Ann Arbor

Auto/Economy
1:01 am
Thu April 26, 2012

Most Michigan cities see declining home foreclosure filings

(file photo)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Most Michigan cities saw their home foreclosure rates tumble during the first quarter of the year. One analyst says that might signal a trend for the rest of 2012. 

Home foreclosure filings dropped between 20% and 30% in Detroit, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids during the first three months of the year. That's compared to the first quarter of 2011, according to Realty Trac. 

Lansing was the only Michigan city on Realty Trac’s list to see an increase in home foreclosure filings between January and March. Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac.

He says Lansing’s foreclosure rate increase was tied to a big increase in final bank repossessions. "It seems like it’s more of a clearing out of the foreclosure pipeline rather than a lot a new foreclosures coming online and starting the process," says Bloomquist. 

Bloomquist expects other Michigan housing markets will see spikes in foreclosure filings as the year goes on, but he predicts the general trend will be fewer foreclosures in Michigan.

Environment
5:00 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Ann Arbor pollution cleanup plan, public meeting tonight

DTE Energy owns the site where an old manufactured gas plant once operated in Ann Arbor. The site is polluted by by-products from producing coal gas.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Tonight at Cobblestone Farm in Ann Arbor, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will hold a public meeting to discuss a plan to clean up toxic pollution along the banks of the Huron River.

The soil near the Huron River just downriver of Argo Dam has been contaminated with substances leftover from an old manufactured gas plant that operated from around the 1900s to the 1940s.

Manufactured gas plants converted coal to gas for street lamps, cooking, and heating prior to the widespread use of natural gas.

But back in those days, converting coal to gas left behind some nasty pollution. And the tarry, oily-like pollution can bubble up decades later - as it has in Ann Arbor.

The site in Ann Arbor is owned by the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company (MichCon), a subsidiary of DTE Energy.

You can get an idea of where the pollution is on the site by clicking through the images above.

In a pollution response plan filed on behalf of MichCon, several pollutants were noted.

  • Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX) (associated with petroleum releases);
  • Total polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) (associated with MGP tar and/or petroleum releases);
  • Metals (arsenic, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, selenium, silver, thallium, and vanadium) (some of these metals (e.g., arsenic) may be from natural background);
  • Ammonia; and
  • Available cyanide.

Here's more on tonight's public meeting from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality:

MichCon property owners are proposing to remove sediment, near shore soil, and some contaminated upland soil from the Huron River and its south bank at the MichCon plant site near Broadway Street. This plan requires a construction permit from DEQ.  

The public meeting and hearing will be held at Cobblestone Farm, located at 2781 Packard Road in Ann Arbor. Doors will open in the big barn on the second floor at 6 p.m. for informal discussion with DEQ staff, followed by a public meeting at 7 p.m., and a formal hearing to gather public comment around 8 p.m.  

As part of the permit review process, the DEQ also is accepting written public comment on the plan through April 30, 2012.

DTE Energy is planning several methods to control the pollution on the site, including removing polluted sediment, and capping and collecting other sources of pollution.

AnnArbor.com's Ryan Stanton reports Ann Arbor city officials are anxious to see it cleaned up:

Ann Arbor officials expect the cleanup to take place starting this summer. DTE has vowed to pay for whitewater improvements along the river as part of the project.

Matt Naud, the city's environmental coordinator, expects the cleanup project will go before the Ann Arbor Planning Commission for site plan approval because it will disturb natural features, but he doesn't expect that to be a significant issue.

"We're just glad this significant level of cleanup is happening," Naud said. "It's a big project. They're going to be moving a lot of soil."

Sports Commentary
7:00 am
Fri April 6, 2012

Saying goodbye to a tradition, Ann Arbor's Parthenon Restaurant closes

The beloved gyro sandwich.
George Ruiz Flickr

Ann Arbor’s Parthenon Restaurant closed last week after almost 40 years at the corner of Main and Liberty. 

For me, it marked more than the passing of a favorite spot, but the end of a time-honored ritual for the guys. 

