Politics & Government

Politics
6:17 pm
Wed August 17, 2011

First Detroit police officer gets new house with Project 14

steve carmody

The Detroit program meant to lure police officers back to live in the community they serve has officially welcomed its first resident.

Currently, most Detroit police officers live outside the city. Project 14 aims to entice them back with generous housing incentives.

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Politics
4:29 pm
Wed August 17, 2011

Report calls for eliminating 49 judges in Michigan

The State Court Administrative Office report recommends cutting the number of sitting judges in Michigan (The 58th District Court in Ottawa County, no cuts are recommended for this district).
Rich Evenhouse Flickr

Update 4:29 p.m.

You can see a list of the recommended cuts on page two of the report from the State Court Administrative Office.

MPRN's Laura Weber reports that the State Court Administrative Office report also says there are some counties that need more judges, but state court administrator Chad Schmucker says they're not recommending adding judges at this time:

“We are not making a recommendation to add those judges, but there’s a simple reason for that. The most important one is the judges in those courts said we don’t want the recommendation at this time.”

The report recommends that the judgeships be eliminated as judges retire or leave their posts. It's up to the Michigan Legislature to enact the changes.

12:42 p.m.

The State Court Administrative Office released a report saying the state should cut 45 trial court judges and four appeals court judges.

From the Detroit News:

Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. and State Court Administrator Chad Schmucker released the report at a news conference.

"Increasing the size of government is easy; it turns out it takes political courage to reduce it," Young said.

The Michigan Supreme Court has unanimously endorsed the recommendations, as has Gov. Rick Snyder, Young said.

The report said Michigan has too many trial judges in the wrong places and there are areas in the state that have a combined need for 31 more judges. But no new judges are recommended at this time because of the economic climate, the report said.

"We need the Legislature to act," Young said. He said previous recommendations to decrease the number of judges in Michigan had not been acted on by lawmakers "to the detriment of taxpayers."

The News reports that the elimination of each trial court judgeship saves $157,500. The elimination of each appeals court judgeship saves around $171,500, according to a spokeswoman for Governor Snyder.

Doing the math, the recommended cuts would save the state close to $8 million.

Commentary
10:52 am
Wed August 17, 2011

Children in Poverty

Yesterday, we learned that Michigan has more than half a million kids in families whose incomes are below the poverty level. Half a million. That’s according to reliable figures provided by the non-partisan, non-profit Michigan League for Human Services.

Every year, they bring us something called the Kids Count Data Book, a demographic survey of children’s well-being, funded by the reputable Annie E. Casey Foundation.

This year’s study shows that almost one in four Michigan kids is poverty-stricken. That’s as of two years ago, and the situation probably worsened last year. That’s more significant than it seems: Poverty-stricken children all too often grow up to be poor, unemployed and sometimes unemployable adults. They seldom get the education they need to be successful in the modern economy.

Additionally, kids who live under economic stress also tend to have more health problems, according to Jane Zehnder-Merrell, the director of the Kids Count in Michigan project.

That should bother you even if you have a heart of stone, because society is going to end up paying a tremendous economic as well as human cost as a result. We won’t see the full effect of the recession on our children for years.

And, there are things we could do to cushion the blow. Unfortunately, according to the experts, we seem to be choosing policies guaranteed to do exactly the opposite. Michigan, by the way, isn’t the worst state in the nation when it comes to child poverty, though we are worse than most.

We’ve fallen a few notches to thirtieth out of fifty states. But while child poverty went up nationally by 18 percent since two thousand, it increased in Michigan by a staggering 64 percent.

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News Roundup
8:50 am
Wed August 17, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, August 17th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

“Kids Count”

There was a 64 percent increase in the child poverty rate in Michigan between 2000 -2009, according to a new report. The “Kids Count” report, released yesterday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, keeps track of 10 factors including child poverty, education levels and the rate of infant mortality. There was some good news to come out of the report. It shows that Michigan ranks better than the national average for the death rate among teens due, in part, to fewer fatal car accidents.

Detroit Job Fair

Thousands of people waited for hours to get into a job fair in Detroit yesterday. “The job fair was part of a nationwide tour hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus. It’s meant to draw attention to unemployment among African Americans… The Congressional Black Caucus says the unemployment level for African Americans is more than 16 percent. In Detroit, the figure ranges anywhere from 30-50 percent,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

‘Underwear Bomber’ Back in Court

The Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner with 290 people aboard on Christmas Day in 2009 is due back in court after prosecutors raised questions last week about sealed documents in the case, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The government seeks to know if Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab agreed to the sealed filings recently made by his standby counsel, Anthony Chambers. The hearing is Wednesday afternoon at U.S. District Court in Detroit. The subject of the filings hasn't been disclosed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Cathleen Corke. But she wrote that it could affect the Oct. 4 trial date and the 24-year-old Abdulmutallab's ability to "continue with self-representation." He dismissed his court-appointed lawyers last year and said he wanted to represent himself.

