way, and also it’s, we think, pretty top rate music,” Glendon said.

Check out the performance list here.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Wikimedia Commons

It's the 50th anniversary of the Abrams Planetarium at Michigan State University.

Those five decades have seen enormous changes in America's space program and in the way we think of space.

Shannon Schmoll, the director of MSU's Abrams Planetarium, said that planetariums have evolved and changed a lot through the last five decades, and a lot of those changes are seen in technology. Schmoll said the ability to use digital projection allows planetariums to show things beyond earth.

“We can fly out to Mars and can actually fly through Valles Marineris, which is a canyon on Mars about the size of the United States,” she said. “So we can actually travel the universe, so to speak, which is very exciting,” she said.

Schmoll said the knowledge that has been acquired over the decades provides planetariums with a lot more excitement.

“We still have people who come in and they have tons of questions about what’s going on in space. They want to know what’s going on with Hubble, what’s going on with the new missions,” she said. “ It’s a sense of wonder that just never goes away with what’s out there."

*Listen to the full story above. 

Detroit Water suspends shut-offs for 15 days

Jul 21, 2014
user rob zand / Flickr

The Detroit Water and Sewage Department is suspending shut-offs for 15 days.

Department Spokesman Bill Johnson said this suspension is a pause, not a moratorium. 

The department has been receiving a lot of criticism worldwide for shutting off water to 17,000 customers since March.

The 15 days will allow people another chance to come forward and prove they cannot pay their bills. The time will also be spent communicating with customers about payment plan options and financial assistance.

 Today on Stateside:

·         The Detroit Water and Sewage Department is  suspending water shut-offs for 15 days to give people a chance to prove they cannot afford their bills.

·         It’s the 50th anniversary of Abrams Planetarium at MSU. And in those 50 years, America’s space program has changed extensively.

·         One book follows a bear’s recovery in the Detroit Zoo from cruel captivity in a Caribbean circus.

·         Beaver Island hosts a classical music festival from July 25th to August 3rd called Baroque on Beaver.

·         Michigan’s post-secondary education graduation rates are below the national average.

·         How is the MEAP impacting schools and administrations?

*Listen to the full show above. 

Wikimedia Commons

More and more students in Michigan are taking five or more years to finish college and get their degrees. Ron French from Bridge Magazine has been researching this for his new article, and he talked about the trend today on Stateside. French said nationally, 31% of students earn a bachelor’s degree in four years. In Michigan, 12 of the 15 public universities are below that average.

Staying in school longer is more expensive, as extra semesters add cost. French said the fifth and sixth years are usually the most expensive, because financial aid dries up after eight semesters.

“Student debt nationally is over $1 trillion now,” said French.

Courtesy of Tom Roy

They've been on the earth for five million years. From their fur to their body fat, they've evolved to thrive in extremely cold temperatures. So the cruelty of removing a polar bear from its Arctic home and forcing it to live in a filthy Caribbean circus, in temperatures that soar over 100 degrees, is indescribable.

Else Poulson is an animal behaviorist, and she's a guest on today's Stateside program. She's also the president and co-founder of The Bear Care Group. Poulson was part of a Detroit Zoo team that helped a polar bear named Barle after she was rescued from a Caribbean circus called the Mexican Suarez Brothers Circus. Poulson wrote a book about the experience called "Barle's Story: One Polar Bear's Amazing Recovery from Life as a Circus Act."

General Motors

Today brought the fourth appearance for General Motors and CEO Mary Barra before angry members of Congress.

This time a Senate subcommittee took a deeper dive into the ignition switch recalls and didn't like what it saw in GM's legal department.

Michigan Radio's auto reporter Tracy Samilton followed the event.

According to Samilton, GM's chief counsel Michael Millikin was in the "uncomfortable Senate spotlight" today.

When senators asked why Millikin still kept his job, Barra said she "respectfully" disagreed with them, and she defended Millikin as a man of "incredibly high integrity."

She said Millikin "had a system in place." Unfortunately, in this instance "it wasn't brought to his attention."

Is America climbing out of the foreclosure hole dug during the Great Recession?

That's the question tackled in reports from Realty Trac, which keeps a close watch on real estate data. Its Midyear 2014 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report is out today.

