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Thursday, December 18, 2014


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The PoliTicker

Senators look to stop potential nuclear waste storage near Lake Huron


By Michael Gerstein          Last updated: 11/06/13 8:17pm         

A Canadian proposal to store nuclear waste in an underground facility near Lake Huron sparked public outcry from environmentalists, state lawmakers and other concerned citizens. Now, Michigan’s U.S. senators are urging Secretary of State John Kerry to stop the plan from moving forward.

In a letter sent last Monday, Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin said they have “serious concerns” with nuclear waste being stored near the lake, which borders Michigan.

“The placement of this nuclear waste storage facility is of great concern given its location near Lake Huron and the importance of the Great Lakes to tens of millions of U.S. and Canadian citizens for drinking water, fisheries, tourism, recreation, and other industrial and economic uses,” the letter stated.

“We believe that the decision to store such large quantities of nuclear waste along the shores of an internationally shared resource must be thoroughly reviewed and considered by both countries,” it went on to say.

Read the full text of the letter here.

Other politicians — State Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor, and Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores — expressed similar concerns. The proposal alarmed citizens in Canada, as well.

“A review panel appointed by the Canadian government will issue a recommendation in coming weeks to Canada’s Cabinet, which will in turn decide whether or not to approve the utility’s plan,” a report from RT stated, an international Russian Television network.


Bill could legalize ticket scalping


By Michael Gerstein          Last updated: 10/30/13 9:56pm         

Ticket scalpers are nothing new, but a new state bill officially would make reselling tickets at sporting events or concerts legal.

Introduced Tuesday by Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw, the bill would repeal a 1931 law prohibiting the common practice, and it has the support of 11 other sponsors, including four Democrats and seven Republicans. Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, is among the sponsors.

“An individual who buys a ticket to a sporting event or concert owns that ticket, and they should have every right to sell it if they choose so,” Kelly said in a statement. “This legislation, quite literally, is about allowing the man on the street to sell tickets at fair market value to willing buyers.”

Because of the 1931 law that banned scalping, hawking tickets on game day this Saturday is technically punishable by law, although this likely won’t stop people from doing it.

A statement released by the legislations’ supporters contend that no federal law prohibiting individuals from reselling tickets exists, and more than 30 states currently allow it.

The bill is headed for the House Criminal Justice Committee for review.


Root of shutdown could tie back to redistricting


By Michael Gerstein          Last updated: 10/23/13 9:16pm         

The federal government shutdown seized a headline in just about every major news organization for the better part of October, after shuttering offices, furloughing workers and skidding the national political process to a halt for 17 days.

Now, many are analyzing what happened. They want to understand why, and how something like this could ever take place, though the country endured two shutdowns in the past.

A new guest article from Bridge, News and Analysis from The Center for Michigan, claims redistricting could have a lot to do with it.

“Gerrymandering – the practice of redrawing political boundaries to enhance the power of one political party at the expense of another – is nearly as old as our American democracy,” wrote Jocelyn Benson and John Schwarz.

“But what makes it so pernicious today is that it has allowed a well-financed ideological minority to gain undue influence in the Republican Party and then use that power to prevent Congress from reaching agreement on issues as wide-ranging as immigration policy, entitlement reform and climate change.

“How? Because in districts that are noncompetitive – those clearly dominated by one political party – the primary election becomes the only meaningful election. Most moderate voters in both parties skip primaries. The ideologically inclined voters who do show up, perhaps 15 percent of those registered, call the tune. That does not reflect the interests of the vast majority of the electorate,” they wrote.

Political ideologies have become more polarized than perhaps ever before, many argue, and the two major parties so unrelenting in their ambitions, with a small conservative faction within the Republican Party unabashedly plowing forward with their plan to derail the Affordable Care Act even if that meant shutting the entire government down for nearly a month.

John Cavanagh, co-founder of the Lansing-based polling firm, EPIC-MRA, said much the same about the impact of district lines, just before the shutdown.

The “theatrics,” he said, and the sometimes “patently illogical stances on the part of some members of Congress is in large part due to redistricting.

“The more extreme elements tend to have a greater influence in August elections then in November,” Cavanagh continued.


Lansing Chamber of Commerce, UAW endorse three East Lansing council candidates


By Geoff Preston          Last updated: 10/16/13 11:09pm         

Two Lansing organizations have taken sides in the upcoming East Lansing City Council elections, joining together in support of three council candidates.

