This year’s Christmas holiday is bringing back unpleasant memories of last year’s intense ice storm and power outages. One year ago to the day, thousands of people in the Lansing area were without electricity because of hundreds of downed, ice-coated trees that disconnected lines. Many residents spent days, some more than a week, without power, often at significant expense. The episode amounted to an embarassing right of passage for the capital city’s municipally-owned utility, the Lansing Board of Water and Light.
The clock is counting down on the lame duck legislature at the state Capitol. Tomorrow is the last full day of the session. Lawmakers are facing a hard deadline to reach a deal to raise more than a billion dollars each year in new revenue to fix Michigan’s deteriorating roads.
New contract bargaining between the United Auto Workers union and American automakers is scheduled for next year. Recently, we’ve been getting a clearer picture of the union’s priorities. UAW President Dennis Williams has indicated members want to eliminate a recently introduced feature of the autoworker landscape: “two-tier” wages and benefits.
Last week we learned that e-commerce sales on Cyber Monday 2014 topped $2-billion. That’s up more than 15-percent over last year. Big box giant Walmart and online powerhouse Amazon saw sizeable surges in their bottom lines. But the reports are not welcome news for everyone, including traditional brick and mortar retailers in Michigan.
Rebecca Porter (left) was homeless for most of the past year. She is working with case worker Amanda Fleckenstein (right) and others at Volunteers of America Michigan to move into permanent housing. She hopes to be in her new home by Christmas.
Michigan’s long winter months can give anyone the blues, but it’s an especially dangerous time for the homeless. Hundreds of people in mid-Michigan live on the streets, and their circumstances are diverse. In Lansing, officials are so far pleased with the results of a pilot program to move 11 people out of a makeshift camp and into permanent housing.
The Lansing area, like much of Michigan, has been shaped by manufacturing. But the industry has taken a beating in the past 13 years. The state has lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs since 2001. After years of cuts, though, the industry is starting to make a comeback here in mid-Michigan.
A group of pastors and volunteers for a local non-profit in Ft. Lauderdale are facing jail time and hundreds of dollars in fine after a run-in with police last week. Their crime? Passing out food to the homeless in a city park. Advocates for the homeless says these kinds of ordinances are part of a larger trend of cities criminalizing the activities of homeless people. Here in Michigan, a number of cities have ordinances restricting vagrancy and panhandling.
Back in August, we brought you the story of an online fundraising effort aimed at bringing in enough money to pay for the demolition of a single burned-out house in Flint. Gordon Young is a Flint expat and author of “Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City”. His idea was simple: while Flint has hundreds of abandoned homes, and some neighborhoods suffer mightily from such blight, he wanted to find a house that needed tearing down in an otherwise well maintained neighborhood, one where the demolition would improve the neighborhood’s chances of thriving into the future.
Last week, the Michigan Department of Transportation along with Indiana and Illinois presented a proposal for passenger rail improvements on the Detroit to Chicago line. When running on time, the "Wolverine Line" takes riders from the Motor City to the Windy City in about five and a half hours. New plans hope to cut travel time considerably, and increase ridership significantly.
What are the Lansing area’s future transportation needs? Three times this week, that’s been the topic of public forums in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties. The Tri County Regional Planning Commission is holding a fourth forum this evening in Lansing.
Federal officials consider housing “affordable” when it costs less than 30-percent of its residents’ income. By that measure, affordable housing is outside the reach of more than 60,000 families in Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As of this morning, there’s a new game plan for to increase quality, affordable housing in the Lansing area.
Today we look at how economic incentives are used in the Lansing area. There is fierce competition out there among cities and communities, not just in Michigan but across the country, to attract new businesses that will bring jobs and economic growth. This competition often gives companies the upper-hand when asking for tax abatements and other incentives from local taxpayers. But just how much should Lansing give up in tax revenue for, say, 1000 new jobs? And once that deal is made, how are the numbers tracked to see if, indeed, those new jobs have materialized? What are the consequences if they don’t?
It’s no secret that Flint has been ravaged by blight and neglect over the past couple of decades. Hundreds, if not thousands, of abandoned homes are scattered across the city. While Flint’s problems are pretty daunting when viewed all at once, one former Flint resident has decided to help out by focusing on a single, burned-out, abandoned house.
