Politics & Government

Politics
11:40 am
Thu May 5, 2011

Yachts shouldn't be eligible for tax write-off, says Michigan Congressman

Michigan Congressman Gary Peters wants to close a loophole that allows people to write off the interest they pay on their yacht loans.

Peters says current law allows people to deduct the interest on two residences.

"But the way the deduction is written, it’s anything that has a toilet, a kitchen and bedding, so yachts qualify, and so you’ll find that many people write off the interest in financing their yachts."

Peters says the loophole cost the U.S. Treasury a billion dollars in 2004, the last time the Congressional Budget Office examined the issue.

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Commentary
11:10 am
Thu May 5, 2011

Managing the Mess

When the news broke yesterday that retired General Motors vice president Roy Roberts would be the new Detroit Public Schools czar, the first thing I thought of was Henry Ford.

This is not because I have attention deficit disorder. No, I thought of something brilliant Hank the First once observed about his own career.  Ford said if he had asked about transportation needs in the 1890's, nobody would have said they needed an automobile.

They would have said they wanted a faster horse. For years, various people have been trying in various ways to beat life into a dying horse called the Detroit Public Schools.

They’ve tried appointed boards and elected boards; emergency managers, all sorts of superintendents and infusions of cash.

Nothing has worked very well. Sometimes they identify a particular problem, but the overall health of the system has remained poor. Now if you are not from Detroit, you may not think this matters much to you. Except that it does.

We as a state will all suffer, economically and otherwise, if kids can’t get a functional education in our largest city. Plus, the seeds of many of the problems that have ruined Detroit’s schools are present and growing in other school systems, urban, suburban and rural school systems across the state.

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Election 2012
10:58 am
Thu May 5, 2011

Land won't run for Senate in 2012

Terri Lynn Land, Michigan's former Secretary of State, has decided she will not run for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow is up for reelection next year. The Associated Press reports:

Land said Thursday in a statement on her Facebook page that she has decided against joining the Republican field to take on Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow. Stabenow is running for her third six-year term. She reported last month that she has $3 million on hand so far for her 2012 campaign.

Only one Republican candidate has entered the race so far. Former Kent County Judge Randy Heckman announced he would run for the seat earlier this year.

Former West Michigan Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who some speculated would run, announced last month that he would not run against Stabenow.

Stabenow has held the seat since 2000.

News Roundup
8:40 am
Thu May 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, May 5th, 2011

GM Sales

General Motors has released its first quarter-net income… and it’s good news for the automaker.  The Associated Press reports:

General Motors says its first-quarter net income more than tripled on strong car sales in the U.S. and China. The company's first-quarter net income totaled $3.2 billion… one of its best performances since the SUV boom in the early 2000s. It was GM's fifth straight quarterly profit since late 2009, the year it emerged from bankruptcy. Quarterly revenue rose 15 percent to $36.2 billion. Worldwide sales climbed 12 percent, including a 25-percent jump in the U.S.

House Votes on Budget

The state House passed a $33 billion budget bill yesterday. As the Associated Press reports, the measure covers spending for everything except education. From the AP:

Lawmakers were deeply divided Wednesday on the measure, which closes prisons, drops 12,600 families from welfare and cuts senior services.

Majority Republicans say the budget puts the state on sound financial funding without using one-time fixes.

Minority Democrats say the bill cuts important services such as job training.

It includes $7 billion in general fund spending and passed 62-48, largely along party lines.

The bill must be reconciled with spending bills already passed by the Senate.

DPS Gets a New EM

Governor Rick Snyder has appointed a new Emergency Financial Manager for the Detroit Public Schools. Snyder announced the appointment of former GM Executive Roy Roberts to replace current Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb yesterday. Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports, “Roberts has had a distinguished career in business and is considered a pioneer for African-Americans in the auto industry. Snyder says he chose Roberts because he’s a ‘successful businessman and team builder.’ Roberts says he’s genuinely ‘excited’ to tackle the daunting task of improving Detroit schools.” Bobb’s contract expires at the end of June.