The Lansing Chamber of Commerce and the United Auto Workers Region 1-C announced Tuesday that their organizations officially would endorse Ruth Beier, Ben Esseylinck, and incumbent Kathleen Boyle for the Nov. 5 election.

“The candidates we have endorsed possess a combination of leadership, business experience and community commitment that will help foster a positive direction for the city of East Lansing,” Kristin Beltzer, senior vice president for governmental relations and public affairs for the Lansing Chamber of Commerce Kristin Beltzer said in a statement released Tuesday.

CAP coordinator for UAW Art Luna said in the same statement that both parties are happy to be collaborating again.

“We are happy to partner again with the LRCC in endorsing candidates that will serve the area’s needs,” she said. “We look forward to working together to create jobs and economic investment in the future.”


Legislators, environmental advocates divided over Keystone XL pipeline proposal


By Michael Gerstein          Last updated: 10/09/13 10:39pm         

You’ll find no shortage of heated debate over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project from Canadian company TransCanada.

Legislators, business and labor leaders recently called on President Obama to green-light construction. The 1,179-mile crude oil pipeline won’t snake through Michigan on its way from Canada to the Gulf Coast, but supporters say it would lead to “ancillary” jobs in the state, according to an article from MLive.com.

Proponents of the project say the state could play a role in the constructing spare parts and other equipment, according to the article, perhaps boosting profits for local businesses.

“The president needs to approve the Keystone Pipeline,” Rep. Aric Nesbitt, R-Lawton, chair of the Energy and Technology Committee, said in a statement. Nesbitt said it would use resources “in our own backyard,” while laying the groundwork for “common-sense energy policy that focuses on safe, affordable and reliable energy.”

But opponents such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club worry it would lead to environmental degradation, increases in greenhouse gas emissions and could push the country away from the environmental goals Obama campaigned for.

Twenty-five national environmental groups recently signed off on a letter urging the president to shut the plan down.

“While the tar sands industry makes claims of reducing the intensity of their emissions profile, in fact the absolute carbon pollution from the tar sands is rapidly increasing,” the letter said. “Simple arithmetic shows that the only way to reduce emissions from the tar sands is to cap expansion where it is now and reduce production over the coming years.”

Building the pipeline “is not compatible with serious efforts to battle climate change,” the letter said.

Ultimately, it could be up to Obama to determine the pipeline’s fate. He said he doesn’t want construction unless the State Department determines it won’t have a substantial impact on greenhouse gas emissions, according to NPR.

This could be a pivotal moment for Obama, journalist Ryan Lizza told NPR. He campaigned with a liberal environmental platform, and he could take unilateral action to halt the project. But it’s still unclear what exactly he’ll do, potentially alienating part of his political base if he approves construction.


Media depiction of government shutdown questioned


By Michael Gerstein          Last updated: 10/03/13 10:47pm         

The government shutdown has been getting a lot of press, naturally. But has it been the right kind?

Several prominent media analysts argue it hasn’t been, and it’s not that most media coverage has simply missed the mark. They say improper coverage of the matter has been counter to core journalistic standards at best, and an affront to democracy at worst.

A slew of media outlets referred to the shutdown as political gridlock, an impasse, stalemate, standoff or similar synonyms.

This is the surface-level appearance, but sometimes, impartiality in the face of illogical actions is just as bad as directly taking a side. Sometimes it is the journalists’ duty to point out when something unprecedented is happening. That was the case with the shutdown.

Republicans refused to sign off on the budget late Monday night because Democrats and President Obama wouldn’t accept the proposal, but attaching a non-appropriations mandate to an appropriations bill is not the norm. As James Fallows of The Atlantic pointed out, the battle here isn’t between parties, it’s within a single party — the GOP.

Moreover, Fallows said that this time, the fight “is over whether compromise itself is legitimate.”

Several media analysts, including Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute and Greg Mitchell of The Nation wrote similar pieces criticizing the coverage.

Dan Froomkin of Al Jazeera wrote in an article on the subject that it’s not simply an inability for two parties to agree with one another. This implies a false equivalency, he said, part of an almost compulsive tendency for the media to appear unbiased at all costs.

“And holding the entire government hostage while demanding the de facto repeal of a president’s signature legislation and not even bothering to negotiate is by any reasonable standard an extreme political act,” he said in the article. “It is an attempt to make an end run around the normal legislative process. There is no historical precedent for it.

