Politics & Government

Stateside
5:10 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Jack Lessenberry reflects on Rep. John Dingell's announced retirement

Rep. John Dingell announcing his retirement at a lucheon today.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

"I am not leaving Congress. I am coming home to Michigan."

With those words, Rep. John Dingell, D-Michigan, has announced he is leaving Congress after serving more than 58 years.

Dingell was first elected in 1955 to the House seat that had been held by his late father.

The 87-year-old Dearborn Democrat has gone on to carve out his own piece of American history: No one has ever served longer in Congress.

Michigan Radio political commentator Jack Lessenberry joined us to talk about Dingell's legacy.

You can listen to our conversation with him below:


Politics & Culture
5:03 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Stateside for Monday, Feb. 24, 2014

It's been a miserable winter this year for everyone, but how does the polar vortex affect Michigan's dairy farmers? Karen Curry, a dairy farmer from East Tawas, joins us today to discuss the unique hardships she has faced this winter.

This winter doesn't just mean cold weather for Michigan residents. For some, it means an increased susceptibility to sickness. How do you protect against sickness? Vaccines. However, fewer Michigan parents are vaccinating their children.

Gender and medical historian Jacqueline Antonovich has extensively studied our history  and is here to talk a bit about the subject.

Next we go to Sochi, where the 2014 Winter Olympics are wrapping up. How did we fare? NPR's Sonari Glinton joins us from Sochi to recap this year's Olympic games. 

Back in Michigan, we speak to a mime who has trained Olympic athletes in the art of physical acting and emoting – athletes that include gold medal ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White, among others. He tells us some of the tricks to his trade. 

Next, a group at Michigan Tech has created a newspaper called Beyond the Glass Ceiling, which speaks to the campus culture and attitudes towards women over in Houghton, Michigan.

PhD student Katie Snyder joins us today to explain what the paper hopes to say to fellow students, faculty, and administrators.

Politics & Government
3:30 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

U.S. Rep. John Dingell's time in Congress to end, announces retirement

John and Debbie Dingell at today's luncheon.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Update 3:30 p.m.

President Obama issued this statement in response to Dingell's announcement:

Serving nearly six decades in the House of Representatives, John Dingell has earned the distinction of being both the longest-serving Member of Congress in U.S. history and one of the most influential legislators of all time.  After serving his country in the Army during World War II, John was first elected to Congress in 1955 – representing the people of southeastern Michigan in a seat previously held by his father.  In Washington, John risked his seat to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, fought to pass Medicare in 1965, and penned legislation like the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act that have kept millions of Americans healthy and preserved our natural beauty for future generations.  

But of all John’s accomplishments, perhaps the most remarkable has been his tireless fight to guarantee quality, affordable health care for every American.  Decades after his father first introduced a bill for comprehensive health reform, John continued to introduce health care legislation at the beginning of every session.  And as an original author of the Affordable Care Act, he helped give millions of families the peace of mind of knowing they won’t lose everything if they get sick.  Today, the people of Michigan – and the American people – are better off because of John Dingell’s service to this country, and Michelle and I wish him, his wife Debbie, and their family the very best.

And Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak issued this statement:

"Congressman Dingell served with great dignity and respect. We wish him the best of health and blessings with his retirement.”

1:00 p.m.

Speaking at a luncheon today at the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber of Commerce, Rep. John Dingell announced his retirement today.

"I'm not leaving the downriver. I'm not leaving Michigan," Dingell said.

From Dingell's speech:

Around this time every two years, my wife Deborah and I confer on the question of whether I will seek reelection.  My standards are high for this job.  I put myself to the test and have always known that when the time came that I felt I could not live up to my own personal standard for a Member of Congress, it would be time to step aside for someone else to represent this district. 

That time has come.

During a Q&A after his speech Dingell said the single most important vote he cast during his time in Congress was his vote in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"It was a hard fight, but it solved a problem that was eating at the heart and soul and liver of this country ... [if it hadn't passed] it would have left us with undivided anger and bitterness. We have not solved that problem and there is much to be done."

There's a lot of speculation that Dingell's wife Deborah will run for his seat. Dingell said she has not decided yet whether she will run.

"If she runs, I will vote for her,"  he said.

After his Q&A, the room sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow."

11:55 a.m.

You can watch Dingell announce his retirement live below (courtesy of the Detroit Free Press):

*The luncheon has ended.

Watch live streaming video from freeplive at livestream.com

9:38 a.m.

Dingell, the longest-serving member of Congress, made his announcement to the Detroit papers this morning. From the Detroit Free Press:

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, a Dearborn Democrat who replaced his father in the House some 58 years ago and became one of the most powerful members of Congress ever, will step down after this year, capping a career umatched in its longevity and singular in its influence and sweep.

