Politics & Government

Stories about politics and government actions

This Week in Michigan Politics, I talk with Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry about the investigation into the Flint water crisis, Governor Rick Snyder's plan to overhaul Detroit schools, and proposed changes in how teachers are evaluated.


The City of Ypsilanti is considering renaming Columbus Day "Indigenous Peoples Day."

Mayor Amanda Edmonds wrote the resolution to make the change.

She said renaming Columbus Day would be a "relatively simple" symbolic gesture to recognize the region's Native American heritage.

“[This isn't] the only thing that needs to be done to recognize, to celebrate, to honor [indigenous peoples] and to right some of the wrongs, but it is one step,” Edmonds said.

Today on Stateside: 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A formal review is underway into the state agency that made mistakes in its monitoring of Flint’s drinking water.

via dwsd.org

The new Great Lakes Water Authority held a national search for its first CEO, but the authority’s board ended up choosing a familiar candidate.

That candidate is Sue McCormick, the GLWA’s interim CEO. Prior to that, she headed the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department for more than three years.

She was praised by some for leading DWSD through Detroit’s bankruptcy, in which the water department played a key role.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

People in Flint say the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality needs to do more than admit mistakes in the handling of the city’s tainted water crisis.

Last week, Flint switched back to Detroit water after numerous problems with lead and other issues in the city’s drinking water. The head of MDEQ admits monitoring errors were made and a top agency official has been reassigned.    

Today on Stateside:

Governor Rick Snyder is facing a tough sell today as he tries to re-start the conversation on fixing Detroit’s schools. And, that’s just one of the political tough sells the Second Term Nerd is facing.

Paul Hitzelberger / United Photo Works

The new regional authority in charge of southeast Michigan’s water is set to choose a leader Monday.

The Great Lakes Water Authority emerged from Detroit’s bankruptcy process. It essentially regionalizes Detroit’s water system, which has long served most of southeast Michigan.

Supporters of overhauling Michigan’s parole system are pushing back against Attorney General Bill Schuette’s claims about the bill.

Schuette says House Bill 4138 would compromise public safety by allowing violent criminals to be released from prison early.

Courtesy of Detroit Dog Rescue

Detroit officials announced a major overhaul of the city’s animal control operations Friday.

Animal Control will again become part of the city’s health department. It’s been under police department oversight since 2012.

And the city’s animal shelter will reverse its no-adoption policy, allowing the Michigan Humane Society to help transfer “dozens of dogs a month” to animal rescue and foster groups.

People upset about the safety and qualitPeople upset about the safety and quality of Flint's tap packed a public meeting last January.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

After a failed experiment with Flint River water, city officials announced late this afternoon that Flint is returning to Detroit's system for its drinking water.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal task force will help the city of Flint with its drinking water problems.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been criticized for not being more involved in solving Flint’s water crisis.  

William Warby / flickr

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department will lay off about 100 more employees this month.

That’s prompted some workers to sound the alarm. They warn that DWSD is already understaffed, and say laying off more workers could compromise water safety.

“We’ve lost chemists, engineers, instrument technicians … a whole range of people,” says Michael Mulholland, President of AFSCME Local 207, which represents some workers at the wastewater plant. “We’re concerned that what they’re doing is running it on a business model that is inappropriate and irresponsible.”

Today on Stateside: 

What's the state of the rainy-day fund?

Oct 15, 2015
Money
Steve Carmody

The Michigan Legislature has approved $9 million to deal with the fallout from the Flint water crisis. That price tag has turned attention to how the state’s rainy-day fund is used.

Gov. Rick Snyder has made replenishing that fund a budget priority since he entered office.

Jennifer White spoke to Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants about the state of the rainy-day fund.

Demas says as of the last budget cycle there's about $386 million in the fund. 

Michigan drivers have become all too familiar with the dreaded pothole.
flickr user Michael Gil / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Gov. Rick Snyder’s mantra of “relentless, positive action” hit a great big pothole this week.

Negotiations over that elusive road funding plan hit what the governor calls “an impasse” when Democrats would not agree to an across-the-board income tax cut.

The Detroit News’ Daniel Howes makes the point in his column today that our state representatives can sit in session all night long to get rid of a couple of philandering tea partiers, but can't come up with an answer for voters all over Michigan screaming for a roads fix.

Researchers at Virginia Tech received samples of Flint water (both clear and discolored) from residents. Dr. Edwards and his team there were among the first to call attention to lead contamination in Flint's water.
Flint Water Study / Facebook

Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to quickly sign a bill containing almost $10 million to help Flint resolve its water crisis.

