Politics & Government

Pontiac
5:03 pm
Thu March 10, 2011

Policing Pontiac: Oakland County Sheriff preparing to move in

A Pontiac police car
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard  is making plans to take over the policing duties in Pontiac.  The city of Pontiac is shutting down its police department as the city deals with severe budget problems. 

The city’s rank and file police officers voted to dissolve their union contract this week.    Other public safety unions must also do the same before the Sheriff’s department takes over.  Sheriff Bouchard says policing Pontiac will pose some public safety challenges to his office. 

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Politics
4:13 pm
Thu March 10, 2011

Detroit civil rights group responds to anti-terror hearings

The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Southfield says Muslims are unfairly targeted in hearings by the U.S. Homeland Security Committee.
islamizationwatch.blogspot.com

The head of a Detroit-area civil rights organization says hearings by the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee unfairly target Muslims.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is investigating what he calls the radicalization of the U.S. Muslim community.

Dawud Walid is director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Southfield.

He says the scope of the hearings is too narrow, and ignores what he considers the biggest threats to national security.

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Politics
3:45 pm
Thu March 10, 2011

Dalai Lama to resign as political leader in exile

The Dalai Lama announced that he is giving up his role as the political leader of the Tibetan exile movement.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

In a statement today, the Dalai Lama said he intends to step aside as the political leader of the Tibetan government in exile.

He said he is doing so because Tibetans now have freely elected representatives, representatives who are also in exile, who can speak for them.

From the Dalai Lama's statement:

Today, within the framework of the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, the Kalon Tripa, the political leadership, and the people’s representatives are directly elected by the people. We have been able to implement democracy in exile that is in keeping with the standards of an open society.

As early as the 1960s, I have repeatedly stressed that Tibetans need a leader, elected freely by the Tibetan people, to whom I can devolve power. Now, we have clearly reached the time to put this into effect. During the forthcoming eleventh session of the fourteenth Tibetan Parliament in Exile, which begins on 14th March, I will formally propose that the necessary amendments be made to the Charter for Tibetans in Exile, reflecting my decision to devolve my formal authority to the elected leader.

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Commentary
1:25 pm
Thu March 10, 2011

Emergency Financial Managers

Nobody in Lansing was neutral yesterday when the Michigan senate completed passage of new, tougher Emergency Financial Manager legislation on a straight, party line vote.

State Senator Phil Pavlov said this is needed to maintain “vital services, such as public safety and education,” when a city or a school district is in desperate financial straits.

This reform, he said, is necessary to allow steps to be taken “to protect public interests and the public’s money and strengthen local control and accountability.” His fellow Republicans all agreed.

But if you talked to any of the Democrats, they sounded like this was the equivalent of Mussolini seizing power.  “An unfair and unjustified power grab,“ Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer called it. One of her colleagues said it went way too far, “and was going to damage our communities and our schools.”

Well, you could say that it is nice to see that our time-honored tradition of bitter partisan divisions is alive and well, but I think the opposite. We’ve had four sterile years of that in Lansing. I think we’d all be better off if this could have been a bipartisan bill.

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Politics
9:41 am
Thu March 10, 2011

Congressional hearing on the "Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community"

Peter King, R-N.Y. is chairing today's committee
C-SPAN

The Committee on Homeland Security is holding a hearing entitled “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community's Response.”

ABC News reports:

Today’s House hearing on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and That Community’s Response” has created a firestorm of criticism by civil rights groups and Democrats who say that Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., is intentionally isolating Muslims.

Democrats and rights groups say he’s guilty of “modern-day McCarthyism,” and is using religion to divide Americans.

You can watch the hearing now on C-SPAN.

Here's King responding to critics of the hearing on a CBS affiliate:

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News Roundup
8:56 am
Thu March 10, 2011

In this morning's news...

Morning News Roundup, March 10th, 2011

State Senate Passes EFM bill

The Michigan Senate passed legislation yesterday that gives state-appointed emergency financial managers more control over cities, townships, and school districts. Those opposed to the legislation say the bills make it easy to eliminate collective bargaining rights and dissolve union contracts. Some 1,000 union members protested against the bill at the state Capitol earlier this week. A similar bill was passed in the state House last month. The two Republican-controlled chambers must now agree on a final version of the bill.