“The last shutdowns, in 1995 and 1996, were not the product of unilateral demands to scrap existing law; they took place during a period of give-and-take budget negotiations,” Froomkin said. “But the political media’s aversion to doing anything that might be seen as taking sides — combined with its obsession with process — led them to actively obscure the truth in their coverage of the votes. If you did not already know what this was all about, reading the news would not help you understand.”


MSU alums, politicians respond to shots fired report on Capitol Hill


By Darcie Moran          Last updated: 10/03/13 5:30pm         

MSU alumni and area politicians were in Washington, D.C. today when reports emerged that shots were fired on Capitol Hill.

After assuring their safety and the safety of others, several took to social media to comment on the incident.

Following are tweets from Congressman Mike Rogers, State News alumna Emily Wilkins and MSU alumnus Mitchell Rivard following Thursday’s events.

Congressman Mike Rogers:


State News alumna Emily Wilkins:


MSU alumnus Mitchell Rivard:




Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is a Breaking Bad fanatic, Gov. Rick Snyder not so much


By Ian Kullgren          Last updated: 09/29/13 10:55pm         

When he’s not helping the big nerd in charge reinvent Michigan, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley likes to get in touch with his bad side — sort of.

Calley, an MSU alumnus, joined thousands of others Sunday in live tweeting the Breaking Bad series finale. Apparently it’s his favorite show:


But he told The State News he has never watched it with Gov. Rick Snyder:



No new Tim Hortons in Capitol building


By Michael Gerstein          Last updated: 09/11/13 9:18pm         

Despite what you may have read, a Tim Hortons isn’t opening in Lansing’s downtown state Capitol building.

Early reports from WLNS Channel 6 News and MLive Media Group that a preliminary agreements had been reached, potentially allowing the Canadian-based restaurant to set up shop in an unused room in the statehouse.

There is no Tim Hortons restaurant opening in the Capitol,” said Ari Adler, press secretary for the House Republican Caucus. “An early news report that stated such was inaccurate.
“The focus is on replacing the restaurant in the House Office Building that has been closed for two years,” Adler said. “I understand the state bureau that oversees these facilities is considering different options, but I’ve been told there are no decisions yet and no preliminary contracts of any kind in place.”
So if you were hoping for a few donuts the next time you watch a session downtown, you might need to stop elsewhere.

At least two lawmakers were concerned in the wake of the reports.

State Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing said he didn’t want to offer the space to Tim Hortons without offering the chance to other interested restaurants.

Company spokespeople declined comment.

MLive reported that Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, “appeared opposed to the idea.”

“What’s next?” she told MLive. “Are we going to be called the Chick-fil-A Capitol?”


Detroit officals looking for positives from bankrupcty


By RJ Wolcott          Last updated: 07/28/13 10:11pm         

The words “bankruptcy” and “positive” are scarcely found within the same sentence without the word “isn’t” between them. However, despite all the negative news following the July 18 bankruptcy filing by the city of Detroit, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said there is an upside to the city’s financial dilemmas: improvements to public services.

In a statement to the Detroit Free Press, Orr said new Police Chief James Craig requested new vehicles and equipment, an order which Orr is prepared to sign.

In one of the most violent major cities in the nation, the addition of 50 new squad cars, additional bulletproof vests, and new tools to fight crime including stun guns will likely be a welcome addition to the force.

These changes are being made because Detroit’s debts are on hold ever since the filing, meaning that instead of working on longstanding debts, the city finally has money to put into the police and fire departments. Additionally, Orr vowed to streamline existing governmental departments in an effort to be more financially responsible.

The emergency manager also plans to appoint new management to the Detroit Department of Transportation, meaning the city could also see more buses and fixes to streetlights.

All of these proposed changes are expected to bring relief to Detroit’s populace, who’ve become used to bad news concerning public safety.

In 2012, the city of Detroit had the highest rate of violent crime of any city with a population over 200,000, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports database.

The city also has battled with increasing response time for both violent and nonviolent crimes. In 2013, the average response time for the Detroit Police Department to a Priority 1 call was 58 minutes, 28 minutes longer than only one year prior and 47 minutes longer than the national average. The department also has a case clearance rate of 8.7 percent, as police manpower has been reduced by 40 percent during the last decade, according to a report the city released to its creditors on June 14.

While the next few months and years might be difficult for the city, Orr and his comrades have said they believe these changes could bring about a fresh start for a city in dire straits.