Politics & Government

Stateside
5:53 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

A closer look at Aramark and the troubles with privatization in prisons

Credit Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

Sex with inmates - maggots in the food - smuggling drugs to inmates - undercooked or spoiled food.

When is enough "enough" with Aramark, the food service company hired seven months ago to feed inmates in Michigan prisons?

The privatization was supposed to save the state more than $12 million a year. But it's been a Pandora's box of troubles for state prison officials ever since Aramark took over last December.

Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau joined us today. He has reported on all the problems associated with the Aramark contract. Egan said that so far, things are not getting any better.

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Politics & Government
5:44 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

State attorney general’s office unveils law guides for vets and military personnel

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette introduces new legal guides for veterans and military families Thursday in Detroit.
Credit Jake Neher / MPRN

Michigan veterans and active duty military families now have new resources to help handle legal issues. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette released two new legal guides Thursday.

“Sometimes trying to help veterans in transition coming back from a deployment, it can get a bit complicated,” said Schuette.

“It could be anything from child custody to divorce to employment issues, what have you. And so what we’re trying to do is put out a practical guide to try to help veterans across Michigan.”

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Politics and Culture
5:43 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Stateside for Thursday, July 17, 2014

Today on Stateside:

  • The private company that provides food to Michigan prisons is in trouble again. Sex with inmates. Maggots in the food. Smuggling drugs to inmates.... When is enough "enough" with Aramark, the food service company hired seven months ago to feed Michigan's inmates?
  • The U.S. Senate dug deeper into GM's deadly recalls, demanding the automaker fire its chief lawyer and open its compensation plan to more potential victims.
  • Tomorrow afternoon at 4:06 is the one-year anniversary of the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in American history. Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes talked with us about how this first year of bankruptcy has gone.
  • There's some encouraging news about home foreclosures in Michigan, but it's not all rosy. That's according to a midyear-2014 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report released today.
  • The news that state officials recently approved an expansion of a northern Michigan commercial fish hatchery got us wondering: how important are fish hatcheries in the Great Lakes state?

* Listen to full show above.

Weekly Political Roundup
5:19 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

How are leaders in Lansing reacting to Aramark problems?

Credit Thetoad / Flickr

Every week, we take a look at what’s happening in Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for Aramark, the company that provides food services for Michigan prisons, which has come under a lot of criticism.

Prisons have complained of food shortages and maggots have been found in prison kitchens. There have also been a number of issues with Aramark employees smuggling contraband into prisons and just this week, four Aramark staffers were fired for having inappropriate contact with prisoners.

According to Demas, when the state of Michigan decided to privatize the food services in prisons, the objective of the governor and the Legislature was to save money and increase efficiency, but so far it has been marred with problems.

Meanwhile, Sikkema explains that when the initial discussions were taking place about the most effective ways to save money, privatization was more of a priority for certain legislators, and not necessarily that of the Department of Corrections. Sikkema elaborates that the operational costs have gone up significantly over the past several decades, and as a result, legislators have called for some form of privatization to scale back the spending.

After issues began to surface with Aramark following the contract, Demas asserts that the response of the state has been keeping tabs and trying to correct the mistakes, but so far, there has been no push to try and eliminate the contract.

“I do think it clearly raises a question, whether the savings, which are estimated to between $12 to $16 million a year in a $2 billion budget, are worth the problems that they’ve encountered: food issues, sanitation issues, high turnover of staff, sexual misconduct, smuggling of contraband like marijuana into the prisons; I don’t see the contract surviving if these problems continue” says Sikkema.

Omar Saadeh - Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics & Government
1:22 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Detroit clerk, Michigan Democrats debut online absentee ballot application

Detroit voters will now be able to access, sign and submit absentee ballot applications on their smartphones.

Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey and Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson announced the new initiative Wednesday.

Winfrey said it’s simply a matter of meeting voters where they tend to be these days—online.

“So why not? Why not be able to use their smartphone to request an absentee ballot?” Winfrey asked.

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Stateside
1:07 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Detroit's bankruptcy, one year later

Credit JSFauxtaugraphy/Flickr

Tomorrow afternoon at 4:06 is the one-year anniversary of the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history.

Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes has been talking with top business leaders in Detroit for a "temperature check" on how this first year has gone.

He said that the kind of leadership and coalescence that happened in the past year was something he’s never seen before in this community.

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Politics & Government
11:20 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

DIA secures $26.8 million in corporate pledges, reaches 80% of "grand bargain" goal

Credit Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts is closer to fully funding its portion of the “grand bargain.”

The museum announced $26.8 million in additional corporate pledges today on Wednesday.

8 companies announced contributions. The Penske Corporation led the way with a $10 million donation, while both Quicken Loans/Rock Enterprises and DTE Energy chipped in $5 million.

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Newsmaker Interview
5:29 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Central American children destined for Michigan?

Derrick McCree, Senior Vice President of Residential Services at Wolverine Human Services

There has been a recent influx of undocumented children who are crossing the Mexican border into the U.S. Many of these children hail from Central American nations where violence is prevalent. Recent news that some of these children could be housed here at a facility in Vassar, Michigan while awaiting immigration hearings has received mixed reactions.

