Politics & Government

Politics
5:33 pm
Fri March 16, 2012

Protesters take on emergency manager law as Detroit deadline approaches

A small crowd camped out inside the building that houses state offices in Detroit Friday.

The group was there to protest Michigan’s emergency manager law, Public Act 4—and the state’s plans to use it in Detroit.

The protest was small and peaceful, if loud, with prayers and song. Tempers did flare briefly when private security guards tried to force protesters to leave.

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Commentary
12:27 pm
Fri March 16, 2012

Right to Vote

Generalizations are always dangerous, but here’s two that are pretty safe. Most Republicans are not happy that Barack Obama was elected president four years ago. And in Michigan, Democrats are unhappy with Governor Snyder and the Republican legislature.

I don’t think I’ll get much argument there. But now consider this: Two years ago in Michigan, fifty-five percent of registered voters didn’t vote at all. When you consider that some people don’t ever register, the picture is even worse.

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News Roundup
8:53 am
Fri March 16, 2012

In this morning's news headlines...

Storms spin off tornadoes in southeast Michigan

More than 100 homes were severely damaged and 13 homes were destroyed by an F3 tornado in Dexter; a tornado touched down for 3-5 minutes in Monroe County; and a possible third tornado ripped a home from its foundation in Lapeer County.

But amazingly, so far, there have been no reported deaths or serious injuries from these storms.

The Associated Press spoke with Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Yee after he went door to door in Dexter:

Yee approached one destroyed home Thursday, and saw a hand sticking out of the rubble. He pulled out an elderly man, who was shaken but walked away.

“That’s the best part,” Yee said. “Every place I went to, I would have thought I would have found somebody laying there — deceased or whatever. But, knock on wood, everybody was OK.”

A shelter has been set up to help those affected by the storm in Dexter at the Mill Creek Middle School.

The Associated Press reports teams from the weather service will examine the damage today in Washtenaw, Monroe, and Lapeer counties.

Flint's emergency manager stripped of his power

Flint’s emergency manager, Michael Brown, will have to step down from his position after a judge prevented him from ‘taking any action’ on behalf of the city.

The judge's order was sought by Flint's unions. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody spoke with a union representative about the order:

"Because these proceedings were conducted illegally, including the appointment of Michael Brown as Emergency Manager, the court has quite properly enjoined Mr. Brown from acting on behalf of the City of Flint," says Lawrence Roehrig, Secretary-Treasurer of Michigan Council 25 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

State officials say Brown will abide by the order. A court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

More power for Bing? Detroit leaders working on counterproposal 

The state's consent agreement plan unveiled to Detroit's city leaders on Tuesday was loudly rejected by Mayor Bing and several city council members. Bing and council members are working on a counterproposal to the state.

The Detroit Free Press reports that proposal would give Bing more power than he has now:

Under the 26-page draft, obtained Thursday by the Free Press and first reported on freep.com , Bing proposes taking over many of the responsibilities of the state's proposed financial advisory board. He would assume the powers of an emergency manager, except that of being able to terminate union contracts.

Their time to work up a proposal is limited. Gov. Snyder says his deadline is March 26, and as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports "their position gets even weaker as their bank account approaches zero—a time bomb that could blow up before the end of April."

Politics
7:00 am
Fri March 16, 2012

Group wants marijuana possession decriminalized in Grand Rapids

miss.libertine Creative Commons

Grand Rapids voters could decide if people caught with marijuana should only be charged with a civil infraction, instead of a criminal charge. A group of residents begins collecting signatures Friday to put the measure on the November ballot in the city.

The group modeled the proposed changes to Grand Rapids’ city charter after Ann Arbor’s. In that city, people caught with marijuana pay just a $25 fine for the first offense, but get no higher than $100.

The proposed charter change reads in part;

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Politics
12:43 am
Fri March 16, 2012

Behind Detroit consent agreement, it's all politics

Governor Snyder and other state officials have told Detroit this week it needs to accept a consent agreement to avoid going broke.

A draft agreement has been presented to the City Council. It would give the state a great deal of say in how Detroit is run.

But lots of politics stand in the way of reaching an agreement.

The consent agreement State Treasurer Andy Dillon has crafted for Detroit—the only “official” proposal out there right now--can be seen in one of two ways.

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Movies
3:07 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

First a book, and now a film?

"The Real Kwame Kilpatrick" a film by Ayanna Ferguson Kilpatrick (Kwame Kilpatrick's sister) is coming soon.

The documentary will recount the life of the former Detroit Mayor and promises “rare expressions” from his wife Carlita Kilpatrick.

The movie trailer released Monday on YouTube begins with the voice of Kilpatrick himself saying, “Today I want you to sit back, relax, open your mind, because I am the real Kwame Kilpatrick.”