Politics
5:07 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Dad: Latest anti-bullying bill not strong enough

Matt Epling of East Lansing committed suicide weeks after an assault by a group of older students in 2002.
Courtesy Epling family

A measure that would require Michigan schools to have anti-bullying policies has taken a small step forward. But one father says lawmakers are taking too long and doing too little.

Matt Epling was 14 years old when he was lured to an East Lansing park where he was assaulted and pelted with eggs by a group of older boys in 2002.

Officials called the incident “hazing.”

Kevin Epling says his son had been a confident, creative kid, but the public humiliation was too much. Matt took his own life a few weeks after the attack.

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Politics
4:06 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Conservatives win, New Democrats scramble

Jeff Smith Flickr

Canada's historic election--check out this excellent commentary by Jack Lessenberry for his thoughts on coverage of the event in the United States--happened earlier this week, resulting in Stephen Harper's Conservative Party increasing their share of the Canadian government.

The Conservative government will be the first majority government in seven years.

The results are good news for Rick Snyder, as Harper and his party are expected to maintain their previous offer of $550 million to defray costs surrounding a new Detroit-Windsor bridge, which the governor supports.

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Politics
3:07 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Federal government selling property in Michigan

The federal goverment wants to get rid of what they say are 12 thousand "excess" properties.
Bruce Tuten flickr

The federal government wants to make money selling real estate. The government has released an interactive map of about 12 thousand federal “excess” properties, including 55 in Michigan.

The government says most of these properties have little market value. But, President Obama wants legislation to increase the number of properties and the speed of sales. He wants the government to use a process similar to that used to decommission old military bases.

Daniel Werfel is the United States Controller

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Politics
3:00 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Governor Snyder names new emergency manager for Detroit schools

Governor Rick Snyder

Update:

Robert Bobb, the outgoing emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools, has released a statement regarding Roy S. Roberts, the man who will replace him in that position:

Roy Roberts is an exceptionally strong choice to continue the heavy lift of restructuring and reforming the interconnected finances and academics of Detroit Public Schools.

His position as an icon in the African American community and in the City of Detroit will be of huge benefit to DPS and also a role model for DPS students.

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Politics
2:21 pm
Wed May 4, 2011

Bin Laden photos will not be released

President Obama and his administration have declined to release photos of Osama bin Laden's dead body.

There are worries, voiced by the White House, that the images could "inflame sensitivities."

CBS originally broke the story, and according to NPR's Two-Way blog, White House spokesman Jay Carney just confirmed that the photos will not be released.

From the BBC:

US officials have been discussing whether to publish pictures of Bin Laden's body to counter conspiracy theories that he did not die.

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Commentary
11:34 am
Wed May 4, 2011

May 3rd Election

The voters sent an important message yesterday, to themselves and their communities, and indirectly to the politicians in Lansing. It’s a message the governor and legislature need to hear.

Specifically, the people said that they are willing to pay more for services  important to them. They aren’t necessarily happy with the way things are going or with the people running things. In West Michigan area, they tossed out a boatload of school board members.

Yet the same voters renewed a number of millage proposals, often by wide margins. Sometimes they even voted to increase their taxes, when they were convinced services were necessary.

Grand Rapids narrowly voted to increase a rapid transit millage. Hudsonville voted millions to upgrade the school system.

This trend was especially strong in Southeast Michigan. Struggling, older blue-collar suburbs like Ferndale and Hazel Park have been hard hit by declining property values and a steep drop in state revenue sharing.

Yesterday, they asked their hard-pressed citizens for new money to keep up services.

These aren’t people who have a lot of money, and many no longer have jobs. But they said yes. In tiny Clawson, the people voted more money for their library, a year after the voters in the neighboring and more affluent city of Troy voted to close theirs.

By far, the biggest story was in Southfield, a city of office towers and mostly well-maintained split-level and ranch homes north of Detroit. Seventy percent of its seventy thousand residents are African-American -- mostly middle-class families.

