Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

Gov. Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder says the city of Allen Park’s financial emergency has been resolved and its emergency manager is leaving.

The Detroit suburb has been overseen by a state-appointed emergency manager since October of 2012. Snyder says it is another example that shows state takeovers of cash-strapped cities work.

“I think that’s a good illustration of the system working right,” Snyder told reporters Thursday in Detroit.

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr speaking at the University of Michigan.
U of M

After voters rejected the state's old emergency manager law in November 2012, Michigan lawmakers quickly came up with a replacement.

State-appointed emergency managers could still take control over local governments and school boards, but under the new law, they could do so for a limited amount of time. 

The new law, Public Act 436, allows for local governments to end a state-appointed emergency manager's term after 18 months. From the law:

If the emergency manager has served for at least 18 months after his or her appointment under this act, the emergency manager may, by resolution, be removed by a 2/3 vote of the governing body of the local government. If the local government has a strong mayor, the resolution requires strong mayor approval before the emergency manager may be removed. 

Orr started work as Detroit's emergency manager on March 28, 2013, so his 18 months is up in the next few days.

Almost everyone thought Detroit City Council and Mayor Duggan would vote to end Orr's appointment, but with Detroit's bankruptcy process wrapping up in court, the talk has changed.

Today on Stateside:

  • Term limits were passed by Michigan voters more than 20 years ago. Now, Republican Senate Leader Randy Richardville is ready to change that.
  • There are food decathlons and celebrity chefs today, but when did food become entertainment?!
  • A bad movie gets a bad review. But a bad bottle of wine? Not so much.
  • Six weeks from today will mean the beginning of the state's lame-duck legislative session. What are we going to see this year?
  • The 4th Annual Detroit Design Festival is taking place this week in the city with over 60 events.
  • In 80 to 90 years, Detroit could see a huge trend of people moving in because of climate change, according to an environment expert.

* Listen to the full show above.

Michigan Legislature
Michigan Municipal League

Six weeks from today, we'll be going through November's election results. Michigan will have a new U.S. Senator and voters will have either given Gov. Rick Snyder another term or elected Democrat Mark Schauer to take over the job.

Six weeks from today will also mean the beginning of the state's lame duck legislative session. Lame duck – the period of time time after the November election but before a new year, begins with many new lawmakers. 

The last lame duck session of the Michigan Legislature brought the passage of Right to Work. What are we going to see this year?

Rick Pluta is bureau chief of the Michigan Public Radio Network and co-host of Michigan Radio's "It's Just Politics." He says there are suspicions that something will come out of the blue. 

Michigan Legislature
Michigan Municipal League

Democrats in the state Legislature want to require insurance companies to offer coverage for abortions.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed a petition-initiated law last year banning abortion coverage in standard health insurance plans. Under that law, people can only buy coverage for abortions as a separate insurance plan, known as a “rider.”

Democrats say just seven of Michigan’s 42 health insurers offer those riders and none of them offers the plans to individuals buying insurance on their own.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has joined private, ongoing talks between Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit City Council about his future.

Under Michigan’s emergency manager law, the City Council could vote to remove Orr this week – but only if Duggan and Gov. Rick Snyder agree.

The parties have been meeting in closed session since Tuesday to discuss a transition plan. No one has been willing to speak publicly about those discussions.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe.
Photo courtesy of Richardville's office

There's been talk in Lansing about whether term limits should be extended, and that talk is heating up. 

Michigan voters approved term limits for state lawmakers back in 1992, but Republican Sen. Majority Leader Randy Richardville thinks maybe it's time they are extended.

Richardville says Michigan has the most restrictive term limits in the country. Other states have either rescinded or eased term limits and, he believes Michigan should review the legislation as well.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst, and he says term limits have been an unmitigated disaster. 

Water faucet.
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry sat down to discuss what's going on this week in Michigan politics. They covered the high price of water in Flint and Detroit, GM’s decision to move its Cadillac headquarters to New York, and the debates for Michigan governor and the U.S. Senate race.


On this first full-day of Fall, we are in for some perfect autumn-weather.

It might be the one time where saying "Michigan weather" actually means a good thing.

