Politics & Government

Commentary
11:14 am
Tue May 3, 2011

O Canada

Yesterday, America’s most important ally and trading partner had an historic election which rocked the foundations of that nation’s politics and has huge implications for the western hemisphere, the United States in general and Michigan in particular.

You would not, however, know anything about that from most of the mainstream media. National Public Radio has covered the Canadian National Election, far better than most, but I don’t even think they have paid enough attention to the story.

Most of the rest of the media, especially in Michigan, largely continues to be consumed with the aftermath of our government’s assassination yesterday of the supreme Al-Qaeda leader.

Yes, Osama bin Laden is still dead, and I don’t mean to minimize the implications of that story, or its continuing repercussions. But we knew about that yesterday.

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News Roundup
8:34 am
Tue May 3, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, May 3rd
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Election Day

It’s election day in Michigan but, as Steve Carmody reports, very few people expect long lines at polling stations. From Carmody:

There are dozens of school millage votes and school board elections taking place today in Michigan.  But school races rarely draw large crowds of voters.

There are a few communities voting on controversial, or at least well publicized, issues.

Flint voters are casting ballots on two millages.  One would generate $2 million a year to reopen the city jail. The other would continue to fund a dozen police officers.

Lansing voters are deciding if they want to increase their property taxes to trim their city’s projected 20-plus million dollar budget deficit nearly in half.

And in Jackson, voters will decide if they want to merge their city police and fire departments into one public safety department.

Lawmakers Continue Work on Budget

State Senators will take-up Governor Rick Snyder’s tax reform plan at the state Capitol this week. The tax plan would eliminate the unpopular Michigan Business tax and, instead, tax only some corporations and eliminate tax exemptions on certain retiree pensions. Supporters of the plan say it will improve the state economy by helping businesses. Opponents say the plan gives businesses tax breaks on the back of seniors, low income families, and children.

Michigan Gas Prices Hit Record High

Gas prices in the state have never been this high, according to GasBuddy.com. An analyst with GasBuddy says the old record was $4.25 a gallon. Now, prices at the pump in many parts of the state are higher: at $4.29 per gallon or more. It’s predicted that prices could go up even further.

Politics
6:51 am
Tue May 3, 2011

Napolitano announces $4 million for Michigan to improve border security

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
The National Guard Flickr

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced that Michigan will get a $4 million grant to improve security along the Canadian border with better communications systems, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The grant to the Detroit-based project is part of a $25.5 million package of border security funding measures announced Monday.

Napolitano says the programs are designed to improve emergency response capabilities along the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders.

Wayne County is leading the Michigan project, which covers points of entry from Detroit and Port Huron in the south to Sault Ste. Marie in the north. Participants include Wayne, Monroe, Macomb and Chippewa counties, Detroit and several Canadian units of government.

In a statement released yesterday on the Homeland Security website, Secretary Napolitano said:

“The projects funded through the Border Interoperability Demonstration Project strengthen the security of our northern and southern borders, and our nation’s overall preparedness and emergency response capabilities. These BIDP grants provide our state, local, and tribal partners with resources to explore innovative, effective, and adaptable solutions for improving emergency communications.”

Detroit
6:45 am
Tue May 3, 2011

Detroit City Council continues hearings on budget

Budget hearings continue today in Detroit. The Detroit City Council’s budget, finance and audit standing committee will discuss the city's Finance Department budget later this afternoon, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The Detroit City Council is continuing hearings on Mayor Dave Bing's proposed 2011-12 budget…

Bing presented his proposed $3.1 billion budget to the council last month. He says the city faces a $155 million deficit that could swell in several years unless there are more cuts, and payments to two city pensions and health care expenses are reduced.

Bing met Monday with union leadership where he detailed needed concessions to help cut into the deficit.

The council is expected to make recommendations or changes to Bing's proposal. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

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May 3rd Election
2:01 am
Tue May 3, 2011

Election day in Michigan

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

It’s election day in Michigan. But few people expect long lines at polling stations across Michigan.

There are dozens of school millage votes and school board elections taking place today in Michigan.  But school races rarely draw large crowds of voters.

There are a few communities voting on controversial, or at least well publicized, issues.

Flint voters are casting ballots on two millages.  One would generate $2 million a year to reopen the city jail. The other would continue to fund a dozen police officers.

Lansing voters are deciding if they want to increase their property taxes to trim their city’s projected 20-plus million dollar budget deficit nearly in half.

And in Jackson, voters will decide if they want to merge their city police and fire departments into one public safety department.

Changing Gears
5:53 pm
Mon May 2, 2011

Detroit census challenge

Hard to Count: The Barbara in Southwest Detroit
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

Imagine trying to prove that thousands of people exist, when you have no idea who they are.

That’s the dilemma facing officials who think their communities were undercounted in the 2010 Census.  But for Midwest cities preparing to challenge those numbers: How do you find people the Census Bureau missed?  We went looking for answers in Detroit.

When Detroit’s numbers came out in March, Mayor Dave Bing quickly summoned the press.  The tone was crisis — as if a natural disaster had struck.  And in a way, it had.  Detroit had lost a quarter of its people over the last ten years.