The bill moved swiftly through the state Legislature – winning unanimous support in both the state House and Senate.

State Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, is the top Democrat in the state Senate and has championed efforts to have the state contribute financially toward the problem. He says it was critical for lawmakers to act quickly on the funding.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Update 12:00 p.m. October 15, 2015:

The state Senate approved the legislation this morning. The bill now goes to Gov. Snyder's desk.

Original post October 14, 10:23 p.m.:

The Legislature is close to approving the state’s share of money to help Flint with its water crisis. Children in the city are showing elevated lead levels after a state-appointed emergency manager switched water supplies. 

The state House approved the expenditure today and the state Senate’s expected to do the same tomorrow.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has named Eric Jones as the city's interim fire commissioner.

Jones isn’t a firefighter himself. He came up through the ranks of the Detroit Police Department, rising to the rank of assistant chief.

Most recently, Jones led the city’s Buildings, Safety and Engineering Department.

Duggan says Jones has proven himself a capable administrator, and is the best person to fix the “basic process” problems still plaguing the fire department.

Today on Stateside:

The Ambassador Bridge's owner wants to turn an old neighborhood at the foot of the bridge into a secondary truck inspection plaza.
flickr user Alan Levine / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

There has been plenty of legal wrangling over Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun’s desire to block the new Gordie Howe Bridge and build a second bridge right next to the Ambassador.

Across the Detroit River, the city of Windsor has taken its complaint with Moroun all the way up to Canada’s Supreme Court.

user westsideshooter / Flickr

In this Week in Michigan Politics, Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss proposed bills to eliminate gun free zones, how road funding talks have stalled again, and an update on the Flint water crisis. 

You can listen below:

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Last night’s mayoral debate in Flint included several personal attacks between the candidates.

The moderators questioned incumbent Mayor Dayne Walling and challenger Karen Weaver for over an hour on several issues. 

But the main issue was Flint’s ongoing water problems. 

Since switching to the Flint River for the city’s drinking water, there have been numerous problems, including elevated lead levels in the water at many Flint homes.

flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A state Senate committee has adopted on party-line votes legislation that would essentially eliminate “gun-free” zones in Michigan.

The bill would also close a loophole that allows people with concealed pistol permits to open carry in schools. But schools could no longer ban licensed concealed weapons.

MDEQ Director Dan Wyant talks with the media last Thursday (Oct. 8) when the state announced its support for a move back to Detroit water.
State of Michigan / LiveStream

State and local officials have done an about-face when it comes to Flint's water crisis.

For months, residents and even experts who raised concerns about the water's safety were dismissed.

That's until mounting evidence – especially about high lead levels in kids – made the critics impossible to ignore.

Courtesy of the office of State Rep. Phil Phelps

A state lawmaker is heading to court to force the city of Flint and a state agency to release documents related to the decision to make the Flint River the city’s drinking water source.

A year and a half ago, the city switched from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to the Flint River.   

Initially, there were complaints about the smell, taste, and appearance of the city’s drinking water. More problems, including high levels of lead in the water in many homes, led Gov. Rick Snyder to address a $12 million plan to return the city to Detroit water, until a new pipeline from Lake Huron is completed next year. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is a small step closer to switching its drinking water back to Detroit.

Tonight the Flint city council unanimously voted to spend $2 million to return to Detroit’s water system.

Appropriately, the vote that is an answer to the prayers of many Flint residents, was punctuated by City Councilman Eric Mays saying “amen,” which drew murmurs of “amen” from the audience.

my_southborough / flickr creative commons / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

State Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy, has introduced a bill that would reopen the W.J. Maxey Boys Training School in Whitmore Lake.

The juvenile justice facility closed Sept. 30 after being removed from the state's budget in June.

The 60-bed facility treated youth offenders, ages 12-21, with mental illnesses.

Overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Maxey School was one of three remaining state-run juvenile facilities.

* Republicans might be doing their best to break up with Dave Agema, but Dave Agema is making sure everyone knows he is now about to break up with Republicans.

* With a major recall in effect due to the emissions cheating scandal, Volkswagen owners want to know where things went wrong and what comes next. Jennifer White has some thoughts set to a Boyz II Men song.

* Sister Pat Schnapp is Roman Catholic nun, and a professor of English at Siena Heights University. For nearly three decades, Sister Pat has been teaching African American Literature to male prisoners.

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