Michigan Watch

Investigative
3:34 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

Lead poisoning is still damaging Michigan kids

Decades of lead paint can deteriorate, leaving lead dust or paint chips on the floor. Lead tastes sweet to children.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There‘s one kind of pollution that researchers believe robs kids of their future like no other.

Scientists have found evidence it diminishes their intelligence, causes behavioral problems, even increases the likelihood they’ll end up in prison.

This toxin’s damage is known.

We even know how to protect children from being exposed to it.

Yet tens of thousands of Michigan children are poisoned by lead every day.

Jessica Jeffries showed me the work that was done on her upper-floor apartment of a two-story house in Detroit.

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Investigative
8:55 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Detroit's emergency manager on bankruptcy developments

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr spoke at the University of Michigan and took questions on the one-year anniversary of his appointment to guide the city through bankruptcy.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

On the one-year anniversary of his appointment, Detroit’s emergency manager spoke about the latest developments in the city's bankruptcy in a speech at the University of Michigan.

One thing in the works is getting a $120 million loan from Barclays of London. A state board approved the loan today. The Detroit City Council also approved the deal, despite concerns that the money might be used to pay big-money bankruptcy consultants. But, emergency manager Kevyn Orr says, ‘not so.’

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Investigative
7:00 am
Mon March 10, 2014

Being broke makes Detroit get creative

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit's municipal bankruptcy has made the world aware of what Michigan already knew. Detroit is broke. No matter how it turns out, bankruptcy is not going to change things very quickly. Detroit will still be broke. That’s going to force the city to get creative.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: the state of Michigan is not going to bail out Detroit.

And the state of Michigan is not going fully restore revenue sharing from the sales tax with cities such as Detroit.

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Arts & Culture
11:59 am
Mon March 3, 2014

SLIDESHOW: A day at Detroit's Eastern Market

Although the crowds are smaller, even in the middle of winter families from all over the Detroit region visit the Eastern Market.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

For many families, Saturdays are about visiting Eastern Market in Detroit.

A public-private partnership took over the operation of the market from the City of Detroit in 2006.  Since then, buildings have been renovated and Eastern Market's popularity has grown.

I visited the market this past weekend and took a few photos. You can click through them above.

Investigative
7:32 pm
Sat March 1, 2014

2,500 apply for city of Detroit jobs

On Friday 1400 people applied for the 350 jobs the City of Detroit is offering. On Saturday another 1100 submitted applications.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

About 2,500 people showed up to apply for new city of Detroit jobs during a two-day job fair at Cobo Hall on Friday and Saturday.

On average, more than seven people applied for each job available.

Michael Hall is Detroit’s Director of Human Resources and Labor Relations.

“You know, we had 350 jobs that we listed. Anything from a GED to a CPA we’re looking for. So, we’ve had great candidates come through and some of those people will be called back for future interviews,” Hall said.

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Investigative
3:05 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

If Arizona's bill to discriminate surprises you, you won't believe what's legal in Michigan

Michigan's laws make discrimination against LGBT legal.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

If the pollsters are right, here’s something you probably don’t know:

It’s perfectly legal to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

A Gallup poll reported nearly nine out of ten people think LGBT people are already protected.

They are not.

Actually, Arizona and Michigan are not that different right now.

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Investigative
7:00 am
Mon February 24, 2014

Detroit's infrastructure crumbling while city has trouble collecting cash

Compuware World Headquarters at Campus Martius is a gleaming example of the Detroit's downtown revival. It depends on the deteriorating infrastructure of the city.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The radio version of this story.

The plan to guide Detroit out of bankruptcy includes up to $150 million a year for ten years to repair neglected infrastructure.  The city could go a long way in paying for that if it can find a way to collect money already owed to it.

The Compuware World Headquarters building at Campus Martius is a gleaming example of a downtown revival.

But last week, just down the block, the façade of revival was peeled back for a moment. An old water pipe broke.

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Investigative
6:00 am
Mon February 17, 2014

Detroit Emergency Manager to file plan with bankruptcy court this week

Detroit skyline.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week the City of Detroit’s Emergency Manager is to file a disclosure statement with the federal court overseeing the city’s bankruptcy ahead of the March 1 deadline.

The plan of adjustment restructuring Detroit’s debt includes a ten year blueprint for the city as part of the 2012 consent agreement with the State of Michigan. The restructuring consultant Conway MacKenzie has been working on that ten year plan.

Bill Nowling is the spokesperson for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. He says that blueprint will be part of the filing this week.

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Business
2:02 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

How Detroit Manufacturing Systems hired hundreds of workers in the city

Detroit Manufacturing Systems has hired 729 workers in the last year-and-a-half. Two-thirds of the employees live in the city of Detroit. A federally-funded non-profit helped DMS find qualified candidates.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Listen to how Detroit Manufacturing Systems has hired hundreds of workers in the city.

Detroit's unemployment is high, really high. It's nearly 18%. That’s almost double the Michigan rate of unemployment and Michigan is among the worst in the nation.

So, when a manufacturer hires hundreds of Detroit residents, it gets attention.

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Detroit Journalism Cooperative
6:00 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Detroiters need jobs and Detroit needs taxpayers

A technician at Shinola assembles a watch. Shinola operates in Detroit and three-fourths of its employees live in the city. In the aftermath of the city's bankruptcy, Detroit will need more of its people in the workforce to provide the tax base to keep the city financially viable.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

To successfully emerge from bankruptcy, Detroit has to find ways to cut spending and increase revenue. But that’s not going to be easy when so many Detroit residents are struggling just to get by.