As cameras whirred, the mayor explained that Detroit’s population now stood at 713,777. 

"Personally I don’t believe the number is accurate,” he said.  “And I don’t believe it will stand up as we go through with our challenge."

Cleveland, Akron and Cincinnati are also considering challenges. 

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Politics
4:06 pm
Mon May 2, 2011

Michigan Legislature to discuss Snyder tax plan this week

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder
Russ Climie Tiberius Images

This week lawmakers in the state Senate will discuss a tax-reform plan agreed upon by Governor Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the Legislature.

Just a couple months ago Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said it would be impressive if the Legislature could wrap up the budget before the summer, let alone before June.

But since then the Republican-led Senate has approved a spending plan, and is ready to work on a tax-reform proposal.

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Politics
3:45 pm
Mon May 2, 2011

Metro Detroit residents react to Osama bin Laden's death

James Marvin Phelps Flickr

Metro Detroiters are responding to the news that Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader behind the September 11th attacks, has been killed.

Reactions ranged from noisy celebrations, to avowals of renewed vigilance, to somber relief.

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Politics
2:48 pm
Mon May 2, 2011

How they found bin Laden

The scene inside of bin Laden's compound
ABC News

The lead up to Sunday’s assault on the compound which held Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, less than a hundred miles from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, involved the work of multiple governmental agencies, including the CIA and JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command, and the elite counterterrorism unit Seal Team 6.

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The death of osama bin laden
1:48 pm
Mon May 2, 2011

GVSU expert: bin Laden death ‘symbolic victory’

Jonathan White speaks to reporters during a press conference at Grand Valley State University.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Counter-terrorism expert Jonathan White heads GVSU’s Homeland Defense Initiative. White consults for local, state and federal groups involved in counter-terrorism efforts.

White says bin Laden’s death will inspire those planning terrorist attacks, but he says they’d still be planning those attacks if bin Laden was alive.

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Crime
12:36 pm
Mon May 2, 2011

Former Detroit Public School executive pleads guilty in scandal

Of the nine people indicted in the Detroit Public School scandal last fall, the Detroit Free Press reports there have been seven guilty pleas.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Stephen Hill, the former executive director of the Detroit Public School's Risk Management Department could be facing prison time for his role in a scheme that stripped millions from the Detroit Public School system.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Hill was one of 9 people indicted last fall in the scandal. Officials charged him with taking kickbacks "in the form of a new Mustang GT convertible in 2005 and a new Dodge Durango SUV in 2006...[and] using DPS funds to pay for his $40,000 retirement party when he temporarily left the district in September 2005."

Here's more from the Free Press:

Stephen Hill, a former Detroit Public Schools executive, is facing up to 9 years in prison after pleading guilty today to his role in a scheme that looted more than $3 million from the cash-strapped district.

Hill, who admitted that he accepted roughly $150,000 in kickbacks from a vendor that overbilled district for inadequate work, pleaded guilty to extortion and conspiring to commit program before U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman.

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May 3rd Election - Commentary
11:41 am
Mon May 2, 2011

Testing Time

Everyone understands that our cities are going to have to make do with less help from Lansing. In fact, nearly every city, village and township  in Michigan has had a harder time the last few years.

Not only has revenue sharing been cut; declining property values and more foreclosures has meant less tax revenue.

Now, we are about to find out the answer to a crucial question:  Are the residents of hard-hit cities going to be willing to pay a little extra to keep up services and their quality of life?

Tomorrow, a number of cities around the state will ask their residents to do just that. Perhaps the most important of these elections is in Southfield, just north of Detroit in Oakland County, one of the many suburbs that exploded after the coming of the freeways.

Southfield’s gleaming office towers hold a daytime population of perhaps two hundred thousand. But at night, seventy-one thousand people call Southfield home. The city is one of well-kept split levels and ranch houses, with a lovely city center complex and one of Michigan’s newest and largest libraries.

Thirty years ago, Southfield was populated largely by young Jewish families. Today, it hasn’t lost its leafy character, but is now seventy percent African-American. Thanks largely to the recession, housing values have crashed, and so have sales tax receipts.

Mayor Brenda Lawrence and the other city leaders know they are on the point of a knife. They have to keep services up and crime down, or their city could topple into urban decay. They don’t say it aloud, but their biggest fear is that Southfield could become Detroit.

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The Two-Way
11:15 pm
Sun May 1, 2011

OSAMA BIN LADEN IS DEAD; President tells nation 'Justice has been done'

Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam in Quetta, Pakistan, rally to condemn the killing of Osama bin Laden on Monday.
Arshad Butt AP

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:55 am

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May 3rd Election
3:01 pm
Sun May 1, 2011

Flint voters must decide on two public safety millages on Tuesday

Flint Police Deprtment Headquarters, Flint, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

This week, Flint residents will vote on two millages that could affect crime in their city.  The results may depend on whether voters are more concerned about taxes or about crime. 

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Politics
1:12 pm
Sat April 30, 2011

Hundreds march outside UM to protest Gov Snyder's cuts

Public school teacher Cary Kocher showed up at Pioneer High School to protest the Governor's proposed cuts to K-12 education.
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

About 1,000 people rallied outside the University of Michigan stadium, where Governor Rick Snyder was giving the commencement speech to graduating seniors.

