Wendy Medrano / Michigan Organizing Project

More people are protesting against a decision to deny Michigan driver's licenses to immigrants granted work permits under a new federal deferred-action program.

President Obama announced the "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" program in June. It provides work permits and Social Security cards to young people brought to the United States without legal permission.

But Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson will not issue those in the program driver’s licenses because she says they don’t have legal status.

Inventorchris / Creative Commons

Kalamazoo’s Public Safety Department is conducting a study to see if its officers unfairly target racial and ethnic minorities.

The study is not being court ordered, the city isn’t being sued, and there hasn’t been any big incident that sparked the study. Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley says that’s a good thing.

“These types of issues can bring a lot of emotion… and it makes it a lot more difficult to talk reasonably and to talk productively and constructively in how we move forward,” Hadley said.

Hadley says the department wants to try to avoid problems and they’re hoping the study will help.

“Spending money on this type of study I think is really an investment into our relationship with the community; and how important they are in how we operate as a public safety department and how we keep this city safe,” Hadley said.

A non-profit organization in Kalamazoo is trying to help young undocumented immigrants sort through a new federal process that could prevent them from getting deported.

The director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the process earlier this month.

Lori Mercedes is the Executive Director of the Kalamazoo-based Hispanic American Council. She says many immigrants have been calling with questions about the process but are nervous about exposing their legal status.

“This brought it up to the light and forced a conversation about it. It made it into an issue; now we have to talk about it,” Mercedes said. “It’s exciting…we can tell our kids go ahead and dream and have hope. There is hope for you after all.”

Chris Killian

Living in a swing state like Michigan means you're probably already tired of non-stop elections coverage, sound bites and negative ads.

Now, a Kalamazoo freelance reporter wants to offer an alternative...he just needs some help paying for it.

Chris Killian says he'll take a months-long road trip through 11 swing states, getting stories from average people about their politics and their hopes for the country's future.

About 750 Pfizer employees in Kalamazoo are going to have a new boss.

Pfizer announced today it's spinning its “animal health” division off into its own company.

The new company’s name will be Zoetis. An odd, though appropriate name for the company. The Z-O in Zoetis is supposed to stand for ZOO, or zoetic, which means "pertaining to life".

Pfizer’s animal health division is a major employer in Kalamazoo. Damien Conover expects that will stay the same under the new company. Conover is an analyst with Morningstar Financial.

“There’s probably going to be some consolidation with the new business,” says Conover,  “but for the most part I’m not anticipating a big shakeup of the business.”

Conover expects Zoetis will be worth more than eleven billion dollars. That would make it the largest stand-alone company focused on animal pharmaceuticals in the world.

U.S. mail processing centers in five Michigan cities could close this May.    The U.S. Postal Service says the closings are necessary to help the struggling mail service with its mounting budget deficit.

Mail facilities in Lansing, Kalamazoo, Jackson, Saginaw and Iron Mountain have been on the bubble since the postal service announced last year that it wanted to shut down more than 260 processing centers.   The reason?  Postal officials believe closing the processing centers will save a billion dollars.  

The Postal Service had agreed to put the final decision on hold until May to give Congress time to work out an alternative.   But the chances of a Congressional solution appear increasingly dim.

John Marcotte is the president of the Michigan Postal Workers Union.     He says there’s still time for people to demand Congress and the postal service stop the closing plan.

“Get on the phone.  Tell’em you don’t want this," says Marcotte,  "Tell them you want the jobs in Michigan…you don’t want the mail slowing down."

Marcotte says if the mail processing centers close first class mail delivery will slow dramatically in Michigan.

While the national prayer breakfast was happening in Washington this morning, faith leaders in Kalamazoo held their own prayer breakfast.

The group of leaders from different faiths discussed state laws affecting people who are lesbian, gay or transgender.

The Kalamazoo Gay Lesbian Resource Center helped organize the breakfast. Executive Director Zach Bauer says faith has meant two things to the LGBT community.

Sean Marshall / Creative Commons

265 Kalamazoo City employees are eligible for the early retirement incentive. According to the city’s Human Resources Director Jerome Post, 191 of them have already signed up. “I have to admit I’m a little surprised at the number of people,” Post said the number is higher than he expected.

 “It’s been a little bit anxiety ridden for us but at the same time we’ve been very excited about the opportunity this presents for us to restructure virtually every department in the city,” Post said.

(courtesy of Wikipedia)

A large turnout is expected today at a memorial service for former Michigan congressman Howard Wolpe.  

Wolpe died October 25th at his home in Saugatuck. He was 71.  

Former Michigan congressman Mark Schauer will be among the speakers at the memorial service at Western Michigan University. He says Wolpe was a mentor and inspiration. 