Dingell, 87, told the Free Press that he’d reached the decision to retire at the end of his current term — his 29th full one — rather than run for re-electon because it was time, given a list of achievements that any other member of Congress would envy, and his continued frustration over partisan gridlock.

Dingell said "I'm not going to be carried out feet first." From Detroit News' Nolan Finely:

“I don’t want people to say I stayed too long.”

Dingell says his health “is good enough that I could have done it again. My doctor says I’m OK. And I’m still as smart and capable as anyone on the Hill.

“But I’m not certain I would have been able to serve out the two-year term.”

More than health concerns, Dingell says a disillusionment with the institution drove his decision to retire.

“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” he says. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”

So the question turns to who will run for his seat. And being the longest serving member in Congress, you can expect to see many posts around the web highlighting his career.  Here's one we did last year.

*This post is being updated.

Politics & Government
7:18 am
Mon February 24, 2014

In this morning's headlines: Gay marriage, meth bills, Detroit pensions

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

Same sex marriage trial

Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage goes on trial this week in Detroit. The case involves a lesbian couple who want to get married so they can jointly adopt the special needs children they’re raising together.

Bills to crack down on meth move forward

"Legislation to stop the sale of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine to people convicted of methamphetamine-related crimes is moving ahead in Lansing. The state Senate last week overwhelmingly approved bills to alert Michigan stores not to sell cold medicine containing the popular ingredients for meth production to criminals convicted of meth offenses," the Associated Press reports.

Bankruptcy plan gives safety net for pensioners

"[Detroit's] bankruptcy plan calls for cutting pensions for general city retirees by up to 30 percent. But this fund would give some of that money back to pensioners who fall close to the federal poverty line," Sarah Hulett reports.

Politics & Government
3:13 pm
Sun February 23, 2014

Michigan congressman wants to spend more federal dollars on children's programs

:It pays off. And it pays off in fairly short order,” Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Flint) told reporters at a news conference on "after school" programs.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Flint Congressman Dan Kildee says it’s time for the federal government to invest more in after school and youth employment programs.

Kildee plans to introduce a trio of bills this week that would pour billions of dollars into programs to provide jobs to teenagers in the summer, and after school programs where children can learn art, music and physical fitness.

Kildee says these programs help struggling communities, like Flint and Saginaw, that don’t have the resources to provide these kind of programs themselves.

Read more
Politics & Government
11:44 am
Sun February 23, 2014

Deal assures Michigan cities won't be hurt by business tax cut

An agreement reached among Snyder's administration, business interests and local officials would make sure municipalities opposing a loss in revenue are mostly kept whole.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

LANSING – Michigan lawmakers this week will propose a deal to guarantee that local governments lose little to no revenue from a planned phase-out of taxes on industrial machinery and small businesses' equipment.

The business tax cuts were enacted by Gov. Rick Snyder and legislators at the end of 2012. But they will be halted if a statewide vote fails in August.

An agreement reached among Snyder's administration, business interests and local officials would make sure municipalities opposing a loss in revenue are mostly kept whole.

Read more
Politics & Government
7:36 am
Sun February 23, 2014

Obama Administration to announce Detroit manufacturing institute

The White House says President Barack Obama will announce Tuesday the creation of two manufacturing institutes.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

CHICAGO (AP) - Chicago and the Detroit area stand to reap millions of dollars in federal grants and private sector investment as part of White House initiative to boost innovation in manufacturing and create jobs.

The White House says President Barack Obama will announce Tuesday the creation of two manufacturing institutes. The Detroit-area institute will focus on lightweight metals, while the Chicago hub will push innovation in digital manufacturing and design.

Read more
Politics & Government
8:38 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

State lawmakers look to patch Medicaid shortfall, say long-term solution critical

Michigan’s Medicaid program faces a budget shortfall this year of more than $100 million. That’s because a new tax on health insurance claims is not producing as much revenue as state officials expected.

This week, the state Senate passed a mid-year budget bill that would patch that hole in the Medicaid budget. That’s the same bill that includes $100 million dollars to help fix and maintain roads being torn apart by nasty winter weather.

Read more
Politics & Government
3:58 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

What you need to know about Detroit's bankruptcy adjustment plan

Peter Martorano Flickr

Listen to the interview with Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor at the Detroit Free Press.

Detroit's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, has filed a plan to restructure the city's $18 billion debt. 

The plan makes cuts to pensioners and creditors while offering a blueprint for the city to emerge from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. 

The plan was filed today in federal bankruptcy court.

What are the main things we should know about the plan? Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor at the Detroit Free Press, spoke with Rina Miller.

