Michigan

Commentary
12:49 pm
Tue February 15, 2011

Grappling With The Budget

I was looking at President Obama’s proposed next year’s budget yesterday, trying to get some clues for how all this would affect Michigan. Suddenly, I was hit by a revelation.

Nobody really understands this budget, I thought. Nobody understands this budget because nobody really can understand it. It is too big, too vast, has too many contours and moving parts.

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Arts/Culture
4:19 pm
Fri February 11, 2011

U of M Music Prof up for 5 Grammy Awards

UM Composer Michael Daugherty is nominated for 5 Grammy Awards
Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan

Michigan artists will be well-represented at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 13. Here's a brief list:

  • Detroit rap star Eminem has been nominated for a record 10 Grammy Awards this year, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year.
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State Government
6:42 am
Fri February 11, 2011

Michigan Attorney General to take on government corruption

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on Inauguration Day, 2011
Corvair Owner Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has created a Public Integrity Unit aimed at stepping up the fight against corruption in state and local government. The Associated Press reports:

Schuette says in a statement Thursday that corruption scandals have "damaged the public's trust in government" and left Michigan with a questionable national reputation. He says there will be "no more Kwames," a reference to disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Kilpatrick served jail time for lying in court about an affair and now is in prison for violating probation. He and his father also face a sweeping federal indictment that accuses them of taking kickbacks and bribes.

Schuette says the unit is being created with existing office resources. During last year's campaign, he had said fighting public corruption was important.

Arts/Culture
11:36 am
Tue February 8, 2011

Artpod: Cost of Creativity, part 2

The Cost of Creativity looks at arts and the economy in Michigan.
Dani Davis

We put together our stories about arts and the economy in the state to create an hour-long documentary called The Cost of Creativity. On today's podcast, we'll hear the second installment of the doc.

And because Artpod is about all things Michigan, all the music you'll hear on The Cost of Creativity is by Michigan artists. The musicians featured on today's podcast Luke Winslow-King and The Red Sea Pedestrian.

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Children
7:27 am
Tue February 8, 2011

Report: Child poverty increases in Michigan

There has been an increase in child abuse and neglect cases in the state, as well as increase in children living in poverty. That’s according to an annual report published by the Michigan League for Human Services.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell works on the annual Kids Count report. She says the Legislature needs to stop making cuts to important programs in the state budget that help kids:

I think that’s sort of the trouble with term limits – that the legislators who are coming to town may not realize that we’ve already cut billion, literally billions, out of the state budget, many compromising programs that serve families and children.

Zehnder-Merrell says there are some bright spots in the Kids Count report, including a decline in high school dropout rates and teen births.

She also says she is optimistic that Governor Rick Snyder will make decreasing child poverty a priority.

Winter Storm
7:51 am
Fri February 4, 2011

Winter storm packs economic punch

Digging out from this week's winter storm in downtown Grand Rapids
Lindsay Smith Michigan Radio News

Ok, so we all know that this week's winter storm caused copious amounts of snow and ice to blanket much of the state. And, of course, we couldn't forget the school closings and sore backs (hey, shoveling a foot of snow out of a driveway is strenuous!).

But, what about the actual financial impact of a huge winter storm? Just how much money did all that snow cost the state? Hard to quantify? It sure would seem like it. But, one firm, IHS Global Insight, has decided to go ahead and try to figure the economics out.

In a report released this week titled, The Economic Costs of Disruption from a Snowstorm, IHS said the storm had a $251 million a day economic impact in Michigan. The study took into account both direct (think loss of income because of a missed day of work) and indirect effects (such as lost sales in the local economy) of the storm into account when figuring out the numbers.

