Local

Education
11:09 am
Fri May 25, 2012

A Michigan school district may be completely replaced by charter schools

Muskegon Heights High School

The Muskegon Heights School District could be completely turned over to charter schools this fall.   That would be a first in the state of Michigan.   

The district’s emergency manager is submitting his plan to replace the entire school district with charter schools with the state Treasury and Education Departments today.  He says that’s the only way to get the district out of its financial crisis.

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Commentary
10:55 am
Fri May 25, 2012

Commentary: Film Tax Credits

Well, we are heading into the holiday weekend, and if the weather holds up, many of us will be barbecuing or going out on the water. But some of us will be going to the movies.

And your odds of seeing a major motion picture made in Michigan are a lot smaller than they were a few years ago.

That’s because the film incentive established by the Granholm Administration ended when Rick Snyder became governor and Republicans took over both houses of the legislature.

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Economy
10:50 am
Fri May 25, 2012

Supporters of a tent city near Ann Arbor fear eviction

John Wagner (left) is a volunteer and supporter of Camp Take Notice. Alonzo Young is a camper. He's been attending classes at Washtenaw Community College.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

About 70 people took part in a rally to show support for a tent city near Ann Arbor.

It's called "Camp Take Notice," and it's been on state-owned land for more than two years. The 65 people who live there are worried their days there are numbered.

David Williams has been staying at the camp for a year. "If we lose this camp it would be difficult for me to find another safe environment to live. And I hope that people understand that. Anyone can be homeless. Homelessness is not prejudice," he said.

Organizers want a commitment from the state to allow people to continue living at the site. But one neighbor, who asked not to be named, said he'd like to see the camp gone.

"There have been reports of stolen property down there. You don't necessarily feel comfortable being outside or outside alone towards the evening. And like I said, they are not bad people, that's not the problem. It's the element that goes along with it," the neighbor said.

Jeff Cranson, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said the state has been working with the camp's organizers for a couple of years. He said there are no immediate eviction plans, but that the tent city is not safe and residents will need to relocate. Cranson said a fire broke out a few months ago and emergency crews had difficultly getting water to the site. 

He said another state agency is working to find alternative housing for the camp's residents.

Michigan Radio visited the camp in the fall of 2011.

Politics
10:28 am
Fri May 25, 2012

Republicans propose a tax cut for individuals, but is it enough?

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

The Snyder Administration and the legislature are working to complete work on the state budget, and it sounds like they’ve made some progress towards a final deal.

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News Roundup
8:26 am
Fri May 25, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, May 25th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Detroit Budget

The Detroit City Council has approved a new budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1st but, the Council spent a lot more time talking about Detroit’s consent agreement with the state—and whether to challenge it in court—than about the budget. “The budget that Council approved by a six-three vote is pretty similar to the one Mayor Dave Bing’s office proposed in April. The Council restored some money to the budget. But it mostly preserved the nearly $250 million in cuts the mayor proposed. They didn’t have much choice, because the city’s consent agreement requires Detroit to spend within its means. A decision on whether to take the consent agreement to court is expected early next week,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

State Prison Shakeup

The state Department of Corrections plans a shakeup of its network of prisons and holding facilities to add space for alleged parole violators. Rick Pluta reports:

The last remaining prison within Detroit’s city limits will close, and be converted to a holding facility for people accused of parole violators. A prisoner re-entry facility in the Thumb will also close, while a shuttered prison in Muskegon will re-open. Russ Marlan is with the state Department of Corrections. He says the department has few alternatives right now when dealing with parole absconders – either ship them to the state prison complex in Jackson or let them go free. Some Detroit lawmakers complain the move will make it harder for some families to visit inmates and weaken the support system for prisoners once they’re released.

Camp Take Notice

People who live at a large homeless encampment near Ann Arbor are worried they might be evicted. “About 65 people live at Camp Take Notice. Residents and their supporters held a rally last night to pressure the state to let them stay. The tent city sits on Michigan Department of Transportation property. A spokesman for the Department of Transportation says the state has been working with the camp's organizers for a couple of years.  He says there are no immediate eviction plans, but that the tent city is not safe and residents will need to relocate,” Mercedes Mejia reports.

