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Education
1:56 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

Four-year-olds too young to start kindergarten, say Michigan lawmakers

For now, four-year-olds in Michigan can enroll in kindergarten as long as they turn five by December 1, but that may change over the next few years as legislators consider when kids are socially mature enough to enter school.

The Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday that would gradually change the age requirement of kindergarten enrollees over the course of three years.

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Environment & Science
1:28 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

State OKs Dow dioxin clean-up plan

Imerman Park sits on the flood plain of the Tittabawassee River. Signs along the trail warn walkers about dioxin contamination in some of the park's soil.
Shawn Allee The Environment Report

After years of back-and-forth between residents, regulators and Dow Chemical, a massive clean-up of contaminated soil in Midland is getting under way.

The state approved the cleanup plan today. It calls for soil testing on 1,400 properties. Officials are looking for dioxins. Those are byproducts of chemical manufacturing. The toxins have been linked to health problems, including cancer.

"After all the meetings I've attended over the years and everything, and being asked why's this taking so long and everything, it's nice to be able to tell somebody the actual clean-up is really being done," said Jim Sygo, deputy director of the Department of Environmental Quality.

The plan calls for removing and replacing soil contaminated with dioxin at levels above 250 parts per trillion.

Sygo says that's a level that studies have determined poses an unacceptable cancer risk.

Environmental groups say they think the number should be lower, and take into account health risks other than cancer.

Still, some are celebrating the milestone.

“If you know the history of the city of Midland, and how political this has been, and how much push-back there has been from city fathers, from the business community, from the Chamber of Commerce, from Dow Chemical, over decades, I think only then can you truly appreciate…this is significant progress for that community,” said Michelle Hurd Riddick of the Lone Tree Council.

Dow Chemical Co.'s plan to clean up sites with dioxin contamination near its Midland facility has been approved by Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality.

Back in February, Dow also offered a land purchase and relocation program to about 50 landowners living near the company's Michigan Operations manufacturing plant.

From a Dow press release:

Dow is offering this incentivized property purchase program to give property owners in the immediate area north and east of Michigan Operations...the option to move out of an industrial/commercial area to a residential area, if they so choose. The program will also offer relocation support for those who rent their homes, if the property owner participates in the program.

As the Environment Report's Rebecca Williams has reported, dioxins are a class of toxic chemicals that appear "in the environment as by-products of many industrial processes and some natural sources." The Environmental Protection Agency says dioxins are likely to cause cancer in humans.

-John Klein Wilson contributed to this report

Auto
12:46 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

AP: The Canadian Auto Workers union says General Motors Canada to close plant in Oshawa, Ontario

GM MEDIA

OSHAWA, Ontario (AP) - The Canadian Auto Workers union says General Motors Canada plans to close its consolidated plant in Oshawa, Ontario, by June 2013. Chris Buckley, a local union president, says GM gave the union notice Friday. The closure of the plant that produces the Chevrolet Impala and the Equinox could mean 2,000 layoffs.

GM is scaling back its overall operations in Canada as part of a North American restructuring that began two years ago under bankruptcy court protection. In Canada, GM has already closed a truck plant in Oshawa and a transmission factory in Windsor, Ontario.

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Commentary
12:40 pm
Fri June 1, 2012

Tale of Two Races

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing couldn't have enjoyed reading his city's newspapers when he woke up on Mackinac Island yesterday morning. The Detroit Free Press splashed a story across its front page saying the business community wanted longtime Wayne County political fixer Mike Duggan as the city's next mayor.

The Detroit News's editorial page editor said the business community had decided that it is time for the mayor to go, and then called on the mayor to, quote "use the excuse of advancing age and poor health" to not run again next year.

Yesterday morning the mayor came out to face the press, and naturally, was asked about his own future. Standing on the Grand Hotel's magnificent porch, all the mayor would tell us reporters was that he had eighteen months left in his current term (it's actually nineteen), and he felt the need to "get as many things done as I possibly can." Now, I don't have an opinion on whether the mayor ought to run. He previously has said he was going to.

Frankly, if you know anything about how government works, the worst thing Bing could do would be to announce early that he isn't running. The moment he does that, he becomes a lame duck, and immediately loses much of his power and influence.

But beyond that, I am astonished at the business community's chutzpah in attempting to say who ought to be Detroit's mayor. Do they think our memories are that short?

Seven years ago, the business community was highly decisive in a Detroit mayoral race. Freman Hendrix was one of the final two candidates. He was a decent man with a finance background who had served as deputy mayor in the Archer administration.

Hendrix had grown up in a working class neighborhood. He had joined the Navy, and had put himself through college. I thought he had the potential to be a good mayor who had the ability to relate to average citizens. But the business community wanted the incumbent: Kwame Kilpatrick.

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Camp Take Notice
11:22 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Alternative housing for residents of tent city

Tent city in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 Residents of a tent city near Ann Arbor could soon have more permanent housing arrangements.

