Politics & Government

Stateside
12:57 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

15 hours later, lawmakers still don't have a plan for road funding

Credit Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

After 15 hours in session, the state Senate failed to come up with a plan for more than a billion dollars a year to fix roads.

Today is the last day to come up with a solution before lawmakers leave town to start summer campaigning.

President and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Rich Studley, said the Chamber is pushing for lawmakers to come up with almost $1.6 billion in road funding.

Studley said the governor put forward a plan to invest $1.2 billion, and the state House has approved a plan to reallocate $450 million into road funding.

A statewide public poll showed that motorists are strongly in favor of fixing the roads and are willing to pay for it.

Studley said there is no good reason for the Legislature to recess for the summer.

“Our message is stay in session and do your job,” Studley said. “While Michigan lawmakers have been talking about this issue, virtually every other state in the country has tackled this problem.”

Studley added that for every year the state doesn’t take action, the state loses almost $100 million in value with deteriorating roads and bridges.  

“Michigan’s motorists now in effect pay an inaction tax of over $300 a year in unnecessary road repairs,” Studley said.

*Listen to the full interview above.

– Bre’Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.

Politics & Government
9:27 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Detroit water rates headed up, as department's future remains in limbo

A DWSD interceptor sewer line during construction in 2001. This line is north of Detroit in the Clinton River watershed
Credit Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department officials say they’re working to put the system on sound financial footing – including raising rates and shutting off service to thousands of households.

Water department officials briefed the Detroit City Council on planned rate hikes Tuesday.

They propose hiking the typical Detroit residential customer’s water bill by 8.7% to 10.4%.

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Stateside
7:37 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Do you think two signatures are enough to approve state business incentives?

Credit User: Daniel Kulinski / Flickr

One state lawmaker says it's "like controlling very large purse strings with very little accountability."

Since 2011, more than $65 million in state money has been awarded to businesses all around Michigan, all on the signatures of just two individuals.

Is this a worrisome lack of transparency? Or a good effort by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to be nimble, to be able to get state incentives into the hands of businesses to help them grow and strengthen Michigan's economy?

Chris Gautz reported on this for Crain's Detroit Business.

*Listen to full interview above. 

Stateside
6:22 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Stateside for Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Here's what we covered on today's Stateside:

  • An internal Veterans Affairs audit reveals more than 120,000 veterans are waiting too long for care at the VA. Here in Michigan, 3 VA facilities have been selected for a closer look. For today’s show, we asked our guests what might be happening at those facilities.
  • Since 2011, more than $65 million in state money has been awarded to businesses all around Michigan, all on the signatures of just two individuals. Chris Gautz from Crain's Detroit Business joined us today to discuss the MEDC.
  • Tobacco giant Phillip Morris faced some tough competition from Kool cigarettes in the 1970s. An investigative journalist told us what he found out, and why the brand was overwhelmingly popular with African Americans, especially in Detroit.
  • Also, scenes that might appear in a disaster movie are happening along the Great Lakes. Huge, freak waves have raced ashore and pulled people out into the lake, leaving drowned victims in their wake.
  • Detroit Public Schools blew a deadline and missed out on $4 million in Head Start funding. We asked our guests what can be done now.
  • Grand Valley State University is asking if higher education is becoming too politicized. They will hold a three-day summit to explore this issue.
  • And we'll get tips from a garage sale veteran: how to get the best results and the most money out of your garage sale.

Politics & Government
5:32 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Lansing casino project moves ahead

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians has formally asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to take some small parcels of land around Lansing’s downtown convention center into trust.
Credit Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

An Upper Peninsula Indian tribe has taken a major step toward building a casino in Lansing.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Tuesday formally asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to take land surrounding Lansing’s downtown convention center into trust.

The tribe bought the land for a $245 million casino. But before the casino can be built, the federal government must first take the land into trust.

Tribal officials say the Interior Department could act on the request in a few weeks.

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Breaking
4:36 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Plan for a sales tax hike to repair Michigan's roads fails

Credit Peter Ito / flickr

A plan to ask voters to approve a 1% sales tax hike to help fix Michigan's roads has been defeated in the state Senate.

