Politics & Government

Politics
6:49 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Snyder on Detroit consent agreement: "Let's go"

Governor Snyder says he’s happy Detroit leaders have signed off on a “historic” consent agreement, but now it’s time to get moving on the restructuring plan the deal calls for.

But at a Thursday roundtable with reporters, Snyder said Detroit’s fiscal problems have been building for decades, and won’t be solved overnight.

Read more
Political Roundup
5:33 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Financial stability agreement "huge step" for Detroit

User: Fabienne Kneifel/Flickr

The Detroit City Council signed off on a consent agreement with the state of Michigan Wednesday afternoon.

Mayor Dave Bing signed the agreement from his hospital bed. Bing is being treated for acute pulmonary embolism.

Read more
Politics
4:44 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

School Board member who fought financial review teams indicted for theft

User Gini Flickr

The Highland Park school board member who filed the Open Meetings Act lawsuits against the state's financial review process for Detroit, has been indicted for theft. The U-S Attorney’s office says Robert Davis sent fake bills to the district and stole thousands of dollars.

Davis faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Authorities say between 2004 and 2010, he stole more than $125,000 from the Highland Park School District by using cover companies to submit fake invoices to the district.

Read more
Politics
3:32 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Detroit Mayor Bing being treated for acute pulmonary embolism

Mayor Bing meeting at the mayoral residence
City of Detroit

After being released this past Monday from Henry Ford Hospital, Mayor Bing was readmitted to the hospital yesterday for discomfort.

Now we have news on his condition.

This statement was just released from Mayor Bing's communications director, Robert Warfield:

“Mayor Bing is being treated for acute pulmonary embolism in each lung,” said Dr. John Popovich, president and CEO of Henry Ford Hospital and a board-certified pulmonologist with extensive experience and research with this disorder.

“After arriving at HenryFordHospital, his condition was promptly diagnosed and treated. Pulmonary embolism is often caused by a blood clot that forms elsewhere in the body and travels to the lungs. This condition is treatable with medications called anticoagulants, commonly referred to as blood thinners. The mayor is alert, in good spirits, and expected to make a full recovery with discharge anticipated in a few days.”

Mayor Bing was admitted to the hospital Wednesday afternoon after experiencing some discomfort. He has been recuperating at the mayoral residence from his March 24 surgery to correct a perforated colon.

Pulmonary embolism is a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated.

Here's an animation showing how blot clots, especially after a long stay in a hospital, can form and lead to pulmonary embolisms.

Politics
3:29 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Campaign to keep Medicare as is visits Michigan retirement communities

Opponents of proposals for major changes to Medicare spent today making the rounds of retirement communities in Michigan.

They denounced the budget plan passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.  Under the Republican budget plan, future retirees would get a stipend to buy health insurance.   Its an approach Republicans say would hold down costs and begin to rein in the deficit.

Max Richtman  is the president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.   He says House Republicans want to do away with what’s left of the ‘New Deal’.

Read more
Politics
12:01 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Read the Detroit consent agreement, Michigan Gov. Snyder to hold media roundtable

There's a lot to talk about now that the Detroit City Council narrowly approved a consent agreement with the state.

Gov. Snyder's office says the Governor, state Treasurer Andy Dillon, and Director of Urban Initiatives Harvey Hollins will hold a media roundtable this afternoon at 2 p.m. to discuss the agreement.

You can read the Detroit consent agreement here.

Commentary
11:04 am
Thu April 5, 2012

Commentary: Today's Detroit compared to 60 years ago

Sixty years ago today, Detroit was the fifth largest city in the  nation, vibrant, rich and powerful. The city wouldn’t begin losing people till the first freeways opened up in the next year.

The population had probably reached two million. The summer before, the President of the United States had come to help the city celebrate its two hundred and fiftieth anniversary.

Read more
News Roundup
8:37 am
Thu April 5, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

user brother_o'mara Flickr

Detroit approves consent agreement with the state

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported, the 5-4 vote in favor of a consent agreement with the state "came after an emotionally-charged debate that sometimes erupted into hostility."

The agreement, which the Governor is expected to sign sometime today, sets up a nine-member financial advisory board that would have oversight over the city's financial matters. It also establishes a chief financial officer position, and a program management position, both would report to the mayor.

Cwiek reports the city's restructuring "will be painful and sweeping" with some city departments disappearing, some services cut and others privatized. And the recently negotiated contracts with a coalition of city unions will be tossed aside. New contracts must be worked out.