Politics
8:09 am
Wed August 17, 2011

The Week in State Politics

State Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

Republican leaders in the state Senate say they will push for a closed presidential primary to take place in Michigan on February 28. That’s one week earlier than the National Republican Party rules allow and penalties could include having the state's convention delegates stripped. In today's "The Week in State Politics" Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry takes a look at what a February 28 GOP primary would mean for the state and the presidential primary candidates.

Politics
6:00 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Thousands turn out for Detroit job fair

Thousands of people waited for hours just to get inside Wayne County Community College Tuesday, where employers were ready to take names and resumes.

The job fair was part of a nationwide tour hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus. It’s meant to draw attention to unemployment among African Americans.

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Politics
5:50 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Detroit legislator, Muslim groups call proposed state law "polarizing" and "racist"

Rashida Tlaib

The only Muslim in the Michigan state legislature says a bill that targets “foreign laws” is xenophobic political pandering, and offensive to the Muslim community.

Detroit State Representative Rashida Tlaib blasted the bill that aims to “restrict the application of foreign laws.”

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Politics
5:45 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

A Conversation with State Representative Jeff Irwin

Democratic State Representative Jeff irwin
housedems.com

The Michigan legislature returns from break next week. While they will be faced with a new set of issues when they return, at least one legislator is critical of the work that’s been done so far.

Every week we interview lawmakers about what's happening in our state and the nation. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White today talks with Freshman Democratic State Representative Jeff Irwin about the state budget, working with the legislature and what we can expect in the coming months.

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Election 2012
5:15 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Michigan Republican leaders push for early primary

Balloons drop at the Republican Convention in 2008.
Nick Busse Flickr

Republican leaders in the state Senate say they will push for a February 28th closed presidential primary date.

That’s one week earlier than the National Republican Party rules allow. National GOP rules state that only four states are allowed to hold primaries before Super Tuesday in March without penalty.

Michigan is not one of those states. Penalties could include having convention delegates stripped.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says they plan to stick with a primary on February 28th.

“Michigan is going to be really relevant in the decision making process because of this date, but I don’t think we’re doing anything outlandish that would cause the national committee to be upset with us.”

The Michigan Republican Party has not specified a desired primary date. The party is leaving the primary date decision up to lawmakers.

The chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, Robert Schostak, says he is not too concerned with being penalized for the decision:

“The penalties are somewhat unclear. They haven’t been determined by the committee in finality. But if we would be penalized by losing delegates and we were trading that for relevancy, my sense is that the Legislature and the state committee that would be ultimately deciding on this are okay with it.”

Both the Republican and Democratic parties in Michigan were penalized in 2008 for holding an early primary. The parties were stripped of half their convention delegates.

The primary election is estimated to cost $10 million. Taxpayers would foot the bill.

Politics
3:11 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Crowd demands Michigan Congressman Fred Upton talk jobs (video)

A woman at the community forum in Kalamazoo with Congressman Fred Upton demands that he talk about jobs.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith went to Kalamazoo yesterday to report on a community forum with Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph).

Upton was invited by the Kalamazoo County Advocates for Senior Issues and he discussed the economy, health care, and social security with the group.

But as Smith reported the "crowd of 200 people also demanded he talk about what he’s doing to create jobs and improve the economy. Several interrupted and shouted at Upton. Those doing the interrupting asked him about the economy."

Here's some video of that forum. Upton attempts to talk about the information on his chart, but he's interrupted:

Politics
2:33 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Union groups protest outside Republican congressman's office

Members of the American Federation of Goverment Employees, Communications Workers of America and other groups picket outside Michigan Republican Congressman Tim Walberg's office in Jackson
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

About two dozen union members demonstrated outside the Jackson office of Republican congressman Tim Walberg. The protest was as much about the 2012 election as it was about the budget fight in Washington.   

Some passing motorists honked their horns, showing solidarity with protesters outside Congressman Tim Walberg’s office. The protesters, like teacher’s assistant Glenda Wells, say Walberg has sided too often with special business interests at the expense of working men and women. 

 “He says he’s for the  people…then he needs to prove it.” 
 

