Politics & Government

Government Shutdown
2:34 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum could be among the first victims of possible govt. shutdown

Exterior view of the Gerald R. Ford presidential museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan
(courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and Library)

The Gerald R. Ford presidential museum and library would be among the first places people in Michigan would see affected by a possible federal government shutdown.  

On a normal Saturday in April, a few hundred people visit the Ford presidential museum in Grand Rapids.   But, if Congress can’t reach a budget deal by midnight tonight, the Ford museum’s doors will stay locked over the weekend.

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Government Shutdown
12:06 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

Gov. Snyder says effect of potential federal government shutdown unclear

Governor Rick Snyder, (R) Michigan
(courtesy of the Michigan governor's office)

Governor Rick Snyder says he is not sure how or if state government would be affected by a potential temporary shutdown of the federal government.

Leaders in Congress are still working with President Obama on a budget solution, with a deadline of this evening.  

Governor Snyder says information is still rolling into his office about the potential effects on the state.  

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Commentary
10:08 am
Fri April 8, 2011

A Conversation with Mayor Bing

I went to see Detroit Mayor Dave Bing yesterday afternoon to discuss the state of his city. It’s been a bruising few weeks for Detroit. The census showed a population loss considerably greater than expected - which means a further loss of both federal and state dollars. The governor’s budget has yet to be approved, but it seems clear that it means more cuts in revenue sharing.

Nevertheless, I found the mayor upbeat, candid and energetic. He’s convinced the census missed people, and is going to do all he can to get the count adjusted. But for now, he has to plan as if the number is going to stay at seven hundred and thirteen thousand.

There’s no doubt in his mind what Detroit needs most. “Jobs are the key,” he said. There are some hopeful signs. General Motors, Blue Cross, Quicken Loans and some other firms have announced plans to add jobs recently.  But the city has a long way to go.

When the recession was at its peak, Mayor Bing made headlines when he said that he thought the city’s true unemployment rate was as high as forty-five percent, when you counted workers who are so discouraged they aren't even taking part in the labor force.  What does he think it is now? “Still about the same,” he said.

“There are some signs the country is coming out of the recession, but that hasn’t really translated into jobs in Detroit.”

I asked the mayor, himself a former successful businessman,  about Governor Rick Snyder’s theory that lowering taxes will help bring a new flood of jobs. He smiled. “Well, it should help,” he said.

But he added that maximizing profits doesnn’t always mean adding jobs. The mayor, who took office after a special election following the resignation of Kwame Kilpatrick, has been in office  almost two years now. What does he think is his greatest accomplishment?

He said, “reducing the deficit from more than $330 million dollars to $155 million. Given the economy, that was really a Herculean task.”

Unfortunately, he fears the deficit may now rise somewhat, “if everything in the governor’s budget becomes stark reality.”

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News Roundup
8:22 am
Fri April 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, Friday, April 8th
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Still No Deal to Avert Government Shutdown

Less than 24 hours remain for President Obama and Congressional leaders to avert a government shutdown. A deal to fund the federal government through September must be reached by midnight tonight to keep the government fully operating. President Obama and legislative leaders met again last night to narrow their differences over how much to cut the federal budget but no agreement was made. Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush takes a look at what a government shutdown will mean for Michigan.

Redistricting Hearings to Being Next Week

A state House panel will begin the process of redrawing Michigan’s political maps with hearings next week focused on results from the 2010 U.S. Census, Laura Weber reports. From Weber:

With Republicans controlling all branches of state government, Democrats are worried that new district lines will target a vulnerable Democratic seat like that of US Congressman Gary Peters. The state House Redistricting and Elections Committee is chaired by Republican Representative Pete Lund. Lund said in a statement that he looks forward to the hearings and, "a fair, effective redistricting process for our state."

ACLU Wants to Know More About EFM Bill

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan wants to know more about the creation of Michigan’s new Emergency Financial Manager law, Steve Carmody reports. “The legislation gives broad new powers to managers appointed by the state to run financially troubled cities and school districts. Kary Moss is with the ACLU of Michigan. She says the ACLU is filing Freedom of Information requests to learn more about who wrote the law,” Carmody explains.

Twenty-Three Campgrounds To Close

Michigan plans to close twenty-three state forest campgrounds beginning in May. The campgrounds are not state parks but, instead, are camping sites along rivers, lakes and trails. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the campgrounds are being closed because they’re not heavily used and the state doesn’t have the funds to maintain them. The majority of the closings will take place in the Upper Peninsula.

