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Stateside 2.6.2017

Feb 6, 2017

Today on Stateside, we dive into this question: If special deals make sense for billionaires, why not for long-term Detroiters hoping to stay in their homes? And a guest explains why it seems insurers "don't hear the voice of the people" as they move to control mental health care. (Did you see the fireball last night? We talk about that today too.)

Courtesy of Michele Oberholtzer

The Next Idea

“Detroit's greatest paradox is its abundance of space and its scarcity of quality housing.”

That’s the opening salvo in writer Michele Oberholtzer’s opinion piece for Model D.

At one time, Detroit’s population was almost double what it is now. As people left, so did quality housing. That puts people still in the city at risk, Oberholtzer said.

“The housing is often under code, or not up to par,” she said. “And the moment that a person leaves the home that they live in, that property is subject to scrapping and blight.”

COURTESY OF SAMARITAS

Travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries are enjoying tearful reunions with loved ones across the United States and the state of Michigan. This after a federal judge ruled against President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban.

Airlines around the world allowed people to board flights as usual to the United States.

The Toad / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The question of how to improve Michigan's $2.4 billion mental health care system has been on the front burner for the better part of a year.

The latest twist came when Michigan's 11 Medicaid health plans called on state policy makers to give them a greater say in controlling the system. But it was concern over this very action, of moving control of mental health services out of the public's hands and turning it over to for-profit insurance companies, that sparked the year-long dialogue in the first place.

The move blindsided those who were working on a proposal they thought everyone had agreed upon, including the health plans. Among them is Kevin Fischer, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Michigan

Members of the Flint Charter Review Commission release a draft of their recommeded changes to the document.
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint voters will decide later this year if they want to approve sweeping changes to their city charter.

In 2014, Flint voters approved setting up a special commission to study possible changes to the city’s charter. The charter’s been in place since 1974.

When this process started, Flint was under state receivership and being overseen by an emergency manager appointed by the governor. A state-appointed panel still oversees the city, but the mayor and city council are now in charge of the city's day-to-day affairs.

A legal battle over redistricting in Michigan could soon be underway.

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

Letters are being sent to some 60 attorneys, legislators and ex-legislators, staffers and ex-staffers, Governor Rick Snyder, and many others, telling them: Anything you have related to the 2011 redistricting process, you better keep it. We’re talking drafts of maps, emails, instructions, and confidential analysis.

A full Senate vote on Besty DeVos' U.S. education secretary nomination is expected next week.
BetsyDeVos.com

Michigan is one of two states that don't apply public records laws to the governor's office and the Legislature. This Week in Review, Weekend Edition host Rebecca Kruth and Michigan Radio senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry look at bills from a bipartisan group of lawmakers who want to expand the state's Freedom of Information Act.

(Support trusted journalism like this in Michigan. Give what you can here.)

They also talk about this week's settlement of a major lawsuit over the state's automated unemployment claims system, opposition to Betsy DeVos' nomination as U.S. education secretary, and former Snyder chief of staff Jarrod Agen's new job in the White House.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

National Democratic Party leaders will gather in Detroit today to discuss the party’s future direction.

Party leaders are still assessing their setbacks from the 2016 election, and looking ahead to 2018 and beyond.

The forum will feature several candidates for the party’s open chairman seat. Among them is Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana

He thinks the party needs a fresh start, by focusing more attention on local and state-level politics.

Flickr user lanier67 / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Cities cannot refuse to sell tobacco products to people between the ages of 18 and 20. That’s coming from state Attorney General Bill Schuette who issued an opinion today.

State Senator Rick Jones asked the Attorney General for the opinion. He says he got a lot of calls about the ordinance from concerned constituents.

VINCENT DUFFY / MICHIGAN RADIO

Michigan is one of only a couple states that don't subject the governor and the legislature to open records laws.

Now, the Michigan legislature – Republicans and Democrats – are signing on to legislation that would increase the number of lawmakers subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. An 11-bill package known as the Legislative Open Records Act is part of that legislation. 

MATTHILEO / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

This week, Republicans and Democrats in Lansing seem to agree that it’s time to expand the state’s open record laws to cover the governor and the Legislature. Michigan is one of only a couple states that don’t already require all lawmakers to be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Ken Sikkema, senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants and a former Republican legislative leader, along with Vicki Barnett, a former Democratic legislator, joined Stateside and said it might not be smooth sailing to the governor's desk. 

Refugee children play in Warren, MI in 2015.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Some of the people most directly affected by President Trump’s immigration order spoke about their hopes and fears Thursday.

Trump’s executive order has caused “generalized panic” among refugees and some immigrant communities. That’s according to the head of the state’s largest refugee resettlement agency.

Sean De Four is vice president of that agency, Samaritas, until recently an arm of Lutheran Social Services. De Four says the group is proceeding as if Trump’s order halting refugee re-settlement is temporary, but some of their clients don’t share that hope.

Stateside 2.2.2017

Feb 2, 2017

Today we learn why one expert says without steady growth, pumping billions into infrastructure is just a "Ponzi scheme." And, we hear Rep. Mitchell from Michigan's 10th District explain why Great Lakes drinking water is "not an issue we can risk" with Canada's nuclear waste storage site.