The proposal was expected to raise about $1.3 billion a year if approved by lawmakers and voters.

The resolution failed by a wide margin, 14-24. It would have needed 26 'yes' votes to pass.

The Senate is expected to take up a number of other road funding bills this afternoon. A plan to increase the state's gas tax to raise more than $1.4 billion a year is expected to come up for a vote later today.

Politics & Government
1:25 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

More money pledged to protect art in Detroit bankruptcy

The Detroit Institute of Arts.
Credit Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts is getting more help raising money for its share of the deal meant to shield its collection from possible liquidation.

The New York-based Mellon Foundation and Los Angeles-based J. Paul Getty Trust have committed a combined $13 million toward the “grand bargain.”

That proposal would direct more than $800 million to Detroit’s pension funds--sparing pensioners from severe cuts, while legally safeguarding the DIA’s assets from being sold to pay off city creditors.

The DIA needs to come up with a $100 million contribution to the grand bargain, this new commitment puts them more than 80% of the way there.

Getty Trust President and CEO James Cuno says the two foundations made a decision to contribute on their own.

“We jointly made the commitment,” Cuno says. “There was no conversation with the DIA about it, no request from the DIA.”

Cuno says the donation reflects the North American art world’s support for maintaining the DIA’s collection as a civic institution and public resource “in perpetuity.”

If put up for sale, the collection “would be lost to private individuals around the world,” Cuno says. “And the public of Detroit, and surrounding suburbs, would be deprived of a public resource they once had.”

Cuno says it’s “too soon to tell” whether the money will be disbursed to the museum as a lump sum upfront, or spread out over a period of years. Donors and museum officials are waiting for the larger grand bargain to be finalized.

Earlier this week, Detroit’s 3 automakers pledged a combined $26 million toward the DIA’s contribution.

Judge Steven Rhodes has set an Aug. 14 trial on Detroit's plan to get out of bankruptcy.

Politics & Government
8:52 am
Wed June 11, 2014

This week in Michigan politics: Roads and education

Credit user frank juarez / Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss roads funding in the final days before lawmakers leave for the summer, the expansion of the Kalamazoo Promise scholarship and why Detroit is missing out on Head Start next year.

Week in Michigan Politics interview for 6/11/14

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Politics & Government
6:13 am
Wed June 11, 2014

Right-to-work part of discussions on roads package

Credit Matthileo / Flickr

Negotiations between Republicans and Democrats at the state Capitol over road funding may have resurrected the controversy over Michigan’s right-to-work law.

There’s a lot of deal-making happening in Lansing as the Legislature enters the final days before its summer recess. The two biggest issues are finishing the state budget, and coming up with more than $1.2 billion new dollars a year for roads – Governor Rick Snyder’s top priority before lawmakers leave Lansing.

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Politics & Government
6:04 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Michigan film incentives to stay at $50 million, Senate leader wants more

Credit Ariel Dovas

The top Republican in the state Senate says he’s not satisfied with the amount of money lawmakers have set aside for film and TV productions.

The Legislature is expected to wrap up a state budget this week. It will include $50 million in film incentives. That’s the same as last year, but half of that money is now slated to continue into future budgets.

Gov. Rick Snyder has sought to cut the film incentives since he took office in 2011. He says the state can make better investments that create more of an economic return.

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Stateside
5:37 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

No goats allowed! Detroit shuts down a farm's efforts to rid Brightmoor of blight

Credit user Nemodus photos / Flickr

A herd of goats has been evicted from weedy lots on Detroit's west side.

The animals were brought into the blight-ridden Brightmoor neighborhoods late last week to eat the overgrown weeds and grass.

But the city of Detroit swooped in straight away to shut down the goat farm, called Idyll Farms Detroit, noting that current zoning laws don't allow goats within the city limits.

Overgrown weeds and trash on Westbrook Street, between Acacia Avenue and Kendall Street, made the block nearly impossible to pass through. The Brightmoor community partnered with Idyll Farms to clear it.