Government Shutdown
6:47 am
Fri April 8, 2011

Time running out to avert partial government shutdown

Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

Less than 24 hours remain for President Obama and Congressional leaders to avert a government shutdown. A deal to fund the federal government through September must be reached by midnight tonight to keep the government fully operating. President Obama and legislative leaders met again last night to narrow their differences over how much to cut the federal budget but no agreement was made.

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Government Shutdown
6:41 pm
Thu April 7, 2011

Not all will suffer if the government does shut down

[We asked NPR's Linton Weeks to think about some things that might benefit from a federal government shutdown. Here's what he reported back.]

We have all heard dire predictions surrounding the possible closing down of the federal government.

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Government Shutdown
4:51 pm
Thu April 7, 2011

GOP-controlled House passes stopgap spending bill

President Obama says another round of talks with congressional leaders has helped, but there is no deal yet to avert a government shutdown.

Obama said he hoped to be able to announce a deal on Friday but "there's no certainty yet." He said he told House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that he wants an answer in the morning.

He said there were "a few issues that are outstanding.

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Politics
4:22 pm
Thu April 7, 2011

ACLU wants to know more about the genesis of Michigan's emergency financial manager law

The American Civil Liberties Union wants to know more about the creation of Michigan’s Emergency Financial Manager law. The legislation gives broad new powers to managers appointed by the state to run financially troubled cities and school districts. Those powers include voiding union contracts. 

Kary Moss is with the ACLU of Michigan. She says the ACLU is filing Freedom of Information requests to learn more about who wrote the law. 

“This legislation was passed and signed pretty quickly.   And all that we are trying to do right now is get some more information about ‘What prompted it?’, ‘How is it going to be implemented?’, just so the public can have more information."

Moss says they also want to know who was involved in drafting the legislation. 

"Who was really at the table…when it was drafted...andconceived and discussed.”

Governor Snyder says the law encourages cities and school districts to make financial changes, before an Emergency Financial Manager would be appointed.

The governor’s office has not commented on the ACLU request.

Politics
3:13 pm
Thu April 7, 2011

Redrawing the political map of Michigan

Voters in Jackson, Michigan fill out their ballots in a recent election
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

A state House panel next week will begin the process of redrawing Michigan’s political maps. The first hearing will focus on results from the 2010 U-S Census.  

Michigan lost population over the past decade, and the state will lose a seat in the U.S. House. With Republicans controlling all branches of state government, Democrats are worried that new district lines will target a vulnerable Democratic seat like that of US Congressman Gary Peters.          

The state House Redistricting and Elections Committee is chaired by Republican Representative Pete Lund. Lund led the successful GOP push to retake the Michigan House last fall. Lund said in a statement that he looks forward to the hearings and, "a fair, effective redistricting process for our state."

Government Shutdown
2:52 pm
Thu April 7, 2011

How a shutdown would affect Michigan

A federal government shutdown looms as leaders in Congress disagree on budget cuts.
user kulshrax creative commons

A shutdown of the federal government seems more likely as leaders in Congress don't seem to have a clear handle on where their disagreements lie.

The New York Times outlined the disagreement... over their disagreements...

  • Senate Majority Leader, Hary Reid (D-NV), said, "the numbers are basically there, but I am not nearly as optimistic, and that's an understatement, as I was 11 hours ago. The only thing holding up an agreement is ideology."
  • And House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)  told reporters, "there is no agreement on a number. I think we were closer to a number last night than we are this morning. We're going to have real spending cuts. I don't know what some people don't understand about this."

So, a shutdown of the federal government is getting closer.

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Commentary
11:13 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Why Journalism Matters

We’re living today in a confusing and somewhat frightening time. Michigan is in trouble, economically. Trouble of a different kind than we’ve been through before. The longtime mainstay of our economy, the automotive industry, will never again be what it was.

This has plunged us from one of the nation’s richer states to one of its poorer ones. State government is finally facing a financial crisis it tried to ignore for years, and the governor is proposing changes that seem radical and sometimes hard to understand.

Beyond that, education at all levels is in crisis. We learned last month that our largest city has suffered a staggering population loss over the last decade.

There are real questions about whether Detroit and other cities, communities and school districts are going to have to be taken over by Emergency Financial Managers.

Understanding all this is vitally important in order to make key decisions for our own lives. Should we trust the public schools? Should we buy a house? Where should we live?

And even, should we leave the state?

We clearly need thoughtful, intelligent and easily accessible journalism to help make sense of these and other events - and need it possibly more than at any other time in our history.

Yet journalism is in trouble too. Journalists, if they do their jobs right, are never very popular. Much of the time, we’re bringing you bad news, and some of the time, we are obnoxious about it.

