Kalamazoo

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.

Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo

Restaurants, businesses and galleries will showcase local art in downtown Kalamazoo at the city's monthly art hop. It happens on the first Friday of the month. (This month the gig runs from 5-9 pm.)

Colorful paintings will hang on the walls of businesses and galleries, musicians will be playing inside and outside, and restaurants feature special menus for the evening.

Beth McCann is with The Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. She says art hop is about showcasing local talent. But she says it’s also a great economic development tool.

 “We hear it coming back from the artists themselves, because obviously they sell their art. So we hear a lot of positive feedback from artists. And we also hear it from the business community that this is a night they count on for sales.”

McCann says so far, several nearby towns have picked up on the art hop idea including Paw-Paw and Plainwell. Normally there are 20 places to visit during art hop. But the March event is a super-sized version and 51 sites will have art on display.

User anotherpioneer / Flickr

The ice storm was Sunday, but it may tomorrow or Friday before the last Consumers Energy customer who lost power will get their electricity restored.   195,000 thousand CMS utility customers lost power after the storm that dumped a half foot or more of snow and ice on Michigan at the beginning of the week. 

About 44,000 are still without power, says  Garrick Rochow, vice president of energy delivery for the utility:

UPDATE 3:50pm 

Governor Rick Snyder is looking for allies in his fight for deep state spending cuts. The governor received a warm reception at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon today in Kalamazoo. 

Governor Snyder spoke to an audience that largely backed his candidacy last year  and is very receptive to his budget plans that call for revising d Text - 16 lines]the state's business tax and deep cuts in spending. But many are also concerned some the governor's plans might hit close to home.

Snyder urged the business leaders to accept part of the sacrifice.

"The only way we are going to do this is talk together and help those people who think they didn't get a fair shake or that they're being disadvantaged when they probably were not." 

Labor unions and social service groups worry that the poor, children  and others might pay a bigger price under the governor's budget plan. Snyder says the state must address its billion and a half budget  deficit now and now just kick it down the road.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder travels to Kalamazoo today where he will speak to the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Rotary Club of Kalamazoo. He's set to speak at 12:30 p.m. and a question-and-answer session is also scheduled. As the Associated Press reports, it's expected the Governor will spend his time defending the budget proposal he released last Thursday:

Last week, Snyder proposed a $45.9 billion budget that includes spending cuts for schools and getting rid of many personal tax breaks. His plan includes a corporate tax change that would save businesses $1.8 billion a year.

Snyder has been working to defend the plan. Critics say it means that the poor and the elderly, public education and local governments would be the ones picking up the tab for businesses.

Ashley Steele and her son Richard Peake
Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

By Kate Davidson of Changing Gears

Five years ago this month, a group of anonymous donors made a radical promise to Kalamazoo, Michigan. They would pay for almost every public school graduate to go to a state-supported college or university. Our Changing Gears project has been profiling towns across the region as they try to reinvent themselves for the new economy. Here, they take a closer look at the "Kalamazoo Promise."

Inside the Michigan Senate.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Since Robert Jones  passed away this past weekend, election officials have been working to come up with a plan of action. Jones was a candidate for the Michigan Senate and the election is just fourteen days away.

Aerial photo of Talmadge Creek after Enbridge oil spill
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

It’s been more than a month since an estimated 800,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River. Enbridge Energy Partners, the company responsible for the pipeline leak, says it has cleaned up about 700,000 gallons of that oil.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done. The EPA is just now starting to find out how much oil is at the bottom of the river.

Working on the broken oil pipeline near Marshall, Michigan
EPA

The pipe has been repaired. It was tested yesterday. Now, as Steve Carmody reports, Enbridge Energy officials plan to ask regulators for permission to restart the pipeline that just five weeks ago gushed close to a million gallons of crude oil.

Carmody reports:

EPA workers sample the air near the Enbridge oil spill in Michigan
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

(by Steve Carmody, Michigan Radio)

It's been a month since a pipeline leak spewed about a million gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. Clean-up crews have spent the past four weeks collecting oil from the river and removing contaminated soil.

You can see photos of the oil spill on the EPA's Enbridge oil spill response website.

Losing a Gem

Jun 7, 2010

A Kalamazoo arts organization that was considered a real success story has shut its doors, for now. Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris looks at why The Smart Shop Metal Arts Center has closed and what the future may hold.

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