Politics & Government

Politics & Government
1:07 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Detroit bankruptcy mediators announce a deal with police and fire pensions

The Theodore Levin United States Courthouse in Detroit.
Credit Andrew Jameson / Wikimedia Commons

Mediators for the federal court overseeing Detroit's Chapter 9 bankruptcy say a deal has been reached between the city of Detroit and the Retired Detroit Police and Fire Fighters Association over pension and health benefits.

The deal calls for no cuts to current pension benefits, but does cut future "cost of living" increases in their benefits.

The Association's members still need to approve the plan through a vote.

The potential deal is the first agreement the city has reached with a group of retired workers.

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Politics & Government
8:57 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Where your federal tax dollars go

Credit stockphotosforfree.com

Tax Day is here, and as many Michiganders are racing to meet Uncle Sam's deadline, how many really know where their tax dollars are going?

Jasmine Tucker, research analyst with the National Priorities Project, encourages taxpayers to use the Tax Receipt Calculator, which breaks down the average taxpayer's federal return from last year and shows how the government spent those funds, down to the penny.

"This really gives people the opportunity to see, in numbers that they understand, what they paid in taxes and where those taxes went," Tucker said.

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Politics & Government
6:00 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Detroit launches online auction site to fill vacant homes

One of the first Detroit homes up for auction in East English Village.
Credit via buildingdetroit.org

The city of Detroit has launched an effort to fill some of its vacant homes with new residents – an online auction site for city-owned properties.  

There are 15 houses listed on the site now. The plan is for the Detroit Land Bank Authority to start auctioning off one home a day, starting May 5.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says this is part of the city “moving aggressively” to deal with blight.

Duggan says the idea is to get the homes fixed up, and people living in them, as soon as possible.

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Politics & Government
11:20 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Bankruptcy case delays Detroit's usual budget process

Detroit’s bankruptcy case is throwing a wrench in the city’s usual budget process.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan didn’t give his charter-mandated city budget address as scheduled Monday.

Rather, officials told City Council members that Detroit needs to update its plan of adjustment first. That’s the city’s restructuring blueprint for getting through bankruptcy.

Detroit chief financial officer John Hill said that since the plan will shape the city budget, it doesn’t make sense start talking now.

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Politics & Culture
4:03 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Stateside for Monday, April 14, 2014

Today, Gov. Rick Snyder rolled out a new statewide recycling plan that aims to increase recycling across the state. Michigan is seventh among the eight Great Lakes states in its recycling performance, and the governor as well as recycling activists agree that we can do a lot better. 

The intersection of college athletics and college academics often causes controversy. To what degree are student athletes allowed to get away with lighter class loads in order for them to play? Paul Barrett of Bloomberg Businessweek joined us to answer that very question.

Tax day is tomorrow and procrastinators out there are scrambling to file. Detroit News Finance Editor Brian O'Connor joined us to explain how we can decrease our chances of being audited. 

On the West Coast during World War II, hundreds of thousands of Japanese-Americans were put in internment camps. Matt Faulkner, an author and illustrator for kids, tells the story of these internments in his most recent graphic novel, Gaijin. 

Politics & Government
3:29 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

New statewide plan aims to improve recycling

How can the state of Michigan improve its recycling habits?
Credit Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder rolled out a new statewide recycling plan today in hopes of convincing more of us to recycle.

The governor and recycling activists say we can do a lot better when it comes to recycling. 

Right now, Michigan recycles about 15% of all reusable materials. That's way below the national average of 35%. And Michigan is seventh among the eight Great Lakes states in its recycling performance.

What are we losing by throwing out all that glass, plastic, metal and paper? And what's in the governor's plan to get us to recycle these materials? 

We were joined by Kerrin O'Brien, executive director of the Michigan Recycling Coalition. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Government
7:13 am
Mon April 14, 2014

With stalemate in D.C., White House pushes jobless benefits in Michigan

Credit Michael Raphael / Flickr

Anybody who's out of work in Michigan knows they can't get an unemployment check for as long as they used to. 

Ever since the federal government stopped offering emergency benefits extensions at the end of last year, Michiganders can get just 20 weeks of jobless benefits.

They used have up to 99 weeks, back when the recession was at its worst.

For months now, Democrats and a handful of Republicans have been trying to get those extensions up and running again. 

But some Republicans say no.