On Memorial Day weekend, the community loaded up five 30-yard Dumpsters with trash. Eighteen male goats were brought in Thursday afternoon to be used as lawn mowers, so volunteers can pick up the trash.

Around noon the next day, Detroit Animal Control showed up to enforce an ordinance against farm animals within the city limits.

Leonard Pollara is a consultant with Idyll Farms Detroit. He said that Idyll Farms was aware that an ordinance existed, but they were asked by the Brightmoor community not to engage with city hall, and said the city would not enforce the animal control ordinance.

Pollara said that Idyll Farms was fully prepared to remove the goats at any time if the city required them to do so.

Pollara added that Detroit has not yet perfected an ordinance that would allow for farm animals within agriculture zones.  However, Idyll Farms has experience in operating farms and managing agriculture systems.

“We are very interested in offering our resources and expertise to the city,” Pollara said.

Pollara added that they are not interested in backing away and want to remain in a partnership with the Brightmoor community.

*Listen to full interview above. 

–Bre'Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Stateside
5:23 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Stateside for Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Heroin use in Michigan is on the rise. That's as many addicts shift from more expensive and harder-to-get prescription drugs to heroin, a cheaper alternative.

Then, big news from the Kalamazoo Promise. The program that offers free college to almost all the city's high schoolers is expanding to include more than a dozen private colleges and universities. We asked what this could mean for future Kalamazoo graduates.

Also, no goats allowed in Detroit. A herd of goats has been evicted from weedy lots that the city of Detroit owns.

But first...

Hear that? That ticking? That's the budget clock in Lansing.

State lawmakers want to get out of the Capitol to start campaigning in their districts, and that means there are only three session days left to wrap up work on the state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Some big issues have been tackled, but there are big ones still up in the air.

*Listen to full show above. 

Politics & Culture
9:44 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Stateside for Monday, June 9, 2014

Picture an alley. You're probably thinking of a run-down, grimy, narrow pathway between buildings. But in urban areas across the country, that picture is changing.

Urban alleys are becoming microcosms for urban redevelopment, and today on Stateside, we’ll hear how Detroit is no exception. Then, later in the hour, we find out what's keeping some homeless people in Michigan from accessing the services they need.

Also, thoughts from a dad on #YesAllWomen. And research that suggests your sense of taste might affect how long you live.

But first, Ford, General Motors and the Chrysler Group – who know a thing or two about perilous times and near-death experiences – today offered a $26 million helping hand to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

*Listen to full show above. 

Stateside
9:14 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Detroit automakers say they'll kick in $26 million for DIA's part of the "grand bargain"

The Detroit Institute of Arts.
Credit Flickr

Detroit automakers say they will give $26 million to the Detroit Institute of Arts, to go toward toward the "grand bargain," an effort to hasten Detroit's trip through bankruptcy.

Ford and General Motors will each contribute $10 million and Chrysler offered $6 million.

How the money will be distributed, whether in a lump sum or over the course of 20 years, is still in the air. The DIA says it will raise $100 million toward the grand bargain, and that it has already secured commitments for $70 million

Michigan Radio’s Detroit reporter Sarah Cwiek says automakers and auto families have a long history of supporting the DIA. Cwiek also says there is a subtle, but persistent, expectation that the automakers will contribute because they got a helping hand in the past.

Pensioners are voting whether they want the grand bargain; Cwiek says its not clear if the automakers' contributions will have any effect on the votes. 

*Listen to full interview above. 

Politics & Government
5:59 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Crime in Detroit has declined, but what can we do to keep it down?

Credit Peter Martorano / Flickr

Violent and property crime in Detroit dropped 25% in the first quarter of this year. However, Carl Taylor, a sociology professor at Michigan State University and native Detroiter, says the statistics don’t really reflect what is going on. He added that there's still a lot a crime that's going unreported.

The question Cynthia Canty asked on today’s Stateside was, “What can we do to keep crime declining?”

Taylor said what Detroit needs most is better prevention. Detroit needs more police officers, stronger schools, more jobs, and a closer look at mental health, Taylor says, adding that poverty also has a big impact on crime.

