Politics & Government

Politics
1:47 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Detroit unions agree to pay cuts amid city's financial crisis

Downtown Detroit at night.
user pablocosta wikimedia commons

In a deal announced today, a coalition of unions representing thousands of Detroit city workers said their members approved 10 percent pay cuts and other changes.

The Associated Press reports "the deal announced Friday affects at least 4,500 workers and still needs approval from the city council."

It does not cover the unions representing Detroit police officers or Detroit firefighters. Those unions are in separate talks.

Absent cuts or added revenue, the city is expected to run out of cash sometime in April.

The cuts are intended to hold off a state takeover of Detroit through the appointment of an emergency manager, or though a consent agreement.

The Detroit Free Press reports the question of whether these cuts are enough remains to be seen:

Under the current agreement, the city would save about $54 million a year in concessions — less than half what Mayor Dave Bing originally wanted.

Other savings include $14 million in layoffs and about $100 million in new revenue by aggressively collecting past due taxes and parking tickets, but those were plans already underway before the negotiations.

An attorney who assisted in the negotiations for the coalition of unions, Richard Mack, said "we are going to make sure the city gets back in the black within a year."

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder wants to hear recommendations on Monday from the state's financial review team about whether the state should step in with either an emergency manager or a consent agreement.

But the legality of the review team is getting tangled up in the courts. An Ingham County judge found that the state's review team violated the Open Meetings Act. The state appealed the ruling, which is now being reviewed by the appeals court.

Politics
12:35 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Michigan appeals court considers Detroit finances timeline

Downtown Detroit
user andrea44 Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Court of Appeals is considering a case that would influence how quickly the state may decide what to do about the city of Detroit's troubled finances.

The appeals court has set a deadline of Friday afternoon for certain briefs to be filed in the case.

The state is trying to overturn Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette's ruling that Michigan officials can't enter into a consent agreement with Detroit until he gives further orders. Collette has ruled a state review team analyzing Detroit's finances must comply with the Open Meetings Act.

Collette set a March 29 hearing in the case. But Gov. Rick Snyder wants the review team to report to him by Monday with the recommendation of a consent agreement or an emergency manager for Detroit.

Politics
11:06 am
Fri March 23, 2012

In Michigan, State House Republicans block efforts to set up health exchange

The Michigan House of Representatives
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan is making little progress toward creating a statewide health exchange required by federal law, held up by House Republicans who want to wait until the U.S. Supreme
Court decides if the law is constitutional.

The high court will hear arguments over the Affordable Care Act starting Monday.

Justices could uphold the law, strike it down completely or get rid of some provisions. House Republicans say the state shouldn't spend $9.8 million in federal funds on planning the exchange until
the court rules this summer.

But state and federal officials say Michigan could run out of time to put a state-run health exchange in place by Jan. 1.

They warn the federal government then would install its own exchange where consumers could compare private health insurance plans online.

Commentary
11:01 am
Fri March 23, 2012

Commentary: Too much sex, not enough policy

Consider this. We’ve still got more than a week left of March, and it looks like April and feels like August. Yesterday it was eighty-six in Ann Arbor, and two people think they saw a cougar -- a mountain lion, not the other kind -- on north campus.

We’ve got presidential candidates waving Etch-a-sketch toys instead of talking about Iran and inflation.

In other words, it’s not a normal year, and I want to make a suggestion to further radically change our world.

Read more
Politics
10:57 am
Fri March 23, 2012

Freedom of Information Act exemption for elected officials is called into question

Michigan’s governor and legislative members are not subject to state open-records law, but Democrats in the State Senate are trying to change that.

Gretchen Whitmer is the Democratic Senate leader. She thinks requiring compliance with the Freedom of Information Act is an important step towards promoting honesty from elected officials.

"We’ve got a lot of work to do in terms of ensuring ethical conduct by people in the legislature and setting a standard that’s very clear, and a system that is transparent," says Whitmer.

Her request comes a few days after emails were released by the Oakland County Democratic Party, which suggest the county’s redistricting process was motivated by partisan goals.

Legislation attempting to lift this thirty-six year old exemption is not new. It has been introduced several times before, most recently in the 2009 term. At that time, it was sponsored primarily by Republican representatives, who were in the minority.

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Legal Issues
10:17 am
Fri March 23, 2012

University of Michigan hosts panel on life sentences for juveniles

The State Prison in Jackson, Michigan
Andrew Jameson wikimedia commons

The University of Michigan Law School hosted a panel on life sentences for juveniles on Monday.  

In Michigan, a first-degree murder conviction results in an automatic life sentence for anyone 14 or older. There are currently 359 people in the state serving life without parole for crimes committed as minors. Michigan is one of 11 states with this type of law.

Austin Land works at a law firm that focuses on these kind of cases. He says these convictions are a human rights violation, because children are not able to fully participate in the adult criminal system. 

"Children have adolescent brains, they are risk-prone, and they lack adult faculties of judgment," Land said . "This all affects their ability to participate in their own defense, their ability to plea bargain."