From the Detroit bankruptcy to a high-profile lawsuit against phone giant Verizon, pensions are in the news lately. With all the talk about pensions being frozen, or reduced, or bought out, we wanted to get kind of a “Pensions 101” perspective.
One of the biggest developments in world economies in recent years has been Supply Chain Management. Wikipedia defines “supply chain” as a system of organizations, people, activities, information, and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to costumer.
MSU professor Dr. Siddharth Chandra has devised a map that tracks cocaine trafficking across U.S. cities. Red circles indicate cities where cocaine is least expensive. These are often hub cities from which cocaine is distributed. Blue circles show destination cities where cocaine is most expensive.
Last month, a federal judge sentenced a 90 year old Indiana man to three years in prison for his role in transporting more than 1,200 kilograms of cocaine into Michigan. The man’s age spurred new attention to an old problem. Illegal drug trafficking is an ongoing epidemic across the United States. Now, a Michigan State University professor has created a new way to track the flow of cocaine into the country.
Last week, the Michigan Department of Transportation announced that it plans to study the viability of a passenger rail service that would connect Holland, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Detroit. The study has been mandated in the state’s 2015 budget.
Flint is renowned as the birthplace of General Motors and for the prosperity it once enjoyed as “Vehicle City.” More recently, that success has been overshadowed by troubles that have trailed the decline of auto manufacturing such as population loss, blight, crime, drugs, and debt.
Earlier this year in his State of the State address, Governor Rick Snyder emphasized his administration’s desire to increase immigration to Michigan. Recently, state officials got news that could move the state closer to that goal. Last month, federal customs officials approved the state’s application to launch an initiative that could attract more foreign investment and workers to the state.
East Lansing officials are working on the city’s budget for the coming fiscal year. The $32.7 million spending plan features a small millage rate cut for 2015. There will be meetings and public forums on the budget over the next few weeks.
The Food Processing and Innovation Center is raising the funding for the estimated $5.5 million project. It’s expected to consist of a mix of federal and state dollars, along with a commitment from MSU and five industry partners. It will be located on Hewlett Road.
There are plans to build a new center here at MSU that, if realized, proponents say could have a substantial economic impact on the state of Michigan, including the creation of potentially thousands of new jobs. Current State's Joe Linstroth talked with Chris Peterson, an agricultural economist and the head of MSU’s Product Center, who says there are more than 600 mid-sized food processors in the state of Michigan. Many of these companies’ facilities are maxed out, meaning that if they want to create a new product, they don’t have the capacity to test the product or its manufacturing and packaging techniques to see if it’s economically viable.
Inmates who leave Michigan prisons at the end of their sentences need an array of support services to help them successfully reenter society. The Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative was created in 2003 to fulfill that goal. The program has done quite well in the years since, but the state is still seeking ways to improve. The Michigan Department of Corrections is asking service providers to help enhance the post-prison experience for those who’ve served their time.
It’s hard to tell with all the new snow, but we’re three weeks away from the “Crosstown Showdown” home opener between the Lansing Lugnuts and the MSU Spartans. Yesterday, Lugnuts owner Tom Dickson and city leaders announced plans for a $22-million development at Cooley Law School Stadium.
With an intense pothole season beginning to unfold in Michigan, debate is intensifying over how to repair and better maintain state roads and highways.
Republican Governor Rick Snyder has favored a longer-term, comprehensive approach that would invest over a billion dollars a year in the effort. However, fellow Republicans in the legislature have withheld support for the tax and fee increases that would fund the Governor’s plan.
The National Association of Women in Construction, or NAWIC, has built a support network of more than 140 chapters around the world to assist women in the largely male-dominated construction fields. The organization was founded in 1953 by 16 women working in the construction industry in Fort Worth, Texas. NAWIC’s Lansing chapter became Michigan’s first in 1971.
A coalition of labor and civil rights groups calling itself Raise Michigan has announced its intention to form a ballot campaign committee. It’s a procedural step that could lead to a statewide vote this November on raising the minimum wage, which in Michigan is currently $7.40 an hour.