But right now, we’re having trouble doing that. Digging our news is an expensive, labor-intensive job, and the vast majority has always been done by newspapers. Yet newspapers are facing a deep crisis of their own, thanks in large part to the internet revolution, and our changing lifestyles. Newspapers have been supported historically by advertising, and much of that has melted away to cyberspace. We also don’t read newspapers as much as we used to. People read news on the internet, but internet providers produce little news.

They merely collect it - mainly from our shrinking newspapers.

That doesn’t mean some broadcast and even online publications don’t produce quality journalism. But in terms of content, it is comparatively small.

Last night I spoke at the Detroit area Society of Professional Journalists annual banquet. Michigan Radio won a number of awards, and an encouraging amount of good journalism was on display. But attendance was smaller than last year. Some people have left the profession. Some companies no longer buy tickets.

Yet there were still an impressive corps of men and women there who work long hours for usually not much pay to find out what we need to know and shape it into an interesting package.

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News Roundup
9:08 am
Thu April 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

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

MI Keeping Close Eye on Federal Budget

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is keeping a close eye on the showdown over the federal budget in Washington, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Snyder's administration says it expects most state services will continue with minimal or no disruption if a brief federal government shutdown happens…

Key factors influencing the possible effects of a shutdown would be how the federal government defines essential services and how long a shutdown might last…

Michigan's unemployment insurance agency says it expects benefits would continue to be paid to jobless workers, including the roughly 150,000 who now receive benefits under federal programs.

Michigan has about 52,000 federal government employees, including about 22,000 postal employees.

Gas Prices Continue to Rise

Gasoline prices in Michigan continue to edge closer to $4 a gallon and the raising prices are affecting retailers and customers, Steve Carmody reports. The increasing fuel costs are expected to not only increase the cost of filling up gas tanks, but food prices are expected to rise by 3 to 4 percent this year. Carmody reports the biggest increases will be seen in meat, dairy and coffee products. The price of fuel is expected to continue to rise through Memorial Day.

Music from DSO to Be Heard Again

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to begin rehearsals later this morning. The DSO musicians had been on strike for six-months prior to agreeing to a new, tentative agreement with DSO management earlier this week. The first concert by DSO musicians since the strike began last October is scheduled for Saturday night.

Government Shutdown
8:46 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Federal workers protest possible government shutdown

At Social Security Offices across the nation Wednesday workers stood outside and rallied against the looming government shutdown. Workers say House Republicans’ proposal to cut nearly $2 billion in SSA funding would lead to incredible delays for people in need.

Kathy Jackson works directly with individuals making Social Security claims. She says a shutdown could harm some of the nation’s most vulnerable people who aren’t able to manage delay’s as well as others.   

“If you’re shut down for even two days, people have deadlines that they have to meet. The problem is a lot of our clients are disabled so a wait for them is not the same for you or I.”

Jackson says if people aren’t able to meet certain filing deadlines they can lose their eligibility for healthcare and housing programs that elderly, veterans, and disabled people need to survive. She says if people miss their chance because of a shutdown, they could be forced to start the process over.

Kenn Keillor  is president of the Grand Rapids local AFGE union. He says the House Republican’s proposal would mean a loss of 200-thousand jobs that both workers and people receiving services rely on.

 "I’m a lot more effective inside doing my job than I am sitting at home drawing unemployment. If you don’t want welfare, then you’ve got to pay workers enough to raise their families. It’s not going to help anybody if we’re sent home on Monday.”

Keillor says federal employees across the country plan to head to work Monday morning whether there is a shutdown or not. The AFGE union covers workers with the Social Security Administration, Veteran’s Administration, Department of Defense and more than 30 other employee groups.

Government Shutdown
7:33 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Michigan officials keeping close eye on federal budget negotiations

President Obama met late last night with Congressional leaders to try to avert a partial government shutdown
Scott_Ableman Flickr

Governor Snyder’s administration says it expects most state services will continue with little or no disruption if a partial federal government shutdown occurs, the Associated Press reports. The federal government will partially shutdown tomorrow at midnight if there is not a deal to fund the government through September. From the AP:

Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said Wednesday that the administration is monitoring the situation closely and seeking more information. Key factors influencing the possible effects of a shutdown would be how the federal government defines essential services and how long a shutdown might last.

The federal government faces a partial shutdown Friday at midnight if Congress doesn't take action to avoid one.

Michigan's unemployment insurance agency says it expects benefits would continue to be paid to jobless workers, including the roughly 150,000 who now receive benefits under federal programs.

Michigan has about 52,000 federal government employees, including about 22,000 postal employees.

