Politics & Government

Politics
3:58 pm
Fri March 9, 2012

Detroit Mayor Bing floats the idea of a $150 million state bridge loan

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

Update 3:58 p.m.

Mayor Bing's office issued this statement in response to today's reports:

Mayor Bing has not asked Gov. Snyder for a loan from the state for  $125-$150 million. In response to a reporter’s question about whether he would ask Gov. Snyder for bridge funding for the city, the Mayor simply replied, "That's possible." When the reporter later asked how much he would like to ask for, the Mayor responded with the above mentioned range.

“The city continues to implement the financial restructuring plan the Mayor announced in January to save $102 million this year and $258 million in 2013,” said Kirk Lewis, Mayor Bing's chief of staff. “The savings to keep the city financial solvent will be achieved through the plan, including the ratification of previously announced tentative agreements with the city’s labor unions.”

1:44 p.m.

There’s discussion today about whether Detroit might ask taxpayers to help Michigan’s largest city through a cash crisis.

The city could run out of money in May, or sooner.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said he might or might not ask the state for a $150 million bridge loan.

He said earlier this week in his State of the City address that some assistance from Lansing will be necessary to fix Detroit’s finances.

Governor Rick Snyder said he hopes a legally binding plan to get Detroit’s  spending under control will avert a state takeover.

Geralyn Lasher is the governor’s communications director.

“From the governor’s perspective, you have to have it to be a complete plan. Certainly, the dollars at the state level are extremely limited. We need to be very smart and efficient in how the dollars are spent.”

Lasher says a short-term cash infusion is out of the question without a long-term plan to balance the city’s budget.

Republican leaders have reacted skeptically to the idea. A state review team is expected to make its recommendations by the end of the month on whether the governor should name an emergency manager to run the city.

Politics
10:01 am
Fri March 9, 2012

Records: Detroit contractor extorted $58.5 million

DETROIT (AP) - Federal court records claim a Detroit businessman and ally of disgraced ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick obtained $58.5 million by extorting contractors and through other illegal conduct.

The allegations surfaced in a seizure warrant affidavit that was unsealed Thursday and reported by The Detroit News.

The affidavit provides the most detailed account to date of the alleged trail running through the racketeering conspiracy case against Ferguson and Kilpatrick. It says Ferguson spent a fraction of the cash on his kids' college education, his girlfriend and construction equipment.

Ferguson's attorney, Gerald Evelyn, said he hadn't read the affidavit but has challenged FBI searches in a separate bid-rigging case against Ferguson.

The 43-year-old Ferguson is awaiting trial in separate federal corruption and bid-rigging cases.

News Roundup
8:51 am
Fri March 9, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, March 9th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Corporations to Disclose Political Spending?

A ballot campaign is trying to amend the state constitution to require businesses to tell the public when they run their own political ads.  A petition drive will try to put the question to voters on the November ballot. Rick Pluta reports:

The amendment takes aim at the 2010 Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited political expenditures by corporations as a long as they are not coordinated with a candidate’s campaign. The amendment would require businesses to report political expenditures within 24 hours and identify themselves on their ads. Unions are specifically excluded. Benson says labor organizations are bound by other disclosure laws.

“Occupy” Homes

A group of anti-foreclosure activists says Chase bank continues to wrongly foreclose on people’s homes. And as part of the “Occupy our Homes” movement, they plan to fight for eight Metro Detroit homeowners they say are victims. “Chase bank and other mortgage lenders signed a consent agreement with the federal government in the wake of the national foreclosure crisis. The group says they want Chase to work with the homeowners—but they’ll physically defend the home from foreclosure if necessary. They’re also taking up the case of seven other families across Metro Detroit,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

Detroit Corruption

Detroit businessman Bobby Ferguson, a friend of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, obtained more than $55 million through extortion and other illegal conduct, according to federal records. “The allegations surfaced in a seizure warrant affidavit that was unsealed Thursday… The affidavit provides the most detailed account to date of the alleged trail running through the racketeering conspiracy case against Ferguson and Kilpatrick. It says Ferguson spent a fraction of the cash on his kids' college education, his girlfriend and construction equipment. The 43-year-old Ferguson is awaiting trial in separate federal corruption and bid-rigging cases,” the Associated Press reports.