Sports
7:55 am
Fri May 25, 2012

2012 Olympics: Running down a dream

Starting line at the Olympic Trials
Facebook/Chevron Houston Marathon

Nick Stanko is a small guy with a shaved head. He’s an art teacher at Haslett High School, east of Lansing, and he also coaches the track team.

Stanko is hard-core about running. He’s tried out for the Olympic team twice and even the kids on his track team admit he’s a big deal. Senior Ryan Beyea told me he likes to brag to kids at other high schools that he gets to train alongside the legend, Nick Stanko.

In January, Stanko traveled to Texas to compete in the Olympic trials for the marathon and Beyea and some of other kids went down to support their coach.

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Politics
7:07 am
Fri May 25, 2012

To trim budget, Inkster might cut police by half

A Detroit suburb may cut as much as half of its police force amid cost-cutting efforts. The Detroit News reports a budget passed Thursday by the Inkster City Council calls for trimming $2 million from the police department as part of an effort to avoid a state-appointed emergency financial manager. Councilman Dennard Shaw calls it a "painful decision."

The number of police layoffs hasn't been determined. The newspaper says one estimate says as many as 21 officers could be cut, nearly half the force.

In March, Gov. Rick Snyder announced Inkster was in severe financial stress. A consent agreement, however, staved off an emergency manager appointment. Under the deal, officials must provide the state with detailed plans for reduced spending or increased revenue to improve its budget.

Sports Commentary
7:00 am
Fri May 25, 2012

Kids need to learn how to lose

Karl-Ludwig G. Poggemann Flickr

Remember Field Day?

For most of us, it was a hallowed year-end school tradition, right up there with ice cream socials, and signing yearbooks.

The kids loved it, of course, and looked forward to it every year. 

But not at Burns Park, one of Ann Arbor’s oldest, most desirable and most educated neighborhoods – and occasionally, one of its kookiest.

There is a reason many townies jokingly refer to it as “The Republic of Burns Park.”

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Politics
9:17 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Detroit City Council approves new budget, continues to argue over consent agreement

The Detroit City Council approved a new budget for the next fiscal year on Thursday.

But the Council spent a lot more time talking about Detroit’s consent agreement with the state—and whether to challenge it in court—than about the budget.

The budget that Council approved by a 6-3 vote is pretty similar to the $1.1 billion plan Mayor Dave Bing’s office proposed in April.

The Council restored some money to the budget. But they mostly preserved the roughly $250 million in cuts the mayor proposed.

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Politics
6:36 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

State to convert Detroit prison to holding facility for parole violators

The state Department of Corrections plans to close two prisons and convert one of them to a holding facility for alleged parole violators.         

Prison officials say there’s a shortage of housing for felons suspected of violating parole.

“Every day, there are situations with those parolees where we have to put them into custody while we investigate circumstances surrounding alleged parole violations," said Michigan Department of Corrections spokesman Russ Marlan. "So, right now, we either put them in a van and drive them back to our reception center, or we let them walk out of the parole office.”

 The Ryan Correctional Facility in Detroit and an inmate re-entry facility in Caro will be closed. The department will also re-open a shuttered prison in Muskegon as part of the shakeup.

 The shakeup will close the last remaining prison in Detroit, and it will force inmates in the facility to be moved out of the city. Detroit lawmakers say that's a bad idea.

 “Just because people go to prison doesn’t mean that they should be disconnected from their families and support systems that will help them become rehabilitated and better citizens," said Rep. Fred Durhal (D-Deiroit). "Because that’s what this thing is about – is punish them for the crimes that they’ve done, but not cut them off from family and other relatives.”

Durhal says the two prisons that are closing are two of the state’s newest correctional facilities. Corrections officials say the shakeup will cost another $10 million a year. But they say it’s less expensive than other options for dealing with parole violators.

