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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Lansing's credit rating. The city's rating has gone from Aa2, Moody's third-highest rating, to A1, its fifth highest. City finance director Jerry Ambrose says the downgrade impacts the interest rate Lansing would pay to borrow money.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero calls it a ‘debacle’.    

The battle between two local colleges over an empty apartment building is in a holding pattern.   

(courtesy of BIGHABER.com)

A silent noon-hour vigil at the state capital in Lansing will mark the tenth anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan.  Its organizers say the U.S. has not learned the lessons of the war. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The “Occupy Wall Street” campaign is starting to pop up in towns and cities across Michigan.  

Last night the campaign came to Ann Arbor.  

A crowd of about a hundred gathered on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor to talk and listen. Many in the crowd have been inspired by the anti-corporate protest that’s been taking place on Wall Street for the past several weeks.  Others were just curious.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing city council is facing November deadlines to act on a pair of high dollar agreements.   But at least one council member complains they are not getting all the information they need about the deals.  

The Lansing city council scheduled time last night to discuss a proposed tax deal involving the capital city’s airport and a land swap deal with a local college. But both discussions were cut short because of a lack of information.  

Media reports claim the city of Lansing is talking with a native American tribe about opening a casino in the capital city.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 A Lansing-based non-profit that works to improve the computer skills of teens and  young adults is getting a new home.  Local dignitaries were on hand to cut the ribbon officially opening ITEC’s new headquarters on Lansing’s eastside. 

ITEC stands for Information Technology Empowerment Center.  ITEC  works with Michigan State University and local I-T firms to provide instruction that will help young people hone their skills.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Lansing’s ordinance requiring people to shovel snow from their sidewalks might get a tweak before the snow flies this winter.   

Last night, the Lansing City Council voted to allow four people off the hook for failing to shovel snow from their sidewalks last winter.  The reason?  They either didn’t actually own the property last winter or there was an administrative mistake.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Tonight, the Lansing City Council will begin weighing in on a  land swap deal that’s pitted two local colleges against each other.    A final council decision may come next month.

 Officials with Lansing Community College have been complaining that they didn’t get a chance to bid on the Old Oliver Towers apartment building before city officials cut a deal with Davenport University. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan’s rising poverty rate took on a human face in Lansing today as a few hundred people waited outside in the morning cold for a special event to help the capital city’s homeless.   Dozens of social service agencies took part in the event on Lansing’s south side.  

Patricia Wheeler is with the Greater Lansing Homeless Resolution Network.   She says more and more Michiganders are either homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.   Wheeler says this event is intended to lend them a hand.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Lansing is expanding a  pilot recycling program. The ‘single stream’ recycling program means businesses and individuals don’t  have to separate bottles, newspapers and other recyclables. 

Chad Gamble is Lansing’s Public Works director. He says making recycling easier means more things will be recycled, and the more that's recycled the less the program costs the city.  

“There are several cities statewide that are doing ‘single stream’ collection in varying degrees.  But I think we are truly one of the leaders…branching out into the commercial recycling…the cart (residential) recycling for families and the public recycling.  And so, I’m very excited to pilot these programs." 

Gamble says city leaders are evaluating the ‘single stream’ recycling program and may eventually expand it to the entire city.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Mail delivery could become even slower in Michigan under a plan announced  today.    The U.S. Postal Service wants to close most of its processing centers, including a half a dozen in Michigan.   

Postal Service officials are considering closing mail processing centers in Detroit, Lansing, Kalamazoo,  Jackson, Saginaw and  Iron Mountain.    All the state’s mail would be routed through three other locations.   

A Postal Service spokesman says he does not expect any mail processing centers will close before next Spring.

The owner of a Lansing medical marijuana clinic faces 90 days in jail or a 500 dollar fine for an alleged attempt to trade pot for votes in city council elections.

Shekina Pena’s clinic offered a small amount of pot or a marijuana-laced treat to medical marijuana card holders as part of a voter registration drive. At the same time, the clinic advocated for city council candidates who opposed a restrictive local medical marijuana ordinance.

John Sellek is the spokesman for state Attorney General Bill Schuette. He says the law does not allow anything of value to be offered in an effort to influence a vote.

"The voters of Michigan when they enacted the Michigan medical marijuana law, they intended that marijuana to be used for a narrow group of people who are seriously ill," said Sellek. "They did not intend for it to be used basically as a door prize to encourage somebody to do something, and that’s what they were doing in this instance."

Pena did not respond to a phone message left at her clinic. Schuette led the campaign against the 2008 statewide medical marijuana ballot question, and supports efforts to add restrictions to the voter-approved law.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Today’s the first day of school for most children in Michigan.   In Lansing, this is also the beginning of the final year on the job for the district’s  school superintendent.  

