lansing

A state Representative says newly released documents are raising some serious flags about the state’s Education Achievement Authority. On today’s show: we talk with Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton about what she found out about the EAA through a FOIA request.

We check in withe Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes about recent Ford earnings reports. And Mayor Dave Bing has announced he'll run for reelection.

We also talk about the changes to arts education in Lansing public schools.

Later in the show, we speak with Art Prize founder Rick DeVos about another venture of his: Start Garden.
 
And finally, Ann Arbor is on the verge of a championship - a bowling championship. We hear more about tonight's game from WWII vet Mel Shannon.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Lansing City Council has approved a 12 year-four million dollar tax abatement for General Motors.

GM is planning a $38 million expansion to its Lansing Grand River assembly plant.  The expansion is expected to add 150 jobs to the plant.

GM currently makes its Cadillac ATS and CTS at the Lansing plant.   The automaker also plans to start producing its next generation Camaro at the Lansing plant.

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The two thousand runners expected to take part in this Sunday’s Lansing marathon can expect to see tight security along the 26-mile course.

The added security is in response to Monday’s deadly bombing at the finish of the Boston Marathon.

Lansing Police Chief Teresa Szymanski says people attending the Lansing marathon will be protected.

“We’ll certainly have additional patrols….we’ll have extra officers working the event. We’ll take precautionary measures…such as bomb sweeps and those types of things we do for these events,” says Szymanski.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Police Chief Teresa Szymanski is retiring. 

Szymanski has been on the job since 2010.

She is the first woman to serve as the capitol city’s chief of police in the department’s 119-year history.

Szymanski has been part of the Lansing police department for 26 years.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero says he plans to name an interim police chief before Szymanski’s retirement becomes official April 20.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing city leaders are weighing a couple of options that could increase the bills of city utility customers.

The mayor is proposing either a flat fee or a surcharge based on a customer’s water or electricity use to pay for Lansing’s fire hydrants and streetlights.  The money raised would help the city fill a projected $5 million hole in next year’s city budget.

In the past, the city paid the utility directly from its general fund for maintaining Lansing’s streetlights and fire hydrants.

Preschool-age boy practicing writing his name at a table in a Head Start classroom.
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Update 2:17 p.m.

“The Superintendent is receiving calls from arts groups all over the state saying, ‘Why are you cutting the arts?’” says district spokesman Bob Kolt. “But it’s just not true…we’re contracting out those services to community artists.”

Kolt says the district will bring in about 10-20 “contractors” to help elementary classroom teachers with art, music and gym instruction.

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U.S. Supreme Court looks at affirmative action case in Michigan

"The U.S. Supreme Court will review Michigan’s ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action in university admissions. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is defending the amendment to the state constitution. It was adopted by voters in 2006," Rick Pluta reports.

Flint City Council takes steps to remove EM

"The Flint City Council is asking Governor Rick Snyder to remove the city’s emergency manager and phase out state control of its finances. The council unanimously approved a measure last night to request a state-appointed transition board to oversee the city’s finances," Jake Neher reports.

Lansing Mayor wants residents to pay more for utilities to help with city budget

"Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero wants to close the city’s looming budget deficit by asking city utility customers to pay another $46 a year. Bernero delivered his $112 million proposed budget to the city council last night," Steve Carmody reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing’s mayor is proposing its municipal utility customers pay more to balance the city’s budget next year.

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero outlined his budget plan to the city council last night.   Bernero says the city’s budget problems are not quite as serious as expected.    The mayor says better than expected property tax collections and lower than expected city employee health care costs had cut the project budget deficit in half.

Still, Bernero says the city needs to close about a five million dollar budget gap.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero will deliver his proposed city budget for the next year to the city council tomorrow. 

The mayor’s proposed budget is expected to deal with a projected nine million dollar budget shortfall.

A team appointed by Mayor Bernero suggested deep contract concessions by the city’s police and fire unions, among other cuts.

Tom Krug is the executive director with the local Fraternal Order of Police.

He says Lansing police officers have already agreed to more than a million dollars in contract concessions since 2009.

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Hundreds of people came to the state Capitol today to voice their support for pro-gun legislation.

Many openly carried firearms, which is allowed in and around the Capitol building.

Jim Gulliksen is with the Michigan Militia Corps of Wolverines.

He says he’s happy that state lawmakers have taken up a number of pro-gun bills recently.

“Lansing has shown some trends lately to reduce some of the restrictions, as far as like the pistol purchase permit and some of the controls on where you can carry weapons. We do like to see that.”

There are several gun-related bills in the Michigan Legislature. Very few have moved out of committee so far this year.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says things like road funding and other budget issues are more pressing.

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Universities might take cut after skirting around new right to work law

"Some Michigan universities could lose 15-percent of their state funding over new union contracts. A state budget panel Tuesday voted to sanction schools that approve long-term contracts before the state’s new right-to-work law takes effect. That’s unless the contracts include cost savings of at least 10 percent," Jake Neher reports.