Aside from the actual economic data, IHS also reached three conclusions about the financial impact of winter storms, and I quote:

  1. Among all economic classes, snow-related shutdowns harm hourly workers the worst, accounting for almost two thirds of direct economic losses.
  2. The indirect economic impacts of snow-related shutdowns, including loss of retail sales and income and sales tax revenues, roughly double the initial economic impact.
  3. The economic impact of snow-related closures far-exceeds the cost of timely snow removal. Although states and localities may be hesitant to expand significant upfront resources in the short-term, the long-term payoff more than justifies the expense.
Environment
7:16 am
Fri February 4, 2011

Michigan forests hit hard last year

Detail of emerald ash borer damage
Jhritz Flickr

New analysis by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment says state forests were hit hard last year by the emerald ash borer and a variety of other ailments and invasive pests.

According to the Associated Press, in a report released yesterday, the DNRE said:

...people continue to make the invasive species problem worse by moving firewood infested with exotic organisms. The unwelcome critters also work their way into nursery stock and wooden pallets that are hauled around the state.

Lynne Boyd is chief of the Forest Management Division and says insects and foreign species are a big danger to Michigan's 19.3 million acres of woodlands. Industries connected to Michigan forests such as timber and recreation provide 136,000 jobs and pump $14 billion into the state's economy each year.

The Traverse City Record Eagle reports:

The Michigan Department of Agriculture has set up a quarantine to limit the ash borer's spread — including a firewood checkpoint at the Mackinac Bridge linking the Upper Peninsula and Lower Peninsula. People caught hauling firewood into the U.P. can be fined or even jailed. Even so, the ash borer has been found in several U.P. locations after killing more than 30 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan.

WEATHER
4:10 pm
Tue February 1, 2011

Michigan's homeless shelters prepare for overflow

Homeless shelters from Grand Rapids to Detroit are gearing up for a busy couple of days this week.

The major winter storm that's headed our way is expected to dump around a foot of snow across the state, and temperatures will be around 20 degrees for the next several days.

The city of Lansing is coordinating with its homeless shelters to make sure no one is turned away. Joan Jackson Johnson directs the city’s Community Services department: 

"What we’re doing is providing any extra resources the shelters may need -  from food to blankets. We’ve authorized one shelter to go out and purchase some emergency air mattresses for their shelter because this is their first time expanding for the overflow population."

Johnson says they’re prepared to house people in a hotel if they run out of room at the shelters.

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Governor Snyder
8:03 am
Fri January 28, 2011

Poll: Majority of MI voters have favorable opinion of Snyder

A new poll shows 59 percent of Michigan voters have a favorable opinion of Republican Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Fifty-nine percent of Michigan voters surveyed in a new poll say they have a favorable opinion of Governor Rick Snyder. The new poll by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA shows 8 percent of Michigan voters surveyed had an unfavorable opinion. Thirty-three percent were undecided.

Arts/Culture
6:28 am
Fri January 28, 2011

The Cost of Creativity - A Radio Documentary

The Cost of Creativity

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Thanks to the following Michigan musicians, whose songs are featured in the documentary:

Ben Benjamin, Luke Winslow-King, Midwest Product, and The Red Sea Pedestrians.

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State Legislature
7:12 am
Thu January 27, 2011

A part-time Michigan legislature?

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

Republican state Representative Dave Agema introduced a bill yesterday that would amend the state's constitution to create a part-time legislature, rather than the full-time legislature that Michigan currently has.

The Associated Press calls it a, "long-shot" as efforts to make the legislature part-time have failed in the past. Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry agrees. He says he doesn't think the bill will go anywhere.

The AP reports:

Advocates say it would save money and force lawmakers to be more efficient when conducting business at the state Capitol.

Peter Luke of Mlive.com explains:

Agema’s amendment would limit the Legislature, which convenes on the second Wednesday of every January, to 150 consecutive days of session. Budget bills would have to be completed by June 15; it’s now Sept. 30. Extra days could be scheduled, but only for extraordinary reasons that aren’t specified.

State of the Union
7:40 am
Wed January 26, 2011

What Michigan lawmakers are saying about the State of the Union address

President Obama delivers the State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress
Photo courtesy of www.whitehouse.gov

President Barack Obama gave this year's State of the Union address last night to a joint session of the legislature. Members of Michigan's Congressional delegation were in attendance and many of them released statements quickly after the President finished his address.