As the public address system blared instructions for which classroom or auditorium they should go to, hundreds of students found their way around Lansing’s STEM Academy this morning.  District Superintendent T.C. Wallace was there to help them find their way.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Controversial Florida Pastor Terry Jones is coming back to Michigan this week.    Terry Jones gained fame for burning a copy of the Qur’an as a protest against what he calls ‘radical’ Islam.     His attempt to hold a protest in Dearborn landed him in jail briefly this Spring.    He’s due back in a Dearborn courtroom on Thursday. 

Before then on Wednesday, Jones plans to take part in a rally at the state capital, which he says will focus on America’s moral decay and the rise of radical Islam. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Lansing officials hope a proposed deal with a private college will help the city replace a long empty public housing complex with a new campus.   The Oliver Towers have sat largely unused since a fire a decade ago.   Numerous attempts to find a new use for the site, a few blocks from the state capitol, have failed to pan out.

MSU

The United Auto Workers and Michigan State University collected oral histories from about 125 workers, managers, and others connected to the Fisher Body plant in Lansing.

The plant closed in 2005 after more than 70 years of production. Fisher Body in Lansing was one of the longest operating auto factories in the U.S., according to a Lansing Car Assembly Facebook page.

An MSU labor relations professor, John Beck, headed up the project.

Beck said the oral history recordings "gave a lot of people a voice that they would not have had otherwise."

From an MSU press release:

The plant’s closing in 2005 threatened to effectively bury the workers’ experiences. But through the MSU/UAW partnership, these stories – which run the gamut from first and last days on the job, to tales of racism and sexism, to statements of pride and teamwork – are now part of a digital catalogue at MSU’s G. Robert Vincent Voice Library. The catalogue is called the Lansing Auto Town Gallery.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

For a second time this year, Lansing voters will be asked to decide if they want to increase their property taxes. There are fears of deep cuts in police and fire protection if the millage is rejected again. 

 In May, Lansing voters rejected a millage increase. After that, the city laid off 47 police officers and firefighters to close a multi-million dollar budget gap. 

Now the city’s finance director is predicting another $12 to $15 million gap next year.

A community in Lansing takes care of its neighborhood

Aug 29, 2011

All this year, Michigan Radio has been spotlighting people and organizations that are trying to improve life in Michigan. In 2004, residents of the Averill Woods neighborhood in Lansing started an association. Their goal was, in part, to promote a positive quality of life, to help neighbors connect with each other, and to improve safety. We speak this morning with the President of the Averill Woods Neighborhood Association, Melissa Quon Huber.

Two months into the fiscal year, Lansing city leaders are being warned of a looming multi-million dollar budget shortfall.  Lansing City Finance Director Jerry Ambrose told the city council last night that current budget projections suggest the capital city could be looking at a projected $12 to $15 million budget shortfall next year. 

Council president A’Lynne Robinson says given the past few years, the news isn't unexpected. She hopes a ten month head start will help the city council and mayor deal with the budget problem.  

“We are trying to learn from some of the things we have learned have not been very successful…as far as how we have worked together with the administration…and I think we’ve made some progress.”  

Robinson predicts the administration may want to ask voters for a millage increase to deal with next year's expected budget shortfall. Lansing voters rejected a millage increase in May. That forced deep budget cuts and layoffs in public safety this year.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing voters will decide in November if the city can sell 12 acres of city parkland for future private development. A divided city council last night agreed to put the question on the ballot. There's no developer or actual plan on the table yet for the Red Cedar golf course land. 

Bob Trezise is the president of the Lansing Economic Development Corporation. He says the making the land available will help the city market it to potential developers.  

“It strikes us as a great area to try to develop."  

Several city council members questioned whether the city should focus on getting previous economic development plans working before starting new ones. Councilman Eric Hewitt voted against moving the parkland sale before the voters. He says the city's track record in similar projects is not good.  

"We’ve had all these other ‘visions’…we’ve had lots of ‘gateways’…but none of them have seemed to come about.”

Mayor Virg Bernero says the proceeds of the sale of the Red Cedar land could be channeled into improving Lansing's other city parks.

(Courtesy the Lansing Economic Development Corp.)

Lansing city council members tonight will discuss whether to ask voters to approve the sale of 12 acres of city park land for a future economic development deal.  The mayor’s office wants to include the Red Cedar golf course as part of a multi-million dollar development along US 127.  

The development is just speculative as this point, since the city has not settled on a developer or a specific plan.  Bob Trezise is the president of the Lansing Economic Development Corporation.  He supports making the land available for development.

“This is very neglected that shouldn’t be the way it is.  Its many vacant properties.  It’s a golf course that’s not a golf course anymore....nor is it even a park.”

The city council is being asked to put the potential sale of the old golf course on  the ballot in November.

