Politics & Government

Politics
5:23 pm
Mon August 8, 2011

Detroit seeks national advice on light rail

An artist's rendering of the proposed light rail project in Detroit.
M1 Rail

Detroit is trying to build a new light rail system.

Transit officials from different U.S. cities who have done just that dispensed some advice at Wayne State University Monday.

At one point, Detroit had one of the world’s best light rail systems. Now, it’s trying to rebuild a modest version from scratch.

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Politics
4:32 pm
Mon August 8, 2011

Lt. Gov: Deal on bridge plan may come by the end of the year

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, (R) MIchigan
(photo by Laura Weber/MPRN)

Officials from Governor Rick Snyder’s administration say they would like to have a deal on a new bridge between Detroit and Canada reached before the end of the year.  That means many Republican  lawmakers who are on the fence about the project could be forced to make a decision soon.  

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, who is spearheading the governor’s effort to build the bridge, says he has not counted heads recently to see who in the Legislature supports a new bridge project. But he says the only count he cares about is the final vote in the House and Senate. 

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Politics
4:12 pm
Mon August 8, 2011

'Surrendered' hits bookstore shelves Tuesday

The memoirs of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick are expected to go on sale at four small Detroit area bookstores.   A media company run by Kilpatrick's sister says in a release Monday that "Surrendered! The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick" will be available Tuesday. 

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Commentary
10:45 am
Mon August 8, 2011

Congressmen in Crisis

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to soon sign the redistricting plan passed by his fellow Republicans in the legislature. Assuming  he does so, and there are no last-minute changes, the future careers of four Democratic congressmen will suddenly be thrown into doubt.

Since last December, everyone has known that at least one Michigan Democrat would lose his job. The state is losing a seat in Congress as a result of national population shifts. Since Republicans control the process, everybody knew the odd man out was bound to be a Democrat. And as expected, they threw suburban Detroit Congressmen Sander Levin and Gary Peters into the same district.

If the two men do, in fact run against each other in a primary. Levin is almost certain to win. He has one of the most famous names in politics, and has been in Congress far longer.

Additionally, eighty percent of the new ninth district is territory that Levin has been representing up to now. But strange boundaries in two other districts have added other complications.

There have long been two seats represented by African-Americans and based in Detroit. But redistricting radically changed those districts. Freshman Congressman Hansen Clarke was given new boundaries that include slightly more than half of Detroit, and a collection of mostly blue-collar down river suburbs.

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Politics
7:44 pm
Fri August 5, 2011

Detroit school unions take aim at imposed pay cuts, emergency manager law

Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

An attorney suing the state over its emergency manager law is welcoming a lawsuit filed this week by Detroit Public Schools unions.

The three unions' lawsuit claims emergency manager Roy Roberts violated the district employees’ constitutional rights by imposing a 10% wage cut.

The imposed wage cut is the first instance of an emergency manager using the law’s new powers to seriously alter a union contract.

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Politics
2:54 pm
Fri August 5, 2011

ACLU of Michigan takes cases of people who cannot pay fines

Joe Gratz Flickr

The ACLU of Michigan is fighting for people they say were jailed unfairly because they can't pay their fines.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Kyle Dewitt says the last thing he expected when he went fishing in Ionia County in May was to wind up in jail.

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Politics
10:41 am
Fri August 5, 2011

New poll shows Gov. Snyder's approval rating slipping

Gov. Rick Snyder, (R) Michigan
(Official state portrait)

Governor Rick Snyder’s approval rating has taken a tumble.  Michigan State University’s ‘State of the State Survey’ recently polled more than 900 Michiganders.   The survey found the governor’s approval rating fell from 44% in March to 31% today.  

Charles Ballard heads the survey.   He says the poll’s results are not surprising, given the state of the economy and the governor’s push to cut state spending and restructure Michigan’s tax system. 

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News Roundup
8:11 am
Fri August 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, August 5th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

MI Politics

President Obama will visit Holland next week to tour the Johnson Controls Inc. advanced battery facility. The President came to Holland last year for the LG Chem battery facility ground-breaking. Holland Mayor Kurt Dykstra says the president’s visit is a great opportunity for his community, and the state in general. Meanwhile, Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter of Livonia, who wants President Obama’s job, has opened up his national campaign headquarters in Plymouth. Rep. McCotter says opening the national office in Plymouth proves his commitment, "to running a winning, grass-roots campaign for the presidency."

Auto Earnings

General Motors made $2.5 billion in the second quarter, slightly more than its rival Ford which took in $2.4 billion in the same period. “Most of GM’s second quarter profit came from North America, as truck and Chevrolet brand car sales rebounded.  North American President Mark Reuss says the strong performance came despite the slow economy and some unexpected events… This is GM’s sixth quarterly profit in a row, a dramatic improvement compared to the years leading up to the bankruptcy,” Tracy Samilton reports.

