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Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

There's a new book out about gerrymandering, but it's so much more than that. 

And it's getting a lot of attention.

Flickr user Saginaw Future Inc./Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The legislature is off for its two-month summer break, but there will be a lot of work to do when lawmakers get back to work at the end of the season.  

Kenn Sikkema and Susan Demas joined us today for our weekly political roundup and two of the biggest issues that could be on the agenda when work resumes in Lansing has to do with renewable energy mandates and solar power regulations.

Lester Graham/Michigan Radio

Yesterday we heard the latest Detroit Journalism Cooperative installment about jobs and poverty in Detroit

One of the experts we heard from was Kevin Boyle, a professor at Northwestern University and the author of Arc of Justice, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction.

A demolition in Flint.
Genesee County Land Bank

A new Special Inspector General’s report says a federal program that funds blight removal lacks key safeguards against waste and corruption.

Michigan has received more than $381 million in blight removal funds from the US Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund – by far the most of any state.

The HHF was originally intended to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Starting in 2013, Treasury allowed some of the funds to be diverted to blight removal, mostly in the form of demolitions.

Stateside 6.16.2016

Jun 16, 2016

On the show today, a special Detroit Journalism Cooperative report on jobs and poverty in the poorest neighborhood in Detroit. Plus,  a guy who's bicycled all over the world says biking in Northern Michigan is the best anywhere. And he's got a book telling you the best places to ride.

To find individual interviews, click here or see below:

A man begs for money from a patron leaving one of Midtown’s critically acclaimed restaurants, where a roasted mushroom salad is $14.
Bill McGraw / Bridge Magazine

While Detroit has seen positive changes in the police department and the inclusion of African Americans in civic life since 1967, the decline of manufacturing and flight of people over the past five decades have contributed to significantly higher levels of unemployment and impoverished residents in the city. Reynolds Farley, a retired University of Michigan sociologist, notes that in 1950, Detroit had the nation’s “most prosperous black population.”

Jodi Westrick/Michigan Radio

On Tuesday, we sipped Brewery Becker’s “historic” ales and lagers while discussing a similarly historic topic: public trust in state government.

The Flint water crisis, gerrymandering, term limits, campaign money and more were on the minds of audience members and panelists at our Issues & Ale event.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The next round of Flint’s lead service line replacement may take a little longer to get started.

Today’s 3 pm deadline for contractors to bid on the work has been extended.

Contractors will now have until next Tuesday to submit bids on replacing up to 500 Flint service lines.

City officials decided to give the contractors more time to refine their bids, after changes were made to original Request for Proposals or RFP.   The addendums to the original RFP came after concerns were raised by contractors during a mandatory pre-bid meeting last week.

Pictures of Money / Flickr

A Washington D.C. group has filed a complaint against a Michigan non-profit for its political spending.

Citizens for Responsible Ethics, or CREW, filed a complaint with the IRS against Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. 

Jordan Libowitz is with CREW. He says Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility failed to report  $290,000 in political spending in 2014.  He says that violates the group's non-profit status.

"So we're seeing a disturbing trend with more and more groups trying to get away with this because they think they can," Libowitz says.

Jim Wallace / Flickr

Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario are negotiating a strategy for improving and managing waterways.

 

Governor Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne met in Detroit to announce the beginnings of the joint plan. Wynne says the goal is to double maritime trade in the region and reduce pollution and invasive species. 

           

“We want Michigan to do well as we want Toronto to do well, and, really, collectively, we are competing with other jurisdictions,” said Wynne.  

 

A man protests the poor quality of Flint's water
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A congressional committee has signed off on legislation that could save Flint millions of dollars -- money that could be used to fix its damaged water system.

Today, the U.S. House Appropriations committee approved the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The bill includes a provision that would allow the state of Michigan to forgive $21 million in Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loans taken by the city of Flint.

Senator Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat, participated in a filibuster on the senate floor Wednesday meant to call attention to legislative inaction on gun control.
Gary Peters / Facebook

Senator Gary Peters, D-Mich., took the Senate floor on Wednesday as part of a Democratic filibuster meant to draw attention to gun control issues in the wake of Sunday's mass shooting in Orlando, in which 49 people at a gay nightclub were killed by a gunman using a legally purchased assault rifle.

Stateside 6.15.2016

Jun 15, 2016

Today, a veteran Detroit teacher tells us what she expects from the so-called bailout by the state and how they've survived. And, we meet a man who converted to Amish and his friend who wrote a book about it.

According to Chris Thomas, the "clunky" nature of the American election process actually lends to its security.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A pair of new state House bills would remove political party vignettes from the November ballot.

Vignettes are those little pictures that appear next to a party's name on the ballot.

Every morning at 9 a.m. we bat around story ideas for the day during our news meetings. We come up with our own ideas, but we don't always know what YOU are interested in.