The report shows that U.S. foreclosure activity in June decreased 16% from a year ago to lowest level since July 2006, the month before the housing-price bubble burst. In Michigan, the foreclosure activity was also back to a lower level than the number before the housing bust.

Daren Blomquist, a Vice President with Realty Trac, discussed three reasons behind this slowdown in foreclosures.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Sex with inmates - maggots in the food - smuggling drugs to inmates - undercooked or spoiled food.

When is enough "enough" with Aramark, the food service company hired seven months ago to feed inmates in Michigan prisons?

The privatization was supposed to save the state more than $12 million a year. But it's been a Pandora's box of troubles for state prison officials ever since Aramark took over last December.

Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau joined us today. He has reported on all the problems associated with the Aramark contract. Egan said that so far, things are not getting any better.

A state hatchery in Grayling, MI
Don...The UpNorth Memor / flickr

In early July, state officials approved a significant expansion of a northern Michigan commercial fish hatchery’s operations after requiring additional measures to protect the cherished Au Sable River. It got us wondering: how important are fish hatcheries in the Great Lakes State and what is their role?

Gary Whelan joined us today. He is with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources where he's a Research Program Manager.

Whelan said the first hatcheries began in the early 1870’s. Even back then, fishery resources were in decline. The habitat loss was frightening. Fish were difficult to find, and commercial fishermen weren’t doing very well. One of the responses was to build fish hatcheries.

Today, there are six state hatcheries and three federal hatcheries in Michigan.

Whelan pointed out that fish hatcheries can help bring the lakes into balance.

“Using salmons in water where we have way too many prey species can make it into a balanced system that functions properly, ” Whelan said.

* Listen to our conversation with Whelan above.

Today on Stateside:

  • The private company that provides food to Michigan prisons is in trouble again. Sex with inmates. Maggots in the food. Smuggling drugs to inmates.... When is enough "enough" with Aramark, the food service company hired seven months ago to feed Michigan's inmates?
  • The U.S. Senate dug deeper into GM's deadly recalls, demanding the automaker fire its chief lawyer and open its compensation plan to more potential victims.
  • Tomorrow afternoon at 4:06 is the one-year anniversary of the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in American history. Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes talked with us about how this first year of bankruptcy has gone.
  • There's some encouraging news about home foreclosures in Michigan, but it's not all rosy. That's according to a midyear-2014 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report released today.
  • The news that state officials recently approved an expansion of a northern Michigan commercial fish hatchery got us wondering: how important are fish hatcheries in the Great Lakes state?

* Listen to full show above.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

Tomorrow afternoon at 4:06 is the one-year anniversary of the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history.

Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes has been talking with top business leaders in Detroit for a "temperature check" on how this first year has gone.

He said that the kind of leadership and coalescence that happened in the past year was something he’s never seen before in this community.

Wikimedia Commons

It's been 15 years since the Detroit Tigers played their final game at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull.

The old Tiger Stadium was torn down in 2009. Since then, no one's been able to agree on what to do with the 10-acre site until now.

The field will remain for youth sports, including high school and college baseball.  Along Cochrane Avenue, a new headquarters will be built for the Detroit Police Athletic League, who will maintain the playing field. The headquarters would extend from the street to roughly the old third base line and could cost almost $10 million.

Detroit Free Press business writer John Gallagher said this plan represents a merger of two conflicting visions – preserving the field for baseball - and developing it for new businesses and jobs.

“I think everybody gets a little something out of this,” Gallagher said.

*Listen to full interview above. 

David Lou Reed

Mitch Albom’s play “Ernie” is now running its fourth summer at the City Theatre in Detroit.

Peter Carey was the understudy for Will Young for two years and took the stage in 2011 as Ernie Harwell, the Detroit Tigers sportscaster.

This is Carey’s first time performing as Ernie in the play.

The only other person on stage with him is T.J. Corbett, playing a young fan. Both actors joined Stateside today to talk about their experience telling the story of Ernie’s final bow at Comerica Park in 2009.

“It means a lot to a lot of people,” Corbett said. “They just keep coming back, sometimes more than once in a season.”

“They love the feeling, the energy that Ernie is and was,” Carey said.

Carey worked with Ernie in TV, radio, and film, including a Disney movie called “Tiger Town.”