Politics
12:04 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Effort to recall Governor Snyder continues to face uphill battle

Protesters in Lansing calling for a recall of Governor Rick Snyder.

It's never been done before - a successful statewide recall of a sitting governor in Michigan.

To put a statewide recall on a ballot, 1 in 7 registered voters in Michigan would have to sign a petition.

It's a daunting task and, as we've been reporting here at Michigan Radio, the Committee to recall Governor Rick Snyder did not collect enough signatures to get a recall on the November ballot.

It's something political commentator Jack Lessenberry called "impossible" last April.

I called up Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, to talk about the challenging logistics of a statewide recall effort and about what the Committee to Recall Rick Snyder is doing now.

You can listen to our conversation here:

The committee essentially needs around 807,000 valid signatures within a 90-day period to get on a ballot.

The committee collected around 310,00 signatures for the months of May, June, and July - short of the target for the November ballot.

So now the committee is rolling the goal posts forward.

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Commentary
11:15 am
Tue August 16, 2011

Sense of Decency

Back in the nineteen-seventies, Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Swainson, a former governor, was accused of having accepted a bribe. He was acquitted of that, but convicted of perjury.

There are plenty of people, including his biographer, Lawrence Glazer, who think Swainson was actually innocent of anything other than bad judgment and trying to be his own attorney.

But after the verdict, Swainson didn’t spend his life whining to the press about the injustice of it all.

The former governor, an authentic war hero who had his legs blown off in the Second World War, resigned from the court, lost his law license, did his time, and disappeared into obscurity.

Years later, he worked hard and diligently at rehabilitating himself, and became a highly respected head of the Michigan Historical Commission before he died in nineteen ninety-four.

I mention all this because I thought of him yesterday, when splashed across the papers were long stories about a self-justifying interview disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick gave on an AM radio station yesterday morning.

Kilpatrick, you may remember, just got out of prison for violating probation. He is facing a new trial on a vast array of corruption charges that could send him to federal prison for thirty years.

Nobody disputes that his lies cost his impoverished city nine million dollars, or that he still owes nearly a million in court-ordered restitution. Nevertheless, the press feel compelled to give him a forum to criticize the present mayor, an indisputably honest man.

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News Roundup
9:10 am
Tue August 16, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, August 16th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Fewer Schools Meet Federal Standards

The number of schools in Michigan meeting federal "Adequate Yearly Progress" goals dropped in the last academic year. Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reports:

Fewer schools in Michigan met federal benchmarks for students’ academic progress this year, and state officials blame the slide on higher standards required by the federal government. Schools need to meet something called “adequate yearly progress,” or AYP, under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Failure to do so for multiple years can result in sanctions, including replacing school staff and principals, or closing a school. For the 2010-11 school year, 79 percent of public schools in Michigan made adequate progress. That’s down from 86 percent the year before.

Federal Pilot Program in DPS

All kindergarten through 12th grade students in the Detroit Public Schools will get free breakfast, lunch and snacks starting this fall semester under a federal pilot program. The Associated Press reports:

The district announced the program Tuesday, saying the goal is to "ensure all children receive healthy meals, regardless of income." Most Detroit schoolchildren also meet income rules for free lunch.

The district says the free meals are part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Community Eligibility Option Program. Michigan is one of three states selected to participate in the pilot program for the 2011-12 school year.

Customer Satisfaction Declines in Detroit Autos

Customers were less satisfied with some Detroit car brands this year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. “Satisfaction declined from last year for Chrysler, Lincoln and Buick. Claus Fornell, founder of the index, says the decline is especially worrisome because satisfaction with most Asian brands rose. He says Detroit could be in trouble again if the trend continues. Not all Detroit car brands declined.  Satisfaction with Ford, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Dodge, and Jeep cars rose this year,” Tracy Samilton reports.

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Politics
7:25 pm
Mon August 15, 2011

Upton calls work to reduce long-term spending “an enormous task”

People who couldn't fit inside the forum (the building capacity was 200 people) tried to listen to Upton just outside the window. Eventually they began chanting and the windows were closed.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Congressman Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph) discussed the U.S. economy, health care reform, and the future of Social Security at a forum in Kalamazoo Monday.

Upton is one of twelve lawmakers selected to serve on a special Congressional committee. That committee will try to determine a compromise on long-term spending to help reduce the federal deficit.

Upton says the federal debt is “unsustainable”. He says the way to fix it is to get the economy moving so more people can get a job.

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Politics
5:50 pm
Mon August 15, 2011

How do Wisconsin recalls differ from Michigan recalls?

