Politics & Government

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

Osama bin Laden, who created the al-Qaida terrorist network that killed 3,000 people in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, is dead.

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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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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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