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Politics & Government
2:24 pm
Sat April 12, 2014

Marine veteran gets 10-year sentence in Iran

Amir Hekmati
Credit freeamir.org

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - An Iranian news agency is reporting that an appeals court has overturned a death sentence of an American man convicted of working for the CIA, instead sentencing him to 10 years in prison. 

The semiofficial ISNA news agency reported Saturday that lawyer Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei says a Revolutionary Court issued the verdict for U.S. Marine veteran Amir Hekmati. Tabatabaei described the verdict as final.

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Politics & Government
8:57 am
Sat April 12, 2014

The week in review

Credit Photo by penywise / morgueFile

This Week in Review, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the latest with the Detroit bankruptcy, the continuing controversies over the General Motors recall, and the money problems involving the charter school system running Muskegon Heights schools.

Week in Review interview for 4/11/14

Politics & Government
9:41 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Consultant says Flint needs to charge more for water and sewer service

After sharp rate hikes a few years ago, several Flint city council members fear many residents won’t be able to pay more for water.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s water customers may need to prepare to pay more for their tap water.

A consultant is recommending the city plan on annual rate hikes for the foreseeable future.

Flint’s aging water system has endured more than a hundred water main breaks since New Year’s Day. The city is also planning on replacing water service from Detroit by tapping into the Flint River and eventually a new pipeline that would reach Lake Huron.

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Weekly Political Roundup
5:31 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Detroit bankruptcy case, bondholders and the future of the DIA

It’s Thursday, 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, host Jennifer White discusses the latest developments in the Detroit bankruptcy case and examines the implications.

There was a significant breakthrough yesterday. A settlement was announced between the city of Detroit and three major bond insurers. The insurers will get about 74 cents on the dollar, a significant increase from what emergency manager Kevyn Orr originally offered, and the roughly $50 million in savings will go to support retirees.

The question now is whether retirees will accept further cuts to their pensions, given the fact that Gov. Rick Snyder has stated that the state will not put any money forward unless the retirees agree to cuts. Ken Sikkema says it's imperative that retirees back the plan.

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Stateside
5:13 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

The latest developments between the DIA, Detroit pensioners, and creditors

Credit JSFauxtaugraphy/Flickr

There have been two big developments this week in the high-stakes showdown over Detroit's pensioners, its art treasures and creditors who hope bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes will pressure the city to put those art treasures on the table.

There's a lot to try to sort out. So, as we do each Thursday, we spoke to Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
5:12 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

What can other communities learn from the financial emergency in Royal Oak Township?

Credit Michigan State University

The latest Michigan community to fall into financial collapse is the tiny half-square mile community of Royal Oak Township, in Oakland County.

Late last month, Gov. Rick Snyder confirmed a financial emergency existed in Royal Oak Township. That cleared the way for action under Michigan's overhauled emergency manager act, PA 436.

What's happened in Royal Oak Township illustrates the changes and options available under PA 436 after voters rejected the previous emergency manager law in November 2012. We wondered if other communities can learn cautionary lessons from the financial troubles of Royal Oak Township.

Eric Scorsone, municipal finance expert from Michigan State University, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Culture
5:10 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Stateside for Thursday, April 10, 2014

The average gas mileage of new vehicles sold in the U.S. has steadily been improving, and greenhouse gas emissions are at an all-time low. The Environmental Protection Agency also recently set new emissions standards, scheduled to be phased in between 2017 and 2025, that will reduce the amount of sulfur found in gasoline.

But is the slow and steady climb in fuel economy and emissions enough? On today’s show, we ask if the Obama administration's 2016 and 2025 fuel efficiency goals setting the bar too low?

Then, a new documentary film brings us the story of the Great Lakes as seen through its ice.

And, last month, Gov. Snyder confirmed a financial emergency existed in Royal Oak Township. Can other communities learn from Royal Oak’s situation?

Also, the Share Art Project is a collaborative effort among artists at the Buckham Gallery, students and the Genesee Valley Regional Center. We spoke to a Buckham board member about the program and an upcoming exhibit.

First on the show, there have been two big developments this week in the high-stakes showdown over Detroit's pensioners, its art treasures and creditors, who hope bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes will pressure the city to put those art treasures on the table.

There's a lot to try to sort out. So, as we do each Thursday, we spoke to Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

Politics & Government
9:20 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Group says Michigan business owners oppose 'Ban the Box' bill

Critics say many employers won’t give prospective job applicants a chance if they see they have been convicted of a crime on a job application.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new poll shows Michigan business owners strongly oppose legislation to prevent them from including a question about criminal convictions on job applications.