Here's what a few lawmakers from Michigan thought about what the President had to say:

  • Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow: "I am pleased that the President focused on the most important issue for Michigan: helping our businesses grow and create jobs. As he said tonight, the way we do this is by out-innovating, out-building, and out-educating our competition. I am also happy he will continue to seek bipartisan action to address the budget deficit in a responsible way."
  • Republican Congressman Fred Upton: “Yes, jobs and the economy should be our number one focus.  No State has had a tougher time.  We also know that Washington has not worked well together through the past number of years and the challenge for Congress was echoed in the President’s earlier statement as to ‘whether we can work together tomorrow.’  Whether it’s fighting spending or helping our economy, we really have no choice but to roll up our sleeves and get to work.  That will be my mission."

  • Democratic Congressman John Dingell: "President Obama called on us to find common ground for the future of this great Nation— we need to manufacture in America, educate in America, and invest in America.  This country has a history of rising to immense challenges and far exceeding expectations set for us.  We are a great country and not only can we continue to compete globally, but we simply must.  This means we have to invest in the future and create an atmosphere where innovation and ingenuity flourish."

  • Republican Congresswoman Candice Miller: "I sincerely hope the President understands we cannot continue to borrow and spend money because our current debt and level of spending is completely unsustainable and is limiting the opportunities for our children and grandchildren.  It is also limiting our ability for job creation and economic growth. This past election was a historic pivot for our nation, where the voters demanded we chart a new course.  It is time for both the President and the Congress to make clear that we heard the message.”

  • Democratic Senator Carl Levin: "The president gave a compelling and upbeat call to bipartisan action. His priorities were the right priorities, focusing on the economy and job creation, and on promoting innovation, new technologies and education as the path to achieving recovery and growth. I very much approve of his commitment to finish the mission in Iraq on schedule, and to begin the reduction of American troops in Afghanistan in July because I believe only a strengthened and enlarged Afghan army and police force can ensure success of our mission in Afghanistan by taking over responsibility for the security of their country."

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State Legislature
7:07 am
Mon January 24, 2011

Snyder: Michigan's finances should be easier to understand

Governor Rick Snyder
Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to make government finances easier for taxpayers to understand. Snyder says having the public understand the state’s budget troubles is a critical part of solving the problem. Rick Pluta reports:

Governor Snyder recently told local officials his administration is developing a model for explaining the state budget that could be adopted by cities, townships, and villages.

Snyder is a retired computer company CEO and investor with a degree in accounting. He says the idea came to him while he was examining the document that explains how state government spends its money. 

"If you’ve tried to look at it, and I don’t know if you have… I’m an old CPA and there should be a warning label – not made for human consumption," Snyder said.

Snyder says he’d like state aid to local governments to be tied, in part, to how well they explain their finances to their citizens. Cuts to revenue sharing payments are expected to be part of addressing a budget deficit, but Snyder says he’d like to reward local governments that find ways to save money and innovate.

Jennifer Granholm
6:37 am
Mon January 24, 2011

Former Governor to teach in California

Former Governor Jennifer Granholm
Photo courtesy of www.michigan.gov/gov

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm is set to teach at the University of California – Berkeley. In an interview with Politico.com, Granholm says she and her husband, Dan Mulhern, will also write a book together about her experience as governor.

Though she plans to teach in California, Granholm will continue to live in Michigan.

Politico also reports that Granholm will be a paid contributor to NBC’s Sunday news program, Meet the Press.

Politico reports:

The common theme of the courses and book will be the lessons Michigan holds for the rest of the country as “the canary in the coal mine — the state hardest hit by the loss of traditional manufacturing jobs,” she said. “We want to be able to have the nation draw lessons, good and bad, about what can happen if the United States doesn’t take a more active role” in job creation.