Courtesy of Sandra Stahl

The Next Idea

 

When Sandra Stahl works on civic engagement in Detroit, there’s one question she hears again and again.

“Where are all the young people?”

 

 

Flickr user Still Burning / Flickr Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The state Senate has adopted a criminal justice overhaul that aims to improve public safety by sending fewer people to prison. The 21 bills passed with almost unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats.

While crime and the number of prisoners is on its way down, state Senator John Proos (R-St. Joseph) says the state can do better. He says the key is making sure inmates succeed once they are released.

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has wrongly accused tens of thousands of people of cheating on their unemployment claims.
Bytemarks / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) has wrongly accused tens of thousands of people of cheating on their unemployment claims. Then it began garnishing wages, and tax returns, often without the wrongly-accused person even knowing what he or she supposedly did.

The UIA's director has apologized for the errors. But the mistakes, pinned on a computer system, have had thunderous repercussions in homes all over Michigan.

michigan.gov

Governor Rick Snyder’s chief of staff has taken a new job at the White House. Jarrod Agen is the new communications director for Vice President Mike Pence. Agen was Snyder’s communications director before assuming the position of chief of staff 13 months ago. Agen helped shape the “Grand Bargain” that led to the Detroit bankruptcy deal, and he was a central figure in the Snyder administration’s response to the Flint water crisis.

Tampons.
user m.p.3. / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The so-called “tampon tax” has got to go. That’s the message of lawmakers in both chambers of the state Legislature.

Democrats and a couple Republicans are teaming up to get rid of Michigan’s use tax and sales tax on feminine hygiene products.

Michigan exempts food, medication and other necessities from taxes, and lawmakers argue feminine hygiene products are just as essential. 

Government records revealed under the Freedom of Information Act.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan and Louisiana are the only two states that don’t apply their public records laws to the legislature and the governor’s office. A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers have rolled out bills to change that.

Michigan is ranked among the worst states in the country when it comes to government ethics and access laws.

Ontario Power Generation

Members of Michigan's congressional delegation have sent letters to the Trump administration and the Canadian government in hopes of stopping a planned nuclear waste site along Lake Huron.

Ontario Power Generation wants to store low and intermediate level radioactive waste less than a mile from Lake Huron.  The utility insists the plan is safe and other options are too expensive.

The Canadian government is taking public comment on the proposal.    

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

A Senate committee approved Betsy DeVos' nomination to become U.S. Secretary of Education yesterday, despite strong opposition from Democrats and a tense vetting process. This Week in Michigan Politics, Morning Edition host Doug Tribou and senior news analyst Jack Lessenberry discuss how DeVos' positions on charter schools and school-choice could keep her in the spotlight if and when she's confirmed in a full Senate vote.

They also discuss what's at stake in Michigan following President Trump's executive order on immigration, whether state Attorney General Bill Schuette's support for Trump's immigration order puts him at political risk, and Dan Gilbert's plan to turn the Wayne County jail site into a soccer stadium.

The Michigan State Capitol
user aunt owwee / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Rick Snyder says he’s trying to learn more about President Trump’s executive order on immigration. But he says it’s the start of a national discussion on the subject. Snyder says he is reaching to other governors and the Trump administration to better understand the order and its effects.

  

The governor released a statement this morning while he is overseas on a trip to Israel.

  

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is in charge while the governor’s away. He says criticism of the order is overblown.

Stateside 1.31.2017

Jan 31, 2017

Today's 12-11 vote by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions means Betsy DeVos' nomination to be Secretary of the Department of Education moves to the full Senate. On the show today, we discuss the pros and cons of a DeVos confirmation. We also continue to hear reactions to President Trump's executive orders on immigrants and refugees.

Screenshot from the Pathways to Prison trailer

Tonight at 8 p.m., Detroit Public Television will debut a new documentary focused on the high rate of imprisonment in the U.S. and Michigan.

It's entitled Pathways to Prison.

Samaritas is the largest resettler of refugees in Michigan.
Courtesy of Samaritas

The White House continues to insist that the President's executive orders on immigrants and refugees will make America safer.

The West Michigan group Samaritas begs to differ.

Stateside 1.30.2017

Jan 30, 2017

Today on Stateside, we hear reactions to President Trump's executive order banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. We speak with attorneys and someone who was held up at the border this weekend. We also hear statements on the issue from Michigan congressional leaders.

Lyse Messmer / Michigan Radio

President Trump today said he was right to ban people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Courtesy of Farah Al-khersan

Across the country, immigration lawyers flocked to airports and border crossings this weekend to help travelers stranded by President Trump’s executive order.

Not all of them, however, were able to offer their services.

Farah Al-khersan, an immigration attorney of West Bloomfield, was blocked from re-entering the United States when she and her husband tried to cross back over from Sarnia Friday night.

Voting sign
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There is no evidence of any widespread election fraud during the state’s 2016 presidential election, according to a forensic analysis released Monday by the Anderson Economic Group.

Anderson Economic Group CEO Patrick Anderson says they looked into two claims.

BetsyDeVos.com

A U.S. Senate committee votes tomorrow on the nomination of west Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos as the next U.S. Secretary of Education.

Michigan groups for and against the controversial nomination were busy over the weekend lobbying before the vote.

Gary Naeyaert is the executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, which was founded by Betsy DeVos.

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