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:
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?”
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.
By Michael Gerstein
Last updated: 07/24/13 7:59pm
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say “Confederate flag belt buckle?”
A) Buck-toothed, oblivious racist wearing a “Skynyrd” shirt.
B) Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s aide, Jack Hunter.
While the first one is the obvious choice, you wouldn’t be wrong if you chose “B.”
Hunter probably didn’t have a matching belt buckle, but he probably did have the right attitude for one.
Hunter recently resigned after his pro-Confederacy/pro-John Wilkes Booth views came under fire, Democracy Now reports, adding that “He headed a group that advocated Southern secession from the United States and wrote about toasting Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.”
Hunter was at one time a radio pundit for “Southern Avenger,” where he often “donned a mask bearing the Confederate flag.” Evidently appearance is vital on the radio, especially if you’re shifting into that “South will rise again,” gear.
Paul is viewed as a top Republican contender for the 2016 presidential election.
By Michael Gerstein
Last updated: 06/19/13 10:22pm
Republicans might finally be trying to change their public image, and thousands of gay Michiganians might receive something they’ve wanted for a long time: some measure of equality.
Just last Thursday, a key GOP leader said he might consider adding sexual orientation to the list of those protected by civil rights law.
Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger said in an interview on the public TV show, “Off the Record,” that he’s tired of debates pitting one side against the other, resulting in a polemic that leaves those who are gay “dehumanized” and the religious “demonized.”
Bolger said, “We shouldn’t discriminate against people. At the same point, we ought to respect people who have deeply held religious beliefs, and we shouldn’t discriminate against them, and we shouldn’t force them to violate their deeply held religious beliefs.
“That’s the push-pull,” Bolger continued. “I’m interested in exploring, how can we respect both?”
The move would outlaw discrimination in workplaces or housing, extending the same protections already seen on the basis of race and gender and a proverbial olive branch to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
That’s a big turnaround for Republicans, that are seen by many as a party comprised of aging, white Christian fundies.
But is that all this is? A chance to chip away at that long-held public perception? My initial inclination is yes. But if there’s a follow-through, perhaps it doesn’t quite matter what Bolger’s motives are. At least not for those who would be protected against discrimination.
By Derek Kim
Last updated: 06/14/13 6:16pm
Jackson National Life Insurance Co. will use the former Barnes & Noble building on 333 E. Grand River Ave. to train information technology employees, according to the Lansing City Pulse.
Brown paper was put up on the windows this week to conceal interior renovations. Construction on the building began three weeks ago and a look through the front doors last week revealed that the escalators had been removed. An onside construction worker told the City Pulse that the building will be ready by Aug. 1.
City Pulse also reported that it is uncertain whether Jackson National Life will be a permanent resident of the building.
“We haven’t released any information on anything to do with that project,” a spokesperson from Jackson National Life said.
A representative from Christman Company, the owner of the space, also declined to comment on the status of the building.
In a previous interview, East Lansing Planning & Community Development Director Tim Dempsey said it has been difficult to find a user for the 35,000 square-foot building.
Barnes & Noble went out of business on New Years Eve 2012. Prior to the bookstore, the space was home to Jacobsen’s department store.
By Katie Abdilla
Last updated: 06/03/13 6:00pm
With protests across Turkey reaching day four, Turkish residents have begun to turn their anger away from the country’s prime minister and lash out against local media.
The situation began as a small sit-in protest in Istanbul over the expected demolition of Gezi Park, the only remaining green space in the city. Feelings escalated into violence Saturday, when police began using force against protesters in the form of tear gas and Agent Orange.
Despite the detainment of nearly 1,000 protesters and countless injuries, local news sources have reached a media blackout in the heat of the riots. Readers and viewers have become particularly upset with CNN Turk, a local branch of the franchise. Although CNN International has reported on the events, CNN Turk has remained noticeably silent. One newspaper even included an article praising the prime minister on its front page the day the riots began.
As a result, residents have lashed out against the chain, calling for a petition for CNN International to remove the outlet from its official brand. So far, the petition has reached more than 63,000 signatures as of press time, with a goal of 100,000 total signatures. Below the petition are thousands of comments from outraged viewers.
With no local news reports to turn to, the Turkish people have turned to social media to report stories of their own. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr have filled with firsthand accounts, videos and photos.
More than anything, this shows the importance social media has in the event of a crisis. Nowadays, Facebook and Twitter have made getting the daily news more accessible, and it can be a great resource for those with no access to breaking stories. In the wake of the digital age, both have become more relatable to my generation, as well. And, in the event that news organizations have been rendered silent, it can give citizens a voice of their own in the wake of such turmoil and conflict.
By Derek Kim
Last updated: 06/03/13 4:31pm
Tomorrow’s East Lansing City Council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m.
The time change will be enforced for the rest of the summer and could become permanent this fall with the council’s decision. Council members approved the time change at last week’s meeting in an effort to improve consistency with its work sessions and other public meeting times.
June 4, June 18, July 9 and August 6 are the regular session meetings date that will inherit the time adjustment.
Many items are set for approval at Tuesday’s meeting, including a resolution to approve the Tri-County Office on an Aging Area Plan for fiscal year 2014 and a service agreement with International Bancard.
The agreement was implemented in order to counter the increase in the number of accepted credit and debit card transactions. A partnership with the city would improve operational efficiency because of better reporting and customized software applications, and would also result in an estimated cost savings of about $4,000 at current transaction levels.
Two labor agreements and five housing commissions recommendations are also on the agenda.
By Michael Kransz
Last updated: 05/30/13 5:27pm
Countries supporting opposite sides of the Syrian civil war decide to neglect the screaming and throw more wood on the fire because their guys are losing.
But who are their guys?
The European Union, or EU, argues that question after their recent failure to extend a ban on supplying Syrian rebels with arms.
Now, according to Aljazeera, EU states can legally arm Syrian rebels, which is a turnaround from prior policy.
The United Kingdom and France pushed extinguishing the ban, among cries of dissent from other EU states.
These cries echoed fears that the Syrian rebel factions range from moderate to terroristic and that more arms will only stoke the fires of civil war.
And Syria is a conflagration.
Russia recently exacerbated the problem by sending the first shipment of long-range anti-aircraft missiles to the Syrian government, sparking threats of war from Israel, according to USAtoday.
The missiles limit Israel’s options for containing the Syrian situation with airstrikes and dimished Washington’s plans for a no-fly zone.
Whether pro-government or pro-rebels, an agreement has been reached: the old fallacy that you can fight fire with fire.
By Michael Gerstein
Last updated: 05/28/13 5:41pm
A lot happened in the Legislature today, but much is still up in the air as lawmakers hammer out the financial fate of state programs.
Despite the Senate adjourning before voting on any budget matters, the Michigan House of Representatives approved its version of the education budget and later the overall omnibus state budget.
A 2 percent increase was set for higher education spending, though Gov. Rick Snyder’s fist budget in 2011 cut funding by 15 percent, and the Senate has yet to pass its version which will be reconciled with the House’s in conference committees.
None of the $700 million state revenue surplus previously reported by The State News went towards higher education funding. And the House bill didn’t include any extra funding for roads, as Snyder called for.
In all, the House approved a $34.3 billion General Omnibus Budget and a $15.1 billion school budget, which includes both K-12 and higher education spending.
The Legislature is ironing out the final details in conference committees this week, and is supposed to finish by its self-imposed June 1 deadline, though it could take longer.