Here's the movie trailer:

A book of memoirs titled "Surrendered: The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick" was released in August of last year.  

The Michigan Court of Appeals said former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick would not get to keep the money from sales of his new book.

The Associated Press reported:

A judge has ruled Kilpatrick's profits will be placed in escrow to help satisfy $860,000 in restitution he still owes Detroit as part of his plea to a 2008 criminal case.
 

Kwame Kilpatrick who was charged with perjury, spent 99 days in a Michigan prison, and was released Aug. 2. He lives now in the Dallas area.

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Politics
3:05 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

U.S. Rep. Clarke wants federal government help for Detroit

U.S. Representative Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit) wants the state to hold off on plans to appoint a financial advisory board to oversee things in Detroit.

Clarke is quoted in the Detroit News saying "even though Detroit is in a financial crisis, this current financial board has the power and the focus to cut staff, outsource departments and sell assets. That's not the way you get out of a financial crisis."

From the Detroit News:

Clarke says he wants the federal government to provide relief similar to what was given to New York City in 1975 to keep it from going into bankruptcy.

Clarke, who says he's prepared to introduce legislation in Congress next week, says he understands it's a long shot, but said the idea is worth pursuing. Any legislation would have to be passed through the Republican-led House and Democratic-led Senate.

Politics
2:29 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Lawmakers may seek less expensive Michigan budget

Michigan's Capitol in Lansing.
user auntowwee Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Lower-than-expected tax collections could threaten parts of Gov. Rick Snyder's next state government budget plan.

Republicans who control the Michigan Senate have preliminary plans to spend roughly $150 million less overall than Snyder has proposed for the fiscal year starting in October.

The targets include about $25 million less than Snyder proposed for information technology system upgrades and $45 million less on the state prison system.

The Senate targets do not reduce Snyder's funding proposals for education. Proposed spending would be relatively flat for K-12 schools, while universities and community colleges could get average increases of about 3 percent.

The Snyder administration says it's too early to change its budget plan, noting more information will be available when state economists gather in May for an official revenue estimating conference.

Politics
2:05 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Michigan Gov. Snyder responds to criticism over Detroit plan

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Facebook

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder held a roundtable discussion with members of the media today to address the controversy building around a proposed consent agreement he and state treasurer Andy Dillon put forward earlier this week.

Part of the plan seeks to help Detroit with its troubled finances by appointing a 9-member financial review board that would oversee decisions by city leaders.

Mayor Bing and many members of city council have rejected the idea, saying it strips them of the decision-making power given to them by the electorate. They're working on an alternative plan.

MRPN's Rick Pluta reports Governor Snyder is "anxious to see a counter-offer from the city council and Mayor Dave Bing."

But he stands by his plan to give ultimate financial authority to a review team that could veto actions by the mayor and the council.

“Because that would give more confidence to the citizens, people working for the city, vendors to the city, debt holders to the city, and people looking to invest in Detroit to know they’ve got this group of financial experts helping the mayor and city council in a constructive way,” said Snyder.

The governor says the deadline for adopting a plan is March 26.

After the deadline, the Governor could use recommendations from a state-appointed financial review team to appoint an emergency manager to run the city.

Snyder rejected the idea that a financial review board would take power away from city leaders saying under the plan the mayor and city council get to appoint members to the advisory board.

Snyder also said Detroit should not expect additional financial assistance in the near term, even if the consent agreement is put in place.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Snyder emphasized that much of his proposed new spending on public safety initiatives would be directed to Detroit. But he came close to ruling out the idea of boosting the city's state revenue sharing (which city officials insist was cut during the administration of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm), providing short-term assistance to help the city pay its bills or any other financial incentives.

"I would not have any expectation of any short-term cash assistance," he said, "We need long-term solutions."

Crime
1:15 pm
Thu March 15, 2012

Supreme Court cases could determine the fate of Michigan's youngest criminals

Andrew Bardwell wikimedia commons

Michigan has one of the country's highest numbers of "juvenile lifers"---prisoners sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes committed as minors---359 total.

That includes six who were only 14 when they committed their crimes.

These numbers come from an in-depth report from John Barnes at MLive.com.

Barnes profiled those six, including TJ Tremble, who has spent half his life, 14 years, in a state prison following a murder conviction. Tremble has no hope of release because of a mandatory life sentence.

Now, for the youngest of young offenders at least, there could be a path toward release. That's because of a pair of upcoming U.S. Supreme Court cases involving young offenders.

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Commentary
10:54 am
Thu March 15, 2012

Can Detroit Work It Out?

If you were listening to the rhetoric yesterday, you might easily have concluded that there is little chance of Detroit accepting the governor’s proposal to save it from an emergency manager.