Here's an artist's conception of future development along Michigan Avenue in Lansing from the Lansing Economic Development Corporation:

Lansing police reach out to the LGBT community

Jul 18, 2011
Nikonmani / Flickr

All this year, Michigan Radio has been taking a look at groups and various programs that are trying to improve the state. It's part of our series, "What's Working." In 2010 Detective Michelle Bryant became the Lansing Police Department’s first liaison to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community. We speak to Detective Bryant this morning for our "What's Working" series.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Seven Michigan communities are getting help from the federal government to clean up contaminated industrial sites.   Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson says her agency is awarding brownfield cleanup grants to Lansing, Albion, Inkster, Northville and three other Michigan communities.   

The grants total $2.9 million.  

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Time is running out for the city of Lansing to win new contract concessions from its labor unions.  Meanwhile, another round of layoff notices will soon go to some city employees.  

Lansing’s mayor’s office continues to negotiate with union leaders seeking 3 million dollars in concessions before the city’s new budget takes effect July 1st.   Mayor Virg Bernero says the city and the unions are talking in good faith to avoid possible layoffs.  

user brother o'mara / creative commons

Lansing City Council makes cuts

On the heels of a failed millage and a $14.7 million budget shortfall, the Lansing City Council approved a budget last night that would eliminate more than 100 city positions. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody was at the council meeting and reported that dozens of firefighters and police officers could be laid off as well. Mayor Bernero said the cuts in the budget were unavoidable:

"Over half the budget is in police and fire.  And yet, we have insulated police and fire up to this point…because the deficit was too large.   But even now, we are doing everything we can to mitigate the effects on police and fire."

The Lansing State Journal reports that the city will attempt to reduce the number of cuts through employee concessions:

Slightly more than 100 city workers could lose their jobs under Lansing's fiscal 2012 budget, though the city will attempt to preserve up to 61 of them by seeking employee concessions.Under the new budget, approved 5-3 by the City Council on Monday night, $3.3 million in state funds will be matched for every dollar gained in concessions before the fiscal year begins July 1.

New Emergency Manager starts at Detroit Public Schools

Roy Roberts a former GM executive, had his first day on the job yesterday. The Detroit Free Press reports he'll work alongside outgoing Emergency Manager Robert Bobb until Bobb's contract ends "no later than June."

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported that Roberts says the district "must undergo a 'cultural change' and reject a 'Rodney Dangerfield kind of mentality' for students to succeed.

Roberts has to balance a budget deficit of $327 million, and he can do that with broadened powers granted to him under the state's new emergency manager law.

Cwiek reports that Roberts "says he doesn’t have plans to dismiss the elected school board or throw out union contracts, though."

The Freep reports that Roberts is working under a one-year, $250,000 contract.

Snyder calls for less humility and more unity

Governor Rick Snyder gave a speech to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids yesterday in which he asked for "less humility, a bit more swagger and a lot more unity among Michiganders," according to Chris Knape from the Grand Rapids Press:

“We're too negative,” Snyder told what was billed as a record Econ Club crowd gathered at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. “We look in the rear view mirror too much to say, 'this is what we've always had, so we've got to keep that going.'"

Snyder also lambasted the taste for political winners and losers in the state.

“Too often they will view they won something because somebody else has lost,” he said.

Knape reported that Snyder had "generally positive responses from the business-heavy crowd," except for one element in his speech - tax credits - Snyder's explanation "landed with a thud," according to Knape.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Lansing city council voted 5 to 3 last night to approve a city budget that deeply cuts police and fire in the capitol city.    Lansing, like many Michigan cities, is struggling with declining tax revenues and rising health care costs. 

Last night, the city council approved a budget that lays off more than a hundred city employees, including dozens of police officers and firefighters.  

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero says the cuts in public safety are unavoidable. 

The Lansing city council is scheduled to vote on next year's city budget this evening.   Declining property values and rising health care costs are forcing deep spending cuts. 

 City leaders hope an estimated 4 million dollars in state revenue sharing will allow a reduction in the number of possible police and fire fighter layoffs.

Jerry Ambrose is Lansing's city finance director.    He says the Mayor's office is also seeking 3 million dollars in union contract concessions, mainly in health care coverage. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There’s mixed news today concerning the city of Lansing’s budget crisis.  City leaders have been trying to figure out how to deal with a projected 20 million dollar budget deficit.   

 N0w, city council vice president Kathie Dunbar says the city learned this week that its employee health care costs will rise 2 million dollars higher than expected next year. 

She says fortunately the state legislature has passed a budget plan that should guarantee the city 4 million dollars in state revenue sharing funds. 

The city of Lansing is facing a projected $20 million dollar budget deficit. 

On Monday, the city council is scheduled to vote on a budget intended to close that gap.   As it stands now, the city may have to lay off dozens of police officers and firefighters, as well as making other painful spending cuts to balance the budget.  

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