Wolverine Human Services is an organization that owns and operates a facility in Vassar and might house some of the Central American children. Jennifer White, host of All Things Considered, is joined by Derrick McCree, senior VP of Wolverine Human Services.

McCree says as it stands right now, the contract is still under consideration by the Office of Refugee Settlement. The contracting company, Heartland Alliance of Chicago, Illinois, has been providing services for children in similar circumstances for the past 19 years. Due to the humanitarian crisis at the national level, Heartland Alliance reached out to other providers, particularly in Michigan, to inquire about providing assistance.

The services provided are essential, basic shelter services, medical care, education in the format of ESL, recreational activities, and trauma counseling. Heartland Alliance would cover the reunification fees to help seek relatives or family members within the U.S. where the child could stay while the court proceedings play out. If no family member or relative is located, the option of a foster family exists.

According to McCree, funding for the program comes from the federal government. And while there has been vocal opposition to the idea of housing children in Vassar, McCree says the Vassar community has been largely supportive, and he's heard from people who are interested in helping the Central American children. McCree says the children making their way to the southern U.S. border are escaping what are often very dangerous situaations, and they are in need of help.

Omar Saadeh - Michigan Radio Newsroom 

Stateside
5:21 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Stateside for Wednesday, July 16, 2014

   Today on Stateside:

  • A 71 year-old ice cream man was arrested Tuesday at his Dearborn home on an immigration violation.
  • The play “Ernie” is running for its fourth season at the City Theatre in Detroit, this season with a new lead.
  • A compromise has been reached for tentative plans on the old Tiger Stadium site.
  • Berrien County Trial Court is making strides to lower youth recidivism by instilling the importance of family.
  • Grand Valley State University is implementing new technologies such as Google Glass into the classroom.

*Listen to full show above. 

Politics & Government
4:01 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Michigan's campaign for governor gets weird as Republicans deploy spyglasses

From the video put together by Mark Schauer's campaign. The alleged "spy cam" on a Republican staffer.
Credit Mark Schauer / YouTube

I guess we should expect it in our politics these days.

Recording technology is getting smaller and some recordings have been seen as game changers.

When David Corn of Mother Jones released Mitt Romney's "47% video," the predictions came in:

"You can mark my prediction now: A secret recording from a closed-door Mitt Romney fundraiser, released today by David Corn at Mother Jones, has killed Mitt Romney's campaign for president."

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Politics & Government
3:02 pm
Wed July 16, 2014

Candidates using deep pockets to bankroll Congressional campaigns

4th Congressional District candidate Paul Mitchell has spent nearly $2 million of his own campaign. Mitchell’s campaign has actually spent more money than his two GOP rivals to replace outgoing Congressman Dave Camp have raised.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

New data show Michigan congressional candidates are digging deep into their own pockets to pay for their campaigns.

A trio of businessmen running for Republican congressional nominations have dug the deepest, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission this week.

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Politics & Government
5:43 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

State lawmakers to talk cash-strapped schools, marijuana, traffic fines

Credit user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

The state Legislature returns briefly from its summer break Wednesday for its only scheduled session day in July.

No full floor votes are expected in either the House or the Senate. But a number of legislative panels will meet to discuss a wide variety of issues.

The state Senate Government Operations Committee is expected to approve two high-profile medical marijuana bills. House Bill 4271 would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Michigan. House Bill 5104 would allow patients to use edible and other non-smokable forms of marijuana.

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Stateside
5:09 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Congressman Conyers says Detroit's water shut off is a human rights issue

Detroit's vigorous effort to collect some $90 million in unpaid water bills has resulted in water being shut off to thousands.

That's drawn angry attention from the United Nations and Congressman John Conyers. He calls this a human rights issue.

Conyers believes that the causes of this crisis include the economic problems with the country, deindustrialization, higher unemployment rates, population decline, and the number of families who cannot afford water.

“We want assurances that households won’t have their water cut off because they cannot afford to pay it, because water is a human right,” Conyers said.

Conyers said that when he advocates to keep water on in every household, he is not including the people who can afford water and simply are not paying the bill. He said 44% of households in Detroit live below the poverty line. These are the ones who need water.

“This is not an appeal for them to get free water. I think everyone that gets water should get a bill and should be held accountable for it,” Conyers said.

Conyers said the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is thinking of increasing shutoffs to 3,000 a week to help recoup financial losses.

He added that increasing shutoffs as a way to reducing the debt is counter-productive. If a disease breakout occurs because of lack of water, the city will end up with a health bill that will exceed the amount of money that is owed.

He wrote a letter to the president, asking for help from the Hardest Hit Fund.

The fund was set up in 2010 to provide targeted aid to states that were hit the hardest by the recession.

Conyers noted that Michigan has drawn down 41% of its total "Hardest Hit" allocation of more than $498 million.

Conyers said he would like to see the money used to on repairs and upkeep of the water pipes.

Conyers said he received an indirect response from the administration saying the Governor, the state treasury department, and others need to present a united proposal for the funds.

