Politics & Government

Crime
12:23 pm
Fri July 8, 2011

Grand Rapids Mayor says city is safe

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell says yesterday’s violent murders and hostage situation in his city has shaken the community to its roots.

But he says Grand Rapids is still a great community and a safe city.

"I don’t for a minute think that that defines Grand Rapids in any way or that it suggests that we are a city that is changed, or less safe today," said Heartwell.

Heartwell praised the city's police force, saying their actions saved lives.

34-year old Rodrick Danztler took his own life last night while negotiating a hostage release with the police.

Police say earlier in the day he shot and killed seven people, including an ex-girlfriend and his daughter, and a second ex-girlfriend and her daughter who was not his child.

Commentary
8:51 am
Fri July 8, 2011

GOP: Primary or Caucus in 2012?

If you are a normal person, you probably aren’t thinking a lot right now about how Michigan Republicans should pick their choice for presidential candidate next year.

Actually, you probably don’t even want to think about Labor Day being less than two months away, let alone voting next winter.

But politicians work on a different schedule than ordinary mortals, and in the next few weeks, Republicans in this state are going to decide how to pick their choice for next year’s nominee.

Now, in most states, this isn’t something you have to agonize over. If you live in Iowa, you know that your state will kick things off with a caucus in early January. If you live in New Hampshire, you know you get to vote in the nation’s first primary, a couple of weeks later. But if you live in Michigan.

All you can count on is that the politicians will do something different from last time, and that they will likely screw it up.

Over the last forty years, we’ve lurched back and forth from a primary to a closed caucus to a somewhat more open caucus back to a primary that was sorta kinda closed …

Sometimes our primaries and/or caucuses  have been held in May. Sometimes in March, or April, or February. Last time, both parties outdid themselves in a blaze of stupidity.

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Politics
6:09 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

Judge edges toward insurance co. takeover of bridge project

Detroit International Bridge Company attorney Reginald Turner argues before Judge Prentis Edwards in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

A Wayne County judge says the insurance company that issued the bonds for construction known as the “Gateway Project” at the Ambassador Bridge should prepare to take a bigger role in the project.

That could mean taking over the project – which has been hamstrung by a dispute between the bridge company and the state.

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Politics
5:40 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

Social issues and Michigan politics (audio)

United States Social Forum 2007
National Organizers Alliance

It's been a very busy legislative year in Michigan. There’s a new tax code, teacher tenure reform, and a new state budget. But across the country, social issues have been major legislative topics, but not so much in this state.

In our weekly political discussion Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

The primary focus, so far, has been on jobs and the budget according to Demas who says social issues have snuck into legislative talks.

"With the budget, the gay partner benefit issue held up the process for several days with House Republicans trying to get some provisions in that would penalize universities that offer domestic partner benefits. And committees have been doing work on abortion issues, particularly the so-called partial birth abortion issue."

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Politics
4:32 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

Recall campaigns and how Republican politicians might react

Bill Ballenger of Inside Michigan Politics says Republican politicians aren't concerned by the number of recall campaigns, but they might become concerned if one is successful.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

There's a growing list of Republicans battling recall campaigns – Governor Rick Snyder, the leaders of the House and Senate, lawmakers who supported controversial measures, and lawmakers who approved changes to the tax structure.

In all, thirteen Republicans must stave off petition drives. But that growing number may not be what sends shock waves through the Capitol, according to the editor of Inside Michigan Politics, Bill Ballenger:

"I don't think it's even a question so much of how many recalls there are, the question is just scaring the living bejesus out of all incumbents thinking no one is safe, they're coming after us, and it only takes one recall successfully completed," said Ballenger.

Ballenger says successful recalls are rare and difficult, and the question of whether politicians should be recalled for the policy they support is open and ongoing.

"Many people have said the only basis on which there should be a recall is gross criminal neglect, misfeasance, malfeasance, whatever," said Ballenger. "Not for differences in policy. However, as long as the law is written the way it is, there can be a difference on policy decisions."

A recall campaign against Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville was given the green light this week.

Other top Republican officials facing recall campaigns include Governor Rick Snyder and House Speaker Jase Bolger.

