Politics & Government

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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Politics
5:44 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

People in Benton Harbor disagree about what’s best for the city

People rally this week in Benton Harbor against the city's emergency manager and Gov. Rick Snyder.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Politicians and national media have been parachuting into Benton Harbor lately. They’re talking about the city’s emergency manager, Joe Harris. Harris was the first emergency manager in Michigan to exercise broad new powers under a state law passed last month, essentially removing power from elected city officials.

This week I sat down with many of those officials and Benton Harbor residents to hear what they think of the situation.

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Politics
5:17 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Governor Snyder's tax overhaul plan passes the House

Governor Snyder's tax plan has passed the State House.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Update 5:14 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder’s tax overhaul plan began working its way through the Legislature today as it cleared the state House by a mostly party-line vote.

The Republican tax reform bill would replace the complex and unpopular Michigan Business Tax with a corporate profits tax.

Two-thirds of Michigan businesses would not have to pay the tax.

Part of the revenue lost to the state would be made up by eliminating dozens of tax breaks.

Many of them go to businesses and charities. Also gone would be earned income credit for working poor families and the income tax exemption for most seniors on pensions.

“This is a turnaround moment for Michigan,” said Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger. “Today’s winners are our local small business owners. Today’s winners are the unemployed because now those small business owners can create jobs.”

Democrats say it’s not fair to make working families and seniors make up the difference while most businesses pay less. Democratic state Representative Barb Byrum says it's not a fair trade.

“This legislation is not a shared sacrifice and should not be adopted. Today is just another day another day to give an 82% tax break to wealthy, corporate special interests. Another day to take from our children, our seniors, and our working poor."

The measure now goes to the Republican-controlled state Senate.

3:41 p.m.

Governor Rick Snyder’s tax overhaul plan has begun its march through the Legislature.

It won the approval of the state House by a mostly party-line vote.

The measure would scrap the complicated and unpopular Michigan Business Tax.

It would be replaced by a corporate income tax that would not be paid by two-thirds of the state’s businesses.

Part of that lost revenue would be made up by ending many tax breaks for businesses, working poor families, and seniors on pensions.

Politics
5:06 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Mayor Bing says Detroit is at a tipping point, could need emergency manager

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing was in Lansing today asking the Governor and state representatives for help.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the city is at a tipping point and could be assigned an emergency manager if the state doesn’t let it extend income and utility taxes.

Bing met privately with Governor Rick Snyder and lawmakers today.

He  says if the state does not allow Detroit to extend taxes, the city will lose about $100 million in revenue:

"Then I think we’re looking at an emergency financial manager," said Bing, "and I don’t think the state wants to go in that route, nor do we. So we need the support from the Legislature up here to make sure they make the necessary changes to give us the support that we need."

Bing needs legislation for the tax extension because of Detroit’s massive population loss. That drop disqualified the city from laws written for the state’s largest city.

Bing also wants Detroit’s 48 unions to make large concessions to help close a $200 million deficit.

Politics
4:41 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Jackson residents face difficult choice in Tuesday's public safety merger vote

Red-and-white signs can be found all across Jackson these days. The signs, which look very similar, carry very different messages: Some encourage city residents to vote for merging Jackson's police and fire departments, while others oppose it.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Jackson voters will be asked next Tuesday if they want to merge their city police and fire departments.  It’s a decision that is dividing the southern Michigan city. Jackson, like many Michigan cities, is struggling to balance its budget. Tuesday’s vote to create a public safety department is a result of that. 

Interim City Manager Warren Renando says Tuesday’s vote is about better allocating what little money the city has left to spend.  

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Politics
12:21 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Two Michigan Congressmen call for Syria sanctions

Syrian protesters
cell phone picutre via Associated Press

Two Michigan Congressmen are urging President Obama to renew—and strengthen—sanctions against the Syrian government.

Livonia Republican Thaddeus McCotter and Detroit Democrat Hansen Clarke say they both support renewing targeted sanctions that lapse next month.

Both Congressmen also support strengthening those measures to include freezing Syrian officials’ U.S. assets, and prohibiting business with American companies.

Both say the sanctions should also be extended President Bashar Al-Assad’s, and other top official’s, families.

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Commentary
11:06 am
Thu April 28, 2011

Snyder and the Schools

There was lots of reaction to Governor Rick Snyder’s special message on education yesterday, some of it within minutes after he stopped speaking. What isn’t clear is how many of those doing the reacting had actually listened, or read what he had to say.