We filed in, and walked to our favorite table in the back.

A little warmer, and we’d sit outside, but it was still March, so whatya gonna do?

The owners and waiters nodded. They’ve seen us more than a hundred times.

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Generation Y
9:30 am
Wed April 4, 2012

Happy at home: Generation Y looks for success on its own terms

Sanford Bledsoe and Anna Foster at the (espresso) bar in Ann Arbor, the cafe they co-own
Jonathan Alexander Facebook

Members of Generation Y---those Americans born in the 1980s and 1990s who are currently in college or cutting their teeth in the working world---have received their share of scrutiny in recent years. But where their parents might be discussed in terms of day-glo paint and ideological revolution, Gen Y-ers tends to garner attention for their inseparable relationship with technology and their bad timing, starting their adult lives in America's worst economic climate since the Great Depression.

Going Nowhere?

Last month, the New York Times ran an op-ed piece co-written by economist Todd Buchholz and his daughter Victoria, a student at Cambridge University. It bore the headline “The Go-Nowhere Generation” and in it the Buchholzs argued that unlike previous generations, Generation Y has "become risk-averse and sedentary," unwilling to leave home in search of "sunnier economic climes."

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Auto/Economy
5:52 pm
Fri March 30, 2012

New AirRide bus travels between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro

Congressman John Dingell (fifth from right) poses with those behind the AirRide public-private partnership

There’s a new public transit option for those who want to travel between Ann Arbor and Detroit Metro Airport.

It's called AirRide, and it hits the road Monday.

The AirRide bus is not your average mass transit ride. For starters, there’s wi-fi, outlets for your laptop, and a bathroom. Apparently the seats are comfortable, too. So comfy that Ann Arbor Transportation Authority's David Nacht describes them as "more comfortable than three out of the four chairs" in his living room.

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Arts/Culture
1:33 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

Artpod: Ann Arbor Film Festival turns 50

Opening night marquee at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor
Photo courtesy of Abby Rose Photo

Happy 50th, Ann Arbor Film Festival!

On today's Artpod, we hear from the festival's director, Donald Harrison. We also catch up with two longtime fans of the festival - one: an audience member, the other: a filmmaker - to hear some of their favorite film fest memories.

Festival-goer: "Every year I find at least two or three films that are just amazing."

John Johnson has been going to the Ann Arbor Film Festival since the late 1960s, and considers himself a big fan of the event.

He's such a big fan that when a film he likes doesn't win an award at the festival, he sends the filmmaker a "a few dollars myself and tell them what a great film it was."  He says he's probably done that about four times, three of which have resulted in a letter back from the filmmaker and a DVD copy of the film.

One of his favorite memories was when he saw Claude LeLouch's "Rendezvous" at the 1976 film festival. He says the film "totally blew my mind," left him with goose bumps.

Johnson says every year he finds "at least two or three films that are just amazing, from my point of view." He says it's worth sitting in the theatre for hours to get to the films "that are just amazing that you would have nowhere else to see."

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Arts/Culture
4:52 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

Ann Arbor Film Fest fans celebrate 50 years of experimental film

The Ann Arbor Film Festival celebrates 50 years of experimental, independent film
user mconnors morgueFile

The experimental Ann Arbor Film Festival kicks off its 50th season Tuesday, March 27.

More than 5,000 films have been screened at the festival over the past five decades. The festival has gone through its ups and downs during that time, too, including cuts to state funding and a high-profile censorship controversy several years ago.

Donald Harrison, the festival’s executive director, says more than 230 films will be shown this time around, many by obscure filmmakers.

"We really encourage people just to have that open mind, that sense of discovery," says Harrison. "We guarantee that people will see things that really affect them in a rewarding way, and of course they’ll see things that maybe they don’t care as much about, but that’s probably someone else’s favorite film in the festival."

We caught up with two longtime fans of the festival - an audience member, and a filmmaker – to hear some of their favorite film fest memories.