All three say they are focused on their work and not on combating recall petitioners.

Politics
2:57 pm
Thu July 7, 2011

GOP, Dem. ads target other side's record on jobs

The RNC's image of the country with President Obama at the wheel.
screen grab from YouTube video Republican National Committee

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - In a sign that the 2012 election season is under way in Michigan, the Republican National Committee is running ads criticizing Democratic President Barack Obama's record on job creation.

The 30-second ad began running on cable stations nationwide Wednesday. Starting next week, it will air for three more weeks in Michigan and a dozen other battleground states that could prove crucial to winning the White House next year.

The ad's announcer lists the nation's economic ills and says it's time to "change direction."

Michigan Democrats have taken a similar tack in criticizing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, the target of a recall drive.

They've released a web video chastising the governor for reducing film credits and forcing layoffs through cuts to school districts and local governments.

Snyder calls the cutbacks necessary.

Commentary
11:34 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Shenanigans in Michigan's 7th District

Most congressmen face a big struggle to first get elected, and then stay in their jobs for a considerable period of time. John Dingell, for example, holds the all-time record. He’ll have served fifty-six years before this year is over.

John Conyers has been there forty-six years.

Dale Kildee and Carl Levin have been in Washington more than thirty years. But on the other hand, the seventh district, which spans southeast Michigan’s border with Ohio, has been about the most volatile congressional district in the nation over the last decade.

Starting in two thousand and two, the seventh district has elected a different congressman in every election. Tim Walberg, who holds the job now, won in two thousand six; lost in two thousand eight, and won his old seat back in two thousand and ten.

Odds were that he would have faced another stiff challenge next year, possibly from one, or both, his two main rivals in the recent past. Fellow Republican Joe Schwarz beat Walberg in a primary in two thousand four, and then lost to him two years later.

Democrat Mark Schauer ousted Walberg from Congress in two thousand eight, and was ousted by him last year.

But this year is a redistricting year. Republicans control every branch of government, and one of their top priorities was to draw the lines so as to make re-election safer for their side’s incumbents.

In the case of the Seventh, they replaced Calhoun County, at the west end of the district, with Monroe County, at the eastern end. The counties are almost the same size, and both usually, but not always, vote slightly more Democratic than Republican.

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Politics
10:57 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Former Detroit mayor could be released in August

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will probably have to wait until the first week of August to be released from prison.

Kilpatrick’s release date was set to be no earlier than July 24th, but he wants to transfer his parole to Texas to be with his wife and children. This will require additional paperwork.  Russ Marlan is spokesperson for Michigan Department of Corrections.  

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News Roundup
9:31 am
Thu July 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Thursday, July 7th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

‘Kids-Count’ Report

Two-thirds of all babies born to Michigan women in their early twenties are born out of wedlock, according to a new report from the Michigan League for Human Services. “The reports shows a significant uptick over the past decade in the number of babies born out of wedlock to women in their twenties. The report also indicates Michigan is doing better than many other states in the number of mothers who receive prenatal care and the number of women without a high school education who have children,” Laura Weber reports.

‘Underwear Bomber’ Back in Court

The Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up a Detroit-bound jetliner with 290 people aboard using a bomb hidden in his underwear is due in federal court for a hearing on postponing his trial, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Detroit U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds Is to preside at Thursday's hearing for Umar Abdulmutallab. His trial is scheduled Oct. 4, but a lawyer helping him wants more time after getting more evidence from the government… Prosecutors have urged Edmunds to stick to the October trial date, saying any delays are "needless."Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to blow up a plane as it approached Detroit Metropolitan Airport from Amsterdam on Christmas Day 2009.