That's why we have this little project called MI CuriousIt works like this:

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry discusses gun laws in the wake of the nightclub shootings in Orlando, the latest on a sex cover-up scandal involving two former state representatives, and legislation that would require public schools in Michigan to teach students about genocide.


Former state representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
images from Courser/Gamrat offices

Former state Representative Todd Courser will face trial on perjury and misconduct charges. At the same time, a judge dismissed criminal charges against former state Representative Cindy Gamrat.

The judge said the state’s case against Gamrat was simply too weak to go to trial.

The state has 21 days to appeal the decision, but Gamrat says she hopes this is the final word on the matter.

“I think I have a lot of mixed emotions,” Gamrat said after the hearing. “It’s been a really hard journey.”

The Michigan State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr

The State of the State Survey reveals trust in state government is low in Michigan.

The Flint water crisis, cities run by emergency managers, gerrymandered political districts and election campaigns influenced by “dark” money -- these things and more have contributed to eroding trust in our elected officials.

Michigan Radio and the Center for Michigan discussed what it will take to restore faith in state government at Brewery Becker in Brighton on June 14, 2016.

Stateside 6.14.2016

Jun 14, 2016

Today, we learn about the history and importance of gay nightclubs. And, we look at the Escanaba police department's new approach to drug addiction.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver defends Police Chief Tim Johnson (left of Mayor Weaver).
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Police Chief Tim Johnson will soon be certified to be a police officer.

Johnson was appointed Flint’s new police chief back in February. But the career cop allowed his state certification to lapse after he retired several years ago.

Without that certification, Johnson lacked the arresting powers of officers under his command.

Johnson says he was planning to take the two-day class later this year.

“I was trying to wait for the city to reach a calm level where I could go away for a couple of days to get re-certified,” Johnson told reporters today.

Stateside 6.13.2016

Jun 13, 2016

Today, we learn how hate crimes affect all of us, not just those targeted. And, we sit down for a chat with vocalist and guitarist Laith Al-Saadi.

These are examples of drinking water pipes. The pipe on the left had no corrosion control in place, allowing metals to flake off and get into the water. The bigger pipe on the right (white coating), had phosphate corrosion control in place.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder’s office says new data show water quality improving in "at-risk" homes in Flint.

For months, the government has been testing the tap water in dozens of homes in Flint for lead.

After five rounds of testing, the "sentinel" testing has been expanded to include more homes most likely to have elevated leads levels. That includes homes:

·  with known lead service lines,

·  that had service lines the state paid to replace under the mayor’s Fast Start Program,

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

An independent probe has found no evidence of unethical conduct by Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.

The allegations came from Flint’s former city administrator. Natasha Henderson claims she was fired, in part, for reporting that the mayor steered donations to the city into a fund Weaver controls.

C-Span video

A Michigan man who stripped naked at the Libertarian Party National Convention last week is suspended from the Libertarian Party after the video from the convention went viral. 

The group that’s trying to legalize marijuana in Michigan is telling the state: See you in court.

And the outcome of the challenge could have a huge impact on politics, law-making, and future elections in Michigan.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

This week, bids are due on contracts to start replacing Flint’s lead service lines.

But there are concerns about what’s in the contracts.

Service lines are a prime source for lead leeching into the city’s drinking water.  However, to date, the city of Flint has only unearthed 33 lead service lines. 

Mayor Karen Weaver’s Fast Start program is set to get back up to speed this week.  The city is using $2 million dollars from the state to pay for the next round of excavations. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Late-night drama over rescuing Detroit's school district capped lawmakers' closing days in Lansing before they broke for a summer recess.

  The $617 million bailout ultimately passed - barely. The Detroit restructuring, along with completing the state budget, were priorities.

  But legislators also finalized, advanced or left until later other legislation.

  About $165 million more is being directed to Flint's water crisis.

NOAA

The state has unveiled the first part of a strategy to protect what it calls Michigan’s “globally unique water resources.”

The 30-year water strategy is a product of the state’s Office of the Great Lakes, which is part of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

It’s a vision for water stewardship that mixes social, environmental, and economic goals.

user mconnors / morgueFile

Michigan State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, introduced a new bill to ban registered sex offenders from working in organizations that serve sexual assault victims or children.

He drafted the bill in response to recent reports that three registered sexual offenders were found working for The Listening Ear in Lansing. The Listening Ear runs a crisis hotline for sexual assault victims. 

Hertel said he assumed it must be illegal already for the organization to have neglected screening volunteers for being on the sex offender registry, but it was completely legal.

Inside the Flint water treatment plant.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Flint has met an EPA deadline to upgrade equipment at the city’s water plant.

The EPA sent the city of Flint a letter one week ago saying the city had until today to install and have operational equipment to add additional chlorine and other chemicals to the city’s water supply.

Flint gets its tap water from Detroit already treated with chemicals to impede the growth of bacteria and other organisms. But chemicals, like chlorine, lose their effectiveness the longer they are in the system.  

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