On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court heard arguments for a pair of cases involving men who were fourteen when they were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Defendants claim this violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on ‘cruel and unusual punishment. ’ 

-Alex Markel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
10:11 am
Fri March 23, 2012

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing admitted to hospital

Detroit mayor Dave Bing (file photo)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Update 10:11 a.m.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's chief of staff Kirk Lewis sent this update to the media this morning:

I spoke with the Mayor this morning. Doctors have diagnosed him with an inflammation of the intestine; a commonly diagnosed, non-life-threatening condition.

He continues to rest comfortably, and a decision will be made later today regarding his release.

The Mayor is alert, upbeat and tells me he’s ready to return to the office.

9:28 a.m.

Mayor Bing commented on his visit to the Henry Ford Hospital on WJR 760 AM this morning.

From the Detroit Free Press:

...host Paul W. Smith said he spoke to Mayor Dave Bing by telephone Thursday night and Bing told him: “They think I might have a bit of colitis.”

Colitis is an inflammation of the large intestine, or colon.

Bing also said he was doing well and expected to be released today, Smith said...

The mayor said in January that he weighs only 10 pounds more than he did during his pro basketball days, and that he plays tennis and never eats junk food.

Thursday, March 22, 7:09 p.m.

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has been hospitalized for observation after discomfort following dental treatment.

Bing press secretary Naomi Patton says Bing had a dental appointment Thursday morning and "continued to experience some discomfort."

Patton says in an email that Bing went to Henry Ford Hospital on Thursday afternoon "and was subsequently admitted for observation and as a precautionary measure."

The 68-year-old Bing is a former businessman and retired NBA player who spent most of his career with the Detroit Pistons.

He was elected to a four-year term as mayor in 2009.

News Roundup
8:29 am
Fri March 23, 2012

This morning's news headlines in Michigan

Morning News Roundup, Friday, March 23rd, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Concealed Weapons Changes?

Under a new proposal in the state Senate, people with concealed weapon permits could carry handguns in more places if they get additional training. “A bill that would overhaul parts of the state's concealed weapons law was approved Thursday by the Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee.The bill wouldn't eliminate "no carry" zones such as schools, stadiums and churches. But licensed carriers who get training beyond what's already required in state law could get exemptions that would allow them to carry guns in those zones,” the Associated Press reports.

LGBT Protections

Democratic state Senator Rebecca Warren is calling for an expansion of Michigan’s civil rights law to protect people who are gay, lesbian or transgender from discrimination. Rick Pluta reports:

Warren says expanding the civil rights law would send a message that Michigan is trying to attract creative workers and entrepreneurs. Warren says the legislation would have no effect on the amendment that outlaws same-sex marriage and civil unions in Michigan. She doubts her bill will clear the Legislature in this session, but she wants to make sure the issue doesn’t go dormant. She also wants the bill to serve as a counterpoint to another bill that would outlaw local gay rights ordinances like the ones on the books in 18 Michigan communities.

Spartans Are Out

Michigan State University is out. The Spartan’s men’s basketball team lost 57-44 last night in their NCAA Sweet 16 tournament game against Louisville. “Tough defense by Louisville led to the defeat,” NPR’s Mike Pesca explains. “Some couch and garbage fires were reported near Michigan State University,” after the game, the Associated Press notes. But, no injuries have been reported.

Politics
5:01 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Appeal coming as Michigan governor's office pursues consent agreement for Detroit

Spirit of Detroit
(Michigan Radio)

Aides to Governor Rick Snyder say the state will ask the Michigan Court of Appeals to lift a judge’s order that prohibits a deal between Michigan and Detroit to resolve the city’s budget crisis.

An Ingham County judge says the state cannot make any deals with Detroit until he decides late next week whether a state team reviewing Detroit’s finances broke Michigan’s open meetings law.    Monday is the deadline for the review team to give Governor Snyder its recommendations.

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Politics
4:55 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Michigan lawmaker proposes expanding LGBT protections

antiochla.edu Antioch University

At the state Capitol, a Democratic lawmaker has called for expending Michigan’s civil rights law to protect people who are gay, lesbian or transgender from many types of discrimination.

State Senator Rebekah Warren says expanding the civil rights law would send a message that Michigan is trying to attract creative workers and entrepreneurs.

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Politics
4:37 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Race and politics in Detroit financial crisis

user: jpowers65 / flickr

Every Thursday we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, Political Analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service.

We can't ignored Detroit’s fiscal crisis and where things stand right now.

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Politics
1:38 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Detroit closes Riverside Park; some suspicious of contamination claims

The city of Detroit is temporarily closing Riverside Park in southwest Detroit because it sits on contaminated land.

But some residents are suspicious, because the park is no stranger to controversy.

Riverside Park sits next to the Ambassador Bridge. In 2002, the Detroit International Bridge Company fenced off part of the park, supposedly for security reasons.

After years of legal wrangling, the city evicted them and re-claimed the park for public use.

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Politics
12:38 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Judge says he won't lift consent agreement ban

Wikimedia Commons

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan judge has denied a request related to the actions of the state-appointed review team analyzing Detroit's troubled finances.

Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette on Thursday turned down a request from Gov. Rick Snyder and the financial review team to lift an earlier order keeping them from moving ahead with a consent agreement with Detroit city officials.

The judge said that must wait until his March 29 hearing examining whether the review team failed to comply with Michigan's Open Meetings Act.

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Courts
12:06 pm
Thu March 22, 2012

Jury at militia trial watches video of bomb tests

Seven on trial: top left, David Stone Sr. of Clayton, MI; Tina Stone of Clayton, MI; Jacob Ward of Huron, OH; David Stone Jr. of Adrian, MI. Bottom left, Michael Meeks of Manchester, MI,; Kristopher Sickles of Sandusky, OH; Thomas Piatek of Whiting, IN.
Base photo U.S. Marshals / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Jurors at the trial of seven Michigan militia members have watched dramatic video of bombs made by investigators from materials or diagrams linked to the group.

The jury heard loud booms Thursday and saw close-up photos of the impact of explosives on cars. Members of the Hutaree militia are charged with conspiring to rebel against the government as well as conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction.

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Commentary
10:46 am
Thu March 22, 2012

Arthur Vandenberg: Remembering a Hero

Yesterday, I was listening to Rick Santorum attack Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney for supposedly being willing to take more moderate positions in the general election campaign.

Well, there’s something to be said against being a flip-flopper, changing with every new opinion poll. But there is also something more to be said for recognizing reality.

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Politics
10:21 am
Thu March 22, 2012

Judge rules Moroun, Bridge Company officials no longer in contempt of court

Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards lifted the civil contempt finding against the Ambassador Bridge owners today, saying they had been complying with his orders to turn the disputed Gateway project over to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The ruling means that bridge owners Manuel (Matty) Moroun, his son Matthew, and bridge company president Dan Stamper are no longer under threat of jailing and no longer are required to attend subsequent court hearings in the case.

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News Roundup
8:56 am
Thu March 22, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup: Thursday, March 22nd, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Financial Crisis in Detroit

The state review team looking at Detroit’s finances yesterday formally declared the city to be in “severe financial distress.” Sarah Cwiek reports:

This means the review team will recommend some kind of state intervention in Detroit—whether it’s a consent agreement outlining steps the city must take to get out of financial distress (and likely giving elected officials some greater powers to take them), or appointing an emergency manager for the city. But, a Judge has issued an injunction forbidding a consent agreement before March 29th. The review team’s deadline to make a recommendation is March 26th. The state is appealing the injunction. Arguments are slated for today in the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Oakland County Redistricting

A fight over drawing Oakland County commission districts has made its way up to the state Supreme Court. Rick Pluta reports:

The legal battle pits Democrats in Oakland County against Republicans in the Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder. The issue is a state law that will toss out Oakland County’s current county commission map that was drawn by a board led by Democrats. The state law will turn that job over to the Oakland County Commission, which has a GOP majority. Hundreds of e-mails to and from county officials that were made public appear to show partisan motives behind the law. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the law soon. The court has a slim Republican majority.

Crops Threatened

It’s been an unseasonably warm month and that could jeopardize the state’s fruit crops. “While it's not unusual to have warm spells in early spring, it is unusual is for temperatures to average 40 degrees higher than normal for several weeks,” Rina Miller reports. "This is pretty much unprecedented," Matthew Grieshop, assistant professor at Michigan State University says. "It was back in the early 40s that we last had weather like this, and based on our experience, it looks pretty grim for the fruit growers."

Politics
8:36 am
Thu March 22, 2012

The Week in State Politics

Contemplative Imaging Flickr

There sure was lots of news this week about Michigan's emergency manager law - from legal wrangling over how the Open Meetings Act affects how financial decisions are made to the reappointment of Flint's Mayor. Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry took a look this morning at the latest.

Politics
10:23 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

State review team talks options for Detroit

The state review team looking at Detroit’s finances met again Wednesday, and formally declared the city to be in “severe financial distress.”

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Politics
3:24 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

Don't believe the hype; gas prices not linked to domestic drilling

A new analysis by the Associated Press found no correlation between domestic oil drilling and gas prices in the U.S.

So this famous line will get you applause...

... but it won't get you lower gas prices.

"Drill, baby, drill has nothing to do with it," said Judith Dwarkin, chief energy economist at ITG investment research. Two other energy economists said the same thing and experts in the field have been making that observation for decades.

And it's not just Republicans who make these kind of claims.

Placing blame for high gas prices is low-hanging, point-scoring fruit for any politician.

The Associated Press points out that on the campaign trail in 2008, then presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said "here in Ohio, you're paying nearly $3.70 a gallon for gas, 2-1/2 times what it cost when George Bush took office."

He's not blaming the White House occupant these days.

The Associated Press' Seth Borenstein and Jack Gillum wrote "statistical analysis of 36 years of monthly, inflation-adjusted gasoline prices and U.S. domestic oil production by The Associated Press shows no statistical correlation between how much oil comes out of U.S. wells and the price at the pump."

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