Two days ago, Gov. Rick Snyder put forth a proposal for what is being called a “consent agreement,” under which most of the mayor and council’s powers would pass to a nine-member financial advisory board, which would then run the city, possibly for years.

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News Roundup
7:52 am
Thu March 15, 2012

In this morning's news headlines...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit leaders not consenting to Snyder's consent decree plan

On Tuesday, Gov. Snyder and state treasurer Andy Dillon put forward a plan to rescue Detroit's finances. Almost immediately the plan was rejected by city leaders. They said the proposed plan would strip them of their power. "Why the hell would I sign it?" Bing said when appearing before a group of students yesterday.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

Bing, Snyder, council members and Detroit ministers took to the airwaves and podiums Wednesday, keeping Tuesday's dust from settling.

Bing, in an uncharacteristically combative tone, said the state's proposed consent agreement to fix the city's deficit is unconstitutional and will undermine progress being made by his administration.

Snyder described the criticism as "unfortunate."

Both men defended their positions Wednesday, and at times, both seemed disappointed, frustrated and irritated.

The Free Press reports Bing and city council leaders are working on a counter-proposal.

Gov. Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley plan to hold a press event at 10 a.m. this morning "to discuss Detroit’s critical financial situation."

Gov. Snyder's higher education plan criticized by university presidents

Four university presidents testified in front of members of the State House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education yesterday. They were critical of Gov. Snyder's plan for higher education funding. Snyder's budget proposal calls for increases in state support if universities meet certain goals.

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman said Snyder's proposal is not a fair measurement of success. From MLive.com:

“By all accounts, the University of Michigan is a world-class institution of higher education,” she said. “Yet, in the budget proposal that has been recommended, you could erroneously come to conclude that based on the performance measures that were evaluated; the university is a failing institution.”

Part of Gov. Snyder's proposal rewards universities for keeping tuition rates down. Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas said tuition rates are highly dependent on state aid. From the Detroit Free Press:

"It is a fact that the single greatest impact on tuition and debt is the presence or absence of state appropriation," Haas said. "If the state had been able to avoid cuts in the past decade, our tuition could be $6,000 a year instead of $9,000. If the state had been able to maintain the 75/25 ratio of long ago, our tuition could be just $3,000 a year, a number well within reach of nearly every qualified student."

Michigan's home foreclosure rate declining

It's good news for a state that has been battered by the economic downturn. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports today "one in every 433 Michigan homes had a foreclosure notice filed against it in February." That's down 25 percent when compared to February a year ago.

The better statewide numbers are mirrored in the Detroit market (down 17 percent from January-down 27 percent from February, 2011), which has long been the epicenter of Michigan’s foreclosure problems.

The nationwide home foreclosure rate declined by 8 percent when comparing February 2012 to February 2011.

Politics
6:51 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

A conversation with David Hecker, Pres. of AFT in Michigan

The Republican-led legislature approved a measure that would prohibit schools from automatically deducting union dues from the paychecks of school employees last week.

Those in support of the measure say it puts more money in the pockets of employees who can then choose to write a check to their union. Opponents say it’s another attempt at union busting.

David Hecker, President of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

Politics
6:47 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Michigan legislature may tighten rules for ballot question petitions

What's on the ballot?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

People who want to put a question on the ballot could soon have to get their petitions pre-approved by a government panel before they could gather signatures. That’s under a measure that cleared the state House today on a party-line vote.

The measure could force current petition drives to get state approval and then start over. The petition drives would guarantee union organizing rights, require disclosure of businesses’ political spending, and boost renewable energy requirements on utilities.

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Politics
3:45 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Rep. Cotter says UofM is "thumbing its nose at the legislature"

The Michigan House of Representatives
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

In a meeting with members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education some tough words were levied at University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman.

Coleman was at the meeting to testify on Gov. Snyder's funding proposal for higher education.

During the hearing, State Rep. Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) said the University of Michigan did not adequately give the legislature answers to questions about human embryonic stem cells.

More from Dave Murray of MLive.com:

Cotter said the school was supposed to provide answers to five questions about the use of human embryonic stem cells – numbers he said could be provided on one sheet – and the university instead sent a cover letter with 50 pages of copied newspaper articles.

“The university is thumbing its nose at the Legislature,” he said.

Genetski, R-Saugatuck, said the university’s funding “might be in jeopardy” if it is not more cooperative.

Coleman said she doesn’t think there is a problem with the way the university responded, and she and the lawmakers “would have to disagree” on the issue.

Politics
2:58 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Mayor Bing: I won't be Detroit's emergency manager

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Dave Hogg Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he won't accept the position of emergency manager for the city even if it's offered by the state.