Funding for 'Pure Michigan'

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign a bill today that would extend the life of the popular ‘Pure Michigan’ advertising campaign. The measure, passed by both the state House and state Senate, gives an additional $10 million to the campaign. This will be the third bill signed by the Governor.

January Unemployment Rate Declines

The state’s jobless rate continued in decline in January to 10.7 percent. That's the lowest it's been in more than two years. And, it's three percentage points lower than the same time last year: the jobless rate in January 2010 was 13.7 percent.

Judge Continues Library Gun Ban

An Ingham County judge has continued a ban on openly carrying guns into Lansing-area libraries until June. Rina Miller reports:

A temporary restraining order was issued against the Michigan Open Carry group last month. Now an Ingham County Circuit Court judge has granted a preliminary injunction forbidding anyone – except law enforcement – from entering a Capital Area District Library openly wearing a gun. The case will be heard in June.

State Law
8:13 am
Thu March 10, 2011

Michigan's price tag law headed for repeal

Michigan's item pricing law may soon be a thing of the past
Scorpions and Centaurs Flickr

Michigan has the strictest retail pricing law in the nation. But now the state is poised to repeal the law that requires individual price tags on everything from canned food to lumber.

Retailers have been trying to get rid of the law since it was passed 30 years ago to try to protect consumers from being overcharged in checkout lines.

Michigan’s item pricing law was enacted in the 1970s just as electronic scanners were becoming commonplace. No other state has a law this expansive. Massachusetts requires item pricing for groceries.

Consumers like this law, and it was once-considered untouchable. But now with a new Republican governor and emboldened GOP majorities in the Legislature, Michigan is on the verge of repealing it.

Retired construction supervisor John McKenzie isn’t happy about that. He says price tags ensure that he knows the cost of something before he buys it, and that he’s being charged the correct price in the checkout line.

McKenzie says he also double checks the price against his store receipt when he gets home:

“If you don’t have that price tag on there, how do you know what that item was priced at back at the store? I mean, we’ve all picked an item off the shelf and when we get up there the item rings up differently.”

Michigan’s pricing law allows consumers who find a mistake to collect a bounty of up to $5 per error.

Retailers also face fines for not putting price tags on items. Five years ago, Wal-Mart paid a record fine of $1.5 million here.

Big retailers say the law is expensive for stores and for shoppers – although no one can say how much consumers might save if the law is repealed.  Smaller stores say it fails to take their needs into account.

Musician Mike Daniels shows off a guitar on the showroom floor of Marshall Music.

Owner Dan Marshall says his store complies with the law – mostly. There are some things, small or thin items like woodwind reeds, guitar picks, and drumsticks, that it makes no sense to price individually:

“We’ve got an entire display of drumsticks and in each bin, the price is clearly marked, but on each individual stick, they’re not.”

Marshall says, in some cases, labels would cover up package information that customers care about:

“Truth be known, practicality trumps law in some cases, and we’re in violation of the item pricing. Not maliciously, simply because it’s so impractical and unnecessary."

Marshall’s not alone. In Michigan, the price tag law may be the most widely ignored law since the 55 mile per hour speed limit.

Retailers think they’ve made their sale to the state’s political leaders that’s it’s time to close the books on Michigan’s one-of-a-kind price tag law.

State Legislature
7:40 am
Thu March 10, 2011

State Senate votes to reverse unmarried partner benefits

The State Senate has voted to reverse unmarried partner benefits
Cedar Bend Drive Flickr

The Michigan Senate has voted by a super-majority to reverse a state Civil Service Commission decision that would allow unmarried state employees to claim domestic partners on their health insurance.

Earlier this year, a state employment panel approved unmarried partner benefits that would include people in same-sex relationships and their dependents.

Republican state Senator Mark Jansen says the state can’t afford it – and voters have already spoken about domestic partner benefits by refusing to recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions.

“This is about economics. This is about our budget. This is about getting Michigan back on track."

But, Democratic state Senator Rebekah Warren says rejecting domestic partner benefits would hurt children.

“Families are always stronger when health insurance is accessible to everyone in the household.”

The measure now goes to the state House, where Republicans will have to muster a two-thirds majority vote to reverse the policy. Otherwise, state employees will be able to claim unmarried partners on their benefits starting October first.