Brooks’ Budget

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson presented his budget recommendations for the next three years to Oakland County Commissioners last night. Oakland County is the richest county in the state. “Patterson says that long-term planning has been key to maintaining the county’s AAA bond rating, even as property tax revenues plummet. Patterson says the county has also managed to avoid cutting employee salaries and mass layoffs… The Oakland County Commission won’t formally take up the budget until next month, and are slated to vote on in September,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

Politics
8:07 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Lt. Gov Calley to meet with Detroit City Council to discuss proposed new bridge

Joggers run under the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. Governor Snyder is pushing for another bridge across the Detroit River to be built.
J.Stephen Conn Flickr

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is scheduled to meet with the Detroit City Council this afternoon to discuss a proposed new bridge that would span the Detroit River. Governor Snyder is pushing for the new bridge which would connect Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. Many state Republican lawmakers oppose the plan, known as the New International Trade Crossing. The owner of the Ambassador Bridge, which connects Detroit to Ontario, and is the busiest international trade crossing in North America, opposes the plan as well. He wants to build a new span of his own.

As the Detroit Free Press explains this morning, “…just about everyone involved in Michigan's great bridge debate supports building some new bridge to replace or supplement the Ambassador. The question boils down to who would build it and own it -- Ambassador owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun as a private businessman or the citizens of Michigan and Canada through public authorities.”

As the Associated Press notes:

Gov. Rick Snyder and many businesses want to build a new Detroit-Windsor bridge to aid passenger and commercial traffic. It would be backed by private investors, and Michigan would rely on $550 million from Canada for related improvements.

It's likely Calley will use the meeting to try to gain support from the City Council for the New International Trade Crossing.

Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry has been writing extensively over the years about the bridge controversy:

Election 2012
6:51 am
Thu July 7, 2011

Michigan GOP: Primary or caucus?

Michigan Republicans are weighing whether to hold a primary or a caucus.
Cle0patra Flickr

Republicans in the state are debating whether they'll use a primary or caucus system to choose their GOP candidate for  the 2012 presidential election, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The state GOP's Policy Committee plans to recommend its choice next week. The full GOP state committee is scheduled to make a final decision in mid-August.

Republican National Committee member Saul Anuzis says he thinks a primary would encourage the largest voter turnout and most visits by the candidates.

Others want a caucus, saying it will keep Democrats from interfering and give grass-roots activists more clout.

The primary is scheduled by law for next Feb. 28, but lawmakers could change the date. Michigan held its 2008 presidential primary in mid-January.

Michigan Democrats plan to choose their favorite at a May 5 caucus since President Barack Obama is the near-certain nominee.

Economy
5:25 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Budget negotiations and the nation's debt ceiling (audio)

Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.
whitehouse.gov

The debate over the federal budget and the debt ceiling is heated, and there are very dire predictions from both Republican and Democratic leaders about what will happen if these issues aren’t resolved soon. But for Americans who are dealing with every day, immediate issues, this debate can seem distant.

Republican Congressman Mike Rogers represents Michigan's 8th Congressional District. He spoke with Michigan Radio's Jenn White about why people should care about this debate.

Congressman Rogers says these issues "impact the ability for our economy to grow and for people to get back to work."

Politics
4:24 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Detroit set to ramp up parking enforcement

alicegop flickr

Beginning tomorrow, people who spend their evenings in downtown Detroit will have to pay for the privilege of parking on city streets.

The city is stepping up its enforcement at meters and in illegal parking zones – extending the hours meter readers prowl the streets until 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Parking enforcement has been ending at 6:30.

James Canty manages Detroit’s parking department. He says the hope is that people who’ve racked up expensive fines for outstanding tickets will settle them:

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Politics
3:43 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Communities ban texting, and e-mails during council meetings

Local governments across the country are struggling with how to handle texting and e-mailing during public meetings. Some communities in Michigan have banned the practice.
Karry Vaughan Flickr

With the number of digital devices like smart phones and tablets exploding, communicating with one another electronically is becoming a common part of our society.

And as many high school teachers know, thumbing on a keyboard can even go undetected if you're good.

Now, some communities are banning the practice of texting and e-mailing during public meetings.

The Detroit News has a piece on the restrictions some local governments have put in place. The piece looks at the restrictions in Ann Arbor, Royal Oak, and Sterling Heights.

From the Detroit News:

Supporters say the issue is about transparency and integrity, not to mention common courtesy. They argue email or even text conversations could violate the Michigan Open Meetings Act, which requires decisions and most deliberations to be public.