As the Detroit Free Press reports, "The online article was her first announcement since leaving the governor’s office Jan. 1, as Republican Rick Snyder assumed the reins of state government."

Commentary
9:22 am
Thu January 20, 2011

The Statesman and the State

When it comes to speeches, Rick Snyder cannot begin to touch Jennifer Granholm in terms of style.

At no time during his State of the State speech last night did he come close to matching her perfectly modulated tones. He’s getting better, but the governor still sounds much of the time like a college student making a speech in a class he’s required to take.

But when it comes to substance and leadership, he blew her out of the park. He took one of the most divisive issues in the state, made it his own, worked out an astonishing deal with the federal government, and happily co-opted both his friends and enemies.

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Unemployment
6:36 am
Thu January 20, 2011

State jobless rate declines in December

Michigan's December unemployment rate was 11.7 percent
Khalilshah Flickr

Michigan's unemployment rate dropped in December to 11.7 percent. But, as Rick Pluta reports, the decline in the jobless rate was due mostly to people who have stopped looking for jobs:

Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped steadily throughout 2010. But there are still 555,000 people in Michigan who are out of work and looking for jobs. Half of them have been looking for six months or more.

There was little new hiring last month. The number of people who simply stopped looking for work is the biggest reason for the decline in the jobless rate. The state Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth says the number of people who say they are available to work fell by 37,000.

When people who are looking for jobs, those who’ve quit looking, and part-time workers who’d like to be full-time are rolled together, Michigan’s rate of unemployment and under-employment is 21 percent.

Michigan’s unemployment rate in 2010 was 13.6 percent. That’s a drop of half a percentage point from the 2009 average.

Investigative
8:25 am
Wed January 19, 2011

Medicaid-welfare cuts could cost Michigan

A snapshot of Michigan's Assistance Application.
MDHS

There are close to 10-million people in Michigan.  And almost three-million are now receiving some kind of state assistance.  Half of them are children.

“A lot of them are my next-door neighbors.  It’s bad in Michigan right now.  And people are in a position where they’ve never been," says Becky Clark, who works with the Michigan Department of Human Services in Lenawee County.

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Winter Weather
7:26 am
Tue January 18, 2011

Prepare for an icy commute around the state today

Prepare for slick roads around the state this morning
LisaW123 Flickr

If you're commuting this morning, expect slick roads across the state. This morning we'll see a mix of rain, freezing rain and sleet.  A Winter Weather Advisory is in effect until 11 a.m. today for much of west and mid-Michigan and until noon for parts of the southeast.

Today: Snow in west Michigan. Snow mixed with sleet and freezing rain in mid and southeast Michigan. Highs in the low to mid 30s.

Tonight: Cloudy, a slight chance of snow in Holland and southeast Michigan. Lows between zero and 10 degrees.

Tomorrow: Mostly cloudy with a bit of sun in southeast Michigan. Scattered light snow in west and mid-michigan. Highs around 20.

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State Legislature
6:46 am
Tue January 18, 2011

Bill to repeal Driver Responsibility Fee is expected this week

Michigan's Captiol Building, Lansing, MI
Terry Johnston Flickr

A bill that would repeal Michigan's unpopular Driver Responsibility Fee is expected to be introduced in the state Senate this week, Laura Weber Reports. The annual fee goes to Michigan drivers who have seven or more points on their license. A repeal of the fee was approved by the state House last year but it stalled in the state Senate.

Democratic state Senator Bert Johnson says most lawmakers want to get rid of the fee, but don’t want to lose the money it brings in to the state, Weber reports.

State Legislature
7:21 am
Thu January 13, 2011

The 96th Legislature in headlines

Michigan's 96th Legislative session got underway yesterday
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

Michigan lawmakers began the state's 96th legislative session yesterday in Lansing.  We take a quick look at what the headlines across the state have to say about the Legislature's first day:

During their first day in session, lawmakers took the oath of office and elected legislative leaders.

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