88% of Michigan business owners polled by the National Federation of Independent Business say they oppose the ‘Ban the Box’ bill.

Charlie Owens is the NFIB state director. He says it doesn’t make sense to wait until a job offer is made before being able to do a criminal background check.

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Politics & Government
6:00 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Bond insurer ups the ante in battle over the Detroit Institute of Arts

Credit DIA

One group who stands to lose a lot in Detroit’s bankruptcy has upped the ante in the battle over the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The Financial Guaranty Insurance Corporation, a major bond insurer, has gone out and solicited bids for the museum’s assets.

And in papers filed in federal bankruptcy court Wednesday, FGIC said it’s received four tentative bids for the museum’s assets, or portions of them.

The bidders include:

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Stateside
6:02 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

"The Joe's" days as the home of the Detroit Red Wings are numbered

For the past 35 years, "Hockeytown" in Detroit has meant the on Detroit's Riverfront.  But " The Joe's" days as the home of the Detroit Red Wings are numbered.

The Wings are headed north to the Cass Corridor area between downtown at Midtown.

A new $450-million, 18,000 seat arena is on the way for Wings owner Mike Ilitch,  perhaps as early as the 2016-2017 season.

And what's drawing fire from critics like my next guest is the fact that the stadium deal has the public covering nearly 60% of the sticker price the Ilitches will get all the revenues from the new stadium, and the whole deal was unveiled publicly the week after Detroit declared bankruptcy.

Bill Bradley is a columnist at Next City, where he covers economic development in cities. He dug into the new Wings arena in a piece for nextcity.org. It's title? "Red Wings Stadium Upset! Why Taxpayers are Losing--Again--in Detroit."

Politics & Government
5:51 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Feds approve center to encourage immigrant investment in Michigan

Michigan's new immigration center will provide visas for people who invest at least $1 million in the state and create at least ten jobs.
Credit lcars / Flickr

Michigan will be only the second state in the country to run a statewide center meant to encourage investment from immigrants.

The center will provide visas for people who invest at least $1 million in the state and create at least ten jobs. The required investment goes down to $500,000 if it is made in a rural community or one with high unemployment.

This is one piece of Gov. Rick Snyder’s strategy to attract more immigrants to Michigan. His administration expects the center to bring in at least $30 million and create 600 new jobs every year.

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Stateside
5:50 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Stateside for Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Stateside for Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A new $450-million hockey arena is on the way for the Red Wings in Detroit. Sixty percent of it is being paid for by taxpayers.

Will that investment from the city pay off? And what lessons can we learn from other similar deals around the nation?

And we talk about diversity on college campuses. Are mixed-race students counted?

Also, raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, and closing the pay gap between men and women; those are key parts of the 2014 midterm election campaign for Democrats.

Politics & Government
12:51 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Detroit starts posting legal notices in new fight vs. blight

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The city of Detroit has started posting legal notices on 79 abandoned homes in one city neighborhood, warning homeowners to clean up the property--or risk a lawsuit, and the city seizing the home.

The effort in the west side neighborhood near Marygrove College was announced Wednesday afternoon by Mayor Mike Duggan, in what he called a "bold experiment" to fight blight.

It will work like this: once a notice is posted, homeowners have 72 hours to contact the city and arrange to sign a consent agreement. It will stipulate that the homeowner clean up the property, and move someone into the house within 60 days.

If that doesn't happen, the city can sue to have the Detroit Land Bank Authority seize the house. The Land Bank will then re-sell properties it deems "salvageable" at auction.

“When you leave your house abandoned, it is a nuisance to the neighborhood," Duggan said. "And you cannot legally leave your property in a way that’s a nuisance.

"I'm going to give every single person when we sue them the choice—either sign the court order to get it fixed up and occupied, or we’re going to take title.”

Duggan said it will be "fascinating" to see how the program plays out in the Marygrove neighborhood effort plays out over the next 90 days--but that plans are already in the works to expand it to other neighborhoods.

Duggan said represents a shift away from the "mindless demolition" approach to blight eradication--though many homes that are simply unsalvageable will have to be demolished. “If we take down the houses that can’t be saved, and we sell what’s left…I think people will value that," Duggan said.

Lola Holton, a 39-year resident of the neighborhood, said she's ready to see "results."

"I'm very, very excited about having community back," Holton said. "That's what we need. We've lost that. 

"Not only the restoration and taking boards down, but putting families in these houses. To build community."

 

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