Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Government and religious leaders from Lansing, Flint and Saginaw came together today to call for new federal gun control laws.

All three cities saw an increase in murders in 2012.

The group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, wants the federal government to require background checks for all gun sales.    It also wants a ban on assault weapons and an expansion of gun trafficking laws.

Darnell Earley is Saginaw’s city manager.   He says something must be done to stop what he calls “neighborhood warfare.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Low income families in Lansing will soon have access to a special financial counseling program.

The city is getting a $1.5 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Living Cities-Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund to underwrite the three year program.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing city council chose a longtime critic of the capitol city’s mayor as its next leader.

Carol Wood was selected as the city council’s new president at a meeting today.

Wood has frequently criticized the way Mayor Virg Bernero has run Lansing’s city government, both as a councilwoman and when she ran against him in 2009’s mayoral election.

Wood says she wants to “start on the right foot” with the mayor this year.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing City Council received a report last night looking at serious problems with Ingham County’s 911 system.

The new 911 center opened last summer. It dispatches fire and EMS crews for Lansing and East Lansing, as well as Ingham County.

But the system has trouble pinpointing mobile phone calls, and that’s led to dispatching mistakes and slow response times. A new report suggests three deaths may be connected to problems with the 911 system.

Over the past decade, the number of Michigan state government workers has shrunk, and that's left some state-owned buildings with lots of vacant space.

Now the state is hoping to fill in those gaps and save money at the same time.

The idea is to move some workers from leased offices across Lansing into Constitution Hall and the Mason Building.  Both of those state-owned buildings will undergo renovations to prepare the new workspace.

Kurt Weiss is with the state. He says Constitution Hall is 30 percent vacant.

"So as you can imagine, as you're walking down some of those hallways, there's a lot of empty cubicles," he said. / MNA Facebook page

With Michigan poised to become the country’s 24th so-called "right-to-work" state, thousands of protestors have flooded the State Capital today to demonstrate against the legislation. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Katie Oppenheim, a registered nurse, and president of the University of Michigan Nurses Union. Oppenheim is also affiliated with the Michigan Nurses Association.

Stateside: The politics behind right-to-work

Dec 6, 2012
user "Dmitri" Beljan / Flickr

Governor Snyder announced today that right-to-work bills will be placed in the state’s Legislature.

This means that union membership would be voluntary in Michigan.

"Stateside with Cynthia Canty" Executive Producer Zoe Clark and MPRN’s Rick Pluta discussed the politics behind this issue.

Here is what they had to say:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing voters will decide next week if they are willing to put 48 acres of an old city golf course up for sale.

Voters approved selling 12 acres of the Red Cedar golf course last year.  But developers say they need the rest of the park to attract major retailers and other investment.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is optimistic that city voters will approve selling the other 48 acres. He expects investment will come quickly, if the land is allowed to be put up for sale.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing airport officials say a new expansion will help spur international business in mid-Michigan.

Capitol Region Airport officials officially opened their new “Port Lansing” foreign trade zone today. Goods that come into the trade zone are exempt from customs tariffs and merchandise that's shipped from the zones is exempt from duty payments.

Robert Selig is the president of the Capitol Region Airport Authority. He says the foreign trade zone designation will give mid-Michigan businesses a chance to get involved in international trade.

Lansing city hall.
MI SHPO / flickr

The city of Lansing faces an $11 million budget deficit in the coming fiscal year.

City officials say the shortfall is due largely to a steep decline in property tax revenues. Rising pension, health care, and salaries are also to blame. The numbers take into account the extra money the city is taking in from a new tax levy voters approved a year ago, but the city has almost reached its constitutional limit on how much money it can raise in new taxes.  In a press release, Mayor Virg Bernero says the funding model for Michigan cities is "broken." 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Several Ingham County communities have taken a step toward creating a regional fire department.

Lansing, East Lansing and four other communities signed an agreement to begin implementing the first phase of the “Shared Services” plan.

Randall Talifarro is Lansing and East Lansing’s fire chief. He says getting local fire departments to work more closely together will improve fire protection to nearly 300 thousand Ingham County residents.

A new state tax to help pay for Medicaid is coming up $130 million short of projections.

The one-percent tax on health insurance claims was supposed to bring in $300 million this fiscal year. Now, budget officials say it’ll only generate about half that. Budget department spokesman Kurt Weiss said the state should be able to scrape together enough money to make up for the missing tax revenue. It is federal matching funds he is worried about.

“If you look at the way the match works, there’s the potential of losing up to $260 million in matching federal funds with this if we’re $130 million short. So, certainly that is part of the concern,” Weiss said.

Weiss said bad projections could be to blame for the gap, or health care providers simply might not be paying their share. He said his department is working with other state agencies to pin down the problem.

“It is a new tax, and it is something new to those that are paying it. So we’re really trying to reach out, do that education, and trying to make sure we’re getting the money from everybody we should be getting the money from,” he said.

Weiss said officials are looking for ways to try and make up the state’s shortfall. If shortfalls continue, he says lawmakers may have to make changes to the tax.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - After 26 years, a well-known Lansing store that specialized in selling Michigan-made products is closing.