Lansing
5:16 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Lansing mayor uses his veto pen, city council president "disappointed"

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero (D) (file photo)
(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Mayor Virg Bernero today vetoed a portion of the city budget plan approved by the Lansing City Council Monday night. 

The city council now has two weeks to see if it can override the veto. 

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Weather
4:24 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Wildfire in the U.P. burns 3,200 acres

The wildfire shown at Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan's Upper Peninsula on Wednesday, May 23, 2012. The fire has burned at least 3,200 acres.
USFWS

SENEY, Mich. (AP) - Officials say a wildfire believed to have been triggered by lightning has expanded to at least 3,200 acres of a wildlife refuge in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says crews are working Thursday to control the fire at Seney National Wildlife Refuge. High winds and dry conditions have hampered firefighting efforts.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the blaze that was estimated at 2,500 acres Wednesday had spread to at least 3,200 acres Thursday.

So far, no injuries or building damage have been reported.

Michigan Highway 28 remains open as aerial control efforts succeed in limiting the spread south of the highway.

The fire started Sunday. The refuge covers 95,000 acres in northern Schoolcraft County, about 85 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie.

Auto
2:28 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Canadian railway strike could affect U.S. automakers

Ian Britton creative commons

A strike by Canadian railway workers threatens to slow or shut down production at some U.S. auto plants.

5,000 Canadian Pacific Railway workers walked off the job early Wednesday because of a dispute with management over a new contract.

Large numbers of finished vehicles and auto parts come to U.S. factories via Canadian Pacific.

Ford and General Motors say they don't expect the strike to affect production - at this time.

Chrysler says it is actively working to mitigate any impact to its operations through alternative shipment methods, such as trucks.

The longer the strike goes, the greater the chance it could affect the U.S. auto industry.  The Canadian Labor Ministry says it has the authority to intervene and will do that if the two sides haven't reached a deal by Monday.

Politics
1:55 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Wayne County's Ficano censured in "watered down" measure

Wayne County Chief Executive, Robert Ficano.
Wayne County YouTube

Wayne County Commissioners voted today to censure County Executive Robert Ficano, but the vote also exposed divisions within the Commission.

The resolution to “censure the Wayne County Chief Executive Officer” has no real teeth, and it doesn’t mention Ficano by name.

That last fact angered County Commissioner Laura Cox, who sponsored the initial censure resolution. She ended up voting against what she called the “watered down” measure.

Cox called that “pathetic.”

“The Commission has no power to censure, by state law. But I guess we also have no power to ask for somebody to resign, which is exactly what my resolution did. So they feel that that was too strong, obviously,” said Cox.

Cox wants the Commission to put a county charter revision on the ballot. It would ask voters to give Commissioners or other elected officials the authority to remove county officials under certain circumstances.

Commissioner Joseph Palamara said the resolution was appropriate, given the Commission’s limited powers.

“To say that, "you should leave right now," that would have no more authority than Donald Trump walking in here under public comment and saying, ‘Bob Ficano, you’re fired,’” said Palamara.

Ficano’s administration has been under an FBI investigation for months. Several former top aides have been indicted on corruption charges, but Ficano has always denied any personal wrongdoing, and waved off suggestions that he resign.

Transportation
1:36 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Owner of coal-burning S.S. Badger seeks 5-year reprieve from EPA rules

This could be the final season for the old Lake Michigan car ferry - the S.S. Badger.
Bill McChesney Flickr

The Lake Michigan car ferry S.S. Badger started what could be its final sailing season today.

The historic ship burns coal as its fuel and dumps the leftover coal ash into Lake Michigan.

The EPA has said the ship needs to stop this practice. They've given the owners until the end of this year to come up with a solution, but the owners want more time.