Politics
7:19 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Snyder defends new Detroit/Ontario bridge plan

Governor Rick Snyder (R) is pushing for a second span across the Detroit River
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder is defending the plan to build a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. Snyder spoke to the Detroit Free Press about his support for a new international bridge over the Detroit River a day after the newspaper published comments from Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun that criticized Snyder and the new bridge plan.  From the Free Press:

Gov. Rick Snyder told the Free Press on Wednesday that a TV ad campaign attacking plans for a second bridge to Canada reminds him of misleading campaign attacks on him in last year's race for governor.

"It's inaccurate," he said of the ad's claim that the public project connecting Michigan and Canada would cost state taxpayers $100 million a year.

The ad is paid for by the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who said in a front-page Free Press report Wednesday that Snyder's advocacy for the public bridge would kill Michigan jobs, notably at his companies.

Moroun wants to build his own second Detroit-Windsor span, but the Canadian government won't let him build the span because of traffic, legal and environmental concerns. Snyder said two bridges would be viable…

Snyder said a new bridge, built by a private builder, would stimulate commerce. But, he said in a wide-ranging interview, his top priority is balancing the state budget and enacting tax changes he said will lead to more jobs.

Terrorism
7:05 am
Thu April 7, 2011

'Christmas Day Bomber' due in court

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up an airplane near Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 is scheduled to be in federal court today. From the Associated Press:

…Abdulmutallab is due in court Thursday with prosecutors and his standby counsel, Anthony Chambers.

Abdulmutallab is representing himself, and it's possible that Judge Nancy Edmunds again will ask if he wants that to continue.

It's a critical issue because the deadline to challenge any evidence is two months away. Trial is set for October. Abdulmutallab is not a lawyer.

He's accused of trying to ignite an explosive in his underwear as Northwest Airlines Flight 253 approached Detroit on Christmas 2009. The plane left Amsterdam with 279 passengers and a crew of 11.

Politics
6:38 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Poll: Most Michiganders dislike emergency manager law

Fifty percent of people in Michigan are opposed to a new law that gives sweeping powers to emergency financial managers overseeing troubled cities and school districts. That’s according to a recent survey commissioned by the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics.

Bill Ballenger is editor of the newsletter. He says most people do not live in areas that would be affected by the new law because their local governments are running smoothly.

“If you ask them, do you want to give the power to the state to come in and completely play Big Foot here and come in and crush your collective bargaining rights, dissolve your municipality, and mandate your millage elections when in fact they’ve been doing everything right, they’re going to say no.”

Ballenger says he thinks misinformation about who the legislation would affect is causing many people to be upset. Governor Rick Snyder’s administration says no more than 10 local governments in the state would be in danger of being taken over by an emergency manager.

Justice
4:11 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

University of Michigan student sues former assistant attorney general

Former assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell, from an interview with Anderson Cooper last September
CNN

Andrew Shirvell gained national attention for his public campaign against a University of Michigan student.

Now, that U-M student is suing him.

The Detroit News reports:

A University of Michigan student is suing a fired assistant attorney general for allegedly stalking him and defaming his character last year in a scandal that received nationwide publicity.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in Washtenaw Circuit Court by Christopher Armstrong, 21, the president of the U-M Student Assembly, against Andrew Shirvell, who was fired by former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox last November for using state computers to wage a campaign against the openly gay student.

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Politics
3:01 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Granholm won't lead new consumer financial protection agency

Matt Hampel Flickr

President Obama once considered Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm for a supreme court judgeship.

Now, it looks like the administration was considering her for another job: the head of the new consumer financial protection agency.

But Granholm has declined to be considered for the position.

The Detroit News reports:

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said today she has no plans to head a new federal agency charged with protecting consumers of financial products such as mortgages and bank accounts.

Reuters reported that Federal Reserve board member Sarah Raskin also is under consideration to head the new consumer protection body called the Consumer Financial Protection Board.

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Kwame Kilpatrick
12:38 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick moving to new prison

Former Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will soon be moving to a state prison cell.

A federal judge today approved Kilpatrick's request to be transferred from a federal lockup in Milan, Michigan.   The Associated Press reports Kilpatrick was transferred to a facility in Jackson after today's hearing.  

He's locked up for violating probation in a criminal case that forced him out of city hall in 2008. Kilpatrick has been housed at Milan to be close to his Detroit-area attorneys as he prepares for trial on federal corruption charges.

But he needs to return to state prison in order to be considered for parole in July. Kilpatrick was in a good mood in court, even joking with TV reporters about the favorite newscast among inmates at Milan.

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