The state's affordable housing agency is working to find places to live for the roughly five dozen people who live at "Camp Take Notice."

Sally Harrison is with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). She says this effort is part of a broader initiative to end homelessness in Michigan by 2017.

"For some people who can get into apartments and housing immediately, we will do that immediately, because we have rental assistance available," says Harrison.

She says that for those campers who need more assistance to get housed, they will be relocated to hotels and shelter beds.

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Auto
10:42 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Toyota sales recover strongly in May as overall U.S. sales rise

Chrysler Media

Toyota reported a sales increase in May of 87% compared to the same month a year ago - when the company's vehicle production had plummeted due to the tsunami hitting Japan in March.  

There were more selling days this month than last May, but it is still a robust recovery from the disaster, which reduced inventories on Toyota dealer lots and sent some customers to other car companies.

Toyota remains number three in overall sales in the U.S., however, just behind Ford, which saw its sales increase 13% in May.

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News Roundup
7:33 am
Fri June 1, 2012

In this morning's news...

Brother O'Mara Flickr

Lawmakers miss self-imposed budget deadline of June 1

June 1 was the self-imposed deadline for passing the budget, but because lawmakers couldn't finalize plans on state education spending, the state legislature's budget won't be finalized until next week. MLive's Tim Martin has more on the legislature's plan for education spending.

Lawmakers did pass a bill yesterday that covers all other state government spending. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports Birmingham state representative Chuck Moss said the budget bill is not perfect:

“No budget is,” Moss said during the debate on the House floor,  “But the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

Democrats opposed the budget saying it helps businesses and corporations in the state at the expense of the poor, middle class, and senior citizens.

Michigan AG launches investigation into McCotter petitions

Michigan's Republican Attorney General issued a statement yesterday saying he was starting an investigation into U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter's re-election campaign. Primary ballot petitions needed to get McCotter's name on the August primary ballot appeared to have many irregularities, including duplicate signatures. From the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog:

Attorney General Bill Schuette, in a statement Thursday, said his office will “follow the facts, without fear or favor….If evidence of criminal violations is uncovered, we will not hesitate to prosecute.”

Mr. McCotter, in a statement said, “I thank the Michigan Secretary of State & Attorney General for commencing the criminal investigation of petitions I requested Tuesday; will assist as they see fit.”

Governor Snyder visits site of wildfire in the U.P.

Governor Rick Snyder toured the site of the Duck Lake Fire in Michigan's Upper Peninsula yesterday. The fire has burned more than 21,000 acres and crews continue to fight the blaze. The Michigan DNR is asking homeowners to contact them, even if they live out of state. More on Snyder's visit from Rick Barnes at MLive:

“It’s devastating. You see the fire, you see the structures, homes burned down,” said Snyder, who was flown over the more than 21,000 acres that burned north for 14 miles, to the Lake Superior shore...

Residents could learn Friday when they will be allowed to return to their property. Firefighters are continuing to douse stubborn hot spots, and remove dangerously standing trees.

Sports
7:32 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Why Michigan's softball team knocks it out of the park

Scott Galvin U-M Photo Services

The University of Michigan softball team won the Big Ten title this year – for the fifth year in a row, and 15th time overall. It went to the NCAA tournament – for the 18th straight season.  Winning titles is what they do.   

And this was not even one of head coach Carol Hutchins’ best teams. 

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Flint
9:39 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Flint officials are considering tapping the Flint River as a source for drinking water

The city of Flint hasn't use the Flint River as a source of drinking water since 1960. But that may soon change.
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Rising water costs have Flint officials looking at the Flint River as a source of drinking water. 

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Politics
6:29 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says new budget will "restore fiscal stability to Detroit"

It looks like Detroit’s yearly budget process will get resolved without the squabbles that have plagued it in past years.

 

Mayor Dave Bing said Thursday he’ll sign the budget the Detroit City Council approved last week.

The Council made few changes to the budget plan Bing proposed back in April. It slashes nearly $250 million  from the city’s now roughly $1.1 billion budget.

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COURTS
5:35 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Court ruling clarifies how criminal defendants treated in medical marijuana cases

eggrole flickr

An opinion today by the state Supreme Court adds some definition to Michigan’s 2008 voter-approved medical marijuana law.

The court made a series of rulings on what’s allowed for defendants who’ve been  charged with drug crimes and don’t have a state- issued medical marijuana card. The court says a doctor’s diagnosis is a defense for someone charged with possessing marijuana without a medical marijuana card.

But the Supreme Court says there are limits. The court says there’s no going to a doctor after being busted for a diagnosis that a patient would benefit from medical marijuana. And a diagnosis has to have been made after voters approved the law.

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Politics
5:26 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Gov. Snyder: Michigan should be center of N. American manufacturing

Gov. Rick Snyder
michigan.gov

Governor Rick Snyder says Michigan can be the leading center of manufacturing in North America – if the state makes the right moves.