"He made his decisions based on principles and values…and intelligence. And always trying to do what’s right for the people he represented," says Schauer.  

Wolpe represented Kalamazoo in Congress for seven terms and ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1994.

Jane Doughnut / Creative Commons

Carl Rizzuto sells his own sausage and meatballs at the summer farmer’s market in Kalamazoo. He tried coordinating a winter market ten years ago but he says there wasn’t enough interest. Now he says business is so good during the summer market vendors agreed a the Kalamazoo Winter Market would be worth the effort.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Hundreds of volunteers in neon yellow t-shirts handed out winter coats and hats, helped answer specific questions and enroll people in dozens of assistance programs that already exist.

48-year old George McCree lives in Kalamazoo, but he doesn’t have a permanent job or home right now. He got help finding temporary shelter at the Project Connect event last May. That inspired him to start volunteering at a soup kitchen in town.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation approved tax breaks Tuesday in exchange for new investment and jobs.

MEDC spokesman Joseph Serwach says one of the four projects receiving tax breaks includes a much-needed grocery store in the City of Detroit.


Voters in Kalamazoo voted to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a "low" local police priority.

Supporters of the effort said police in the city should instead focus on violent crime.

More from the Kalamazoo Gazette:

All votes are in and Kalamazoo citizens voted to make a small amount of marijuana use a low priority for Kalamazoo’s law enforcers on Tuesday night.

The ballot initiative passed with 4,649 "yes" votes to 2,416 that voted it down.

The proposal read: “Shall the Kalamazoo City Charter be amended such that the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of usable marijuana by adults 21 years or older is the lowest priority of law enforcement personnel?”

Kalamazoo is the first city in the state to have such charter language.

The city's Public Safety director has said that the result of the vote will most likely not effect how police in the city do their job.

Steve Carmody / Michiganradio

There are several controversial elections taking place in cities and towns around Michigan today.  

A Republican state lawmaker faces a recall vote, spearheaded by the Michigan Education Association. State representative Paul Scott was targeted by the MEA for his support of cuts in state education funding and efforts to weaken the union. Scott tried and failed to get the courts to toss out or delay the recall election.

Voters in Kalamazoo will decide if they want to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a ‘low’ local police priority. Supporters say police should focus on violent crime. The city's Public Safety director says the result of the vote will probably not effect how Kalamazoo police do their job.

In Lansing, voters are deciding if they want to increase their property taxes. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says the millage hike is needed to reduce the chances of future police and fire layoffs.   

“I’m cautiously optimistic.  I’m hopeful.  I’m prayerful….Let’s face it….it’s do or die for us," says Bernero.   

Critics say city leaders are pushing for a millage increase before they truly know if the city will be $12 to $15 million dollars in the hole as predicted. 

Voters in Flint and Jackson are electing mayors today. 

And in Detroit, voters are being asked to approve many changes to their city charter. Supporters say the charter changes would address the city's corruption problems that have lead to numerous investigations, including one which resulted in criminal charges against former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

In October of 2010 the Kalamazoo Community Foundation declared itself an anti-racist organization. But the foundation's leaders recognized it was going to take more than just a declaration to counteract persistent racial disparities.

Sharon Anderson, the foundation's Community Investment Officer, spoke with Michigan Radio's Tamar Charney.

"We're looking at every aspect of our work to determine who is being left out. Who is not at the table, and why...so that whatever we do, we do from an informed perspective," said Anderson.

The anti-racist program at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation was designed to include youths and youth-serving organizations. The foundation provides resources for youth organizations to develop after-school programs that build academic and social skills, and teach leadership and civic engagement.

The goal is more than equality, it's equity--identifying the gaps and taking action to ensure that every group has the opportunity to be successful. For Anderson that means fighting racial disparities by educating leaders and having an informed perspective when it comes to community development initiatives.

"We struggled in the beginning--where should we start? And the lesson is, start anywhere and keep moving," Anderson said.

-Meg Cramer-Michigan Radio Newsroom

user paigefiller / Flickr

Kalamazoo voters will decide next month whether to write a relaxed attitude toward marijuana use into the City Charter of the western Michigan community. The ballot proposal would direct police to make enforcement of
laws against possession of small amounts of marijuana a low priority. Supporters gathered about 2,600 signatures in order to win a spot for the charter amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has come out against the proposal, as have several Kalamazoo City Commission candidates.

The Story

"I'm not going to stop until Michael is dead."

In the streets of Kalamazoo, Michigan, people were looking for revenge against Michael Wilder for the violence he committed against others.

Michael says his violence was born out of violence against him.

So goes the cycle of hatred and rage that is repeated by people throughout the world.