*Listen to full interview above. 

Politics and Culture
5:06 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Stateside for Tuesday, July 15, 2014

 Today on Stateside:

  • Michigan's legislators will be back in Lansing tomorrow. The day will bring committee meetings including attention to a pair of bills dealing with medical marijuana.
  • Congressman Conyers says that Detroit’s water shutoff crisis is a human rights issue.
  • The proposed Rover Pipeline would carry natural gas through about 180 miles of Michigan. Some of it would track the very same route as the controversial Enbridge 6B oil pipeline that was recently replaced.
  • DetCon1, a science fiction and fantasy literary convention will be in Detroit July 17-20.
  • Grab your surf board and hit….Lake Michigan??
  • There are Jobs that are going begging in Michigan, but the skilled workers are nowhere to be found.
  • Can Europe offer the U.S. a model for how to operate prisons?

*Listen to full show above. 

Stateside
4:50 pm
Tue July 15, 2014

Lawmakers are back in session for one day, taking up medical marijuana changes

Credit www.misenategop.com

Michigan's Senators are taking a break from their summer break.

They'll be back in Lansing tomorrow.

The day will bring meetings of several committees and the full Senate might take a vote on a pair of bills dealing with medical marijuana and how to get it.

Jake Neher is the Lansing reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.

He said the first bill will allow local communities to say whether or not they want medical marijuana dispensaries and how to regulate them.

The second bill will change the state's medical marijuana act to allow patients to use edible and other non-smokeable forms of medical marijuana.

Neher said that the Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville originally was not interest in expanding the medical marijuana act, but after months of speaking with communities, he changed his mind.

The bills will be voted on in committee, but not in the full Senate.

Neher said there won’t be any movement towards fixing roads. They will look at trying to set up an early warning system for deficit school districts. Another bill being looked at tomorrow would ease driver responsibility fees.

*Listen to full show above. 

Politics & Government
5:09 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Michigan files tax liens against CIA

Credit Joy Weese Moll / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Treasury is going after the CIA for unpaid taxes. At least, that’s what newly uncovered documents would suggest.

Three tax liens were evidently filed by the Michigan Department of Treasury against the CIA between February 2012 and March of this year. They claim the agency did not pay state income taxes on behalf of an undisclosed number of CIA employees working in the state.

The documents were first reported by the Lansing State Journal.

Many questions still surround the tax assessments. Under state law, treasury officials cannot speak publicly about individual tax cases. The CIA would not talk on the record about the liens.

Stateside
4:38 pm
Mon July 14, 2014

Stateside for Monday, July 14, 2014

Today on Stateside:

  • The Detroit Water Brigade is helping those whose water has been shut off.
  • A Michigan abolitionist was a crucial part of the Underground Railroad.
  • How do the people of Jackson, Michigan feel about the new Cell Block 7 Prison Museum?
  • The World Cup is over. A lot of teams had die-hard soccer fans in Rio. In Detroit, Michigan, there's another intense fan group. They support the Detroit City Futbol Club's minor-league team, Le Rouge. 
  • Lawmakers are on “summer break.” But what does that mean? And what work is being done?
  • Underwater construction of spawning reefs is happening in the St. Clair River to attract more lake sturgeon, walleye, and lake whitefish.

*Listen to full show above. 

Politics & Government
10:52 am
Mon July 14, 2014

You get what you pay when hiring private company for Michigan prisons: embarrassing failures

I’d like to start the week with a thought that some will consider heresy: sometimes, privatization just doesn’t work.

There are some functions and responsibilities that government handles better.

American is gung-ho for privatization these days, both to save money, and because government at all levels has become something we love to hate. Thanks to years of being told that government is bad, corrupt, expensive and inefficient, we are happy to reduce its size.

Well, we may not be quite ready to hand the nuclear arsenal over to an assets management firm, but apart from that, anything goes. And frankly, there are some things that probably should be privatized.

Garbage collection, for example.

But Michigan decided last year to privatize food service in our prisons, and so far, it has been a highly embarrassing failure.

The Detroit Free Press used the state Freedom of Information Act to find out what’s happened since the state contracted with a private food services company, Aramark Correctional Services of Pennsylvania.

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Politics & Government
10:06 am
Sat July 12, 2014

The week in review: Art, oil, schools and money

Credit Julie Falk / Flickr

Week in Review interview for 7/12/14

This Week in Review, while Emily Fox sits in for Rina Miller, she and Jack Lessenberry discuss how selling works from the Detroit Institute of Arts wouldn't make financial sense in helping with the city's bankruptcy, the threat of an oil spill under the Straits of Mackinac, and money problems with Flint Community Schools.

Politics & Government
8:00 am
Sat July 12, 2014

Is building deconstruction viable on a large scale? Project suggests it just might be

Workers deconstructing a home.
Credit via SER Metro

Wayne County officials say a large project proves that building deconstruction is becoming a viable alternative to demolition.

Deconstruction is the process of carefully taking apart abandoned properties, and salvaging as many materials from them as possible.

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