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Weather
7:01 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Severe weather rips through parts of southeast Michigan

Zoe Clark / Michigan Radio

DEXTER, Mich. (AP) — A Washtenaw County official says his office is responding to reports of "lots of damage" after reports of at least one tornado striking the ground.

County director of Emergency Management Marc Breckenridge says he could not confirm any reports of injuries or deaths from the twister Thursday afternoon. He could not provide details of the damage. No injuries or deaths have been reported.

National Weather Service spotters are reporting a tornado touchdown in the Dexter and Pinckney area of Washtenaw County. Weather Service Observation Program Leader Debra Elliott says radar also "is highly suggesting" a touchdown.

Annarbor.com posted a video of the possible twister near Dexter.

Rain, hail and high winds have been moving across parts of southeastern Michigan late Thursday afternoon.

Auto/Economy
12:20 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Ann Arbor-based Tecumseh Products could make cuts after 2011 losses

The Ann Arbor based company Tecumseh Products, which makes compressors for refrigerators and air conditioners, experienced a tough 2011.

Yesterday, Crain's Detroit Business reported shares of Tecumseh "were at $3.93 late this morning, the lowest since their all-time low of $3.75 in March 2009."

The price ticked upward, and stands at $4.35 as of this posting.

Nathan Boomey of AnnArbor.com reports that there are concerns the company is too big, and that could mean layoffs for Tecumseh Products employees.

CEO Jim Conner said the company worked to reduce overhead and employee numbers in 2011, but "these actions alone were not sufficient to offset the lower sales, and additional restructuring actions may be necessary."

From AnnArbor.com

Connor...attributed the tough 2011 to "higher raw material costs, lower volumes and unfavorable changes in mix as a result of weak demand in the second half of the year."

The company said sales of compressors for commercial refrigeration and aftermarket devices fell 5.4 percent. That segment accounts for 58 percent of its total sales.

One positive sign for Tecumseh Products is sales increases in Latin America, where air conditioning is becoming more common in the home.

Tecumseh Products had about 7,300 employees as of July.

Religion
5:50 pm
Fri March 9, 2012

Gospelfest celebrates unity and diversity through music

If you like gospel music you might want to check out the 20th Annual Gospelfest in Ann Arbor.

The idea behind the event is to celebrate the diversity of music among different communities and faiths in southeast Michigan. Participants seek to bridge cultural, racial, and religious gaps between different churches, and develop friendships.

Jean Wilson is the co-founder of Gospelfest, and choir director at St. Paul United Church of Christ in Saline. She sat down with Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White to talk about the event’s 20-year history.

Wilson says the event offers a variety of music, from traditional black gospel to contemporary Christian, pop-rock, and more. And she says the event is about diversity and unity.

“Although we are so diverse in our different ways of worship, we are all headed in the same direction; we are all children of the same creator. Although we have so many differences, we do have that thing at the core of our very being that really says that we are all related and are one, and we get to celebrate it.”

On Saturday March 10, choirs from Ann Arbor and Detroit will come together for the 20th Annual Gospelfest at Bethlehem United Church of Christ in Ann Arbor.

The gospel choir of New Prospect Baptist Missionary Church in Detroit will also participate in this year's event. Here's a video of the choir during a Saturday morning practice.

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Share your story here.

Iraq War
1:53 pm
Sun February 26, 2012

Remains of a missing solider from Ann Arbor identified

Staff Sgt. Ahmed Kousay al-Taie
(Courtesy of Iraqwarheroes.org)

The U.S military says it has identified the remains of the last American service member unaccounted for in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Ahmed Kousay al-Taie was an Army interpreter who was born in Iraq and lived in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was kidnapped at gunpoint in October 2006 when he sneaked off base on a motorcycle to visit his Iraqi wife in central Baghdad.

The Army issued a statement Sunday saying that the military's mortuary in Dover, Del., had positively identified a set of remains as belonging to al-Taie.