The public radio program The Story recounted the tale of Michael "Too Short" Wilder and Yafinceio "Big B" Harris: two enemies from the streets of Kalamazoo who make changes and later meet at a community college:

From The Story:

Michael Wilder and Yafinceio Harris were long time rivals.  Several times they came close to an armed confrontation. Five years ago, one almost killed the other in a Kalamazoo street war.

But something always seemed to intervene. Imagine the surprise for both of them when they met, earlier this year, in a community college classroom.

Wilder said their teacher at the community college recognized their incredible story and asked if he could share it with the producers at The Story.

Wilder said he and Harris were excited to share their story:

"We're living proof that [violence] is not always the answer," said Wilder.

"You know what Yafinceio told me one day shortly after we met in school?

It almost made me cry.

He said, 'man, I realized that if I had killed you, I would have killed a good dude.' He told me that!

Can you imagine having a killer, that was going to kill you, turn around and get to know you and tell you something like that?!"

They call the trust they built between one another "Real recognized real."

Listen to Wilder and Harris recount their incredible story of how they broke the cycle of violence between them:

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith went to Kalamazoo yesterday to report on a community forum with Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph).

Upton was invited by the Kalamazoo County Advocates for Senior Issues and he discussed the economy, health care, and social security with the group.

But as Smith reported the "crowd of 200 people also demanded he talk about what he’s doing to create jobs and improve the economy. Several interrupted and shouted at Upton. Those doing the interrupting asked him about the economy."

Here's some video of that forum. Upton attempts to talk about the information on his chart, but he's interrupted:

user thienzieyung / Flickr

Update 1:58 p.m.

In a press release, the Federal Aviation Administration says they had to order contractors at airports around the country to stop working after Congress failed to pass legislation that reauthorized funding on 'critical airport modernization projects.'

The deadline for the FAA funding extension passed last Friday night.

U.S. Department of Transportation secretary Ray LaHood is quoted in the press release:

“Construction workers across America will lose their jobs and local communities will be hurt the longer this goes on. Congress needs to pass an FAA bill to prevent further economic damage,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This is no way to run the best aviation system in the world.”
“Unless Congress acts quickly, more work on projects critical to our nation’s aviation system will come to a halt. Work is stopping on construction and planning projects, NextGen system testing, and airport certification.  The list goes on and on and this is just the beginning,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt.

Here's a list of airports affected by the stop work orders.

The FAA says "nearly 4,000 FAA personnel, many needed to oversee various aspects of these projects, were furloughed on Saturday" and that the work-stoppage could "significantly increase the ultimate costs of construction for taxpayers."

12:21 p.m.

KALAMZOO, Mich. (AP) - Obama administration officials say contractors have been told to stop work on airport modernization projects across the country including the Kalamazoo, Traverse City and Flint areas because Congress has failed to pass legislation necessary for the work to continue.

Officials said Monday that stop-work orders have been issued for dozens of major projects.

The Federal Aviation Administration says they include a $14.4 million tower construction project at Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport, an $11 million tower construction project in Traverse City and a $1.9 million tower fire remediation project in Flint.

The House and Senate are at a stalemate over air service subsidies for rural communities and a Republican proposal that would make it more difficult for airline workers to unionize, among other issues.

It may take until Thursday before tens of thousands of people in west and central Michigan get their electricity back.  Two strong storm fronts moved through the state today, packing powerful winds.  

Terry Dedoes is a Consumers Energy spokesman.  He says the utility is busy trying to restore electricity to 95 thousand Consumers Energy customers.   

 “That second wave materialized…and that did a lot of damage…we saw more outages from that second wave that came through in Kalamazoo….which just got brushed by that first one.”  

NEW YORK (AP) Pfizer says it may sell its animal health and nutrition business in the next two years so it can focus on expanding its low-cost pharmaceuticals unit.

Pfizer says it will also consider transactions including spinoffs and may pursue different strategies for each business. It said any transactions could take one to two years to complete.

The businesses brought Pfizer Inc. $5.5 billion in revenue in 2010, about 8 percent of its total. The Animal Health unit makes vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and other items to prevent and treat diseases in livestock and pets, and the nutrition unit makes infant and pediatric products.

The New York drugmaker say it will focus on its established products business, which makes drugs that are off-patent or are losing patent protection.

Lieutenant Stacey Randolph alleges the chief discriminated against her in 2009 and 2010 when he promoted white male officers instead of her. The chief denied the allegations in a court filing this week.

Lieutenant Stacey Randolph is the first and only African-American female supervisor at the Kalamazoo Public Safety Department. She applied for a promotion on two separate occasions in the past two years. Both times a white male got the job. Randolph scored equal to or better than other candidates.

Photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Summer recreation may return to parts of the Kalamazoo River. Michigan health officials are studying the effects of an oil spill last summer. The spill dumped more than 800-thousand gallons into the river near Marshall.  If reports are positive, the no-contact order on areas of the Kalamazoo River may be lifted. The order banned swimming, boating and fishing.

Poverty Reduction Initiative

1.4 million people live in poverty in Michigan, according to the federal government. But not many people realize what that number actually means. A group in Kalamazoo thinks one of the ways to address the issue of poverty is with a game.


From WKZO.com:

The memorial service for Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety officer Eric Zapata will be held beginning at 11am this morning at Miller Auditorium.  If you can't make the memorial service it will be carried LIVE below:


Live Broadcast by Ustream.TV

user greg l / wikimedia commons

From the Associated Press:

The Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy has canceled an Earth Day program scheduled for Saturday after more than 600,000 gallons of raw sewage spilled into wetlands near the event's Kalamazoo-area location.

Conservancy workers discovered the leak Thursday and a cleanup was under way Friday. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that vandals caused the spill by blocking a sewer line with several logs.

Sue Foune of Kalamazoo's Public Services Department says lime has been scattered to destroy bacteria. She says the wetlands will absorb and treat the sewage and there should be no long-term

But conservancy stewardship director Nate Fuller says nutrients in the sewage will boost invasive cattails that the group has been trying to remove.

The vandalism was reported to police.

live WoodTVStream

Update 12:00 p.m.

Wood TV is carrying the press conference of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety live.

The slain officer was identified as Eric Zapata a 10 year veteran of the force. He had three children.

The police chief was visibly emotional when identifying Zapata as the officer who lost his life.

It was the first time the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety has lost an officer in the line of duty.

Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said the loss has shaken the department:

"We're a small group... We have to look out for each other. You become very close.. and when things like this happen, it hits hard."

Eric Sweet

Riding a bicycle is a classic part of childhood. But plenty of kids don’t have bikes. One program in Kalamazoo teaches kids simple bike maintenance and at the end of the program, kids get their own bike. But the people who run the Open Roads workshop say the heart of the program is about teaching basic social skills.

Wayne State University Press

Circus fans, rejoice.

Bonnie Jo Campbell, best known as the author of the short story collection American Salvage, has been awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship.

American Salvage was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Critics Circle Award.

The fellowship was awarded for Campbell's current project, which revolves around a set of characters in "a contemporary American circus."

Eric Sweet

This week, we’re changing it up a bit for our “What’s Working” series. Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley is welcoming Michigan Radio Reporter Kyle Norris into the studio to talk about a program in a Kalamazoo neighborhood that revolves around bikes.

Resident Ethan Alexander has organized a program called the Open Roads Bike Program, which teaches kids about bike maintenance. The children learn to perform a number of tasks involved in repairing and taking care of bikes. When they’ve completed all of the tasks, they are rewarded with a bike of their own.

But the bikes are not the only focus of the program. While learning how to take care of bikes provides the children with a sense of accomplishment and pride, Alexander makes sure the kids learn how to respect and get to know one another.

Kyle Norris recently attended a regularly held workshop event in the neighborhood called “Fixapalooza,” where she got to witness what the program has to offer first-hand. She says the atmosphere was similar to that of a block party, plus bikes – many, many bikes.

“It was a total party. There was Michael Jackson on a boom box, blasting. There was pizza. There was a dog running around. And there were a lot of kids, and adults, too, and bikes – bikes flipped over, adults working on bikes, kids working on bikes.”

The program got started when Edison neighborhood resident Ethan Alexander combined two things he had in excess: bikes and an understanding of how to work with children. Norris says it all got started about three years ago.

“He actually created it because he had a lot of bikes kicking around. I think he’s sort of a bike-head, so he had a lot of bikes. But he’s also a social worker, and he knows how to work with kids and get kids to work on their social skills and work on becoming better kids. So he kind of put the two loves together.”

The children who participate in the program don’t have to come very far to join in the fun, says Norris.

“Many of them come from this Edison neighborhood. They come, literally, down the street. Maybe single-family homes, maybe economically challenged.”

Alexander says the program gives the children a sense of confidence that they may not have in other areas of their lives.        

“A lot of these kids may not be successful in school. They may not be successful in other avenues. But you put a wrench in their hand, or you put a screwdriver in their hand, and that’s when they kind of light up, that’s when they get excited, and say, ‘Oh, I can do this. This is something I can do.’ And they’re valued and they start to believe in themselves and their abilities.”

After hanging out at Fixapalooza, Norris describes Mr. Alexander as a “zippy” guy. She says his leadership creates the atmosphere of respect.