Health care exchange deadline Friday

The state has until Friday to come up with a plan on how to shop for health insurance online as part of the Affordable Care Act. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"If the [health exchange bill] doesn't pass this week, it will end up solely in the federal government's hands. Gov. Rick Snyder has urged the Legislature to pass the health exchange bill as a way for the state to have input on how the exchange will run and which insurance companies appear on the exchange."

Govenor Snyder hopes Lansing will not need an EM

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to prevent the city of Lansing from getting an emergency manager. Lansing faces a projected $9 million budget shortfall next year. According to MLive, the governor talked about the future financial situation of the city at the Lansing Regional Camber of Commerce's legislative dinner last night,

“If the city of Lansing wants to be proactive and talk about a consent agreement, I want to be a good partner.”

A consent agreement is the intermediate step between emergency management of a troubled municipality’s finances and complete local control.

Michigan Radio/Steve Carmody

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero is reviewing a wide ranging report that calls for major changes to the way the city spends its money.

Lansing faces a projected nine million dollar budget shortfall next year.   Lansing city leaders have been struggling to pay for increasingly expensive city services with sharply declining tax revenues.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors is considering spending nearly $40 million to expand its Lansing Grand River plant.

On Monday, the Lansing city council will consider granting tax abatements to GM.

The abatements are tied to the automaker’s plan to spend $38 million to expand its Lansing Grand River plant. The expansion would add about 150 jobs.

GM already makes its Cadillac ATS at the plant.   The ATS recently won the North American Car of the year award at the North American International Auto Show. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A mayor's task force is recommending major changes to help the city of Lansing fix its budget issues.

The committee says city leaders should consider selling city hall and privatizing many city services.  Another recommendation is to consolidate city departments with other local governments.

Former mayor David Hollister heads the mayor’s financial health team.  He says the proposals will be unpopular, but he believes they're necessary to end Lansing’s chronic budget problems.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Hundreds of Michigan cities are not saving enough to cover their future retiree health care costs.

A new report says more than 300 Michigan municipalities have in excess of $13 billion in unfunded liabilities for health care costs of retired public employees.

Michigan State University researchers found only half of the municipalities are prefunding retiree health care. The rest are setting aside no money despite longer lifespans and rapidly rising health costs.

While the collective bill of funding those benefits is $12.7 billion, the bulk of it, almost $11 billion, is attributable to local governments in a 10-county region of Southeast Michigan including Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties. The city of Detroit alone will owe $5 billion in retiree health care costs.

But MSU professor Eric Scorsone says cities like Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing and Saginaw also face difficult choices.

“That’s already happening today….these cities…are paying millions of dollars in retiree premiums so it’s already having an effect and it will have an even bigger effect in the future,” says Scorsone.

Scorsone says the new national health care law may help some.   But tax increases, budget cuts or broken promises to retirees are inevitable, unless the state takes action.

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Plans for a casino in downtown Lansing are in jeopardy this evening.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million casino next to Lansing’s convention center.  However, before the tribe could build the casino, the U.S. Department of the Interior would have to agree to take the land for the casino into trust.

But Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit trying to block the tribe's trust request.

watchsonomacounty.com

A large crowd of dog owners packed a Lansing city council meeting on the city’s vicious dog ordinance.  The city council's public safety committee heard from about a dozen speakers during its hour long meeting.

Mayor Virg Bernero wants Lansing to adopt a new law that requires additional insurance and fencing requirements on the owners of specific breeds of dog, including pit bulls.

Beth Contreras is the vice president of Voiceless Michigan, an animal welfare group. She says the mayor’s proposal is the wrong approach.

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The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

The subject of minimum wage is on the front burner these days nationally, and in Lansing.

President Obama announced in his State of the Union address that he wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour.

And now, there's a proposal afoot in Lansing to boost the state minimum wage to $10 an hour.

We had MPRN's Jake Neher and Michigan State University economics professor Charley Ballard tell us just what would the impact be on Michigan's economy, its businesses and its workers, if the minimum wage was boosted.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A former city-owned golf course will soon be for sale in Lansing.

Lansing closed the Waverly golf course in 2007.    Since then the grass has grown high on the fairways and putting greens.

Last year, Lansing voters gave their OK to sell the 120 acres.   Last night, the city council gave its approval to put the land on the market.

Randy Hannan is with the mayor’s office.  He says they’re optimistic the land will draw interest from developers since the real estate market is starting to rebound.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

“Painful” cuts to Lansing’s city budget are being predicted by the man heading a task force studying the capitol city’s budget problems.

David Hollister leads the mayor’s Financial Health team. He appeared before the Lansing City Council last night to update them on his committee’s work.

Hollister didn’t mince words telling the council that “painful” choices will have to be made to eliminate a projected nine million dollar budget shortfall next year.

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