Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

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. 

Liz West / Flickr

Changes to a federal program often called "Heat and Eat" mean about 150,000 Michigan families will soon see reductions in their monthly food assistance benefits.

The cuts will average about $75 a month per family.

The Heat and Eat program offers higher food assistance benefits for families who live in northern states, where heating bills can be high.

But about 20% of the people enrolled in the program actually don't pay for heat. It's included as part of their rent.

State capitol
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss the possibility of new teachers losing their pensions, the latest in the Detroit bankruptcy trial, and how Aramark is under fire again.


Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are making their way through more than a dozen bills targeting human trafficking this week.

The bills would provide a safe harbor for victims, allow victims to sue their abusers, and eliminate the statute of limitations on trafficking offenses.

Jake Neher / MPRN

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan says she'll leave her post at the end of the year.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the former Michigan Supreme Court justice says she wants to spend more time with her grandchildren.

Corrigan was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2011 to lead the state's welfare agency. She served on the state's high court from 1999 to 2010.

Corrigan says she told Snyder she'd lead the department for four years.

Today on Stateside:

  • A Congressional report blistered the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over ignition defects in GM vehicles.
  • We looked at tax increment financing (TIFs): public dollars used with few questions asked.
  • We met the MSU professor leading the quest for a better potato.
  • We discovered how Detroit's techno music scene is winning fans around the world.
  • We asked the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality what Michigan is doing to protect our drinking water against cyanobacteria.
  • Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the genocide of up to a million and half Armenians by the Ottoman Empire. We asked a University of Michigan professor how the actions of 100 years ago are being felt in 2014.

* Listen to the full show above.

GM Renaissance Center in Detroit.
John F. Martin / Creative Commons

 

A blistering Congressional report came out today on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's handling of a General Motors ignition switch problem.The defect is blamed in 19 deaths. 

David Shepardson is chief of The Detroit News Washington, D.C. bureau. He says the House Energy and Commerce Committee analysis really hauls NHTSA into the "congressional woodshed."

"They had ample information to have discovered this problem in 2007 but, for a number of different failures, didn't do it," says Shepardson.

The report says the NHTSA misunderstood how vehicles worked, lacked accountability, and failed to share information.

* Listen to the interview with David Shepardson above.

TIF mismanagement can lead to blight.
Flickr.com

 

Tax increment financing, or TIF, is a flexible tool for downtown development authority boards aiming to encourage private investment and increase the taxable value of their municipality.

TIFs enable portions of a city’s regular property tax to be used for economic development, without a vote from taxpayers. There are eight types of authorities in Michigan that can engage in this type of financing.

David Bieri is an assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan.

Bieri explains the good and bad uses of TIFs. In the early 2000s, DDAs from Kalamazoo to Detroit addressed blight through brownfield remitigation. On the other hand, Bieri cites Bloomfield Park, the unfinished mini-city in Bloomfield Hills, as an example of TIFs gone bad: Blight was created rather than mitigated. 

User: bnosnhoj / Wikimedia Commons

A group in Detroit hopes that 158,000 signatures will be enough to persuade city officials to stop shutting off water to residents. 

The People's Water Board Coalition has been working on a petition over the summer that has three main goals: stop water shutoffs in Detroit, restore household water to those living without, and implement a water affordability plan. 

Today on Stateside:

  • The DIA director reacted to Detroit creditor Syncora's settlement with the city.
  • As Michigan businesses complain they can't find workers with the skills they need, is there another side to this "skills gap?"
  • Do you love the online quest for a sweet deal on airfare or hotel room? You may be wasting your time.
  • According to a new study, more than half of the birds in the U.S. will be forced to find a new place to live because of climate change. We found out what that means for birds in Michigan.
  • Health insurers and healthcare.gov are now gearing up for year two of the Affordable Care Act. We talked to director of the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation at the University of Michigan about what’s at stake.
  • We found out how the idea for the Aeron chairs sold by the Herman Miller Company of West Michigan came about. 