To help the city avoid insolvency, the state of Michigan will complete a refinancing of some outstanding debt by selling bonds.

Michigan school unions file federal lawsuit against state

The state passed a law last year barring school districts from collecting union dues through payroll deduction.  Schools unions filed a lawsuit against that law in federal court yesterday.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported "the federal lawsuit alleges the law violates the 1st and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, by discriminating against school employees’s free speech rights and treating them differently than other public employees…who can still have their union dues deducted from their paycheck."

The governor’s office issued a statement backing the law, “We believe the bill does adhere to the constitution. ”

It's Opening Day for the Tigers!

The first Major League baseball game of the season took place last night in Miami, but for the rest of the League  - today is the day.

In Detroit, the Detroit Tigers will slug it out with the Boston Red Sox at 1:05 p.m. Fans and sportswriters have high expectations for the Tigers this year with many expecting the team to take the AL Central pennant.

In today's Detroit Free Press, Tiger's owner Mike Ilitch told Mitch Albom he spent big money to field a competitive team this year:

Wait 'til next year. It's the sports fan's mantra. But for Mike Ilitch, next years are precious. At 82, he admits he gave Prince Fielder the largest contract in Tigers history at least partly due to urgency in winning a World Series title. "Time is running out," he says. "No use kidding myself."

Politics
1:53 am
Thu April 5, 2012

Detroit City Council approves consent agreement--what's next?

Detroit Council members Kwame Kenyatta, left, and James Tate during a debate over the consent agreement
Max Ortiz Associated Press

It’s all but official: Detroit and the state have struck a deal to avoid an emergency manager for the city.

In a contentious 5-4 vote, the City Council approved a consent agreement with the state. The narrow vote came after an emotionally-charged debate that sometimes erupted into hostility.

But everyone agreed on one point: the city of Detroit will never be the same.

Read more
Breaking
7:39 pm
Wed April 4, 2012

Detroit City Council approves consent agreement with state

In a 5 to 4 vote Detroit City Council approved a consent agreement between the city and state that will allow the city to avoid an emergency manager and bankruptcy. Earlier today, a state financial review team approved the agreement.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Under the consent agreement, a financial advisory board whose members would be appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder, Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council would advise and review all fiscal matters. The governor would appoint three members, the state treasurer would appoint one, the mayor would appoint two and the City Council would appoint two.

Michigan Governor Snyder released this statement after the vote:

“The council has acted responsibly to put Detroit on the path to financial stability. Approval of the consent agreement is a positive opportunity for the city and our entire state. It’s a clear message that we will move forward – and win – as one Michigan. We all want Detroit to succeed. This agreement paves the way for a good-faith partnership that will restore the fiscal integrity taxpayers expect and ensure the delivery of services that families deserve.

“While the council’s action is a positive step, there’s no doubt that much work remains. The magnitude of the city’s financial challenges means that many difficult decisions lie ahead. We must build on this spirit of cooperation and be willing to act in the city’s long-term interests.

“I appreciate the countless hours that Mayor Dave Bing and his staff, the City Council, the Financial Review Team, state Treasurer Andy Dillon and the rest of my team have devoted to achieving this agreement. Because of their tireless work, Detroit is poised to move toward being a great city again with improved services for its citizens and a foundation for future growth.”

And Detroit's Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis released this statement after council approved the consent agreement:

The Detroit City Council’s vote tonight represents a pivotal moment in Detroit’s history. It is time now to begin the monumental task of stabilizing Detroit’s financial operations, which is and has always been the mission of Mayor Bing and his administration.

The Mayor and his administration worked with the City Council and the State to develop a consent agreement that we believe puts us on track to restructure our City financially and reestablish an infrastructure to make sure Detroit never faces these financial conditions again.

This agreement also ensures that the future of Detroit is determined by Detroiters and its elected officials.

Lewis has been acting on Mayor Bing's behalf while he works to recuperate from surgery after suffering from a perforated colon.

Politics
4:17 pm
Wed April 4, 2012

State financial review team approves Detroit consent agreement

The members of Dertoit's financial review team
Michigan Department of Treasury

A Michigan state financial review team met this afternoon and approved a proposed consent agreement with the city of Detroit.

Review team member Conrad Mallett Jr. said the proposed agreement "is the best we can do at the moment we are in," according to the Detroit Free Press.