The mayor's remarks came Wednesday during a forum at Wayne County Community College District, one day after state officials delivered a proposed consent agreement for the city. The proposal was an ultimatum that would shift political power, consolidate public utilities and shrink city staff and salaries.

Bing says he disagrees with the proposed consent deal and had no input in the consent agreement proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder and Treasurer Andy Dillon.

Detroit is facing cash flow problems and a $197 million budget deficit. A state review team has already been digging into its troubled finances, and the governor could appoint an emergency manager.

Politics
1:28 pm
Wed March 14, 2012

Governor Snyder urges Detroit leaders to accept consent deal

Detroit City Council chamber
City of Detroit Facebook page

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is urging Detroit leaders to accept a consent agreement that would make them accountable to a financial advisory board, even though Mayor Dave Bing and some council members are unhappy with the deal.

Speaking Wednesday in Lansing, the Republican governor says the initial reaction from officials has been "go away."

He says it's a "cultural challenge" to get leaders to accept that the city can't fix its financial woes on its own.

Snyder could appoint an emergency manager, but prefers to reach a consent agreement he says would leave the mayor and council members in charge of policy. City leaders got details of the agreement Tuesday and found lots to criticize.

Bing called Snyder "disingenuous." Snyder says it's unfortunate "to make a personal attack out of this."

Commentary
11:50 am
Wed March 14, 2012

Where Detroit Stands

Sadly, it appears that the state of Michigan will be taking over the city of Detroit, one way or another. There are a lot of reasons that this is a tragedy, and also a few reasons to be happy about this.

However the next few weeks play out, the city, one way or another, seems likely to get the help it needs to straighten out decades of terribly mismanaged finances. Yesterday, Governor Snyder announced details of a proposed “consent agreement” which would bring radical change and fiscal responsibility to Detroit.

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News Roundup
10:27 am
Wed March 14, 2012

In this morning's news headlines...

A little late coffee this morning...
user brother o'mara Flickr

Michigan-based bank among those to fail stress test

Ally Financial, headquartered in Detroit, made the Federal Reserve's list of major banks that failed to show they have enough capital to survive another serious downturn.

From the Associated Press:

The Federal Reserve says 15 of the 19 major banks stress-tested passed. The Fed noted that all 19 banks are in a much stronger position than immediately after the 2008 financial crisis. Still, SunTrust, Ally Financial and MetLife joined Citi in failing to meet the test's minimum capital requirements.

Ally Financial released a statement saying the Fed's analysis "dramatically overstates potential contingent mortgage risk, especially with respect to newer vintages of loans."

The Fed reviewed the bank balance sheets to determine whether they could withstand a crisis that sends unemployment to 13 percent, causes stock prices to be cut in half and lowers home prices 21 percent from today's levels.

Mixed reactions to Gov. Snyder's consent agreement plan for Detroit rescue

Yesterday, Detroit City Council saw a proposed consent agreement put forward by Gov. Rick Snyder and state treasurer Andy Dillon. The agreement proposes a financial advisory board, among other things, to help right Detroit's financial problems.

The initial reaction from many on city council and Mayor Dave Bing was negative - with several saying the plan takes too much power away from the city's elected leaders.

The Detroit Free Press gathered reaction from Detroit residents, which they say, was mixed. Here's one example:

Sherina Sharpe, 31, a lifelong Detroit resident who teaches writing, said she doesn't know what the best course of action is, but she wants to see the city flourish and isn't ready to shoot down proposed solutions.

"I'm open to solutions as long as they actually benefit the people who live here," she said.

You can read the agreement and weigh-in with your thoughts here.

Broadband deal reaches across Big Mac and into the Upper Peninsula

The Mackinac Bridge won't just transport people and goods, it will also transport large packets of information under a new deal announced yesterday. From the Associated Press:

Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday announced a deal between the nonprofit Merit Network Inc. and the Mackinac Bridge Authority. It allows Merit Network to purchase strands of cable crossing the 5-mile-long Mackinac Bridge for use in a fiber-optic broadband project called REACH-3MC.

The project is part of an effort to expand broadband access in Michigan. Snyder says it will help "serve job creators and the Upper Peninsula."

Politics
5:19 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

Muskegon considers laws protecting gay or transgender people

Protestors gathered in Lansing January 18th 2012 to speak against a new state law banning most public entities from offering benefits to same sex partners.
Nancy Gallardo Until Love Is Equal

The City of Muskegon seems likely to pass local laws protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination in housing and employment.

The state and federal government do not offer this protection, but almost 20 Michigan cities do.

Roberta King lives in Muskegon. She was "pleasantly surprised" no one opposed the local law when she asked city commission to consider it this week.

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