Detroit
6:44 am
Fri March 9, 2012

Detroit mayor to ask Mich. for $125M-$150M loan

Ifmuth Flickr

Update 7:15 a.m.:

Bing spokeswoman Naomi Patton said in an email to The Associated Press on Friday morning that the mayor has no such specific plans, however, to seek the help from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.

Original post:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing plans to ask the state of Michigan for a $125 million to $150 million loan to shore up Detroit's finances and avoid a state-appointed emergency manager.

Bing's plans to seek the help from Republican Gov. Rick Snyder were reported Thursday evening by The Wall Street Journal following an interview with the Democratic mayor.

The Detroit News reported Friday that Bing's office confirmed the plans. Bing spokeswoman Naomi Patton tells the newspaper a request hasn't yet been formally made to Snyder.

The Associated Press sent emails Friday morning seeking comment from Patton and the governor's office.

Detroit faces cash flow problems and a nearly $200 million budget deficit. Bing and Snyder have said they would prefer to avoid an emergency manager. A consent agreement is a possibility.

Politics
11:51 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

"Occupy" group takes aim at Chase bank, foreclosures

A group of anti-foreclosure activists says Chase bank continues to wrongly foreclose on people’s homes.

And as part of the “Occupy our Homes” movement, they plan to fight for eight Metro Detroit homeowners they say are victims.

Chase bank and other mortgage lenders signed a consent agreement with the federal government in the wake of the national foreclosure crisis.

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Politics
9:05 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

Judge strips power from Ambassador Bridge owners in construction dispute

A judge has stripped the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge of control over a key construction project, and transferred total control to the project’s joint partner, the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Judge Prentis Edwards had found Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) officials in contempt of court for delaying the Gateway Project.

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Political Roundup
5:02 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

State politics and public safety

Gov. Rick Snyder delivered a special address on public safety this week. His plan calls for fighting crime in some of the state’s most violent cities.

The 34 point plan includes hiring 180 additional state troopers, increasing staffing at crime labs, decreasing urban blight, and linking welfare benefits to school attendance.

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Politics
4:56 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

Autism coverage bills clear Michigan Senate committee

Flickr
cedarbenddrive Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Senate soon could vote on bills aimed at requiring insurance companies to cover some types of treatment for autism.

The Senate's Health Policy Committee on Thursday approved a bipartisan package of bills related to autism coverage, sending the bills to the Senate floor. They go to the House if the Senate passes them.

One bill sets up a fund to help reimburse insurers for paid claims related to diagnosis and treatment of autism. That provision is included in hopes of lessening opposition from business and insurance groups.

Previous efforts to mandate autism coverage have stalled in Michigan.

More than half the states require insurers to provide autism coverage. Gov. Rick Snyder says it's time or Michigan to join them.

Politics
3:01 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

Consent agreement may be part of Detroit's future

DETROIT (AP) - A high-stakes game of political brinksmanship could result in a consent agreement that keeps a state-appointed emergency manager out of Detroit.

But elected officials and municipal unions first would have to agree on concessions aimed at shoring up the city's financially-battered books.

Gov. Rick Snyder says he prefers a consent agreement with the city, which faces cash flow problems and a nearly $200 million budget deficit.

A consent agreement likely would include stiff requirements and still could lead to a manager if Detroit fails to comply. But it could help keep civic pride intact while retaining local control.

Mayor Dave Bing for months has used the threat of an emergency manager to cajole city unions into accepting wage and health benefit reductions. Deals have been reached but remain un-ratified.

