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.

Michigan Municipal League

Lansing’s mayor is scrapping plans to build a new police headquarters, at least for now.

Mayor Virg Bernero included more than $400,000 in his budget proposal for next year to pay for design and engineering plans for a new consolidated police headquarters.

But Wednesday,  the mayor announced he wants to redirect that money to a fund to pay for 11 police officer positions currently supported by a federal grant that expires in 2015.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Rising pension costs may throw a monkey wrench into the city of Lansing’s plans to hire police officers next year.

Lansing’s mayor proposed using money from a special public safety millage to rehire nine laid off police officers.    But the mayor’s office released a draft report Monday which says the city will have to come up with nearly two million dollars next year to cover rising police and fire pension costs.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Democrats were waiting outside of Mitt Romney’s speech, ready to criticize the Republican presidential contender.

Michigan Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer says Romney's policies will take Michigan in the wrong direction.

“Romney wants to go back to the days of George W. Bush,” says Whitmer, “We need progress in the state of Michigan.  Thank god we had someone like President Obama when the autos needed help.”

Democrats also claim the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s budget plans would hurt college students, like those in his audience at Lansing Community College.


Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney gave a speech at Lansing Community College on the economy.

The New York Times blog "The Caucus" Ashley Parker writes that Romney cast the presidential election as a choice between the past and the future:

“President Obama chose to apply liberal ideas of the past to a 21st century America,” Mr. Romney said. “Liberal policies didn’t work back then, they haven’t worked during these last four years, and they will not work in the future. New Democrats had abandoned those policies, but President Obama resurrected them, with the predictable results.”

Standing in front of a backdrop a [sic] six flags — two Michigan state flags, and four American flags, one of which bore a steel border meant to invoke manufacturing strength — Mr. Romney seemed to prefer the “New Democrat” policies of President Bill Clinton, whom he touted as counterpoint to Mr. Obama.

Romney said “Americans are tired of living on the edge, tired about wondering about what kind of country they’re going to leave their children. They’re tired of being tired. This wasn’t what we expected from President Obama. He promised change and hope, and he said we could do anything we wanted together. But rhetoric met reality and reality won.”

Here's the text of Romney's speech.

And here's some reaction from those who came to see Romney speak at Lansing Community College today:

Romney supporter Harry Kost of Lansing says he liked the candidate’s remarks about business creation.

(He’s) Gonna make it easier for businesses to start and then not be taxed to death in that.  And I think he’s going to give us the chance to have more people go to work,” said Kost.

Kost also agrees with Romney about ending so-called ‘Obamacare’ and building a U.S./Canada oil pipeline.

Norma Jean Wiley voted for Newt Gingrich in the Michigan primary.  But the Hillsdale County resident says Governor Romney is growing on her.

“The more that I see of him, I can see that he has a more human, conservative side that I appreciate,” said Wiley.

She feels he has “a good plan for the future.”

Lynn Taylor of Ann Arbor says she plans to follow the details of Romney policies as they take shape.  For now, she is solidly behind the republican.

“He promised he’d end Obamacare and that’s important to me.  And he will fix it.  He said he would do a partnership with the government and the private industry, so I thought that was good,” said Taylor.

Taylor says she thinks Romney is committed to innovation and moving forward.

In a speech in Ohio yesterday, Romney brought up his position on the auto bailouts, going so far as to take credit for the U.S. auto industry's comeback.

It was a topic that The Caucus' Parker says he did not mention once in his speech today.

He did, however, make sure to say that he would “help usher in a revival in American manufacturing.”

“I’m convinced, if we take an entirely new direction in energy and in trade policy and in labor policy, we’re going to see more manufacturing jobs come back to America than those that have left America,” Mr. Romney said. “I am absolutely convinced of this. This is real. With the right policies and the right leadership we can see a resurgence in American manufacturing.”

Rick Pluta / MPRN

Rick Pluta of MPRN sent along this photo. The stage is set for Mitt Romney's speech this afternoon at Lansing Community College.

He's set to talk around 12:30 p.m.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Lansing is turning to a new source for its electric power.

"Thank you all for joining us on this breezy, lovely day in downtown Lansing…perfect for the announcement that we’re here to make," [Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero joked, as high winds spun three small scale wind turbines on the plaza in front of Lansing city hall.    The turbines are part of a one year trial.

John DeGray is with Windstream Technologies, an Indiana company developing  small corkscrew shaped wind turbines for residential and business use.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Unemployment rates declined in most of Michigan during the past month.

State officials reported Thursday the Detroit Metro region saw the sharpest decline, down about six tenths of a percent from February to March.   Unemployment ticked up slightly in Ann Arbor.

In Lansing, unemployment held steady at 7.2%.

Daniel Zanetti was at a job fair in Lansing Thursday.    The recent college graduate is hopefully he can soon find a job in his field.

(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.

 A few hundred people, many wearing hoodie sweatshirts, gathered on the steps of the state capitol in Lansing  Tuesday to demand justice for a teenager shot and killed in Florida last month.

A month ago, 17 year old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed.   The Florida teen’s death has spurred a national debate over what constitutes self-defense and concerns for the safety of young black men.      

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There’s some good news for people planning on selling their homes in Michigan.

During the last four years, home sale prices in Michigan have been on a rollercoaster, mainly going down.

But Clear Capitol reports today Michigan home prices may finally be stabilizing.

Alex Villacorta is with Clear Capitol. He says an improving job picture,  stronger consumer confidence and more investors buying cheap homes are all contributing to a more stable real estate market.

Villacorta says nationally prices in February were only down about a half percentage point from the previous year.

"Bringing it back to Michigan," says Villacorta, "that fact that prices are actually up 1.2% over the last year is definitely a good sign…and up double digits…about 15% from the low point of 2009.”

But as with all things real estate, 'Location…location…location' is what matters.Villacorta says Grand Rapids’ home sale prices are up about six percent compared with a year ago, while home prices in Lansing and Flint continue to decline.