Politics
6:42 am
Thu March 10, 2011

Snyder to sign 'Pure Michigan' funding bill

Governor Rick Snyder will sign a bill today to fund the Pure Michigan advertising campaign
David Plotzki Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign a bill today that would extend the life of the state's 'Pure Michigan' advertising campaign.

The measure allows for an addition $10 million to fund the popular ads. The Associated Press reports:

That's double the previous amount and raises overall Pure Michigan funding for this budget year to $25 million, as Snyder requested.

It will be the third bill signed by the new Republican governor, who took office in January. He signed two agricultural bills Tuesday.

Pure Michigan campaigns promote the state's beaches, golf courses and other destinations to potential tourists. The extra $10 million will pay for regional campaigns targeting cities such as Chicago, Columbus, Cleveland and Indianapolis.

The Governor is scheduled to sign the bill this afternoon at the Henry Ford museum in Dearborn.

Unemployment
6:21 am
Thu March 10, 2011

Michigan jobless rate declines in January

Michigan's January unemployment rate was 10.7 percent
Khalilshah Flickr

Michigan's unemployment rate continued in decline in January to 10.7 percent. That's the lowest it's been in more than two years. And, it's three percentage points lower than the same time last year: the jobless rate in January 2010 was 13.7 percent.

The national jobless rate in January of this year was 9.0 percent.

Politics
4:37 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Judge continues Lansing library's gun ban

An Ingham County judge says Capital Area District Library patrons may not openly carry weapons in the facility.
michigandaily.com

An Ingham County judge has continued a ban on openly carrying guns into Lansing-area libraries until June. 

A temporary restraining order was issued against the Michigan Open Carry group last month.

Now an Ingham County Circuit Court judge has granted a preliminary injunction forbidding anyone – except law enforcement – from entering a Capital Area District Library openly wearing a gun.

Dean Greenblatt is an attorney for Michigan Open Carry.

He says library management has a bigger agenda.

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Politics
4:12 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Former U.S. House of Representatives candidate sues Facebook for deactivating account

Moughni sent hundreds of Facebook friend requests, prompting Facebook to shut down his account.
Moughni's campaign Facebook page

A former U.S. House of Representatives candidate is suing Facebook.

Majed Moughni  is a lawyer from Dearborn. He ran during the Republican primaries for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by John Dingell in 2010. His campaign strategy involved using his personal Facebook page to gain as many friends as possible across the voting district. But Facebook shut down his account in June before the August primaries for sending too many friend requests. Moughni says this also shut down his campaign.

Now he’s suing Facebook, but he’s not asking for money. He wants the social media company to stop using an automatic system to delete accounts and to restore his personal page. He says there should a way for Facebook users to appeal account deactivation:

“We think a multi-billion dollar corporation should at least have a live person that you can communicate with, a call-in center, that you can, you know, at least file a petition if your account was wrong deactivated – you should be able to get some recourse.”

Moughni said uprisings in Egypt and Libya prove how important Facebook is. But in his next campaign, he will use more than just Facebook.

UPDATED: According to the DetNews.com, a spokesman for Facebook said the account was disabled by an automated system that "is designed to prevent spammers and fakes from harassing our users and polluting the ecosystem." He also said that the "system always warns a user when they are nearing thresholds that will have features blocked or their account disabled. These warnings come as a pop-up that must be clicked through."

-Bridget Bodnar, Michigan Radio News

Politics
3:31 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Are today's protests in Wisconsin similar to Flint's sit down strikes?

Strikers guarding window entrance to Fisher body plant number three. Flint, Michigan - 1937.
Sheldon Dick Farm Security Administration

Are the Wisconsin protests becoming public employees’ equivalent of the Sit Down Strike in Flint, Michigan?

Professor Steven Ashby at the University of Illinois made the comparison Wednesday on Changing Gears’ partner station WBEZ.

Speaking with Alison Cuddy, the host of 848, Professor Ashby said the Wisconsin protests may be seen as historically significant as the events at General Motors in 1936 and 1937.

It’s an interesting analogy, because the sit down strike resonates with labor historians as the moment that the fledgling United Automobile Workers took root at the Detroit car companies.

And, while Flint got the most attention for the sit down strike there, the protests actually spread from Atlanta to Kansas City and Cleveland, just as the protests in Wisconsin have resulted in others across the Great Lakes states.