* Listen to the full show above.

Bank of the Oise at Auvers by Van Gogh, owned by the DIA
user: Maia C / Flickr

 

As the Detroit bankruptcy trial moves into its third week, the spotlight has often been trained on the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The discussion over whether the DIA can and should be forced to sell its treasures to help offset Detroit's insolvency has been one of the most hotly debated issues of the bankruptcy.

DIA director Graham Beal recently wrote a letter that was published in the museum's newsletter and then posted on Deadline Detroit under the headline "Museums Should Step Very Carefully 'In Times Of Crisis.'"

Here's an excerpt of the letter:

In the Great Depression, the DIA remained open and staffed, largely thanks to the secret support of Edsel Ford. The city of Detroit arts commissioners could have sold the van Gogh self-portrait, Matisse's The Window, Ruisdael's Jewish Cemetery, or even Breugel's Wedding Dance, but the thought never seems to have crossed anyone's mind.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit City Council is slated to vote this week on a plan that would speed big city property transfers to the Detroit land bank.

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr proposed the measure last week, allowing the city to transfer some city-owned properties directly to the land bank without Council approval.

It would move up to 45,000 tax-reverted properties to the Detroit land bank’s control, and convey any such land the city acquires in the future directly to the land bank.

Currently, the City Council has some say in how the city disposes of those properties.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Governor Rick Snyder has been fond of calling Michigan the "comeback state" for at least 2 1/2 years. So he naturally made it a part of his re-election campaign early on.

But as the Republican governor's campaign ramps up in the final two months of the race, he's tweaking his message. Now Michigan's on the "road to recovery."

Pollsters say the fine-tuning reflected in new TV ads is an attempt to align with voters who are more positive about the state's direction but also say the recovery hasn't helped them personally.

Democrats in Lansing are not waiting any longer to push civil rights protections for gays, lesbians, and transgender people.

And the fact that Democrats are now out in front, signals this is no longer about adopting a policy, this is now political.

For several sessions, Democrats have introduced legislation to add LGBT protections to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. But last year they were persuaded to wait by civil rights groups who at long last saw a policy success in their grasp. That’s if they could get a Republican to take the lead (because, of course, the GOP runs the show in Lansing).

This week, however, those hopes essentially fell apart as prospective Republican co-sponsors bailed, and GOP leaders put unacceptable conditions on taking up the bill.

Now, the sole, lonely Republican publicly backing LGBT rights in the civil rights law, says he has not given up. “We’re still working and talking with colleagues and educating,” said Republican state Representative Frank Foster. Interestingly enough, as we talked about last month on It's Just Politics, Foster lost his primary in August to a more socially conservative Republican. There's continued debate over whether or not  his loss was do in part because of his support for adding LGBT rights to Elliott-Larsen.

The Michigan State Capitol.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a bill to clarify that Michigan never intended to give out-of-state companies a lower tax liability in a 2007 business tax overhaul.

The legislation is designed to ensure the state isn't forced to pay $1.1 billion in refunds in 134 cases after a July ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court in a case involving IBM. The administration and lawmakers worried the court's 4-3 decision could affect other cases in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 tax years.

Snyder said in statement Friday that the bill is a "common-sense solution" encouraging companies to invest and create jobs in Michigan. The state estimates most of the $1.1 billion in refunds would have been paid in the fiscal year that starts in October, throwing the budget out of balance.

Today on Stateside:

  • State lawmakers return from summer break as a list of groups calling for them to pass LGBT protections is growing.
  • From Lansing to Detroit, in the weeks before the November election, what's at stake in the city's historic bankruptcy?
  • Michigan football coach Brady Hoke is on the hot seat after a big loss to Notre Dame. Should Hoke be worried about job security?
  • Interlochen Public Radio’s Linda Stephan reported on Indian mission churches facing financial pressures.
  • A story of failure from Failure Lab, featuring Kathy Crosby, CEO of Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids.

*Listen to the full show above.

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