City leaders laid it on the line. They needed a five mill property tax increase, mostly for police and fire services, and they needed it now. Otherwise, they would have to lay off half the city’s police and firemen. Residents knew what that could mean.

They voted the additional taxes by a margin of five to one. Now, these results do not mean that the voters are in a wildly spending mood. They seemed discerning. In Flint, they voted money to keep policemen on the job, but turned down a request for new funds to reopen it the city jail. In blue-collar Garden City, home of iconic rocker Mitch Ryder, officials asked for a twelve-mill increase. Voters said that was too much. They also were reluctant to combine services, such as police and fire. They said no to that in cities as different as Jackson and Harper Woods.

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News Roundup
8:06 am
Wed May 4, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Election Results

Voters went to the polls across Michigan yesterday to decide a variety of issues, from school millages, to funding for public safety, transportation, and libraries.

  • In Flint, voters renewed a millage that pays for more than a dozen police officers. Flint has struggled with a rising violent crime rate for the past few years. City police have investigated about ninety homicides in the last sixteen months, Steve Carmody reports. But, as Carmody notes, “Flint voters narrowly rejected a millage request that would have reopened the city jail. Budget problems have meant the jail has only been used sporadically since the late 1980’s.”
  • Lansing city residents voted no on a millage that would have kept public safety services from facing deep cuts. The millage would have increased city residents’ property taxes about four percent to raise about $8.5 million over five years, Sarah Alvarez reports. Lansing faces a $20 million dollar budget shortfall next year.
  • Supporters of a millage to fund and expand bus services in the Grand Rapids metro area celebrated a narrow victory last night, Lindsey Smith reports. More than 34,000 people cast ballots and the millage passed by just 136 votes. The bus system, known as The Rapid, will now be able to serve riders later at night, on the weekends, and more frequently during the workday.
State Legislature
7:54 am
Wed May 4, 2011

Tax plan meets resistance in state Senate

Inside the Capitol Building, Lansing, Michigan
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

Leaders in the Republican state Senate say they still have to wrangle more votes to get a sweeping tax-reform package passed.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he will meet with Governor Rick Snyder and House Speaker Jase Bolger to update them on where the tax overhaul stands in the Senate.

"We want to be in sync. We're worked together as a team so far, and we want to continue to do that."

Even though Richardville has been able to work well with Snyder and Bolger on the tax reform package, it appears he is still meeting resistance to the deal from his fellow Senate Republicans. A handful of Republican senators have said they will not vote for the deal that includes a tax on future pensioners. Richardville says he will not make changes to the proposal as it was agreed upon and passed by the House. But he hopes to have enough votes to pass it through the Senate next week.

May 3rd Election
6:37 am
Wed May 4, 2011

Washtenaw County voters approve special education millage

Washtenaw County voters approved a millage for special education in yesterday's election.
WoodleyWonderWorks Flickr

Voters in Washtenaw County passed a special education millage renewal in yesterday's election. That means local school districts and charter schools in the county will receive about $14 million dollars for special education services. According to unofficial election results released by Washtenaw County, 76% of voters approved the millage renewal.

Heritage Newspapers reports:

The millage is specifically for special education students, who make up about 14 percent of the students within the WISD. The largest number is faced with some form of learning disability, and the second most have a speech or language impairment.

May 3rd election
2:42 am
Wed May 4, 2011

Grand Rapids area supports more bus services...by less than 0.5% margin

Memebers of the Friends of Transit group try to figure out how close they are to winning just before the announcement Tuesday night.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Supporters of a millage to fund and expand bus services in the Grand Rapids metro area celebrated a narrow victory last night.

More than 34,000 people cast ballots. It passed by just 136 votes.

David Bulkowski breathed a huge sigh of relief after hours of unclear results. He’s with the Friends of Transit – a political action committee supporting the bus service.

“We are conservative West Michigan. And together these 6 communities have said ‘yep, we want it.”