The governor says his plan is based on the direction he sees the global economy taking.

“There’s going to be one spot that’s going to be the standout place on each continent that’s going to be the place that makes stuff and you’re going to have global organizations that are saying, when I go to a different continent, I’m going to go to the place that’s  the best at making something,” Snyder told attendees of a business conference on Mackinac Island.   

The governor says Michigan’s history, engineering expertise, and related activities such as agriculture can all combine to make the state attractive to global manufacturers. He says a new international bridge in Detroit is also part of the plan. He accuses the owners of the Ambassador Bridge, who would compete with another border crossing, of spreading lies about the cost of the project to taxpayers.  

Weekly Political Roundup
4:44 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Are Detroit businesses looking for a fresh face in the Mayor's office?

Laughlin Elkind Flickr

Every Thursday we look at Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Mayor Dave Bing yesterday announced that he and the Detroit City Council have come to an agreement on the city's 2012-2013 budget.

The Mayor is also attending the Mackinac Policy Conference but has avoided telling reporters outright whether he plans to run for reelection.

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Politics
4:37 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Michigan lawmakers pass (most of) a budget for next year

State House members and others look on as the votes are counted on the Omnibus 2013budget (non-education) bill
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

State lawmakers have passed a budget plan for most of state government for next year.

The House and Senate passed an Omnibus spending bill that covers all of state government, except education.   The state House passed the bill on a 61 to 49 vote.   The bill passed the state Senate on a 20 to 16 vote.

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Politics
3:23 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Lawyers sue Michigan Department of Corrections to restore prison visiting hours

The director of Michigan State University's Civil Rights Clinic is suing the state Department of Corrections in federal court.

Dan Manville says the DOC is violating some lawyers' Constitutional rights by limiting when they can visit prisoners.

Manville says the new visiting hours are three days a week from 2:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

"Now under this present procedure, you're having to drive at least two or three days to do the same thing you used to be able to do in one day," Manville says.

He says some lawyers have clients at several locations around the state.

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Politics
3:06 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Advocates urge the Obama administration to change it's deportation policies

Members of the Alliance for Immigrants Rights and Reform listen as one of several speakers talks about the difficulties she has had trying to stay in the United States. The event took place in Lansing.
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Immigration advocates are calling on the Obama administration to scale back efforts to deport some undocumented immigrants in Michigan.

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Politics
2:26 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Michigan school districts could get more money in next budget

Hundreds of school districts that now get the minimum amount of state aid would get $120 more per student this fall under a compromise reached by state lawmakers. A conference committee has voted today to raise the minimum per-pupil grant. The school aid budget now goes to the state House and Senate, which are expected to pass it later today.

Arts & Culture
2:02 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

A recap of the 2012 Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival

A hot Memorial Day weekend in Detroit.
Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival Facebook

Some people went north, or headed to the pools for the Memorial Weekend, others danced the weekend away at the Movement: Detroit Electronic Music Festival at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit.

NPR's All Songs Considered put up a recap of the Festival:

Now in its thirteenth year, Movement: Detroit's Electronic Music Festival has featured an enormously diverse group of electronic producers and DJs from around the world. Detroit is the birthplace of Techno and after all these years of being more popular nearly everywhere but Detroit, there was a feeling at this year's festival that it's all coming back home.

Here's host Bob Boilen talking with NPR's Sami Yenigun and U Street Music Hall promotions director Morgan Tepper about their experiences at the festival:

And here's a sampling of music heard at the festival (included is a song title using a phrase I often heard in grade school - *chuckle*).

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Commentary
1:52 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Frustration at Mackinac

Two days ago, a beaming Gov. Rick Snyder opened the annual conference of our state?s economic and political elites on an upbeat note. He cited the official themes the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce set for their annual Mackinac Conference. "Innovation, Collaboration and the Twenty-First Century Global Marketplace." Those are things he himself is all about.

Whether you agree with his positions or not, this governor wants what he thinks are rational policies aimed at giving this state a future. But the morning after his triumphant welcome, the governor had to again admit defeat over an issue that shouldn't even be an issue: Road funding. Too many Michigan roads are in poor shape, and a whole lot more are rapidly getting worse. Earlier this year, the Michigan Department of Transportation estimated ninety per cent of our roads are in good or fair condition, which seemed too high to me.

But the state also calculated that unless we start investing far more heavily in our roads, only 44 percent will be in acceptable shape a mere eight years from now. That would be a disaster.

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Health
1:31 pm
Thu May 31, 2012

Cooling can help full-term infants with low flow of oxygen and blood to the brain

A new study suggests a medical therapy known as "cooling" can help full-term infants born with low flow of oxygen and blood to the brain.  This condition is thought to occur in about 1 out of every one-thousand babies born in the United States.  Cooling is thought to be one way to protect the brain. 

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