We also go hunting for enormous mushrooms;  we learn about new research that finds truth in the saying “happy wife, happy life”;  we talk about cultures assimilating in Detroit; and we hear how the Cass Community United Methodist Church has been helping the poor since the 1930s.

But first on the show, we talked about campaign ads.

With the November election now six weeks away, the campaign ads are ever present.

If you wonder just who's picking up the tab for the ads, particularly the issue-oriented ads, that answer is pretty hard to find in Michigan. Political spending rules allow quite a lack of transparency.

Some say this leads to corruption. Others disagree. Chris Gautz of Crain's Detroit Business has been talking with both sides.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Former President Jimmy Carter told a Grand Rapids audience Monday that he supports U.S. military air strikes against Islamic extremists in Iraq, though he’s less supportive of similar air strikes in Syria.

The U.S. launched air strikes against ISIS in Syria last night.   This follows a series of air strikes against military targets in northern Iraq.  

Michigan governor, legislators exempt from FOIA requests

Sep 22, 2014
Thetoad / Flickr

Michigan's Freedom of Information Act regulates the disclosure of public records by all public bodies in the state.

But the governor, the lieutenant governor, state legislators and their employees are all exempt from the FOIA law.

The only other state to exempt the governor's office from FOIA requests is Massachusetts. 

Paul Egan is with the Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau. He looked at Michigan's public records laws in Sunday's Free Press.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley says the state needs to do more to help people with disabilities get good jobs.

A new report released on Monday shows many Michiganders with disabilities are all but forced into menial jobs, some of which pay less than the minimum wage. That is legal if an employer gets a waiver from the federal government, and advocates say only Washington can change that practice.

More than $50 billion. That's how much Lansing will spend this year. But how to get everyone to agree on where to spend that money. That's where things get interesting.

Today on Stateside, we talked about the fight over taxing and spending.

Also today - Michigan's Freedom of Information Act regulates the disclosure of public records by all public bodies in the state - or so says the State Attorney General's Office in a pamphlet explaining the law.

But, just a few lines down is something that many citizens may not be aware of: the "public body" does not include the governor's office - or the lieutenant governor - or their employees.

Reporter Paul Egan took a look at Michigan's public records law in yesterday's Detroit Free Press.

We also talked about how one band worked Spotify to pay for their tour, the history of the classic rock format, and who owns the Great Lakes.

A Detroit water shutoff notice for Haylard Management.
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Witness testimony began in federal bankruptcy court this morning, in hearings to determine the fate of Detroit’s water shutoff policy.

A coalition of Detroit residents and advocacy groups filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s controversial shutoff policy on constitutional and civil rights grounds.

The Detroit water department has shut off around 19,000 customers this year – the vast majority of them residential accounts – in an effort to collect up to $120 million in delinquent bill payments.

Water department officials say the system simply can’t continue to function when thousands of people aren’t paying their bills.

Critics say the shutoff campaign has been inhumane, and the department is trying to correct decades of mismanagement, corruption, and incompetence on the backs of the poor in just a few months as Detroit speeds through bankruptcy court.

The first witnesses were Detroiters Tracy Peasant and Maurikia Lyda, who experienced the shutoff process.

Peasant became visibly emotional on the stand, as she testified about having to buy bottled water for her family when her water was shut off for 8 months.

From Sandra Svoboda at Next Chapter Detroit, Michigan Radio’s partner in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative:

[Peasant] said a large portion of her outstanding bill was due to a faulty sprinkler system at a home she had rented prior to living at her current place. Her water was turned off a year ago and restored in June.

“Someone came out to my home driving a DWSD truck. I thought that she was coming to turn the water back on. … She said I’m here to make sure your water is still cut off,” Peasant testified.

But when the worker saw Peasant’s family members, “She said I can’t do this with these kids and when she left she said you have water now,” Peasant said.

Peasant said she was denied access to assistance funds because her bill was too high, and the city never told her she could ask for a hearing to contest the bill.