The bus system, known as The Rapid, will now be able to serve riders later at night, on the weekends, and more frequently during the workday.

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May 3rd Election
12:49 am
Wed May 4, 2011

Flint voters split on public safety millages

Flint mayor Dayne Walling (left) and city public safty director Alvern Lock listen as the results of Tuesday's voting slowly comes in last night.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Voters in Flint sent a mixed message on public safety on Tuesday. 

 Mayor Dayne Walling was glad to see voters renew a millage that pays for more than a dozen police officers.  

 “I’m very pleased to see the voters have overwhelmingly supported the renewal of our police force.   The budget that was proposed to the city council…every dollar that we projected in that budget will now be able to be expected.”

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May 3 election
11:23 pm
Tue May 3, 2011

Lansing turns down "essential services" millage

Lansing city residents voted "no" on a millage that would have kept public safety services from facing deep cuts.  City residents voted 52 percent to 48 percent against the millage.

The millage would have increased city residents property taxes about four percent to raise about 8.5 million dollars over five years.

Virg Bernero is the Mayor of Lansing.

"With prices going up, with gas prices soaring, with home values going down, this was one price increase that people did have a choice about. This was an opportunity where they could say no, and they did. In a sense I can’t fault them for that. But this was the one that really affects their life, and their safety."

Lansing faces a $20 million dollar budget shortfall next year. Bernero says the City Council will now proceed with what he calls an “all cuts” budget. It includes the possible shuttering of three fire stations and the loss of about 120 jobs between the fire and police departments.

Tom Krug is the President of the Fraternal Order of Police.

"Obviously what’s going to happen is there are going to be major cuts at the Lansing Police Department and Fire Department. It’s going to impact public safety. And it’s more than just numbers, it’s people and families and it’s very disappointing… I think it’s a referendum on the economy. But you also have to vote your conscience, too. I think it was time to step up, and the voters didn’t."

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May 3rd Election
10:11 pm
Tue May 3, 2011

Jackson voters want to keep separate police and fire departments

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Jackson voters decided not merge their city police and fire departments.  The proposal to create a single public safety department lost by a wide margin.

Jackson Mayor Karen Dunigan is disappointed with the result. She says the city can’t afford to operate two separate staffs.

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Politics
5:41 pm
Tue May 3, 2011

Critical week for Detroit's financial future

Both the Detroit City Council and Mayor Dave Bing say this is a crucial week for getting the city’s budget in order.

Detroit will end the fiscal year in June with a budget deficit of at least $180 million.

Both Mayor Bing and the Council declare they’ll work together to avoid a state takeover of the city’s finances.

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May 3rd Election
5:07 pm
Tue May 3, 2011

It's "Millage Time" - find links to May 3rd election results

The Secretary of State says local jurisdictions and school districts in 82 of Michigan's 83 counties are conducting elections today.
user eyspahn Flickr

Dozens of communities across Michigan will be voting on millages that will raise or maintain their current property and real estate taxes to support city services and their school systems.

There are also many communities voting for candidates for school and community college boards.

To find election results in your area, you can find a link to your local county's election page on our election coverage map.

Polls are open until 8 p.m.

May 3rd election
4:32 pm
Tue May 3, 2011

Volunteers work to get out the vote in Grand Rapids

Lizbeth Espinoza and Michael Tuffelmire stop at laundromats, super markets, and food stands like this one to make sure people know about the election and to offer them a ride to the polls.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Voters in Grand Rapids and 5 surrounding cities are voting Tuesday on a millage increase to support expanded public transportation.

Lizbeth Espinoza and Michael Tuffelmire walk into small Mexican super market in the mostly-Hispanic Roosevelt Park neighborhood. Tuffelmire says many people here aren’t aware there are any other elections but the big one in November.

That's part of the reason they’re driving around a passenger van, picking up anyone who needs a ride to vote.

“I’m just trying to just, no matter what people want to vote, I’m trying to make easier access for them," Tuffelmire said.

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