In the same way that Flint helped the UAW, Professor Ashby argues that the protests in Madison have given public — and private sector — unions a rallying point. Whether they can lead to preserving or growing union membership remains to be seen, however.

Meanwhile, if you’d like to know more about what went on in Flint, the Detroit News has a compendium of the strike here. And you can hear voices of some of the sit down strikers here.

Do you remember the sit down strike, or do you have relatives who took part? We’d love to hear your memories or any stories they’ve handed down.

Politics
2:22 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Michigan Lawmakers look to change legal notice policies

Legal notices are currently published in newspapers by law
Xandert Morgue File

On Thursday, members of the Michigan State House Committee will discuss two bills that could change how cities and townships publicize legal notices such as public hearings and foreclosures. 

Current laws require all legal notices to be published in local newspapers. But these bills would allow local governments to post the information on their own websites or an online newspaper. Other options include broadcasting the notices on a radio or television station.

Representative Douglas Geiss is the sponsor of one of the bills. He says it’s time for a 21st century update:

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Politics
1:46 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Michigan Senate passes controversial emergency manager bill

The Michigan Senate passed the bill that around 1,000 union members loudly asked them not to pass.

From the Detroit News:

Legislation that would allow emergency financial managers to throw out union contracts and overrule elected officials in financially distressed municipalities and school districts was approved in the Senate today.

The measure passed 26-12 along party lines in the Republican-controlled chamber. Similar bills passed in the House in late February. The chambers must now agree on a final version to send to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. More than 1,000 union members demonstrated opposition to the bills Tuesday, chanting loudly outside the chamber doors as senators worked through details of the legislation.

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Governor Snyder
12:58 pm
Wed March 9, 2011

Snyder defends his budget proposal in Lansing

Governor Rick Snyder continues to defend his budget proposal
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder spoke to the Michigan Association of Broadcasters' Great Lakes Broadcasting Conference and Expo in Lansing this morning. As the Associated Press reports, the Governor continued to defend his idea for reinvesting the state:

...Snyder says Michigan citizens need to think about what's best for everyone rather than just themselves if the state is to reinvent itself.

...the Republican governor defended his nearly $2 billion in business tax cuts and the income tax changes he wants to make to offset that, including a tax on pensions.

He says people naturally object to changes that will affect their bottom line. But he believes "we are at a 'we' moment, and we can do this."

Snyder has been criticized for proposing deep cuts to public education, universities and local governments at the same time he's slashing business taxes and asking for people to pay more in income taxes.

He says a new approach is needed.

Commentary
11:45 am
Wed March 9, 2011

Funding Education

Mike Simeck, the superintendent of schools in Berkley, Michigan, has something in common with Governor Snyder -- or at least, with the way the governor ran his businesses:

He believes in proven results. “I run an organization that is the largest employer in our city, where I would hear from our client base immediately if we begin to fail,” he told me last night at ten o’clock, after each of us had put in more than a full day.

“I run this thing based on empirical evidence, on data and results, and as a result, we’ve been successful.”

That‘s no idle boast. Berkley is a small but diverse district with a little less than five thousand students. Roughly speaking, they are two-thirds white; one-quarter black, one eighth Hispanic and Asian.

He has affluent kids from Huntington Woods, working and middle class kids from Berkley, poor kids and Orthodox Jews from a slice of Oak Park. They run lean and mean and get results.

Want proof? More than four out of every five Berkley students who apply to the University of Michigan get in. Their ACT scores are way over the national average. Simeck, who’s been in his job for four years, says this is no accident. When other school districts outperform Berkley, they study them and make changes.

That’s helped lead to Berkley High being recognized by Newsweek as one of the nation’s “public elite”  high schools.

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Media
10:53 am
Wed March 9, 2011

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller out

Vivian Schiller in 2009 sitting with Mark Cuban (left) and Bob Garfield (right)
David Berkowitz Flickr

Update 10:53 a.m.

The second hour of the Diane Rehm Show will focus on what the departure of NPR's CEO Vivian Schiller will mean for the network, and federal funding for public broadcasting.

The program starts at 11 a.m. on Michigan Radio.

10:29 a.m.

This news came from the NPR's news blog this morning:

NPR President and CEO Vivian Schiller has resigned, NPR just announced.

This follows yesterday's news that then-NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller (no relation) was videotaped slamming conservatives and questioning whether NPR needs federal funding during a lunch with men posing as members of a Muslim organization (they were working with political activist James O'Keefe on a "sting.")