Protests in Madison, Wisconsin on March 12, 2011.
Yuri Keegstra / flickr

Voters in Wisconsin on Tuesday will vote on the recall of two Democratic state senators. Wisconsin voters last week recalled two Republican senators.

Michigan is also embroiled in its own recall battles right now. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Political Analyst Jack Lessnberry about the differences between what’s happening in Michigan and Wisconsin.

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Politics
5:17 pm
Mon August 15, 2011

Lawmakers' bus tour turns into debate over bridges

Matthew Maroun, whose family owns the Ambassador Bridge, outlined his opposition to a new public bridge between Windsor and Detroit.
Laura Weber Michigan Public Radio Network

A busload of lawmakers and state officials toured parts of Detroit today that would be affected by a proposed second bridge between Detroit and Canada.

The tour began at the privately owned Ambassador Bridge, where the owners defended their proposal to build a second span and prevent the state from building a publicly owned bridge.  

Matthew Maroun is a member of the family that owns the Ambassador Bridge. He says his company saves taxpayers from having to pay for a new bridge:

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Commentary
10:27 am
Mon August 15, 2011

Congressman Hansen Clarke: Shaking Things Up

There was a time in Hansen Clarke’s life when the thing he wanted most in the world was to be a Congressman, back when he was twenty-five years old or so.

This year, that happened. He beat Detroit incumbent Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick in the Democratic primary a year ago, and then won an easy victory in his district, centered on his native east side of Detroit. Ever since, he’s been going a mile a minute.

“You know everybody told me that I needed to get experienced Washington staffers,” he said. But then “I found out what they knew how to do was tell me why things couldn’t be done and tell me I shouldn’t try.”  Clarke’s an easygoing guy.

But he has small patience for that kind of attitude. Early on, someone told him that drafting and developing a complex piece of legislation could sometimes take up to a year. “I don’t have a year,” he told me.  “Neither does Detroit or the nation.”

But Clarke told me he had learned an important lesson. He said he was now getting things done because he didn’t know that he couldn’t do them. This happened last month with the administration’s Homeland Security budget. The budget zeroed out funds for Detroit.

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News Roundup
8:33 am
Mon August 15, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Monday, August 15th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Snyder to UP

Governor Snyder will visit the Upper Peninsula this week where he’ll meet with state lawmakers, community leaders and tour businesses. The governor will be in St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie early today with state Senator Howard Walker and state Rep. Frank Foster. He’ll then meet with state Sen. Tom Casperson in the afternoon in Grand Marais and then address the Marquette Economic Club in Marquette this evening.  Snyder is scheduled to travel to Houghton tomorrow.

The Continuing Bridge Debate

A group of state lawmakers will head to Detroit as discussions intensify over whether to build a publicly owned bridge to Canada. Laura Weber reports:

A group of lawmakers will tour the site proposed for a second bridge from Detroit to Canada. And they will hear from parties interested in and opposed to building the second span. The tour and meetings are expected to last all day, and Senate hearings on the bridge issue will resume when lawmakers return next week. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says Governor Snyder’s administration is serious about getting the project approved before the end of the year.

Kalamazoo River Oil Spill Update

The federal Environmental Protection Agency will hold a public meeting this week to discuss what’s happening with the Kalamazoo River oil spill. “Wednesday’s public meeting is expected to focus on the ongoing need to remove oil that remains submerged in three distinct parts of the Kalamazoo River,” Steve Carmody reports. An oil pipeline, owned by Enbridge Energy, ruptured near Marshall in July 2010 and spilled more than 800,000 gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River. It has cost Enbridge about a half billion dollars to clean up the spill and reimburse residents living near the spill zone.

Politics
6:09 am
Mon August 15, 2011

State officials dig in on bridge

State lawmakers are scheduled to return next week to the Capitol from their two-month summer break. However this week a handful of legislators will head to Detroit as discussions intensify over whether to build a publicly owned bridge to Canada.

A group of lawmakers will tour the site proposed for a second bridge from Detroit to Canada. And they will hear from parties interested in and opposed to building the second span. The tour and meetings are expected to last all day, and Senate hearings on the bridge issue will resume when lawmakers return next week. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley says Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is serious about getting the project approved before the end of the year.

As for the governor, this week he is in the Upper Peninsula, touring businesses and meeting with community leaders. A spokeswoman for the governor says the bridge in Detroit could come up in those meetings. She says a bridge in the southern part of the state is still an important issue in the UP because the infrastructure would have a big impact on agriculture and businesses throughout the state.

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