The consent deal would keep Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council in office but impose substantial state oversight of the city’s finances. The major sticking point under a consent agreement is the reopening of union contracts.

Now its up to Detroit City Council to vote on the agreement. They are scheduled to meet today at 5 p.m. Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis said today the thinks there are enough votes on council to pass the agreement.

Politics
3:54 pm
Wed April 4, 2012

School unions file federal lawsuit to stop Michigan law blocking payroll deduction of union dues

A beautiful Spring day at the state capitol
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Four Michigan unions are asking a federal judge to strike down a new state law barring school districts from collecting union dues through payroll deduction.  The unions filed the lawsuit today.

When he signed the law, Governor Snyder said it would ensure “public transparency” and make sure public resources are spent on their intended purposes.   

Read more
Politics
3:36 pm
Wed April 4, 2012

Detroit Mayor Bing returns to hospital - Deputy Mayor says votes are there to pass agreement

Mayor Bing (center) meets with Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis (rear) and Communications Director Robert Warfield (foreground).
City of Detroit

Update 3:36 p.m.

Mayor Bing's office released a statement saying he was re-admitted to Henry Ford Hospital this afternoon as a simple precaution. The statement says he was readmitted "after experiencing some discomfort."

3:21 p.m.

Detroit Mayor Bing's press secretary, Naomi Patton released photos of Bing and Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis meeting today at the mayoral residence in Detroit.

Bing was released from Henry Ford Hospital this past Monday after going through surgery for a perforated colon.

Here's Lewis talking about his meeting with the Mayor and about Detroit City Council's impending decision about a financial stability agreement with the state.

Lewis told reporters he thinks there are enough votes on council to pass the agreement.

Politics
11:58 am
Wed April 4, 2012

Detroit draws closer to consent agreement, as Court of Appeals tosses restraining order

Laughlin Elkind Flickr

The Michigan Court of Appeals today lifted a temporary restraining order that prevented the state financial review team for Detroit  from meeting.

The court’s move has opened the door to a major step in fixing Detroit’s city finances.

The financial review team, appointed by the governor,  was supposed to meet Tuesday to vote on a “consent agreement” that would restructure the city of Detroit’s finances.

The agreement would help the city avoid the appointment of an emergency manager, but would require painful budget cuts.

Read more
Politics
11:06 am
Wed April 4, 2012

Flint's firefighters union and emergency manager reach agreement

Flint firefighters reach a tentative agreement with city's emergency manager.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Flint's emergency manager, Michael Brown, and the city's firefighters union have worked out an agreement over concessions, Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reports:

Brown said today that, as of this morning, it's the only signed agreement reached so far. The city has been talking with each of the six employee bargaining units, Brown has said.

He declined to comment on the details of the proposal, saying that the fire union members are expected to review the agreement and vote on it in about 10 days.

Brown hopes to have plan for the city's other unions in place by Friday. He's working to wipe out a budget deficit in Flint of around $11 million.

Commentary
10:53 am
Wed April 4, 2012

Commentary: More Casinos in Michigan?

Last summer I went to Traverse City to speak to the state association of property law lawyers. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, they will probably little note nor long remember what I said there.

But I’ll never forget something I saw there. The night before my speech, they took us to the Turtle Creek Casino for dinner. The food was excellent. But we walked through the gamblers sitting at the slot machines, and that was haunting. They looked like zombies, most of them, mechanically feeding money into the one-armed bandits. Few of them looked like they could afford to gamble.

Read more
News Roundup
8:29 am
Wed April 4, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines...

user brother_o'mara Flickr

With EM decision fast approaching, Detroit City Council will meet again tonight

Instead of voting on a proposed financial stability agreement with the state, Detroit City Council members spent much of Tuesday discussing several court challenges that could derail any agreement. They eventually adjourned without a vote on the agreement despite warnings that tabling a vote could lead to an emergency manager appointment by Gov. Snyder. Snyder's deadline to decide on an EM appointment is tomorrow. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek was at the meeting and reports council plans to meet again tonight.

Last night, Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis, who has been filling in for Mayor Bing while out on medical leave, issued this statement regarding council's discussions:

We appreciate the seriousness with which the Detroit City Council is deliberating. This is one of the most critical decisions in this City’s history. However, Mayor Bing and the administration believe Gov. Snyder will act on Thursday, April 5, according to law, regardless of any related, current legal challenges to the process.

