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Conversations about what matters in Michigan.

Stateside 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 focuses on topics and events that matter to people all across the state. Stateside is hosted by Cynthia Canty (Mon-Thu) and Lester Graham (Fri). 

To find audio for the full show you can subscribe to our podcast or go here.

“While the Democratic Party is fundamentally a group coalition, the Republican Party can be most accurately characterized as the vehicle of an ideological movement," Grossmann writes.
flickr user DonkeyHotey /


This election year has a lot of people scratching their heads.

Many just can’t wrap their heads around how or why two people who are not that well liked - according to the polls - are the nominees of the major parties.

And it seems that Republicans and Democrats just can’t understand why the people in the opposite party think the things they do.

There’s a new book that looks at how the parties and their supporters are different and tries to help make sense of American politics today.

The book is Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats, written by David Hopkins and Matt Grossmann.

Contemporary opera premieres in the Upper Peninsula

Sep 30, 2016

Last summer, we met Eugene Birman and Scott Diel on an island in the middle of Lake Superior. They were working on their newest opera called State of the Union.

With almost everything Birman and Diel have attempted to do, they've tried to ask themselves, "Why does it have to be this way? Can it be different?"

Eugene Birman says in most cases, other people have responded, "Well, yeah, I guess it can be.”

The Detroit News is one of several newspapers that have traditionally endorsed the Republican nominee, but have decided against it this year.
flickr user Gage Skidmore /


It's time for another political roundup with Ken Sikkema and Susan Demas.

This week Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a legal opinion that poorly performing schools in Detroit can be closed at the end of the year, which runs counter to what Governor Snyder’s office has been saying.

The Snyder administration concluded that since the schools are part of a newly created district, they have three years before the state could step in and close the worst-performing schools.

Just another example of the attorney general and the governor butting heads.

Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell says the opportunity is a "game-changer" when it comes to how the city approaches its future.
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr -

Last week, City Commissioner Matt Milcarek joined Stateside to talk about his reservations about a $70 million gift and future private money that the city of Kalamazoo received to help fund city services. It’s called the Foundation for Excellence.

Milcarek expressed his concern about whether city government should be so reliant on private donations, and whether city employees would feel answerable to the people and their elected representatives or to the wealthy donors on whom the city might depend.

Other commission members support accepting the gift and the additional hundreds of millions of dollars to follow. David Anderson is one of them and he joined Stateside to explain his view.

Participatory budgeting is "a democratic process in which residents directly decide how to spend part of a city's budget," Michelle Monsegur told us.
flickr user Costa Constantinides /


What if you were given a chance to vote on where your city spends its money?

There are many cities or wards doing exactly that. – people in the community annually choosing whether to spend money fixing sidewalks, paving streets, putting up an art installation, or maybe sprucing up a park.

It’s called "participatory budgeting." This week officials from the Cambridge, Massachusetts budget department are in Michigan talking with Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor officials about how it works.

Cemetery graves overgrown with weeds.
Amy Goldman / Friends of B'nai David Cemetery

If you drive Van Dyke on Detroit’s east side, you could easily miss B’nai David Cemetery. It sits on a little hill up off the road, its rows of 1,300 plots tightly spaced.

The gravestones are carved in Hebrew, Yiddish and English. Some look like tree trunks that have been cut short, symbols of lives that ended too soon.

A few years ago, you wouldn’t even have been able to see some of the stones. The weeds had grown tall. Urns had been stolen. Some of the headstones toppled.

Flickr user Keith Kissel / Flickr user Gage Skidmore /

The Detroit News broke its 143-year tradition today of endorsing the Republican candidate for president by endorsing Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

According to Pete Bigelow, the Willow Run facility could be open for its first phase of testing as soon as the end of 2017.
Ford Motor Company

Picture the starting line at a foot race. In one lane, you've got the auto companies and the supply side. In the other lane, Silicon Valley heavyweights and enterprising start-ups. At the finish line: who gets the big momentum and the money.

The future of the mobility business is ride-sharing and self-driving vehicles which could be a multi-trillion-dollar worldwide industry. So there is a lot on the line. 

Congressman Moolenaar said this approval comes at a good time, following the release of a study this month that showed almost twice as many of Flint’s water lines may need to be replaced than originally thought.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio


It’s been over a year since the water crisis in Flint became international news.

On Wednesday, the United States House of Representatives approved $170 million to go towards replacing lead water pipe lines in Flint.

