Politics & Government

Politics
12:11 am
Mon May 7, 2012

Detroit NAACP celebrates 100 years, talks future of civil rights at annual dinner

The Detroit branch of the NAACP held its annual “Fight for Freedom fund” dinner last night.

There was celebration of the branch’s centennial anniversary this year. But there was also grave concern over continuing civil rights struggles.

The dinner is traditionally one of the Detroit NAACP’s largest—and most lucrative—events.

This year, it drew thousands of people, including much of Michigan’s political and business elite.

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elections
10:11 pm
Sun May 6, 2012

Kent County voters to decide on millage for community college

Organizers worked to get extra "yes" signs like this one out this weekend.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Volunteers in Kent County are making a last minute push to get out the vote Tuesday. They’ll be knocking on doors and making phone calls running up to Tuesday’s election.

Voters will decide on a county-wide millage increase to renovate outdated buildings at Grand Rapids Community College.

The millage would pay for basic improvements to almost every building on campus.

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Politics
4:01 pm
Sun May 6, 2012

Michigan voters to decide many issues on Tuesday's ballot

(file photo)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Voters across Michigan go to the polls on Tuesday.

More than 200 communities are holding elections.   

Most of the questions involve school bond issues.

Bloomfield Hills schools are asking voters to approve a $58 million bond issue to pay for renovations to a high school. This proposal is a scaled back version of similar proposals that have failed in the past. 

Some school districts are asking voters to approve bonds to pay for technology upgrades.  For example the Allegan public school district is asking voters to approve an 18 million dollar bond issue.   Part of that would be spent on computers.

Not everything on the ballots involves schools.

The issue in Delhi Township, near Lansing, is sludge.    Or more accurately,  what to do with it.

The township is asking voters to approve a surcharge on their water bills to pay for a sludge dryer.   Supporters say the dryer would turn human waste into bio-fuel. Opponents say it’s just a waste of money.

*Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the Bloomfield Hills school bond issue had failed twice before. The current proposal, however, is not that same as previous bond issues. The copy has been corrected above.

Politics
9:54 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Detroit City Clerk: Budget cuts "don't make sense," would compromise elections

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Detroit’s City Clerk says budget cuts would compromise her ability to run elections.

Janice Winfrey took her case to the Detroit City Council Friday.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing wants to cut the election department's budget by 25%, from $7.4 million to $5 million.

Bing says that’s part of across-the-board cuts that need to happen as the city grapples with state mandates to reduce its deficit--outlined in the consent agreement between the city and state.

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It's Just Politics
5:48 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Dingell goes for 30; Snyder for Veep; U.P. secession; and an intra-party GOP fight

Flickr
Contemplative Imaging

Too busy to check in on all of the political news happening this week in Michigan? Or, maybe you just weren't able to fill your political appetite this week. Well, don't fret! Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta and I spent some time this afternoon taking a look at the week-that-was in Michigan politics in an extended edition of It's Just Politics.

On tap for this Friday:

  • A Florida political analyst sparks speculation about a possible Mitt Romney/Rick Snyder GOP presidential ticket
  • A group of unhappy Yoopers talks U.P. secession
  • Southeast Michigan Rep. John Dingell announces he'll run for a record 30th term in the U.S. House of Representatives
  • After a lot of "will he or won't he" talk, former Republican Rep. Joe Schwarz says he will not run as a Democrat in November against incumbent Rep. Tim Walberg
  • State Democrats caucus tomorrow to pick their presidential nominee and we ask: will it be President Barack Obama or President Barack Obama? (Our money is on President Barack Obama)
History
5:25 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Past and present Democratic caucuses

In Michigan, President Obama is expected to be confirmed as the democratic candidate.
YouTube

Michigan Democrats hold their caucuses on Saturday May 5th. President Obama is expected to be confirmed as the democratic candidate.

Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry talks with Jennifer White about past and present Democratic caucuses.

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It's Just Politics
3:25 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Up in smoke: The hazy politics of pot in Michigan

It's Just Politics: May 4th, 2012
Eggrole Flickr

In this week's edition of It's Just Politics, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network and I take on the politics of pot. It's a hazy situation and an issue that's getting chronic attention in the state (okay, okay, enough with the drug innuendo).

Where things stand

In 2008 voters – by a pretty large margin - voted to make medical marijuana legal in the state. But, the law is confusing. Not only is there the fact that it’s still illegal under federal law, there are also questions about if and how dispensaries should be regulated; the medical conditions for which  medical marijuana should be prescribed; the size and location of marijuana plants that one is allowed to grow... I could go on and on.