Lyda testified that she tried to talk to someone at the water department about getting on a payment plan for her overdue bill, but was never able to get through. Again from Next Chapter Detroit:

“I called them several times. I could never get through. I was calling and no one would ever pick up the phone. There were days I would call and stay on the phone two and three hours at a time,” Lyda said. “When I finally got to talk to someone about my bill they was telling me there was so much I had to put down. …  I didn’t want to put it in my name because I was a renter. … they was telling me I had to put it in my name.”

Lyda, who lives on the east side, said a DWSD representative told her it would cost $100 to transfer the water service to her name and $500 to have service restored.

But the day the lawsuit was filed, her water was restored.

Plaintiffs want Judge Steven Rhodes to issue a moratorium on the water shutoffs.

The water department stepped up shutoffs in March of accounts 60 days behind or owing more than $150. About 15,000 customers had service shut off in April through June.

The city has faced international criticism for the shutoffs, and several groups appealed to the United Nations for support.

The shutoffs were suspended about a month this summer to give water officials time to inform customers about service stoppages and payment plans.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Carl Levin has introduced a resolution urging the Obama administration to oppose a Canadian proposal to bury radioactive waste less than a mile from Lake Huron.

A federal panel in Canada is taking testimony on the plan to store low- and intermediate-level waste from nuclear power plants in rock chambers more than 2,000 feet below the earth's surface.

Carter Center

Former President Jimmy Carter will be in Grand Rapids on Monday.

President Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter are scheduled to appear at Grand Rapids Community College as part of the school’s diversity lecture series.

“President Carter does not do many of these events, and we are honored that he has accepted our invitation to join us in our centennial year,” said GRCC President Dr. Steven C. Ender.

NOAA

This Week in Review Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss a plan to put a hold on the creation of new charter schools, Detroit mayor Mike Duggan’s idea for a new regional water authority, and Enbridge’s statement that it has fixed internal problems that lead to the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit City Council has rejected a proposal to transfer thousands of city-owned properties to the Detroit land bank.

The resolution, put forward by Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr, would move up to 45,000 tax-reverted properties to the Detroit land bank.

And it would have moved all such properties the city acquires in the future directly to the land bank, bypassing the Council entirely.

Council members bristled at that last portion of the deal. They rejected the measure unanimously.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Republican Party is preparing to hold a March 2016 presidential primary and not jump out of order like in 2012, when the state moved earlier to be more relevant.

The GOP's state committee will meet in Lansing Saturday to approve a March 15 primary. The date could change because the Legislature has final say.

If a Republican contender secures more than half the votes, he or she would win all 58 delegates. Otherwise, delegates mostly would be awarded based on results in congressional districts.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit City Council has approved the city’s participation in the Great Lakes Water Authority.

The city of Detroit currently owns and operates most of southeast Michigan’s regional water system.

The 40-year deal lets the city retain ownership of all the water system’s assets, and Detroit keep control of day-to-day operations within city limits.

But a new Great Lakes Water Authority takes control of operations outside the city. It will lease the regional assets for $50 million a year.

Valerie Jarrett
Joyce N. Boghosian (White House photographer)

Colleges and universities across the country are being closely scrutinized for the way they handle sexual assaults on campus. Sixty-four schools across the country, including the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, are currently under investigation for their handling of sexual assaults on their campuses.

Today, the Obama administration launched a new campaign, “It’s On Us”, created to prevent sexual assaults at universities and colleges.

I spoke with senior advisor to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, about the new effort. Here's our conversation:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Police say they're investigating more than 50 water theft cases across the city.

They say they've already arrested 7 people, including a City Water Department employee who is accused of illegally turning on water for residents.

Flint has some of the highest water rates in the county: an MLive analysis this summer showed that an average resident pays $140 dollars a month, while people in the neighboring town of Burton pay less than $58 a month.

And the city raised its rates again in July.

Jason Lorenz is with the city of Flint.

This week, former Governor Bill Milliken knocked us off the edges of our seats when he started making candidate endorsements (Ok, maybe we weren’t at the edge of our seats).

But Michigan’s political watchers are always interested in who the state’s famously iconoclastic and moderate Republican Governor will endorse.