Taylor said that it is possible to keep a steady decline of crime in the city.

“We have to have the citizens, we have to have the resources, and we have to have an attitude change,” Taylor said.

*Listen to full interview in link above.

– Bre’Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom.

Politics & Government
3:20 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Nation's automakers pitch in $26 million to Detroit's bankruptcy reorganization

Reid Bigland of Chrysler speaks at the media event announcing that U.S. automakers will contribute to the 'grand bargain.' Bigland is standing in front of one of the famous Diego River murals at the DIA.
Credit Reem Nasr / Michigan Radio

It seems momentum behind Detroit's municipal bankruptcy reorganization continues to build. If the momentum continues, the city could emerge from bankruptcy this fall.

Today, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler pledged to contribute a combined $26 million to a deal aimed at reducing cuts to Detroit pensioners while preserving the art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts (part of the collection has been talked about as a city asset that could be sold to satisfy Detroit's creditors).

The money from the automakers will go into large pot of money – more than $800 million – collectively known as the "grand bargain."

So far, money for the grand bargain is coming from private philanthropists, foundations, the state of Michigan, and money raised by the DIA itself. The automakers' money will be counted toward the DIA's goal of $100 million.

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Politics & Government
12:05 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Visas for sale: Not everyone’s a fan of Gov. Snyder’s EB-5 center

Credit User: Nic Redhead / Flickr

Silverio Lopez and his son Antonio run their Tequila Cabresto brand out of their house in Southwest Detroit. They say about 60 restaurants in and around the city carry their brand of small batch, craft tequila. They also own a rim and tire shop just down the street. In total, they employ close to 10 people.

Silverio emigrated from Mexico in the early '80s. He says there were many reasons for settling down and starting a business in Detroit.

“The properties were cheap, the rent was cheaper, plus we had family here already,” he said through Antonio, who translated from Spanish.

The Lopez family exemplifies the kind of people Gov. Rick Snyder hopes to attract to Michigan – people with an entrepreneurial spirit who can create jobs.

But some critics of the governor’s new EB-5 visa program say it’s a slap in the face to immigrants like Silverio Lopez, who came here with nothing.

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Politics & Government
10:44 am
Sat June 7, 2014

Meth production targeted by Michigan lawmakers

Rep. John Kivela of Marquette says meth abuse is "a scourge in mainly rural areas" of Michigan. He says the bills try to keep over-the-counter drugs out of the wrong hands.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers are trying to curb methamphetamine use by making it harder for certain people to buy its main ingredients.

The House passed bipartisan legislation Thursday to use a database to stop the sale of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine to people with meth convictions. The drugs are most commonly found in over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.

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Politics & Government
8:46 am
Sat June 7, 2014

The week in review: GM, a grand bargain, and pothole limbo

Credit user paul (dex) / Flickr

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss General Motor's CEO Mary Barra's response to the investigation of the faulty ignition switch recalls, what happens now for Detroit after the state agreed to give the city $195 million, and an update on road funding.

Week in Review interview for 6/6/14

It's Just Politics
1:52 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

Why presidential politics could stall a deal in Lansing to fix our roads

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

It's Just Politics with Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta

With money to fix roads hanging in the balance, presidential politics could stand in the way of the new trend of bipartisan action on big, controversial issues.

But, really, any notion that there’s a new era of bipartisanship at the state Capitol should be shelved, despite the Democratic and Republican coalitions in the Legislature that pushed through deals on increasing the minimum wage and the Detroit rescue package. And that’s because each was an anomaly that brought Democrats to the bargaining table in Republican-controlled Lansing.

When you break down the Detroit votes, for example, you see two very different pictures in the House and in the Senate. In the House, almost all the Republicans voted for the rescue. A few Democrats were the holdouts. In the Senate, Democrats made up the difference as most Republicans -- 16 out of 26 -- voted “no” on the main bills in the Detroit package.

What this says is the parameters of each deal were different (even when we’re talking about the exact same legislation) depending on whether it’s the House or the Senate.  For example, a larger proportion of the Republicans in the Senate have serious primaries.

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