Pluta: Exactly… there are more questions than answers when it comes to this law because it is so vague. So, this week, we’ve seen some measures to add clarity to the law. But, because this law was a voter-initiated and approved law, to  change it, any measure has to have a three fourths majority in both the state House and Senate. Something that’s not in this package is dispensaries – that’s in court right now, but some lawmakers don’t want to wait for a state Supreme Court ruling. They say dispensaries could cure some problems – especially what to do when someone who is legally growing marijuana has more weed than they can use. 

Clark: So, just this week state Representative Mike Callton introduced a measure to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries. But, Callton says he was against the medical marijuana law that passed in 2008.

Collton: “…I think what voters passed is nuts, just crazy insane.”

Pluta: So, why is he introducing this then?

Clark: That is, indeed the question.

Pluta: Callton and some others say it would be better for dispensaries to buy up, or otherwise take possession of, surplus pot instead of having it sold illegally on the street. There’s a division, though. Some Republicans basically consider dispensaries legalized dope dens.

Clark: So, that’s a debate that will take place probably this summer on dispensaries. What’s moving right now would require in-person doctor’s visits to get a medical marijuana card, a picture I.D., and police access to medical marijuana records.

Pluta: Medical marijuana advocates say some of this goes too far. In a couple of instances, it reverses what voters approved in the medical marijuana law and, so, they’re trying again. There is a petition drive in the field to put a question on the ballot to make Michigan a legalized marijuana state.  We’ll see if they can get enough signatures.

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Politics
3:08 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Unnamed air carrier shows interest in Detroit's City Airport

A runway map of Detroit's City Airport
faa.gov

Detroit's Coleman A. Young International Airport, also called City Airport, might soon be seeing passengers for the first time since 2000.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Jason Watt, general manager of the Coleman A. Young International Airport, told the City Council on Thursday that the city has a letter of intent from a carrier interested in re-establishing scheduled passenger travel. He would not publicly identify the company.

The facility is still open for private pilots and cargo carriers, the Free Press reports, but prior to Thursday's anonymous show if interest, the airport's future wasn't looking particularly bright as city officials work to scale down Detroit's budget.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Commentary
10:48 am
Fri May 4, 2012

Commentary: John Dingell runs again

The tail fins on cars were just starting to take off the first time he ran. The nation had about half as many people as it does now.

Neither of his opponents this year had yet been born. For that matter, neither had Governor Snyder or President Obama.

John F. Kennedy was a freshman senator, General Motors was the world’s most powerful corporation, and nobody had ever seen a Japanese car. We are talking 1955, when, a few days after Christmas, a few thousand voters showed up for a special election, and sent a geeky-looking 29-year-old lawyer to Congress.

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News Roundup
9:12 am
Fri May 4, 2012

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 2nd
Brother O'Mara Flickr

National unemployment numbers released this morning

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released unemployment numbers this morning. The unemployment rate "was little changed at 8.1 percent."

Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 115,000 for the month of April.

As Mark Memmott at NPR's Two-Way blog points out, "the economy needs to add more than 115,000 jobs a month to bring down the unemployment rate." So why the decline?

Mostly because the size of the "civilian labor force" shrank by 342,000 people, to 154.4 million. And the labor force "participation rate" edged down to 63.6 percent from 63.8 percent.

Assesing Michigan's fruit crop, worst in history

The fruit crop in Michigan got bitten by the bizarre weather. High temperatures in March brought the blossoms out, and freezes and frosts in April killed emerging buds.

More from the AP:

Farmers and extension agents say the one-two punch has all but wiped out the tart cherry crop, while other orchard fruits such as sweet cherries, apples, pears and peaches have suffered extensive damage. Juice grapes are another casualty.

Fifty-four-year-old David Rabe of Oceana County says he's been farming nearly all his life and has never seen it this bad. Only his asparagus may survive.

Flooding after rains move through the state

The flooding has caused problems for drivers this morning. Some roads in the Detroit and Flint areas have been closed.

The AP reports that both directions of I-75 at I-696 in suburban Detroit were closed today as the morning rush hour period approached.

A flash flood warning was issued for the Flint area, including Genesee and Shiawassee, counties due to the storm.

The National Weather Service has issued flood advisories, watches and warnings for parts of Michigan's Lower Peninsula following the storms.

More from the Flint Journal:

Hit with more than 5 inches of rain overnight, the county's creeks, streams and drains are swelling as residents cope with their own localized flooding this morning.