Looking for Asian Carp

Crews in Chicago are on the hunt for Asian carp this week, Rebecca Williams reports. From Williams:

The crews are looking for the carp in Lake Calumet, which is linked by a river to Lake Michigan. Asian carp have been found in the rivers that feed into Lake Michigan from Illinois. John Rogner is the assistant director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. He says they’re looking for live carp after finding carp DNA in Lake Calumet. He says it could mean there are live Asian carp in the lake… He says so far this week, they have not found any live bighead or silver carp in Lake Calumet.

Politics
3:44 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

Rep. Scott recall campaign will hand in petitions

State Rep. Paul Scott
Rep. Paul Scott

Organizers of the recall campaign against Republican state Representative Paul Scott say they will have enough petition signatures to hand in tomorrow to get the recall on the November ballot in Genesee County.

Bobbi Walton is a coordinator with the recall campaign. She says the recall of one lawmaker would send a message everyone working in the Capitol.

“For me personally it means that the residents in Michigan, when they see that their government has extended their reach , or disappointed them or lied to them, that they then have a law that allows them to come forward and correct the mistake and recall the person that is sitting in that chair.”

Walton says the recall question is also a referendum on Governor Rick Snyder’s job performance. Scott is the chairman of the House Education Committee.

The Michigan Education Association teachers union helped organize the petition drive against Scott.

Scott sponsored the recent changes in Michigan’s teacher tenure laws.

Legal
3:08 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

ACLU challenges "pay or stay" jail cases

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the sentences of five Michigan residents who were jailed because they could not pay their court fines.

Michael Steinberg of the ACLU of Michigan says judges are supposed to hold a hearing to prove whether an individual is too poor to pay a fine.

Steinberg says in the five misdemeanor cases they’re challenging, those hearings didn’t happen and the people were locked up. They’re called “pay or stay” cases.

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Politics
2:49 pm
Thu August 4, 2011

Capitol Farmer’s Market brings out Gov. Snyder and opponents

Governor Rick Snyder visited the annual Farmer’s Market on the Capitol lawn today.

Alongside the booths of sweet corn, wild flowers and homemade soap were petition collectors for the campaign to recall Governor Snyder.

Governor Snyder says he is focused on the future, and met recently with legislative leaders to discuss their plans for the fall and winter.

“Yeah, we had a very good meeting and it was largely talking about an assessment of how the first six months went, and where we’re going for the future, and I appreciate it. It’s good to do some longer-term planning and looking at how we’ve done, rather than just talking about the issue of the day.”

Representatives of the campaign to recall Snyder say they will continue to collect signatures through September, and they hope to get the recall question on the February 2012 ballot.

The campaign did not collect enough signatures in time to make the November ballot.

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Commentary
9:49 am
Thu August 4, 2011

Debt debate aftermath

Well, the great battle over the federal debt limit is over, at least for now. For the last several weeks, most of us seem to have been arguing over this, whether or not we understood it.

This came just months after the great battle in Lansing over Governor Snyder’s budget cuts. Now that these momentous issues have been decided, we can move on to more interesting debates.

Such as, for example, how long it will be before Justin Verlander pitches another no-hitter. But seriously, there’s a tendency to think that now that all these budget cuts have been passed we don’t have to worry any more.

The unpleasant truth is that the effects of all these changes haven’t really started, on either the national, state or local levels.

We’ll begin to see some of the consequences this fall, when our kids go back to public schools with fewer teachers and fewer programs. Some of my students at Wayne State are already howling over their higher tuition and fee payments.

We don’t have any idea yet of the social costs of cutting people permanently off welfare. If the governor’s tax cuts produce a fast bumper crop of new jobs, and some of these long-term unemployed are hired, great. If that doesn’t pan out, we’ll all be in trouble.

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Auto
7:25 am
Thu August 4, 2011

CEO of Chrysler says new fuel standards are doable

Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne (far right)
Chrysler Group Flickr

The head of Chrysler and Fiat says the U.S. auto industry can meet tough new fuel efficiency requirements.  The tentative proposal will more than double the miles per gallon average for cars by the year 2025.

Federal officials, automakers, and the UAW agreed to raise the average miles per gallon to 54-and-a-half within the next 14 years. Right now, the average is 25 miles per gallon.  Critics say the new goal may not be technically feasible.  But Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne thinks it is:

"The powertrain guys...  are an incredible resource, an incredible talent.  Let them do their job."

But Marchionne is a skeptic when it comes to the role electric cars will play in meeting the new requirement.  He thinks it will be easier and cheaper to dramatically improve gasoline engines and transmissions.

Politics
6:21 am
Thu August 4, 2011

Poll: Many local leaders say Mich. on wrong track

After seeing lawmakers cut their funding and give financial managers sweeping new powers, half of local government leaders say they think Michigan is on the wrong track while a third saying it's headed in the right direction.

The survey released Thursday by The Center for Local, State and Urban Policy at the University of Michigan also shows 37 percent give Gov. Rick Snyder a positive job rating while just 21 percent give that rating to the Legislature.

Eighty-six percent say their own governments are going in the right direction.