"It's about maintaining the integrity of this council and futurecouncils," said Maria Schmidt, a city councilwoman in Sterling Heights, which amended its council governing rules earlier this year to ban electronic communication during meetings.

But critics of the bans say technology helps these officials do their jobsmore effectively and efficiently. They call the bans "short-sighted."

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Politics
12:57 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Ex-Detroit mayor's book covers affair, legal saga

From the website kwamekilpatrickbook.com. Kilpatrick says he's ready to "talk about everything."
kwamekilpatrickbook.com

DETROIT (AP) - Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick takes responsibility in his upcoming book for an affair with an aide and lies told during a civil trial that sent him from leading one of America's largest cities to a prison cell. But he also blames others for his downfall.

The former politician bills "Surrendered! The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick" as his side of the tale. He claims in the book that when it was clear criminal charges tied to a sex scandal would not go away, his political allies and adversaries, some Detroit business leaders and an aggressive media formed an unspoken alliance. He says they worked to "get rid" of him.

The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of the book. Its release date is Aug. 1.

Commentary
11:23 am
Wed July 6, 2011

Casey Anthony Verdict: Rushing to Judgement

Last night I was filling up my car in western Wayne County, when a woman next to me, a perfect stranger, said “Isn’t it horrible?”  I thought she meant the price of gas.

But no. She meant the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial. “Can you believe it?"

I thought of sincerely telling her that I wasn’t surprised at all. Of telling her that what happens during a full-length trial in a courtroom is often far different than what you see on TV.

Additionally, our system - though not our media - still operate under something called the presumption of innocence. This means, in criminal trials, that your guilt has to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and there seemed to be plenty of that here.

I also was tempted to suggest that she get a life, and become interested and involved in things that mattered to her family, community and state which she actually could do something about.

But of course I did none of that, mostly because I didn't want to get into a fight. So I merely mumbled that I hadn’t really followed the trial much, which also happens to be true.

I haven’t followed it, except to the extent that it was unavoidable. I usually watch CNN for a few minutes in the morning, a network which lately seems to be all Casey Anthony, all the time. If you are trying to discover proof that a large country named Russia actually still existed, you’d be out of luck here.

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News Roundup
8:55 am
Wed July 6, 2011

In this morning's news...

In this morning's news, Wednesday, July 6th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

MEA to Support Recall Efforts

The state’s largest teachers union says it will help efforts to recall some Republican state lawmakers. “The Michigan Education Association’s main complaints are cuts to school funding and new tenure rules… Members of the MEA say they’re also angry at efforts to force them to pay more for their benefits... The MEA has 157,000 members and a large political action fund,” Rick Pluta reports. Doug Pratt, spokesman for the MEA, says the union has made a strategic decision not to name the lawmakers who will be targets of their recall efforts.

Ford Sued

A technology company has sued Ford Motor Company over patent infringements related to some of Ford’s hottest new products, including Sync, Tracy Samilton reports. From Samilton:

The lawsuit says Eagle Harbor Holdings met with Ford starting in 2000 to discuss using Eagle Harbor’s voice command software and other patented technology. Eagle Harbor's General Counsel, Jeff Harmes, says Ford’s hands-free phone system, Sync, uses some of that technology. But he says Ford broke off talks with Eagle Harbor in 2008… A spokeswoman says Ford hasn’t had the chance to review the lawsuit yet and it would be premature to comment.

August Release for Kilpatrick?

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is expected to be released from prison in early August to give authorities time to arrange transfer of his parole to Texas, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The Michigan parole board voted last month to release Kilpatrick from state prison and he was expected to be freed no earlier than July 24. The Michigan Department of Corrections tells The Detroit News for a Wednesday story that details needed to be worked out… He's facing federal charges. Kilpatrick quit office in 2008 when he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. He was sent to prison in May 2010 by a judge who said the ex-mayor failed to turn over certain assets toward his $1 million restitution.

Politics
4:49 pm
Tue July 5, 2011

Michigan teachers union to back recall efforts aimed at some Republicans

A rally held by the Michigan Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, in Lansing last May. The MEA is putting its support behind some recall efforts.
screen grab from YouTube video

The state’s largest teachers union says it will put its organizational muscle and money behind efforts to recall some Republican lawmakers.