They did commercials and live events together and hosted the Grosse Pointe Action Auction. A few months before Ernie passed, they hosted a live radio show in Ann Arbor at Zingerman’s Roadhouse.

“When you were with Ernie, you were his best friend. You were the most important person in that room because he made you feel that way, and you got his full attention,” Carey said.

Ernie Harwell died at the age of 92 in the spring of 2010 from cancer. He broadcasted for the Tigers for 42 years.

T.J. Corbett sets up the frame of the play.

“He’s about to leave when seemingly out of nowhere this kid dressed in 1930s clothing shows up and says, I want to hear your broadcast,’” Corbett said. “And Ernie says ‘I don’t broadcast games anymore,’ so the kid says, ‘well I want to hear the broadcast of your life.’ So Ernie tells the kid the nine innings of his life.”

Mitch Albom's "Ernie" runs now through August 17 at the City Theatre inside the Hockeytown Cafe in Detroit. You can get ticket information through OlympiaEntertainment.com or Ticketmaster.

To learn more about the cast and crew click here.

*Listen to full interview above. 

-Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Wikipedia

A 71 year-old ice cream man was arrested Tuesday at his Dearborn home on an immigration violation.

Mahmoud Bazzi is accused of the torture killings of two Irish soldiers in 1980. The soldiers were part of the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon. A third Irish soldier was shot but survived.

Bazzi moved to the United States shortly after the killings and settled in Dearborn.

Jim Schaefer has been covering this story for the Detroit Free Press. He said Bazzi entered the United States about 21 years ago on someone else’s passport. The government intends to deport Bazzi on this violation. Bazzi attempted to apply for citizenship last year.

Schaffer joined Stateside to recount the events in Lebanon that day.

*Listen to the full story above. 

gvsu.edu/techshowcase / gvsu.edu/techshowcase

How can cutting-edge new technologies be used in the classroom?

Sure, devices like Google Glass or a 3-D printer are cool.

But how can they be used to teach and to learn?

Eric Kunnen is the emerging technologies coordinator at Grand Valley State University.

"Trying to find that sweet spot there between teaching learning and technology is where we are focused and having access to the technology is one piece," Kunnen said.

Kunnen said that Google Glass could be useful in the classroom by providing hands free operations.

“Think in terms of a visual demonstration maybe in a science classroom, where you need both hands as the instructor,” Kunnen said. “Also the ability in wearing the glasses and having information on top of what you are seeing has a lot of potential as well.”

But where is the boundary in using technology for a good purpose, versus using it because it’s cool?

Kunnen said when figuring out when to use the technology, they start with trying to solve an instructional problem.

“How do we address a difficult concept that is very challenging to explain perhaps, or very difficult to visualize, and how do we apply technology to that as a solution?” Kunnen said.

An example he gave was difficulty in visualizing 3D protein molecules, but a 3D projection image could help solve that problem.

New technology are on display in Grand Valley’s Technology showcase, located in the Mary Idema Pew Library on campus.

“The concept really is to interact, learn, discover, and share how technology can transform teaching and learning at the university,’ Kunnen said.

*Listen to full interview above. 

   Today on Stateside:

  • A 71 year-old ice cream man was arrested Tuesday at his Dearborn home on an immigration violation.
  • The play “Ernie” is running for its fourth season at the City Theatre in Detroit, this season with a new lead.
  • A compromise has been reached for tentative plans on the old Tiger Stadium site.
  • Berrien County Trial Court is making strides to lower youth recidivism by instilling the importance of family.
  • Grand Valley State University is implementing new technologies such as Google Glass into the classroom.

*Listen to full show above. 

Wikimedia Commons

In a story we aired yesterday on European prisons, we learned the apparent key to reducing recidivism. In Europe, keeping family ties intact is priceless.

There’s a juvenile justice plan in Berrien County that’s been applying these principles since 2001, strengthening family ties, and keeping young offenders out of jail when possible.

And their approach is paying off.

Elvin Gonzalez is the family Division Administrator for the Berrien County Trial Court.

He said that when looking at the youth who come into to court to look at their family system.

“Many of the factors that contributed to them being logged with delinquency came from two primary domains, their family domain and their school domain,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said that it was important to address both of those domains and provide interventions that target those areas, strengthen the families’ ability to supervise, effectively monitor and discipline, and support their children.