Actually, he proposed a number of things that liberals and  progressive education experts should have been happy with. Chief among them was paying more attention to childhood development.

“Early childhood is a time of remarkable brain growth that affects a child’s development and readiness for school,” he said.

He added that our goal should be to create a “coherent system of health and early learning,” to nurture and watch over these children from before they are born, through the third grade.”

Snyder went on to address the threat of alcoholism and premature birth. Hard to see how progressives could fail to agree.

But if he is serious, how is he going to pay for any of this? The governor didn’t explain that, or offer any new money to accomplish what he wanted done. I expected Democrats to say something like “Great ideas. But we don’t need more unfunded mandates.”

However, while the Dems bashed the governor, they seemed to virtually ignore his actual education proposals.

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News Roundup
9:04 am
Thu April 28, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, April 28th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Snyder Addresses Education Reform

Governor Rick Snyder addressed education reform in Detroit yesterday. The governor said Michigan does not have to spend more money to improve the performance of a failing education system, Rick Pluta reports. From Pluta:

The governor say it’s largely a matter of reallocating resources to reward success and to craft a system that reflects Michigan’s new economic realities.

Governor Snyder says his education plan would refocus schools on student advancement and performance, empower teachers and hold them responsible, and offer parents more options when schools are failing.

The governor says recent test scores show too many students do not graduate from high school and, for those that do, too many are not ready for college or for 21st Century jobs.

Rally Against EFM in Benton Harbor

About 200 people rallied in Benton Harbor yesterday against Joe Harris, the city’s emergency financial manager, Lindsey Smith reports. Harris is the first Emergency Manager in the state to exercise broad new powers that Governor Snyder signed into law last month. The law gives emergency managers more power to fix financial problems in school districts, cities and villages, Smith explains. Three cities (Benton Harbor, Ecorse and Pontiac) and Detroit Public Schools are currently run by emergency managers. Harris plans to unveil his plan to turn around the city tonight.

House Committee OK’s Measure to 'Decertify' Teachers' Unions that Authorize Strikes

The Michigan House Education committee has approved a bill that would decertify a teachers’ union if its teachers vote to go on strike, Steve Carmody reports. From Carmody:

Individual teachers could also be fined or fired under the legislation. It’s currently illegal for teachers to strike in the state. The Michigan Education Association has been asking its members if they would be willing to take part in a work stoppage.

Politics
5:26 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Benton Harbor called "ground zero" in fight over emergency manager powers

Benton Harbor's state-appointed emergency manager Joe Harris. Harris was the first emergency manager to use broad new powers granted to him by the state legislature and Governor Rick Snyder.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The emergency financial manager of Benton Harbor, Joe Harris, says the city will have a budget surplus in the coming fiscal year.

Harris says that’s because the new powers given to emergency managers allowed him to do his job more effectively.

Harris says that means he could leave Benton Harbor after two years of work, rather than the five years he originally thought it would take to turn the city around.

But not everyone is thrilled with the work Joe Harris has done, or with the new laws that granted him sweeping power over Benton Harbor.

Some big names have focused on Benton Harbor recently.

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Politics
4:53 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Rally in Benton Harbor against Emergency Manager's takeover

Benton Harbr Mayor Wilce Cook told the crowd "We the people have a right to determine our own destiny, not have someone else do it."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

About 200 people attended a rally in Benton Harbor against Joe Harris, the city’s emergency financial manager. Joe Harris was appointed to take over the city’s troubled finances last year by Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Harris is the first Emergency Manager in Michigan to exercise broad new powers Governor Rick Snyder signed into law last month. The law gives emergency managers more power to fix financial problems in school districts, cities and villages. Three cities (Benton Harbor Ecorse and Pontiac) and Detroit Public Schools are run by emergency managers.

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Politics
3:54 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

Moroun family donates $1.5 million to candidates in 2009-2010

Detroit's Ambassador Bridge
Di Bedard Flickr

The powerful Moroun family donated just under $1.5 million to political candidates during the 2009-2010 election cycle.

The Morouns own the Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the Ambassador Bridge. They are also against building a new international bridge, which Governor Snyder is in favor of constructing.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

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Commentary
9:12 am
Wed April 27, 2011

A Royal Family for Michigan?

  • Audio processing, please check back momentarily.

Earlier this week, I was talking with a battle-hardened senior TV producer in her fifties who I don‘t think of as a romantic.

“I have to cancel a meeting Thursday night,” she told me. “I have to be up by 4:30 on Friday.”