Politics
3:22 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

Lawsuit planned over proposed Michigan Islamic school

PITTSFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations says it plans to file a federal lawsuit against an Ann Arbor-area community for denying a zoning change request to allow construction of a Muslim school.

Michigan Islamic Academy officials say the school is too big for its location in Ann Arbor. They want to build at a site in Washtenaw County's Pittsfield Township.

Last fall, the township board denied the request, following an earlier rejection by its planning commission.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations says the decision violates federal law. CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid says the suit will be filed Wednesday on behalf of the school.

The township has said the decision isn't based on religion. A message seeking comment was left Tuesday with the township supervisor.

Arts/Culture
2:16 pm
Mon February 20, 2012

New $1M 'Pure Michigan' ad to feature Ann Arbor as business destination

Michigan Radio

2012 is shaping up to be a busy year for the people who produce the Pure Michigan ads.

Harbor Springs, Gaylord, Charlevoix and Jackson are the latest cities to pony up $20,000 each to be part of the popular tourism campaign. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation matches the money, bringing the total to $40,000, which gets each city its own radio ad and a spot on the Pure Michigan website. 

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Sports
2:03 pm
Wed February 8, 2012

All but official: NHL's Winter Classic coming to the Big House

The last time a hockey game took place at the Big House the U of M Wolverines defeated the MSU Spartans 5-0, before a crowd of more than 100,000 fans in December, 2010.
(http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:AndrewHorne)

The National Hockey League tomorrow will make official that Michigan Stadium will host next year’s Winter Classic matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Today,  the University of Michigan Board of Regents agreed to lease the college football stadium for a pro hockey game for three million dollars.

Big time hockey in the open air is rare, but not unheard of.    For example, this won’t be the first hockey game at the Big House.  More than 104 thousand fans watched U of M defeat MSU on a specially built ice rink on the Michigan Stadium field in 2010.  The NHL matchup is expected to draw as many fans, and possibly more,  to Ann Arbor.

The largest crowd ever to see an NHL hockey game was 71 thousand at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2008. 

This will be the second time the Red Wings have skated in the National Hockey League’s Winter Classic.  

Since its inception in 2008,  the Winter Classic has become a popular event on the NHL schedule.  

Offbeat
2:34 pm
Mon February 6, 2012

Lessons on life and compost at the Ann Arbor ReSkilling Festival

A woman shares her cattail mat weaving skills at the Ann Arbor ReSkilling Festival.
Nell Gable

Long ago, before iPads and Wifi, it wasn’t “cool” or trendy to know how to do things such as mend your own clothes, can fruit or turn old food into compost—it was imperative. And just as valuable as the skills themselves, were the people from whom you learned them.

Now, face-to-face social interaction is often limited to the times when we look up from whatever screen we’re lost in while we wait for the next text message or email to arrive.

Some people in Ann Arbor are hoping to break this cycle by regaining valuable yet forgotten skills and reclaiming community bonds.

The movement takes shape in the form of the Ann Arbor ReSkilling Festival. According to the festival website, "reskilling" is all about sharing often abandoned skills for “resilient, low-energy living,” in a face-to-face community setting.

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Politics
11:21 am
Fri January 27, 2012

WATCH & LISTEN: Obama's speech at UM in Ann Arbor

President Obama speaking to a crowd at the University of Michigan during his last visit to the state.

In case you missed President Obama's speech in the Al Glick Field House at the University of Michigan this morning, you can listen to the full audio of the speech above (the introduction by UM student Christina Beckman is included in the audio).

Or you can watch the entire speech below:

*Note - we originally had video clips from FOX 2 News and CNN loaded here. Those have been taken down now that the full video of Obama's speech is available.

Politics
3:11 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

In Ann Arbor, thousands wait in line for tickets to see Obama

Update 2:58 p.m.

We caught up with several folks waiting in line to get tickets to President Barack Obama's speech tomorrow. We asked them if there was anything in particular they wanted to hear the president talk about:

"I hope that they increase the Pell Grant, make it more affordable for people so that we’re not re-mortgaging our house over and over to pay for our kids’ to go to college."