Michigania offered a range of goods, from art to Leelanau County wine to Grand Rapids marinade. Manager Alice Foster-Stocum tells the Lansing State Journal that the decision to close involved many factors. She agrees it's been a destination store for years in downtown Lansing near the Capitol.

The Capitol was vandalized early Thursday morning
user mattileo / flickr

The Michigan State Police say there is a single suspect in a vandalism spree last week that included the state Capitol building in Lansing. Officers also found graffiti early Thursday morning in downtown Lansing and at Lansing Community College.

State Police Lieutenant Kyle Bowman says there is still no arrest, but that should come soon.

“We’ll be submitting our portion of the report for our investigation to the Ingham County prosecutor’s office sometime this week," Bowman says.

Investigators aren’t releasing any information about the suspect yet.

Officers last week found two stick figures spray-painted on the Capitol’s front columns and a message reading “Give art a chance” on a war memorial on the Capitol lawn.

Police say the suspect could face felony charges for malicious destruction of property.

Workers at the Capitol are still trying to remove the spray paint. They say damages could range between a thousand and several thousand dollars.

State Bar of Michigan

Michigan’s landmark civil rights law was celebrated today as a legal milestone in a ceremony at the state Capitol that re-united the two main sponsors of the legislation.

State Representative Daisy Elliott was a Democrat from Detroit. State Representative Mel Larsen was a Republican from Oakland County.

The 36-year-old Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act protects against discrimination based on race, religion, gender; national origin, or marital status.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A proposal to sell more Lansing park land will be on the city council’s agenda next week.   If approved, voters will have their say in November. 

The land would be tied to a smaller parcel that Lansing voters approved selling last year. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing voters will decide Tuesday if they want to put for a ‘For Sale’ sign on a large chunk of city park land.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Officials from Lansing and Flint are hoping a conference this week will help convince investors to redevelop some former General Motors auto plant sites.

Local leaders will meet with federal and state officials in Lansing Wednesday to discuss how to revitalize former auto plant sites in their cities. The group is going on a bus tour of the sites in Lansing this afternoon.

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder's point man on the administration's vibrant cities initiative knows there's not a lot of spare money to invest in recreation and green space in Michigan cities.

But Rodney Stokes, the former leader of the state's Department of Natural Resources, sees a growing desire to expand urban trails, reclaim riverfronts for recreational use and offer outdoor activities. He's helped do that in Detroit, and sees potential elsewhere.

This month, he's planning meetings in Grand Rapids, and then will reach out in Lansing, Saginaw and other cities later.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

This week, the Michigan Court of Appeals will hear arguments in a case over whether a library can ban weapons.

The Capital Area District Library has a very simple policy:  “All weapons are banned from Library premises by the fullest extent permitted by law”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Developers have until late this afternoon to submit their ideas for what to do with a former Lansing city golf course.  

The twelve acres of the old Red Cedar golf course rests on the border of Lansing and East Lansing.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Sweltering temperatures are becoming life-threatening in some parts of Michigan.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The hot weather is not stopping most Michiganders from getting out and enjoying Independence Day.  

But organizers of many of today’s events are concerned.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last night,  a reluctant Lansing City Council approved a plan to eliminate a nearly two million dollar budget deficit.   Lansing's fiscal year concludes at the end of this week.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Davenport University announced plans today to spend $10 million on a new campus in downtown Lansing.

Eve Ensler
Justin Hoch / Wikimedia Commons

There will be a protest performance tonight of “The Vagina Monologues” at the state Capitol. Female legislators and author Eve Ensler will read from the play that was first performed in 1996.

The event is a response to state House Republican leaders’ decision to bar two female lawmakers from speaking on the floor last week. It was a punishment for comments made by state Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum during a debate.

Brown says she has heard from people in virtually every state of the union. 

“You know what? I think it has triggered an outrage amongst the American people," she said. "Not just women, but men as well and to see this kind of disregard, the disrespect and it really is a war on women. It’s not just a sound bite.  There really is a war on women.” 

Brown will be one of the performers tonight.

More than 3,500 people have posted on Facebook that they plan to attend the event.

Part of the 2011 Grand Rapids LipDub.

Last year, Rob Bliss and his social media marketing group Status Creative organized a 5,000 participant video featuring residents of Grand Rapids “lip-dubbing” to a live version of Don McLean’s “Bye Bye, Miss American Pie.”

Not only did the YouTube video go viral with almost 5 million views, but the enormous ensemble also won the Guinness World Record for largest lip dub event.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

People strolling along Lansing’s downtown river walk this summer will see some interesting sights.

Ten new sculptures were installed this past week along the river walk as part of the city’s Art by the River project.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing’s Sparrow Hospital is joining a national health care network run by the Mayo Clinic.

Sparrow Hospital is not being bought by the Mayo Clinic. But instead the Lansing hospital, which also has facilities in St. Johns and Ionia, is joining the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A major economic development project in Lansing took an important step today.