Dave Alexander of MLive reported on a press conference held by the ship's owners this morning:

Before the 9:15 a.m. departure from its Ludington dock for the four-hour trip across a lumpy Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wis., Lake Michigan Carferry co-owner Bob Manglitz announced his company has made application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to continue its coal ash dumping practices another five years.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported on legislation in the U.S. House that "would allow the Badger to continue to dump coal ash because it's been nominated as a national historic landmark." She reports environmental groups are fighting against the designation.

Business
1:11 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Amway to build new facility, add jobs, in Michigan

Headquarters of Amway in Ada, Michigan
amyway.com

Amway plans to spend up to $81 million to build a new facility in West Michigan.

The direct-sales company says it received a $1.6 million grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for the project. The new facility will manufacture and process vitamins and supplements for Amway's Nutrilite brand.

From their press release:

This investment includes a new $81 million nutrition plant at the company's Spaulding Avenue site in Ada, Michigan, near Amway World Headquarters. The new plant is expected to create 200 jobs over the next three years.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) today approved a $1.6 million Michigan Business Development Program incentive from the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) to support construction of this nutrition products manufacturing facility for Access Business Group LLC, an affiliate of Amway.

Amway says it employs 4,000 people in Michigan. Amway was started in 1959 by Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel.

Weather
12:24 pm
Thu May 24, 2012

Gale warnings, wildfire alert, and an "Ozone Action Day"

Today's National Weather Service's map shows gale warnings, ozone action days, and wildfire warnings.
NWS

Warm weather, and high winds are stirring up the warnings around Michigan today.

We're expected to have unhealthy air, potential for wildfires, and roiling water in Lake Michigan.

Air pollution

Ground level ozone is expected to be higher in parts of southeast Michigan and western Michigan today. These areas are under an "Ozone Action Day" alert. Here are tips from SEMCOG on what to do on days like today.

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Business
10:55 am
Thu May 24, 2012

AP: US Supreme Court rules in favor of Detroit-based Quicken Loans

flicker.com user:trame

 WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court says home loan applicants cannot sue a mortgage company for charging them a loan discount fee without giving them a loan discount.

The high court on Thursday unanimously ruled for Quicken Loans, which was fighting a lawsuit from Tammy and Larry Freeman and other families. The company argued Congress wrote the law to say only that the fee would be illegal if Quicken split it with someone else. The justices, in an opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, agreed.

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Environment & Science
10:47 am
Thu May 24, 2012

Sport fishing groups want state to stop stocking salmon in Lake Michigan

The Desperado heads out at sunrise to go after Pacific salmon in Lake Michigan.
Lester Graham/Michigan Radio

How many salmon can Lake Michigan support?

That’s the critical question state fishery biologists have to answer this year.

Everyone involved in the salmon fishery is worried about its future... and now some sport fishing groups say drastic action might be required. They want the state to stop putting more fish into the lake.

There’s not much food for salmon in Lake Michigan these days because invasive species are changing the food web.

But there are a lot of salmon, because more and more are being born in the wild as opposed to in fish hatcheries. That combination of too many fish and not enough food wiped out the salmon in Lake Huron almost a decade ago and they never returned.

That’s why the state has proposed reducing the number of salmon stocked in Lake Michigan by 30 to 50%.

But last month the Michigan Steelhead and Salmon Fisher’s Association urged lake managers to consider ending all stocking for two years.

Now, a charter boat association in Muskegon has endorsed that idea too.

Paul Jensen is part of that group.

"We need to make a radical move to change the pattern and what we don’t want to do is duplicate what happened on Lake Huron."

But ending stocking might not sit well with some anglers. For decades, more fish stocking meant more fish being caught.

But researchers say the situation is bleak.

The salmon fishing is great so far this spring. But that’s a problem because it means there’s still a lot of fish in a lake without much food.

Commentary
10:14 am
Thu May 24, 2012

Commentary: Budget Follies

There is something to be said for one party controlling both the executive and legislative branches of government. This year, for the second year in a row, the state budget will apparently be passed by the beginning of June. That’s a big change from a few years ago.

Twice during the Granholm years, the parties were still squabbling over the books when the fiscal year expired at the end of September. And bad last-minute choices were made.

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