The biannual survey was conducted from April 18 to June 10 and is based on responses from 69 percent of the 1,856 local government units in Michigan. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

Politics
4:57 pm
Wed August 3, 2011

Glenn announces bid for U.S. Senate

Another Republican has announced he will run against Michigan U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow in next year’s election.

Gary Glenn is president of the Michigan chapter of the conservative American Family Association.  

The 53-year-old from Midland says his views on a variety of issues are very different from Senator Stabenow’s.

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Politics
3:19 pm
Wed August 3, 2011

Wayne State defends tuition hike, may face budget cut

User dctennis Flickr

Michigan State and Wayne State universities could face budget sanctions for violating tuition restraints. 

Wayne State officials were called in to testify today before a legislative subcommittee.

Wayne State officials said there was no intent to evade tuition restraints, echoing a similar claim by MSU officials when they were called in to testify earlier this summer.

Most public universities increased their fall rates at or below the 7% cap set by the Legislature compared to tuition set for the fall term of last year. But MSU and Wayne State compared their fall tuitions to summer rates, which had just been increased.

That did not sit well with state House universities budget chair Bob Genetski. 

 “This has been really unpleasant for everybody and our intent was really to protect Michigan families from tuition increases and, uh, our relationship’s been damaged.”

“They know that the very spirit of the legislation has been violated and that our efforts to protect kids in tuition-paying families were violated, as well.”

Genetski says he hopes MSU and Wayne State will reconsider their tuition hikes. If not, Genetski says he’d support going back and cutting state funding for the two schools even more.

Politics
8:41 am
Wed August 3, 2011

Snyder recall will not meet Friday deadline

Gov. Rick Snyder
Tiberius Images Flickr

The campaign to recall Governor Rick Snyder says it will fall short of the number of signatures it needs to gather by Friday to qualify for the November ballot.

But organizers say they will press on in an effort to qualify for the next election in February.

A recall spokesman says the drive got off to a slow start, and did not attract much attention until recently.

Bill Ballenger is the editor of the Inside Michigan Politics newsletter. He says recalling the governor is a huge challenge.

“You need so many signatures. You need over 800 thousand signatures – minimum. And you really have to have some padding because obviously Republicans and lawyers are going to challenge the petitions when they’re turned in. Some will be thrown out. So, realistically, you’d have to have, I say, over a million signatures.”

The recall drive says its new goal is to gather a million names by late September.

There are also petitions being circulated to recall more than 20 other legislators.

Ballenger says if one of those gets on the ballot, it would be a referendum on Snyder.

Election 2012
7:56 am
Wed August 3, 2011

Gary Glenn will seek Senate seat

The Michigan president of the American Family Association says he's running for the Republican nomination
in the race to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.

Gary Glenn issued a statement Tuesday saying that federal election law requires him to file a formal declaration of candidacy this week.

In the statement, Glenn praises U.S. Rep. Justin Amash of Cascade Township, the only Republican in Michigan's congressional delegation to vote against the debt ceiling bill that President Barack Obama signed Tuesday. Stabenow voted for the bill.

Tuesday also saw another prominent Republican say he won't join the U.S. Senate field. Ypsilanti cardiologist Rob Steele says his work is too demanding for a statewide race.

Ex-U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra recently declared his candidacy for the Republican Senate nomination.

Politics
1:10 am
Wed August 3, 2011

Troy votes to keep library open

Teens at the Troy public library
user troylib flickr.com

Residents of one suburban Detroit community have resolved a nearly two-year-long battle over its library  - in the library’s favor.

Voters in the affluent community of Troy had twice rejected funding measures for the library. It had been slated to close earlier this year.

But now more than 58% of Troy voters have approved a five-year millage hike that will generate more than $3 million for the library.

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Politics
12:59 am
Wed August 3, 2011

Incumbent mayor clear winner in Warren primary

Warren Mayor James Fouts cruised to any easy primary victory Tuesday night.

The five-person primary in Michigan’s third-largest city got downright nasty at times. Candidates lobbed personal attacks, and there was a strange battle over whether Fouts had to reveal his age.

In the end though, Fouts was the clear winner, garnering more than 70% of the vote.

Fouts says he’s fought blight, demolishing about 600 dangerous homes. He also reorganized the city’s police department, and brought back EMS services.

He says the vote shows Warren is happy with his efforts.

“I think hard work, and effort, and recognizing the taxpayers are your boss, has allowed this success to take place.”

Fouts and City Councilwoman Kathy Vogt, a longtime political opponent, will face off in the November general election.

Despite finishing a distant second, Vogt says she’ll continue to hammer on what she calls Fouts’ lack of fiscal discipline.

“There are places where costs can be cut. And that’s what we’ve got to do. There’s got to be drastic cuts at this point. And the people at the top cannot continue to take top dollar all the time.”

Fouts calls Vogt’s assertions of fiscal irresponsibility “preposterous.” He says Warren has more money in its general fund than any other city in the state.

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