         - Angela Lasiewick. Her daughter is a junior in high school.

"My concern is how we’re going to, what steps he’s going to take help us pay back these student loans. If they’re going to decrease insurance rates, if they’re going to make some sort of allowance for us to be able to live once we graduate with these large debts."

      - Ada Nwaneri has racked up $136,000 in student loans from undergrad, graduate, and law school.

"I want to hear specifically what he wants to do with the rising tuition costs...of debt forgiveness. And another issue I care about is what he's going to do with the banks as far as opening up lines of credit for the

     - Leo Esclamado is a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Michigan.

"I was a little skeptical about attending, but I'm interested in hearing his message, what he has to say about the rising cost of higher education."

     - LaFleur Stephens is a graduate student in political science. She has about $30,000 in student loan debt.

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama touched on college affordability, and put colleges and universities on notice when he said:

"If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.  Higher education can’t be a luxury -– it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."

After Mr. Obama's speech, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said in a written statement she "could not agree more with the president that we, as a nation, must recommit ourselves to higher education that is accessible to all."

1:01 p.m.

There were just 3,000 tickets available.

They were free, but people did "pay" for them by waiting in a long line outside the Michigan Union Ticket Office, where the free tickets were given out starting at 9 a.m. this morning.

As the Detroit Free Press' Mike Brookbank reports, the first person to receive a ticket arrived last night:

Teman Evans didn’t intend to do it.

But the 32-year-old turned out to be the first in line at the University of Michigan’s Union Ticket Office.

By this morning, thousands were behind him in a line that snaked for blocks outside the Michigan Union on State Street.

“I got here at 7:30 last night and thought there’d be a whole crew waiting for a month and somehow I was the first one,” said Evans.

People who arrived at 6 a.m. this morning found a long line of people who had been waiting overnight. The line stretched down State Street, down E. William St., and then snaked around to the University of Michigan's Administration building.

Six hours later, 3,000 people had tickets to see President Obama's speech tomorrow at the University of Michigan's Al Glick Fieldhouse. The Fieldhouse is the University of Michigan's football practice facility.

Mr. Obama's stop in Ann Arbor is his second as President. He gave the commencement address in 2010.

This stop is one of many he is making across the country in the wake of his State of the Union speech. He's expected to talk about his ideas for keeping college education affordable.

Politics
1:59 pm
Mon January 16, 2012

Michigan governor says he's "fair game" for protesters

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder speaks with reporters inside the Lansing Center
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Governor Snyder says he’s "fair game" for today’s planned protest outside his Ann Arbor area home. He says it's part of democracy for people to protest.   

“It’s fine to demonstrate to show those things," says Snyder, though he adds, "The main thing is…hopefully we can spend as much or more time finding common ground about how we can work together to solve problems.”    

Many of the protesters are demonstrating against Michigan’s emergency manager law.     

Homelessness
6:54 pm
Fri January 6, 2012

Tent city in Ann Arbor operates through the winter

Tent city in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Here's an audio postcard from residents at the camp.

Camp Take Notice is a tent community of homeless people living in Ann Arbor.

Freezing temperatures will force many of its residents to find new places to live. But more than a dozen will stay through the winter.

Michigan Radio’s Mercedes Mejia and Meg Cramer visited the camp just before the first snow fall.

You can check out what the camp looks like here:

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Arts/Culture
6:00 am
Mon December 19, 2011

Home Share program brings different generations under one roof

The Ann Arbor Home Share program at the University of Michigan connects homeowners over the age of 55 with younger people looking for a place to live. 

The program allows senior homeowners to manage household chores and offset costs--but it also offers companionship. 

Every arrangement is unique.

In some cases, younger roommates take on housework or run errands in exchange for lower rent. 

Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Carol Tice and Kristina Gifford, who participate in the Home Share program. Tice, 80, rents out part of her home to Gifford, 24. Tice has been a participant for over 7 years.

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