Read more
It's Just Politics
3:44 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Auto no-fault overhaul is GOP’s ‘Holy Grail’

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

A political controversy in Lansing that just won’t die is back: auto no-fault insurance. There is yet another Republican effort to muscle through an auto no-fault overhaul, this time being led by state House Speaker Jase Bolger.

There’s a lot in this proposal, released just yesterday, but one of the main things is a cap on the state’s currently unlimited medical benefits if you are injured in a crash. Under the Bolger plan, these benefits would top out at $10 million. Other parts of the proposal include limits on hospital fees and payments for in-home care, incentives to avoid litigation, and a guaranteed rate rollback in the first two years of coverage.

Essentially, there is something in this plan for all of the special interests that have a stake in the auto no-fault system – hospitals, insurance companies, trial lawyers – to dislike. But, Bolger says, bring it on.

Read more
Politics & Government
12:17 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

Detroit pensioners, unions can appeal bankruptcy

Detroit's skyline.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals will allow appeals to Detroit’s bankruptcy eligibility ruling, The Detroit Free Press reported.

Detroit’s largest union – AFSCME Council 25 – and the city’s two pension funds – Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System and the General Retirement System – are among the creditors who filed an appeal to Judge Steven Rhodes’ December ruling that Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy.

According to the Freep’s Nathan Bomey and Matt Helms, Detroit’s bankruptcy case would continue as the appeal case works through the courts.

The central argument for the union and pension funds is that the city did not negotiate “in good faith” prior to filing for bankruptcy, meaning the city and state "rushed" to bankruptcy court.

Rhodes, in his ruling to approve Detroit's bankruptcy, determined that good faith negotiations were not possible under the circumstances.

Read more
Breaking
11:34 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Detroit leaders submit bankruptcy restructuring plan to court

From the first page of the plan of adjustment filed in court today.

The city's blueprint for how to shed billions of dollars in debt while providing basic city services to residents was filed in federal bankruptcy court today.

Your can read it here.

The plan spells out how the city plans to repay the more than 100,000 creditors – those receiving city pensions, retirees, banks, bond insurers and other creditors – can look through the plan to see how they will fare.

The bankruptcy court will now go over the plan and will likely make adjustments.

Among other things, the plan proposes what’s called a "cram down" that will force city bondholders to take big losses.

It also lays out proposed formulas to "modify" – meaning cut – city pensions.

The level of cuts will depend on a number of factors, but the plan assumes a $350 million state contribution to supplement private funds. Officials say the cuts shouldn't go beyond about 30%.

The plan also proposes transferring assets from the Detroit Institute of Arts to a private entity to avoid a possible art sale.

Again, that depends on state and private funds coming through.

Gov. Rick Snyder issued the following statement regarding the plan:

"Detroit’s comeback is underway. Emergency manager Kevyn Orr has submitted a thoughtful, comprehensive blueprint directing the city back to solid financial ground, a crucial step toward a fully revitalized Detroit.  There will be difficult decisions and challenges for all sides as this process moves forward.

The state’s focus is on protecting and minimizing the impact on retirees, especially those on fixed, limited incomes, restoring and improving essential services for all 700,000 Detroit residents and building a foundation for the city’s long-term financial stability and economic growth.

This plan of adjustment is a critical step forward as we look to resolve problems decades in the making.

Let’s use this plan as a call to action for a voluntary settlement as part of the mediation process to resolve the bankruptcy more quickly and soften the tough but necessary changes. We already have witnessed some strong collaboration around innovative ideas. We hope there can be more and that these efforts come to fruition.

Detroit’s long-term viability is not just essential for its residents -- but to all Michiganders."

We'll have more as the story develops today.

*This post is being updated.

Politics & Government
6:00 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Detroit leaders promise ambitious 'Future City' plan will become reality

Detroit Future City will focus heavily on stabilizing Detroit neighborhoods, in part through blight eradication.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit officials say they’re committed to making the Detroit Future City plan a reality.

The comprehensive –and controversial – plan has been years in the making. It’s meant to serve as a long-term guide for city leaders and policy-makers.

Detroit Future City started with a more modest goal –finding a better way to deal with Detroit’s abundant vacant land.

Read more
Politics & Government
10:38 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Senate OKs $100 million for emergency road repairs and plowing

More money is likely coming from Lansing. But it's not clear how much, or how much it will help.
LisaW123 Flickr

The state Senate has approved a plan to fix and maintain roads being ripped apart by brutal winter weather. The Senate passed a mid-year budget bill Thursday that includes $100 million of emergency money for roads.

The state Department of Transportation and local governments have been constantly running snow plows, spreading salt, and patching potholes. That means they’re looking at huge winter budget overages.