Politics
1:30 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

Michigan group wants corporate donors to be revealed

Former Michigan secretary of state candidate Jocelyn Benson announces launch of a ballot campaign to require corporations to disclose their political spending. The rollout took place on the steps of the state Capitol in Lansing.
Rick Pluta MPRN

Corporations would have to report their spending on political advertising and lobbying under a proposed amendment to the state constitution. Organizers announced the drive today, although they won’t start gathering signatures until later this month.

All amendments to the state constitution must be approved by voters.

A 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on their own political ads. The court says it’s up to states to decide whether to require disclosure.

Jocelyn Benson was the Democratic Party’s nominee in 2010 for Michigan Secretary of State, and is leading the effort to adopt the amendment.

“It’s really important when you think about our role not just as voters, but as consumers – when we buy products, we deserve and we have a right to know if the money we spend on companies or on products are being spent to influence political campaigns or lobby elected officials. This amendment would create that right,” said Benson.

The amendment would require companies to immediately disclose any spending for a political purpose, and where the money came from. Benson’s campaign is aiming for the November ballot.

The Associated Press reports that "backers have until July 9 to collect the 322,609 signatures needed to get the measure on the November ballot."

Politics
11:29 am
Thu March 8, 2012

Judge: Bridge owner loses control of construction

Flickr
The Ambassador Bridge Jim Wallace

DETROIT (AP) - A judge has ordered the company that controls the Ambassador Bridge to surrender control of its portion of a project on the U.S. side of the international crossing to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards ordered Thursday that an account be set up to fund the work.

A next court hearing is March 22.

The Detroit International Bridge Co. has said it's making progress on its share of the $230 million Gateway Project and pledged to complete the work.

In January, Edwards put 84-year-old billionaire Manuel "Matty" Moroun and his top executive, Dan Stamper, in jail for contempt of court for failing to follow orders on the project, which includes connecting the bridge with Canada to area interstates.

They were released by the Michigan appeals court.

Commentary
10:42 am
Thu March 8, 2012

Republicans complete action on two anti-union bills

Yesterday, I talked about a major effort the state’s labor unions were launching to counteract what they feel is a major assault on collective bargaining. They are attempting to amend the constitution to make it impossible to take collective bargaining rights away from any group, no matter the circumstances.

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News Roundup
8:02 am
Thu March 8, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, March 8th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Snyder on Public Safety

Governor Rick Snyder delivered an address on public safety yesterday in Flint. Rick Pluta reports:

The governor presented his plan to fight high crime rates in Michigan cities in front of a room filled with police officers, prosecutors, and other local government officials. The plan has 34 separate initiatives and would cost tens of millions of dollars. Governor Snyder wants to hire and train 180 new state troopers to work in high-crime cities, put more scientists in crime labs, and place parole officers in local police departments. But the governor says he also wants to link welfare benefits to school attendance, attack urban blight, and start up a 15 million dollar urban jobs program. The governor says he will submit a budget request to the Legislature within two weeks.

Bing Delivers State of the City Address

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing delivered his third State of the City address last night. Sarah Cwiek reports:

Bing gave few details about how he’ll deal with the city’s most immediate threat: running out of cash. Bing said both he and Governor Snyder “agree that an emergency manager is not the best option” for Detroit. Bing has hammered out tentative cost-saving agreements with the city’s major unions. But they have yet to be ratified by members. The state could grant Detroit’s elected officials powers to impose new contracts and make other sweeping changes through a consent agreement. That’s seen as an increasingly likely option for the state to help Detroit get through its cash crunch.

State’s Unemployment Rate Drops

The state’s unemployment rate is continuing to drop. The state’s seasonally unadjusted rate was 9 percent in January. “During the past year, Michigan’s unemployment rate is down nearly two full percentage points. The state’s unemployment rate is now at its lowest mark since September 2008.  It’s also about five percentage points lower than at the height of the recession in 2009. Manufacturing and Professional services saw the biggest jump in new hires,” Steve Carmody reports.

Politics
12:35 am
Thu March 8, 2012

Bing: State must offer Detroit "tangible support" to avoid cash crisis

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the city is “at a critical and pivotal time like none in Detroit’s history."