Auto sales on pace for a strong year

It's early yet, but auto sales figures in the U.S. show automakers are on pace to make 2012 the best sales year since 2007. More from the Detroit Free Press:

New-vehicle sales ran at a 14.4 million annual rate in March, down from a four-year-high of 15.1 million in February. Still, at the pace so far, Americans would buy 14.5 million vehicles this year, up from 12.8 million in 2011. The increase equals more than six assembly plants running two shifts each.

Chrysler led all automakers in sales gains for the month of March at 34.2 percent.

Michigan's unemployment rate drops across areas of state 

Michigan's unemployment rate dropped to 8.8% last month with a slight uptick in overall employment as well.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported new data shows the decline occurred throughout the state:

Fifteen of 17 regions of Michigan recorded declines in unemployment in February, with Detroit and Monroe reporting the largest rate decreases from January to February. Flint, Holland and Jackson recorded the largest declines during the past year.

Politics
6:30 pm
Tue April 3, 2012

Detroit Council delays vote on consent agreement... again

Detroit City Council members James Tate, left, and Kwame Kenyatta
Max Ortiz Associated Press

The Detroit City Council has again delayed voting on a consent agreement that would stave off an emergency manager.

The Council spent most of Tuesday discussing several court challenges that could doom the agreement regardless of how they vote.

Read more
Newsmaker
5:47 pm
Tue April 3, 2012

Discussions continue, no vote yet on Detroit Consent Agreement

User: jpower65/flickr

Gov. Snyder's administration and Detroit officials have been working towards a consent agreement to address the city's financial crisis. Legal challenges have stalled the Detroit City Council’s ability to vote on an agreement with the state.

Tuesday afternoon Detroit City Council decided there are too many unresolved legal questions about the consent agreement and decided not to vote, but they try again on Wednesday.

Michigan Radio's Detroit reporter Sarah Cwiek explains those uncertainties and what we might expect to see happen next.

Read more
Politics
3:57 pm
Tue April 3, 2012

Michigan gets an "F" on "Corruption Risk Report Card"

Michigan fails the integrity test.
State Integrity Investigation

In the opening of his State Integrity Investigation piece, reporter Chris Andrews shows us why Michigan gets the failing grade:

The campaign finance system here has more holes than I-94 after a spring thaw. Big spenders and special interests can easily shovel millions of dollars into election activities — secretly if they choose... And the financial disclosure system for state elected officials?

Well actually, there isn’t one.

Welcome to Michigan, the “Trust Us” State when it comes to transparency. Reform efforts are frequently launched, sometimes debated, always shelved.

The State Integrity Investigation is a project of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.

The project aims to "expose practices that undermine trust in state capitols -- and spotlight the states that are doing things right."

You can see how all the states stack up here.

Clearly, Michigan is not going to make the highlight reel.

Overall, after looking at 330 specific measures of "state integrity," Michigan ranked 43rd among the 50 states.

And while Lansing has not been rocked by scandals seen in some other state capitols around the country, Andrews writes there are "glaring holes," when it comes to transparency in money spent to lobby lawmakers, and in the money spent to elect or defeat candidates in Michigan.

Michigan Supreme Court elections, a seat money can buy

How money can influence the perceived integrity, or the real integrity of an office was highlighted in a recent piece by Michigan Radio's Lester Graham.

In his Michigan Watch report, Money Talks: Campaign money and Supreme Court justice candidates, Graham illustrated how once a candidate wins a seat on the Michigan Supreme Court "no one really knows if a case is being decided strictly on the merits, or because of someone’s hidden political donation and its influence."

Graham spoke with former Michigan Supreme Court justice Betty Weaver about this:

“It isn’t just the appearance of impropriety, this money does have influence. Common sense tells you it does. I’ve been there,” said Weaver.

LG: Do you think you’ve seen on the court influence because of a large donor at one time or another?  

“Yes, I do think that the ability to control who gets appointed and who gets elected has an effect on the decisions of the court, so you can pretty well guess how it’s going to go,” said Weaver.

In his State Integrity Investigation piece on Michigan, Chris Andrews notes that Gov. Snyder proposed an ethics package when he was running for governor in 2010. Snyder called for banning gifts from lobbyists, "cooling-off periods," and regulating issue advertising.

But while Snyder achieved many of his campaign goals after taking office in 2011, these reforms were put on the back burner.

Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, told Andrews that lawmakers in Michigan are unlikely to change anything unless the public demands it.

Pages