No matter how well bankruptcy goes for Detroit, the city is going nowhere if most of its residents are broke and without jobs.

No jobs mean no income taxes for the city.

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Investigative
8:46 am
Fri December 13, 2013

Part-time Michigan Legislature could mean more power for bureaucrats and lobbyists

A proposal would cut legislators to part-time and cut their pay.
Aaron Olson

You might be asked to sign a petition next year to cut Michigan legislators’ pay and make their job part-time. The state constitution will have to be amended to accomplish that.

There could be some unintended consequences in doing that.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Women making healthier decisions at seafood counter

Women are asking which fish contain more of the toxin mercury and choosing those fish. Mercury levels in women's blood have decreased 34% during the last decade.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Over the last decade, women have switched to making much healthier choices at the seafood counter.

First, let's make it clear: fish is healthful food.

But, fish can contain traces of mercury, some fish more than others. And to make sure you don’t consume too much of that toxin, you need to know which fish have heavier loads of mercury.

Why?

Because mercury is a toxic contaminant that can cause neurological damage. For women who could have children or who are pregnant, too much mercury could mean developmental problems for their babies.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue December 3, 2013

What will be fueling your car in the future?

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Listen to the Environment Report.

Hydrogen fuel cells, compressed natural gas, all-electric… what kind of cars are we going to be driving in a few years?

The LA Auto Show wrapped up… and the next big show is the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall in Detroit in January.

There, of course, is a lot of well-orchestrated hype at these big auto shows. If you’re looking for a clear direction on what we’ll be driving in the future, it’s still a mixed bag. But, new advances are dominated by efficiency improvements in the internal combustion engine.

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Investigative
2:53 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Unequal by law: Being gay in Michigan

People gather at a celebration for equality at a church. Some Christians say they love and support the gay community and denounce the "mean-spirited and hateful words" coming from other Christians.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The documentary looks at religious views, transgender struggles, discriminatory laws, and anti gay-rights groups' concerns. You can listen to the full documentary below:

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The Environment Report
10:17 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Cities adapting to changing climate, but more changes coming

Credit courtesy: USEPA

It used to be environmentalists did not want to talk about adapting to climate change. They were concerned adapting to the changes meant dodging the big job of reducing greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change.

That thinking is changing.

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The Environment Report
10:07 am
Thu November 7, 2013

Michigan could get 30% of its energy from renewable sources

Michigan could be getting much more of its energy from renewable sources according to a report submitted to Governor Rick Snyder.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Public Service Commission has submitted a report on renewable energy to Governor Snyder. That report indicates renewable energy is getting cheaper and more varied, ranging from wind and solar to biomass and ground source heat pumps.

But the surprising point in the report was this statement:

“...it is theoretically technically feasible for Michigan to meet increased Renewable Portfolio Standards of as much as 30% from resources located in the state.”

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Michigan challenge to EPA greenhouse regulations to be heard by U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants to regulate carbon emissions of coal-burning power plants and other smokestack industries. Michigan's Attorney General joined a lawsuit against the EPA that will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Listen to The Environment Report.

The EPA says greenhouse gases are pollution. The Supreme Court has agreed. But Michigan sued the EPA saying you can’t regulate that pollution from smokestack industries because it would hurt the economy.

The Supreme Court has already ruled the EPA has the authority to regulate the carbon emissions that contribute to climate change. The agency found CO2 emissions from fossil fuels endanger the public health and the environment. That was regarding a case involving cars and trucks. But whether that pollution comes from a tailpipe or a smokestack, it’s the same pollution.

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Investigative
10:10 am
Fri October 18, 2013

Meet the couple challenging Michigan's gay marriage ban

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wanted to jointly adopt their children. The State of Michigan argued they couldn't because they were not married. Now the couple is challenging the ban on gay marriage.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Hear from April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, the couple challenging Michigan's gay marriage ban.

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wanted to jointly adopt their children.

In the years that they’ve lived together, Rowse has adopted two children, and DeBoer adopted one, splitting the responsibilities of parenthood together. But a state ban on same-sex joint adoptions prohibited them from officially adopting their children together.

So in January 2012, DeBoer and Rowse filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that preventing such adoptions violated rights of their children.

But U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman told the couple to take their complaint further — challenge the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

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Investigative
12:44 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Being transgender in Michigan

Negotiating which bathroom to use is very frustrating for some transgender individuals.
user: sylvar Flickr

Part of the LGBT community is confusing to a lot of straight people and, really, some gay and lesbian people. The "T" in LGBT. Transgender people.

This piece includes the stories of two transgender women. Because their gender can cause confusion, Renee Knipe and Joanna Smith have struggled with things many people don't think about.

Knipe has been barred from using women's restrooms. Joanna Smith, who was once John Smith, is a father. 

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Investigative
8:10 am
Wed October 9, 2013

Moms fighting for joint adoption in Michigan end up challenging gay marriage ban

(l to r) Nolan (age 4), Ryanne (age 3), and Jacob (age 3) are the reasons Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer ended up challenging Michigan's Constitutional ban against same-sex marriage at the suggestion of the judge hearing their case.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Nolan, Ryanne, and Jacob were excited about showing me their toys when I visited the home of Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer.

These three little kids have no idea that their moms are in the middle of one of the most closely watched federal court cases in Michigan.

Rowse, who is the legal parent of Nolan and Jacob, and DeBoer, who is Ryanne’s legal parent, have been raising the kids together -- jointly sharing their lives and responsibilities.

The two nurses wanted to jointly adopt their kids to better protect their futures.

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