“Our belief is, is that kids live in an ecology. That ecology is their family system, their neighborhood, their community, their school and we needed to impact those areas to help youth be successful in our communities," Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez added that while they are trying to fix the source of the youth’s actions, accountability for those actions are not forgotten.

The county has seen a lot of success with their programs. In 2001, more than 125 youths were in out-of-home residential placements throughout Michigan. Today, that number has dropped to about 40 youths.

Recidivism has dropped from more than 58% in 1998 to 17.5% in 2012. 

“It’s important that we help kids learn various skills, be more effective in managing conflict, make better decisions – but ultimately, at the end of the day, we need to move the needle on recidivism,” Gonzalez said.

*Listen to full interview above.

Ben Gauger / Flickr

Surfing in Michigan?

It turns out good surfing is not found just on the North Shore of O’ahu or along the California cost. Try freshwater -- Lake Michigan.

Ella Skrocki is a surf instructor at Sleeping Bear Surf and Kayak.

“Compared to the ocean, it’s not as consistent, but here on the lakes we get a really, really wonderful swell, through the fall is even greater than right now,” Skrocki said.

Skrocki said the inconsistency is actually what makes it special, because on the rare days when the waves start coming in everyone gets excited.

“We have a teeny, tiny community here and everyone gets to connect with each other,” she said.

Skrocki said the best days for a swell is actually when beach goers are in their homes.

“You get these giant storms that bring in on and off shore winds and that creates the waves," she said.

It’s best to wear a wetsuit when surfing on the lakes to protect from the cold water. The surfing season is mainly in the fall, late September through late November.

Skrocki said her best spot to surf really depends on the wind direction, but she prefers Frankfurt, Leland, and Marquette.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Detroit's vigorous effort to collect some $90 million in unpaid water bills has resulted in water being shut off to thousands.

That's drawn angry attention from the United Nations and Congressman John Conyers. He calls this a human rights issue.

Conyers believes that the causes of this crisis include the economic problems with the country, deindustrialization, higher unemployment rates, population decline, and the number of families who cannot afford water.

“We want assurances that households won’t have their water cut off because they cannot afford to pay it, because water is a human right,” Conyers said.

Conyers said that when he advocates to keep water on in every household, he is not including the people who can afford water and simply are not paying the bill. He said 44% of households in Detroit live below the poverty line. These are the ones who need water.

“This is not an appeal for them to get free water. I think everyone that gets water should get a bill and should be held accountable for it,” Conyers said.

Conyers said the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is thinking of increasing shutoffs to 3,000 a week to help recoup financial losses.

He added that increasing shutoffs as a way to reducing the debt is counter-productive. If a disease breakout occurs because of lack of water, the city will end up with a health bill that will exceed the amount of money that is owed.

He wrote a letter to the president, asking for help from the Hardest Hit Fund.

The fund was set up in 2010 to provide targeted aid to states that were hit the hardest by the recession.

Conyers noted that Michigan has drawn down 41% of its total "Hardest Hit" allocation of more than $498 million.

Conyers said he would like to see the money used to on repairs and upkeep of the water pipes.

Conyers said he received an indirect response from the administration saying the Governor, the state treasury department, and others need to present a united proposal for the funds.

*Listen to full interview above. 

jimchines.com

This week the science fiction spotlight will shine on Detroit.

The Motor City will host the 2014 North American Science Fiction Convention from July 17 to July 20.

Jim Hines is a fantasy novelist from Michigan who is also serving as one of the three Masters of Ceremonies for the big convention that’s known as "DetCon1."

“You’ve got a convention center full of authors and fans, and basically just a hotel packed full of geeks,” Hines said when describing DetCon1.

Hines said this is different from ComicCon, who focuses more on the media and anime, where DetCon1 focuses on the literary, novels, stories and authors.

Hines won a Hugo Award in 2012. He said what he loves about science fiction and fantasy the most is the possibility.

“Whether it’s reading or creating the story, those moments when you just have to ask, ‘well what if this?’ And run with an idea that creates that sense of wonder. There’s nothing like it,” Hines said.

Hines is currently working on a series based in Michigan about a librarian from the Upper Peninsula who can pull anything from books that can fit through the pages.

The 2014 North American Science Fiction Convention will be at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center. You can get details at their website here.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

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