The Michigan Education Association’s main complaints are cuts to school funding and new tenure rules.

Tenure rules adopted last week by the Legislature will make it easier for school districts to fire teachers.

Members of the MEA say they’re also angry at efforts to force them to pay more for their benefits. Doug Pratt, MEA spokesman, says the union has tried to work with some lawmakers on spending and education reforms:

"Our members across the state as well as the middle class at large have been under attack for six months now," said Pratt. "And we’ve done what we think we can do through the legislative process to reasonably work with people to come up with solutions that move the state forward. That’s not happening."

The MEA has 157,000 members and a large political action fund.

Ari Adler is the spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, one of the targets of a recall campaign:

"It’s not a surprise to hear the MEA is going public with its war on those who are fighting for change in Lansing," said Adler. "We have known for some time now that they’ve been working behind the scenes on recalls and it seems as though they wanted to go public before someone outed them."

MEA spokesman Pratt says some individual union members were involved early in recall campaigns. Pratt says the MEA has made a strategic decision to not name the lawmakers who will be union recall targets.

Commentary
11:09 am
Tue July 5, 2011

Medical Marijuana

Three years ago, Michigan voters approved allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes by a margin of almost two to one.

Social conservatives weren’t happy, and feared that this would lead to the back door legalization of marijuana for everyone. However, the public was overwhelmingly sympathetic to its use for medical reasons. That’s largely because there is considerable evidence that marijuana can relieve suffering from diseases including cancer, glaucoma, and a host of other ailments. Yet there were problems from the start with the medical marijuana law.

For one thing, it wasn’t passed by the legislature, as most laws are, but was placed on the ballot by citizens who collected enough signatures to put it there. Legalizing marijuana for medical patients required setting up a complex new system.

This had never been tried before in Michigan, and it’s evident that the framework needs to be tweaked.  For one thing, there are clearly a handful of unscrupulous doctors all too willing to certify people for medical marijuana use.

The Detroit Free Press reported that only fifty-five doctors have authorized medical marijuana for more than seventy percent of all those now eligible. Whatever your feelings about marijuana, the voters did not intend to effectively legalize its recreational use.

Nor could Michigan legally do that. Technically, any marijuana use is still against federal law, and Washington could, if it chose, move against any of the sixteen states that authorize medical marijuana. They haven’t, and even allowed a medical marijuana statute to be enacted in Washington, D.C.. But if Michigan or any other state were to openly act as if the legalization of medical marijuana meant we could establish a marijuana industry for all, the odds of federal intervention would become much greater.

On the other hand, it is clear that people do want marijuana to be available to those with legitimate medical conditions.

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News Roundup
9:11 am
Tue July 5, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Tuesday, July 5th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Many Still Powerless

Crews are still working to restore electricity to about 11,000 homes and businesses across the state after this weekend’s severe thunderstorms. The Associated Press reports:

DTE Energy Co. says Tuesday morning that those without power included about 10,000 in Wayne County and about 1,000 in St. Clair County. DTE says it hopes to restore electrical service to as many as possible by day's end… The storms on Saturday generated 2-inch-wide hail and winds gusting to 64 mph that knocked down trees and power lines and left 125,000 utility customers in the dark.

Teen Driving

A new bill could change driving restrictions for Michigan;s teens. The measure would allow teen drivers on the road between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. if they were driving to and from school activities, such as sporting events. Currently, teens can only drive between those hours if they are commuting to and from work. The bill would also allow a teen to drive between those hours if a parent or legal guardian was in the car with them.

Insurance Reforms for the Fall?

Will Governor Snyder propose sweeping changes to insurance regulations this fall? That’s a question floating around the state Capitol. Laura Weber reports:

The discussion [over insurance reform] began when Snyder recently said that negotiations over repealing Michigan’s motorcycle helmet law should be part of a larger discussion on insurance reform. But, even Republican Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville is unclear on what other proposals the governor many want… Richardville says he has been discussing a repeal of the helmet law with Governor Snyder since the beginning of the year.

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