“Are you catching an early flight?” I asked. “No.” she said. “I have to watch the royal wedding.”

Thanks to the time difference, monarchical devotees who want to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton exchange vows live will have to rise before dawn.

I was impressed by that, and remember thirty years ago, when a similar wave of pan-royal excitement swept our nation when Charles and Diana were married. And then suddenly I realized that we’ve been sitting on a solution to a lot of our problems, both in this state and the nation. We need a royal family, and we’ve got the perfect candidate right here in Michigan.

I’m being perfectly serious.

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News Roundup
8:43 am
Wed April 27, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, April 27th, 2011
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Snyder to Deliver Education Address

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver an address about education reform this morning in Detroit. It’s being reported that the Governor will propose tougher education requirements for new teachers. Snyder has also said more attention should be given to children from before birth through their graduation from college. Snyder offered some hints as to what he might say today in an address earlier this week to an education conference in East Lansing. On Monday, the governor said student test scores are both “startling and scary.” He says he wants to relax school regulations to give teachers and principals more freedom and responsibility over educational decisions.

Severe Weather

Officials plan to survey parts of northern Allegan County to determine whether a tornado or high winds caused damage in the area, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The National Weather Service says the survey is planned for Wednesday in southwestern Michigan following damage from storms that moved through the state Tuesday evening. Two barns housing 40,000 turkeys at DeBoer Turkey Farm in Allegan County's Salem Township were toppled by the storms.

The Grand Rapids Press reports about a dozen other sites in the county were damaged…

The weather service says the storms also produced heavy rain that flooded some low lying areas. More rain was expected through Thursday, bringing with it the risk of more flooding.

Now Is the Time to Pay-Up

People and businesses that owe back taxes to the state of Michigan have until June 30th to pay up without paying fines and penalties, Rick Pluta reports. There are potentially hundreds of thousands of people and businesses that owe the state unpaid taxes. From Pluta:

The state hopes to net $90 million dollars from the tax amnesty program.  State Treasurer Andy Dillon says if you owe, now is a good time to pay, "It doesn’t matter why you didn't pay your taxes – the penalties can be forgiven. And the penalties can be quite stiff. It depends on the tax that you’re talking about, but it can be as much as 25% of the liability that can be forgiven, and the sooner you pay it off, the sooner you stop paying interest on that obligation."

This is the third time since the 1980s the state’s offered amnesty to people and businesses with unpaid back taxes.

Education
6:51 am
Wed April 27, 2011

Snyder to deliver education address today in Detroit

Michigan Governor (R) Rick Snyder
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver an address regarding the state's education system this morning at the United Way for Southeastern Michigan office in Detroit. As the Associated Press reports, an aide to Snyder says the governor will propose tougher education requirements that new Michigan teachers must meet before they can serve in the classroom. From the AP:

Snyder senior adviser Bill Rustem tells The Associated Press the state is producing more teachers than Michigan needs and can afford to raise standards.

Under Snyder's proposal, education majors would have to pass basic skills and subject matter tests before they do their student teaching.

Now, they can take the tests after they student teach.

Rustem says the governor also wants Michigan universities that offer teaching degrees to require more instruction and student teaching time.

Politics
11:04 pm
Tue April 26, 2011

Detroit Council gets budget advice

The Detroit City Council heard some advice about the city’s budget situation Tuesday.

Council fiscal analyst Irvin Corley told them that Mayor Dave Bing’s proposed budget is “mostly reasonable.”

But Corley also warned that Bing’s proposal contains more than $200 million in “soft” revenue that might not materialize.

Corley says the Council should cut the Mayor’s budget further, and the two sides need to find an agreement that truly addresses the city’s fiscal problems.

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Politics
5:12 pm
Tue April 26, 2011

Governor Snyder might bank potential $500 million windfall

Early revenue projections suggest Michigan may collect $500 million more than anticipated
Allan Cleaver Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder says he may want to bank the money from an unexpected improvement in tax collections – if the windfall exists.

Early revenue projections suggest Michigan may collect $500 million more than anticipated.

But Governor Snyder says he’s not ready to count that money as part of his budget plans.

He says the state may be better off putting it into savings.

“I’m bullish that we’re on a positive economic path, but to say we’re going to see just an upward curve without a few bumps, I would be careful about speculating that given the challenge of gasoline prices and such.”

Democrats want to use any windfall to scale back proposed cuts to schools. The next official revenue estimate comes in mid-May.

The House and Senate are continuing to work this week on budget proposals with an eye toward finishing before June first.

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