The Flint funding amendment to the Water Resources Development Act was co-sponsored by Congressman Dan Kildee, D-Flint, and Congressman John Moolenaar, R-Midland.

Courtesy of Barney Ales


You’ve surely heard many stories about Motown over the years. Stories of its stars or of the ambitious Berry Gordy Jr. using an $800 family loan to build one of the most impactful record labels anywhere.

But there’s a side to the Motown we haven’t heard much about until now: the business side. The entrepreneurial spirit, the hard work and the hustle to “get the records played and the company paid.”

To fight the system, ignore it and innovate now

Sep 29, 2016

The Next Idea

Recently, a bright young colleague of mine alerted me to a meeting of the minds at a top technology institution. The event was to be a discussion of breakthrough research and innovative ideas that are flying under the radar. So I joined the online conference just in time to hear a web feed of CIA computer analyst turned whistleblower Edward Snowden giving a rather unremarkable account of the authoritarian state of things here in the land of the free.

Courtesy Joel Tonyan / Flickr

225 million years.

That's the amount of time it takes Earth -- and our Solar System -- to travel around the Milky Way Galaxy's galactic center.

We may not definitely will not live to see an entire orbit. But today we're celebrating progress. Specifically, we're celebrating "National Galactic Tick Day."

What's a galactic tick?

It's one centi-arcsecond of a rotation around the Milky Way's galactic center.

Flickr user teddy-rised/Flickr /

Professors at college campuses across the state have handed out their semester outlines, reading lists and assignments for the new semester.

A group of Michigan State University students would like to return the favor.

Sam Kadi

For most of us, our view of the bloody civil war in Syria is limited to snippets of video seen on network or cable news.

But a new documentary film gives us a staggering inside view of the Syrian Revolution.

Jerry Linenger with ham radio equipment in the Russian Mir Space Station Base Block module.

Imagine you’re 14 years old, camping in Ontario with your family.

It’s July 20, 1969, and you’re watching on a small TV as Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to set foot on the moon.

You decide: I want to go to space.

And so you grow up to become an astronaut. You go into space on the shuttles Discovery and Atlantis. You spend five months on the Russian space station Mir.

You ultimately rack up 143 days and 52 minutes in space, over 2,177 orbits of the earth, and you fly 54.5 million miles through space.

And after all that, you come home to Michigan to settle down in Suttons Bay.

That’s just a brief look at what retired Navy Captain and astronaut Jerry Linenger has done.

Flickr user NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr /

In this all-too-fast-paced era we live in, it's comforting to see something that's managed to stick around for 225 years – the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

What Massachusetts schoolteacher and bookseller Robert B. Thomas started in 1792 is still with us. The 2017 edition is now out.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Looks like we've got another tug of war between Governor Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette.

At stake? Whether failing schools within the new Detroit Public Schools Community District can be shut down at the end of this school year.

Today, Attorney General Bill Schuette issued his legal opinion on the matter and Rick Pluta, Michigan Radio’s Lansing Bureau Chief, joined us to explain what went down.

State Capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State government has been distracted by the water contamination crisis it created in Flint, by the financial problems in Detroit schools, and the day-to-day issues that are just a natural part of running a huge operation in a large state. One issue that’s been set aside often – the proverbial “kicking the can down the road” – is underfunded pension plans and health care costs for retirees.

At the state level, Governor Snyder implemented a plan early in his first term to chip away at the problem. At the local level, most cities have been struggling with cutting services and just paying the bills. The idea of trying to catch up on putting more money into pension plans or setting aside money for growing retiree health care costs don’t seem to be as pressing. The result: A looming financial disaster for many cities and counties.

Flickr user ellenm1/Flickr /


Trade agreements have been a big topic of discussion this election year.

President Obama has been pushing for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The majority party presidential candidates are both opposed to it. The North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico has also seen a lot of criticism.

Last week, the Agricultural Leaders of Michigan released a letter in support of those trade agreements and others.

Rick Pluta, Michigan Radio/


The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was held last night. A large segment of the debate was about racial healing in the United States.   

Both candidates have been pursuing African-American and Latino voters.

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence and Linda Lee Tarver, co-chair of the Trump-Pence Michigan African American Advisory Committee, joined us today to take a look back at last night’s debate.

wikimedia user Meridithw /

Drilling for gas and oil in Michigan has just about stopped completely. As reported by the Detroit News, this year Michigan is on track to issue the fewest number of drilling permits since 1927.

No, it wasn’t anti-fracking environmentalists. It was the markets.