In 2004, Milliken endorsed Democrat John Kerry for President. In 2008, it was Republican John McCain. Although he withdrew it just a few weeks before the election.

Four years ago, Rick Snyder, in an effort to burnish his centrist bona fides, sought and received the imprimatur of Milliken.

And, now, this election-cycle, Milliken has endorsed Democrat Gary Peters for U.S. Senate and Democrat Mark Totten for Attorney General.

One has to wonder how the Republican base is going to view the fact that the current governor is the only Republican (at least so far in this election cycle) to get the Milliken endorsement.

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak doesn’t seem to mind. “He’s not relevant any longer,” Schostak recently told WJBK TV.

Today on Stateside:

  •  We found out how one Michigan college succeeds at recruiting and graduating low-income students.
  • Why GM can't put the ignition-switch scandal in its rear-view mirror.
  • Our sports commentator digested the late-season roller-coaster ride for Tigers fans.
  • U.S. Sen. Carl Levin is retiring this year. Why does his exit make the corporate world exhale?
  • A conversation with Michigan author Julie Lawson Timmer about her debut novel: "Five Days Left."

*Listen to the full show above.

Derek DeVries / Grand Rapids Community College

 

Some of America's top business leaders are breathing a big sigh of relief as Democratic U.S. Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan prepares to retire.

It turns out that Michigan's senior senator has been running a very tight ship in chairing a Senate subcommittee that's done some deep probing into the workings of some very big businesses.

The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, or PSI, was created back in Harry Truman's time to investigate war profit hearings. Today, the organization looks into practices in government and business. 

Kelsey Snell wrote a piece about it for Politico. She notes that the subcommittee chaired by Levin has a big focus on going after tax evasions and unfair business practices on Wall Street.

Television remote control
user ppdigital / morguefile

Thursday is the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

This week is all about the political ads inundating the state. We talked about how ads are used to make the case for a candidate, the flood of ads on television, and whether voters are paying attention or tuning out.

Here's our conversation:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A coalition of dog groups is upset the state allows local governments to ban specific breeds of dogs.    

Many communities put restrictions on pit bulls, often out of concern about dog attacks.

Courtney Protz-Sander organized a rally of like-minded dog owners at the state Capitol on Wednesday. She says it’s unfair to tell people what kinds of dogs they can own.

via detroitmi.gov

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan pitched a proposal creating a new regional water authority to the Detroit City Council Wednesday.

Duggan has signed a memorandum of understanding moving day-to-day control over Detroit’s regional water system to a new Great Lakes Water Authority.

That Authority would be governed by a 6-member board, with representatives appointed by the city and Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties.

Today on Stateside

  • Announcement of a new downtown arena for the Detroit Red Wings brought a flood of news stories, but we may not always ask the right questions. We found out why local media struggle when covering new stadium construction.
  • A debate in Michigan's Senate race is now in the planning stages.
  • We learned what's behind a growing grassroots movement to get the pope to visit Detroit in 2015.
  • We met the captain of the No.1-ranked team at the University of Michigan: Women's cross country.
  • A project team in Lapeer, Michigan, has a mission to make the downtown area more attractive, with decorated benches.
  • We learned about Louis Kamper, the gifted architect who helped Detroit earn a reputation as the "Paris of the West".

*Listen to the full show above.

Terri Lynn Land
Michigan Republican Party / Facebook

With 48 days to go until the Nov. 4 election, many people are wondering if Michigan voters would ever get a chance to hear a debate between the candidates for U.S. Senate and for governor.

Republican Terri Lynn Land took the first step today toward holding a debate with Democratic rival Gary Peters.

Land's campaign just named Lansing attorney Richard McLellan as its debate negotiator. Land says McLellan will work with Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV and Peters' campaign to possibly find a West Michigan journalist to co-moderate a debate with WXYZ Editorial Director Chuck Stokes.

Peters named former Lt. Gov. John Cherry as his debate negotiator Aug. 6. Peters has accepted three debate invitations outright and two others on the condition that Land also agrees.

Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta are co-hosts of Michigan Radio's It's Just Politics. In their views, Michigan voters are clearly looking for the candidates' debates. 

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