Teachers, nurses and other union members carried signs that said “Some Cuts Never Heal” and “Shame on Snyder.” One union official got a huge cheer from the crowd when he compared the workers to David and Snyder to Goliath.

Ellen Stone teaches special education in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district. She says she hopes the Governor is listening to what they’re saying, because "we’re going to be showing up at the polls en masse," and she "the whole state is waking up to the fact that we elected the wrong guy, and that his mission is not our mission."

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Politics
8:02 pm
Fri April 29, 2011

Crowd storms barricades in protest against Florida pastor

A counter-protestor is arrested after some in the crowd storm across Michigan Avenue.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

A rally by Florida Pastor Terry Jones erupted briefly in Dearborn, as a crowd of counter-protestors rushed barricades, prompting riot police to force them back.

The confrontation broke out when Jones – who was delivering a speech condemning radical Islam – left the steps of city hall and approached the sidewalk. That provoked several people in the crowd of counter-demonstrators from the opposite side of the street to rush across Michigan Avenue. They spit, and hurled soda bottles and shoes at Jones.

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Politics
4:57 pm
Fri April 29, 2011

What’s next for Benton Harbor and emergency managers?

Benton Harbor's Emergency Manager Joe Harris explains his new powers under an amended state law.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Benton Harbor’s Emergency Manager says he hopes to get the city back on solid financial ground by the middle of next year. People in the community are still trying to figure out where they fit in to Joe Harris’ plans.

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May 3rd Election
4:53 pm
Fri April 29, 2011

May 3rd millages: Facing big deficits, some cities and schools seek to raise taxes

The city of Flint is running out of options to raise more revenue. Officials will ask citizens to pay additional real estate and property taxes for the city jail and for police services.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The impact of the Great Recession continues to be felt as cities and school districts across Michigan seek to raise revenues for basic services.

There's no federal bailout money to help this time around. And the state of Michigan is planning to cut revenue sharing to cities. The state also plans to cut school budgets.

Millages to raise revenue are nothing new, but this time around budgets are strapped. A failed millage could lead to more layoffs of police and fire officials in some cities. And schools might face more personnel layoffs as well.

On Tuesday, May 3rd, voters will decided whether to raise  their property and real estate taxes, or to at least continue them at current levels.

Here's a breakdown of some of the issues that will be on ballots around the state. It's by no means exhaustive. For and exhaustive list, you can check out the Michigan Secretary of State.

Note: One mill is equal to $1.00 per $1,000 of assessed value, so if your house is assessed at $150,000, one mill would cost you $150 per year in property taxes.

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Politics
11:40 am
Fri April 29, 2011

Recall petition approved for Governor Snyder

Organizers of the effort to recall Governor Rick Snyder say they have to collect 807,000 valid signatures by August 5th to put the recall vote on the ballot.
Russ Climie Tiberius Images

A petition for the recall of Governor Rick Snyder was approved today.

The Washtenaw County Election Commission approved the language of the petition, which states – among other things – that the governor "sought tax increases upon retirees and lower income families."

Tim Kramer is with Michigan Citizens United, which helped craft the petition. Part of the petition talks about how Governor Snyder obtained power through emergency financial managers.

“I think the thing that tripped the trigger for me was the EFM law. That’s a dictatorship, in my opinion. You can’t have that. You can’t go in and remove the mayor of a city, just because you don’t agree—basically he can do it because he doesn’t agree with them, you know?”

Governor Rick Snyder opposed the recall petition.

Attorney John Pirich represented the governor. 

"I think anyone who would read the language would see that not only is it not clear, in our opinion, but it’s also very misleading in regard to events that have not occurred or events that are just completely inaccurate."

The petition supporters say they know they are fighting an uphill battle to collect more than a million signatures before August 5th.

They believe that’s how many they will need in order to get the recall request put on the ballot.

Commentary
10:27 am
Fri April 29, 2011

Great and Bloody Sacrifice

Many of us have been so consumed with our modern economic struggles that we’ve barely paused to note that we faced a much greater crisis one hundred and fifty years ago his month.

South Carolina, the first state to secede from the union, fired on federal troops at Fort Sumter that April, and the Civil War was on.

When it ended four years later, more Americans had been killed than in any war before or since, and the country was a different place. We don’t often think of Michigan in connection with the Civil War. We were then a small, pretty new, and not very major state.

Our entire population was only three-quarters of a million people - far less than the population of Macomb County today. Yet Michigan answered the call enthusiastically.

We overfilled our quota of volunteers. Abraham Lincoln had some anxious moments those first weeks of the war.

Would the states really respond by sending the troops necessary to put down the rebellion? Michigan did. From Detroit, Adrian, Marshall, Ypsilanti and Grand Rapids they came.

Washington asked Michigan for a single regiment. Governor Austin Blair protested. No. We could furnish more. Much more.

The first Michigan troops arrived in the capitol in May, lifting the President’s spirits. “Thank God for Michigan!”Abraham Lincoln said when they arrived.

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