Oil prices dropped a couple of years ago and they’ve stayed down. The success of horizontal fracking across the nation has driven natural gas prices down.

Michigan does a fair amount of gas and oil production, particularly gas, but the market drop has killed a lot of jobs in the industry.

Hystopia, the first novel of acclaimed Michigan short story writer David Means, is a complex book built around a simple question: what can we do about the trauma that war inflicts on our veterans?  

“We’re profiting off of it,” Ramsdell said. “The minerals are going into the products that we’re living off of and benefiting off of, and the Congolese people are left with a country that has been wracked with war for almost 20-plus years.”
screengrab of When Elephants Fight


A country that is one of the most mineral-rich in the world is also one of the world's poorest nations.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been rocked by war in recent years, and although the war is over, the conflict and suffering have yet to end.

A Michigan-based filmmaker is out with a new exploration of how the minerals in our electronic devices are funding the turmoil in that African country.

Courtesy of Brian Connors

The Next Idea

China is Michigan’s third largest export market. A new nonprofit is up and running, planning to encourage more Chinese investment here.

Brian Connors is the executive director of the Michigan-China Innovation Center.

Connors sat down with us today to talk about how he plans to attract the attention of Chinese investors and why China is such a valuable business partner for Michigan.

“When we defer [capital expenditure] or investment in a school district, we’re knowingly ensuring that our students won’t keep up with their peers across the state or the country or the world,” Saunders said.
wikimedia user motown31 /

One of the state of Michigan’s former emergency managers says the strategy might work for some cities, but an emergency manager just doesn’t work that well for school districts.

Tony Saunders is the former emergency manager of Benton Harbor.

flickr user Matt Picio /


The Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan’s new transportation plan needs money. On the November ballot, voters in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne Counties will be asked to approve a 20-year property tax millage. Its estimated cost for the average homeowner is about $95 a year.


The millage will pay for new bus rapid transit lines and rail service between Detroit and Ann Arbor. It would also fix what has been a dysfunctional transit system that never really connected the suburban SMART buses with the Detroit Department of Transportation bus system.

According to Pete Bigelow, the Willow Run facility could be open for its first phase of testing as soon as the end of 2017.
Ford Motor Company

Last week the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx made the rounds through the news outlets, excitedly talking about new guidelines for autonomous cars.

But Foxx admitted there's a lot not covered in the guidelines because there's a lot the auto industry and the government have yet to figure out.

NPR’s Sonari Glinton joined us today to talk about the secretary’s comments, and the ongoing push toward autonomous vehicles.

Michigan State's 30-6 loss to Wisconsin was its fewest points scored since a 2012 home loss to Notre Dame.
Steven Depolo / Flickr -

It was a full weekend of sports across the state of Michigan, headlined by the Wolverines and the Spartans hosting games in their respective home stadiums. Michigan, which remains ranked No. 4 in the nation, flexed its muscles with a 49-10 blowout of Penn State. Meanwhile, in East Lansing, it was a battle between two Big Ten teams ranked in the top ten. However, Michigan State suffered a rare one-sided loss, 30-6, to the Wisconsin Badgers.

Flickr user Andy Rogers/Flickr /

When you think about water pollution, you might think about massive sewer overflows, factory pollution or agricultural runoff. But there’s another source of water pollution that might be in your backyard: septic systems that have failed.

They pollute lakes and streams around the state – and in fact, around the country.

Sean Hammond, deputy policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council, is calling for better rules for septic systems and inspections.

“We are the only state in the country to not have a statewide septic code,” Hammond said.

Citizens at a public event last year expressed some concern about making Battle Creek a military target. But more were interested in the potential jobs the missile complex may deliver.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

All of the Michigan congressional delegation -- with the exception of Congressman Justin Amash -- signed a letter urging the Missile Defense Agency to locate interceptor missiles at Fort Custer near Battle Creek.

Amash said he didn’t sign the letter because it emphasized economic reasons rather than military ones. He basically said those decisions should be based on military necessity. Fort Custer is one of three final sites being considered. The other two are Camp Ravenna in Ohio and Fort Drum in New York.

These interceptor missiles are called the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system- GMD for short. They’re designed to intercept incoming nuclear missiles. However, the problem is that the GMD system is flawed. The L.A. Times reported during tests the interceptors failed to destroy their targets six out of eleven times. That’s a dismal record when the job is to intercept nuclear missiles from North Korea, or Russia, or another hostile country. Despite the failure rate, the manufacturer got a $2 billion bonus.