NPR's Board of Directors is responsible for the governance of NPR. Chairman Dave Edwards released a statement to staff and member stations. In the statement, Edwards said Schiller resigned:

It is with deep regret that I tell you that the NPR Board of Directors has accepted the resignation of Vivian Schiller as President and CEO of NPR, effective immediately.

The Board accepted her resignation with understanding, genuine regret, and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years.

But NPR's media reporter, David Folkenflik, says that's not the case. This from NPR news:

NPR's David Folkenflik talks with Renee Montagne about the latest developments, saying CEO Vivian Schiller was ousted in the wake of the controversy over News Analyst Juan Williams' firing last year and gaffes by an NPR fundraiser that came to light Tuesday in a secret video.

Folkenflik said the latest development, the secret filming of a top NPR fundraiser making disparaging remarks about conservatives, was the last straw for NPR's Board.

You can hear the interview with Folkenflik here.

Politics
4:44 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Unions clog Capitol over emergency manager bill

Teachers protest in Lansing on February 26th, 2011. There were more union protests today.
MEA

More than a thousand union members crowded into the state Capitol today.

They were protesting a proposal to give emergency financial managers more control over cities, townships, or school districts.

The labor movement is upset the bills would eliminate collective bargaining rights and dissolve union contracts.

The gavel reverberated in the Senate chamber as protesters in the gallery cheered, breaking the rules that prohibit demonstration during session.

They applauded Senate Majority Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer as she condemned the proposal for not having a salary cap.

Whitmer says it does not make sense “to vote for a bill that allows an emergency financial manager to make more than our governor.”

Outside of the chamber, hundreds of workers packed the three open floors of surrounding the Capitol rotunda – a scene similar to the pictures of protestors in Madison-Wisconsin.

They screamed for the recall of Republican lawmakers who support the emergency-manager bills.

But republican lawmakers appeared unfazed by the raucous crowd, and they plan to move forward with the proposal they say will keep many cities and school districts out of financial ruin.

State Legislature
1:44 pm
Tue March 8, 2011

Protesters begin to rally in Lansing

Protestors have arrived at the Capitol Building in Lansing, MI
Matthileo Flickr

Update 1:44 p.m.

The Detroit News reports the Michigan Senate is expected to pass the Emergency Financial Manager bill despite the protests taking place in the capitol. From the Detroit News:

A bill to give broad authority to emergency financial managers to fix a governing body's finances is expected to pass in the Senate on Wednesday despite boisterous union protests that punctuated today's session.

Senate Republicans voted down more than 20 Democratic amendments as more than 1,000 union members chanted "Kill the Bill" outside the Senate chamber. Their chants were audible as the chamber debated the bill, as were the catcalls of protesters crammed into the gallery above the Senate floor.

The union members protesting the bill say it would make emergency financial managers too powerful, "allowing them to toss out union contracts, overrule elected officials and dissolve city councils and school boards."

10:59 a.m.

Protesters have arrived at the state Capitol to show their opposition to a measure that would give more power to Emergency Financial Managers. Laura Weber sent this report from Lansing:

The state Capitol is jammed this morning with a raucous group of union members and supporters who are opposed to a proposal to grant more power to Emergency Financial Managers. Hundreds of protesters are chanting "kill the bill" loudly outside of the Michigan Senate chamber as lawmakers prepare to vote on the controversial measure.

Still hundreds more are on the Capitol lawn rallying against the emergency manager bills. The package of bills would strip unions of collective bargaining rights, and dissolve union contracts, if an emergency manager was put in place to take over the finances of a struggling city, township, or school district.

The Associated Press reports there are around 1,000 people demonstrating:

...protesters are at the Capitol objecting to bills that would give broad new powers to emergency financial managers appointed by the state to run struggling cities and schools.

The Senate plans to vote on the measures Tuesday. The House passed the bills two weeks ago.

Groups opposed to legislation they consider anti-union are holding the morning rally and also are chanting inside the Capitol.

Local officials warned during a Monday news conference that the financial manager measures would take away voters' rights by removing the authority of elected school board members, mayors and council members.

Workers warn that the bills could allow financial managers to terminate union contracts.

Supporters of the legislation say it would lead to earlier intervention in financially troubled communities and schools, avoiding bigger crises.

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