The National Weather Service said today that 5.4 inches of rain fell overnight, almost twice as much as the area usually gets in the entire month of May.

"It's bad everywhere," said county Drain Commissioner Jeff Wright. "The whole county got hit pretty well."

The 5.4 inches of rain recorded at Bishop overnight surpassed the total, normal monthly rainfall total for a typical month of May -- 3 inches.

Political Roundup
5:17 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Is eliminating the personal property tax a good thing?

The personal property tax is mostly a tax on business equipment, office furniture and manufacturing equipment.
IBM / The News Market

Every Thursday we take a look at Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

There’s an eight-bill package working its way through the legislature right now aimed at eliminating the personal property tax. This sounds like something that would affect individuals but this is actually a business tax.

Sikkema says, “This is basically a tax on business equipment, computer, office furniture and manufacturing equipment. It’s generally acknowledged to be a bad tax because it taxes new business purchases and business growth and investment.”

Demas indicates that some cities receive up to 40% of their tax base from the personal property tax. However, not all cities would be affected in the same way. Some cities wouldn’t be affected at all.

“The municipalities have been looking for ways that they can get some of that revenue replaced, but so far they haven’t had a lot of takers because their solution is a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the same money, and nobody really wants to tie the legislature’s hands with that," she says.

Sikkema believes eliminating the tax is a good move for Michigan. He says, “Other states, particularly in the Midwest have already eliminated it, principality Ohio. Michigan and Indiana are the only ones in the Great Lakes region that I’m aware of who currently collect the personal property tax.”

But he adds, “It’s not without its down side…for some it is a major source of revenue and republicans are trying to address that with this promise to replace it in the future.”

Demas adds, “I do think we do need to pay attention to however many communities there are that really rely on this and could be pushed over the edge, because certainly it’s not health for our state to have our cities keep getting financial managers.”

Politics
4:26 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Michigan Court of Appeals hears cases on emergency manager law

The state Court of Appeals heard challenges today to the determinations that Flint and Detroit face financial emergencies.

The challenges say state review teams violated Michigan’s Open Meetings Act by not deliberating in public.
    
Attorney Andrew Paterson says the public has a right to know how a review team goes about its job.

"It is determining the financial condition of a local unit of government and it is reporting on that financial condition,” said Paterson.

Attorneys for the state say the review teams are not public bodies under the open meetings law.

The state says the teams only offer advice, and it’s ultimately up to the governor to decide whether cities and school districts are in financial emergencies.
    
Flint is currently being run by an emergency manager and Detroit is operating under the terms of a consent agreement with the state.

Politics
3:37 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Medical marijuana changes passed by Michigan House

user Laughing Squid Creative Commons

The Michigan House passed a package of bills aimed at clarifying the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law.

The four bills passed by the House now go to the Michigan Senate.

The Detroit Free Press reports the bills passed with support from both Republicans and Democrats:

The bills were adopted on broad, bi-partisan votes, clearing the three-fourths majority hurdle needed to amend the law approved by Michigan voters in 2008. Similar majorities will be needed for approval in the state Senate, however, before the changes would become effective.

MLive reports protestors have demonstrated at the Capitol in Lansing, arguing the package of bills infringe on patients' rights.

"You are never going to appease everyone," said Rep. Phil Cavanagh, D-Redford Township. "That’s why I have confidence that everybody is a little disappointed in the language in the four bills, yet I believe it’s a good compromise and I believe that these clarify the voters intent the best we could."

Here are links to the four bills passed by the Michigan House of Representatives today:

Politics
2:53 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

Vice President Snyder?

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder delivering the 2011 State of the State address

That's what one conservative analyst is saying today.

In a column for Tampa Bay Online, Chris Ingram bases his prognostication on hotel room locations.

More specifically, hotel room locations for the Republican National Convention this August in Tampa Bay.

Ingram writes that Romney and Massachusetts got the best rooms for the convention... and Gov. Snyder and Michigan got the second best spot:

But there is a reason Michigan got the second-best hotel assignment: Gov. Rick Snyder. My bet is he's Romney's man for vice president.

What does hotel room location have to do with anything?

Ingram writes:

Access to the convention site, proximity to the best restaurants and bars, being inside the security zone, and not having to ride a bus (a really big deal if you're a Republican) are almost as important as fighting over abortion and gays in the party's meaningless platform.

Ingram notes Snyder's success at getting his pro-business agenda passed through the Michigan legislature, his background in private business, his credentials (an attorney with an MBA), and his appeal to moderates as more reasons Mitt Romney could pick Snyder as his running mate.

"Too bad he doesn't speak fluent Spanish," Ingram writes.