But during his third annual State of the City address, Bing gave few details about how he’ll deal with the city’s most immediate threat: running out of cash.

Bing said both he and Governor Snyder “agree that an emergency manager is not the best option” for Detroit.

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Politics
11:54 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Bridge owners cite progress on construction project; hearing set for Thursday

The Detroit International Bridge Company says it’s moving forward on a long-disputed construction project.

Godfrey Dillard and other DIBC lawyers will try to convince Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards they're making progress in a hearing Thursday.

Edwards found DIBC President Dan Stamper and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun in contempt of court for ignoring his orders. He had ordered them to finish the Gateway Project, a disputed joint construction project with the Michigan Department of Transportation, according to initial plans.

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Politics
6:45 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Michigan Court of Appeals strikes down GOP reapportionment of Oakland County commission

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld part of a lower court's ruling involving redistricting in Oakland County.

The court ruled Wednesday that the law passed last year by the GOP-controlled Legislature was a local act affecting only one government and needed to pass with two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate to meet state constitutional requirements.

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Politics
5:52 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Another former Wayne County official indicted

DETROIT (AP) — A former high-ranking Wayne County official has been indicted on corruption charges in an investigation of kickbacks tied to a health program.

Michael Grundy is accused of enriching himself by having a contractor inflate invoices and pass him the cash. Grundy was an assistant county executive and director of HealthChoice until he was fired last fall.

He's charged with conspiracy, fraud and extortion. His lawyer had no immediate comment Wednesday.

Grundy was placed on leave in October and then fired in November by Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano.

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Politics
1:24 pm
Wed March 7, 2012

Governor Snyder outlines plan to fight crime in Michigan

Office of the Governor

During a press conference in Flint today, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder outlined points from his "Special Message to the Legislature on Public Safety." A press release from the governor's office quotes Snyder:

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Commentary
11:44 am
Wed March 7, 2012

Going for Broke

For weeks, I heard rumors that a coalition of unions were going to try to get a state constitutional amendment on the ballot to prevent the legislature from making Michigan a so-called "right-to-work" state. That is, one where workers could no longer be required to join or pay dues to a union. Well, the unions revealed their proposal yesterday.

Read more
News Roundup
9:01 am
Wed March 7, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Bing to Address Detroit

Mayor Dave Bing is set to deliver his State of the City address this evening at the Erma Henderson Auditorium at the Detroit City Hall. “Bing will deliver his third State of the City address as he, the City Council and union leaders seek fiscal answers to keep the state from appointing an emergency manager… A preliminary review from the state showed a nearly $200 million general fund deficit for 2011. A review team is looking over the city's books to determine if a financial emergency exists, a step that could lead to Gov. Rick Snyder appointing an emergency manager,” the Associated Press reports.

Anti “Right to Work” Ballot Drive Underway

Unions and progressive groups have launched a ballot drive as a push back against what they say is a wave of anti-labor measures from Republicans in Lansing. Rick Pluta reports:

The campaign wants to put a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot. It would prohibit Michigan from becoming a "right-to-work" state that allows employees to opt out of paying union dues. It would also pre-empt a host of other laws that would restrict union organizing and fundraising. Opponents of the ballot drive said it’s motivated more by a desire of union leaders to drive voter turnout in November than to guarantee workers’ rights. Union and progressive groups launched the ballot drive today. They have until July 9 to collect enough signatures of registered voters to qualify for the November ballot.

Prop 2 Arguments Begin Today

The U.S. Circuit Court in Cincinnati will hear arguments today over Michigan’s constitutional amendment that bars state universities from considering race in college admissions."Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved ‘Proposition 2’ in 2006. Mark Rosenbaum is with the American Civil Liberties Union. He says Prop 2 violates the U.S. Constitution by forbidding the consideration of race, while other factors like whether a college applicant’s parent is an alumnus, are still permitted. Last year, a federal appellate court ruled against Prop 2,” Steve Carmody reports. The case could eventually end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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