Read more
Stateside
5:24 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

What mixed-use zoning means for your city

A map of mixed use zoning in Ann Arbor.
Facebook

Zoning laws.

Those two words alone might not grab your interest.

But watch residents pour into city commission and council chambers when there is some proposed change to the zoning laws in their neighborhood.

Maybe it's deciding whether to allow big-footprint houses and extra-large garages. Maybe it's deciding whether to permit residential and commercial buildings to coexist or how many stories a building may be.

But what one person thinks is a great idea, such as allowing more shops or restaurants into an area, might be a horrible idea to that homeowner who wants to come home to a peaceful street.

Grand Rapids recently implemented a new zoning policy that allows more mixed uses. Director of the Grand Rapids Planning Department, Suzanne Schultz, and University of Michigan Urban Planning Professor Dr. Jonathan Levine joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Culture
5:08 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Stateside for Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014

Just what do you want your city, your community, to look like? Crowded bustling streets? Quiet, residential homes only? Zoning laws determine these things, and although those two words don't sound altogether exciting, zoning laws are creating debate all over the state. We found out more on today's show.

Then, what was that noise outside today? Did you hear it? Sounded like thunder? Well, in this crazy Michigan weather, we're getting thundersnow. We found out about this winter novelty.

And, we spoke with the man who designed and painted the masks on the U.S. Olympic hockey teams. 

Also, we checked in with Daniel Howes on the UAW bid to unionize workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

And, head to Ford Field on Saturday if you want to be part of a world record. ComePlayDetroit is organizing the world's largest indoor yoga session at the home of the Detroit Lions.

First on the show, the state of Michigan is ending its exclusive contract with the Education Achievement Authority to oversee the worst-performing schools in the state.

Michigan School Superintendent Mike Flangan sent a letter to the EAA saying the state will pull out of its exclusivity agreement with the Authority one year from now.

Martin Ackley is with the Michigan Department of Education. He says the state still intends to use the EAA to help turn around struggling schools.

“Now, this is in no way a statement or an indication of a lack of confidence in the EAA or its academic strategies. This is just an action that needed to be taken in order to provide flexibility and to provide options other than the EAA in which to place these most-struggling schools.”

So, what are the other options the state might use to help failing schools? And what's ahead for the controversial EAA?

Jake Neher, who covers Lansing for the Michigan Public Radio Network, joined us today.

Weekly Political Roundup
4:10 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

To raise or not to raise the minimum wage?

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It's a question Michigan voters may have to answer this November.

The Board of State Canvassers yesterday approved petition language put forward by Raise Michigan, a coalition that wants to increase Michigan’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017, and also index the minimum wage to inflation.

To get the question on the November ballot, it needs to collect 258,000 signatures by May 28.

Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants spoke with All Things Considered Host, Jennifer White.

Politics & Government
1:13 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Plan to restructure Detroit's debt expected tomorrow

Lester Graham Michigan Radio

DETROIT – The office of Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr says the blueprint for the city's restructuring through and after bankruptcy is expected to be filed Friday in federal court.

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes had set a March 1 deadline for the long-awaited plan of adjustment. The plan will spell out how individual creditors will be treated as Orr reduces the city's $18 billion debt.

Spokesman Bill Nowling says Orr's office plans to file the plan with the court Friday.

A draft given last month to creditors showed retirees and pensioners getting $4.3 billion in payments and bondholders about $1.1 billion over the next 40 years, leaving the city with a nearly $336 million surplus.

Orr had hoped to have the plan ready before January but was delayed by ongoing negotiations.

Politics & Government
11:22 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Minimum wage campaign begins collecting names

The group wants to gradually raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017. It would also end the exemption that allows employers to pay less to workers who earn tips.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The campaign to raise Michigan’s minimum wage will now begin collecting signatures.

A state panel gave the petition campaign the OK to go ahead. The Board of State Canvassers said the petition complies with the law, and now the campaign has until mid-May to collect 258,000 valid signatures. That would put the question to the Legislature. If lawmakers don’t adopt it, then it would go on the November ballot.

Read more
Stateside
4:58 pm
Wed February 19, 2014

Mapping all of Detroit's properties, one parcel at a time

A screenshot of the map services provided by Why Don't We Own This.
Why Don't We Own This? Why Don't We Own This?

It's no secret that the city of Detroit and Wayne County have been hit hard by the double whammy of foreclosed and abandoned homes.

For owners of those homes — or those looking to buy as an investment — there's a resource available online: a website called Why Don't We Own This?

We wanted to find out more about the site, and what it means to owners, investors and the neighborhoods.

Listen to the full interview above.

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