So what are the odds? Who do you think Romney will pick?

Politics
11:33 am
Thu May 3, 2012

Michigan legislature prayer group

Flickr user/jemasmith

The Roman Catholic church says a newly formed prayer caucus in the Michigan Legislature that specifically endorses Judeo-Christian tradition should open itself to officials of "any faith." About 30 lawmakers and Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Calley sang "God Bless America" and prayed at Wednesday's launch.

The caucus says in its founding statement that it's "a bipartisan body of believers of Scriptural Truth, adhering to established Judeo-Christian principles."

The statement has drawn criticism from the Council on American-Islamic Relations based on what the group's state director Dawud Walid says is its "exclusionary language."

 The Michigan Catholic Conference has weighed in as well, saying it hopes that "elected officials of any faith are made to feel welcome." Caucus co-founder Rep. Ken Kurtz says anyone may join.

Commentary
10:59 am
Thu May 3, 2012

Commentary: College for all?

It’s hard to see the future. If you had been around during the Cretaceous Period, sixty-five million years ago, it would have been obvious that the world belonged to the huge and magnificent dinosaurs which dominated the planet.

Nobody would have paid much attention to the little rat-like things called mammals scurrying around the forest floors. But in the end, they would inherit the earth.

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Politics
10:08 am
Thu May 3, 2012

Petition to recall Randy Richardville rejected

www.misenategop.com

A petition to recall the Republican majority leader of the Michigan Senate has been rejected by a Monroe County board. The Board of Canvassers met yesterday and said the petition language was unclear. Monroe County Clerk Sharon Lemasters says the petition was rejected because at least one section was vague.

Politics
10:36 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Detroit City Council works to fill financial advisory board

The Detroit City Council is interviewing candidates for the city’s new financial advisory board this week.

The nine-member financial advisory board is a requirement outlined in Detroit’s consent agreement with the state.

The City Council gets to appoint two members, and approve the rest, who are appointed by the Governor, State Treasurer, and Mayor.

On Wednesday, the Council interviewed Mary Beth Kuderik, Chief Financial Officer for the UAW Retiree Benefits Trust.

Council members seemed keenly interested in Kuderik’s record managing health care costs—one of the city’s biggest long-term expenditures.

Kuderik says she thinks the city could save a lot of money in health care costs.

“My sense is that there would be opportunity for savings, even in terms of cash flow,” she said.”

Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown cautioned it won’t be a part-time job to start.

“There is so much information that you have to be brought up to speed on, to understand how the city operates, that I really do see it being a full-time job for 30-45 days,” Brown said.

The Council has until May 10th to finalize the board.

So far, only one advisory board appointee lives in Detroit. That’s a concern to some Council members.

Several Council members have said qualified city residents they’ve approached have declined interviews, saying the issue is too contentious.

Politics
6:03 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

John Dingell to seek 30th term in the U.S. House

The Dean is not ready to retire.

John Dingell is the longest-serving member of the U.S. House in history.

And he wants to serve even longer.

Dingell announced he'll run for a 30th term in Congress, representing the new 12th District of Michigan, which includes parts of Wayne and Washtenaw counties.

The 86-year old Dingell walks and stands with difficulty, using a cane, and he also relies on a hearing aid.

But he says his health is great, he still works 14 to 16 hour days, and he has too much left to accomplish to think about retiring.

"I tell you, I have never figured out how to not worry about the concerns that my people have," Dingell told a small crowd in Ann Arbor.

The press conference was held directly in front of a construction site for the new Stadium bridge, for which Dingell helped secure $17 million in state and federal funds.

He is facing a Democratic challenger in the August primary.

26-year-old Daniel Marcin is a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan.

Marcin served as Treasurer for a year for the Graduate Employees Organization, a student union at the University of Michigan.

But he has not held an elected public office.

Politics
12:26 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Detroit unions weigh strike option as layoffs loom

wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - Some Detroit municipal union leaders say striking is one of several options being discussed during ramped-up strategy sessions before new contract talks with the city begin.

American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 25 spokesman Ed McNeil says no strike vote has been taken "at this point."

McNeil said "people are looking at the system itself and are pretty disgusted with the city."

Union strategy sessions have become more agitated since Mayor Dave Bing and Gov. Rick Snyder approved a consent agreement that avoided appointment of an emergency manager in Detroit but now calls for steeper benefit cuts and more work rules concessions.

Detroit has an accumulated budget deficit of $265 million. Bing wants to cut more than 2,500 jobs and shave $250 million in annual expenses.

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