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Throughout the past two years, Changing Gears has looked at the role that newcomers play in the Midwest. This afternoon, we’ll be talking about them — and talking with you. 

Join us at 3 pm ET/2 pm CT for “Hidden Assets,” a call-in show airing on WBEZ Chicago, Michigan Radio and ideastream Cleveland. We’ll also be holding a live chat here at ChangingGears.info.

WBEZ’s Steve Edwards will host with a variety of scheduled guests, including Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, and Changing Gears reporter Niala Boodhoo. The Changing Gears team will chat with you here during the show.

GE Adds Jobs, Faces Protestors: General Electric said Tuesday it is adding 300 jobs in Van Buren Township, Mich., at an advanced engineering center that it announced in 2009. That’s on top of 850 jobs for which the company is still hiring. But GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt faced protests at a meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers in Detroit. Members of the 99% Spring movement are planning to protest Immelt’s pay and other issues at GE’s annual shareholders meeting, which will be held in Detroit on Wednesday. Read our coverage of the 99% Spring here

Nobel Laureates In Chicago: Former presidents, activists and actors are in Chicago for a three day meeting of the world’s Nobel Laureates. It’s one of the high-profile efforts by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to stake Chicago’s claim as a world-class city. On Monday, students in a Chicago classroom got a visit from former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, one of many visits paid by the laureates to Chicago schools.

Obama Campaign Blankets Ohio: The president was just at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio last week, talking about job retraining. Now, Barack Obama’s campaign plans to blanket the state in coming weeks, with the auto bailout as a main topic. Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers, says the number of auto workers in Ohio has increased from 105,000 to 120,000 since the administration rescued General Motors and Chrysler. However, Ohio’s biggest automotive employer is Honda, which has announced a series of new investments in the state.

Changing Gears Live Tomorrow: Make sure to mark your calendars tomorrow for a Changing Gears live call-in show and chat. It’s at 3 pm ET/2 pm CT. Read more here.

Throughout the past two years, Changing Gears has looked at the role that newcomers play in the Midwest. On Wednesday, we’ll be talking about them — and talking with you. 

Join us at 3 pm ET/2 pm CT for “Hidden Assets,” a call-in show airing on WBEZ Chicago, Michigan Radio and ideastream Cleveland. We’ll also be holding a live chat here at ChangingGears.info.

WBEZ’s Steve Edwards will host with a variety of scheduled guests, including Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder. They’ll be looking at ways the Midwest is trying to attract immigrants, and how they can be a competitive business advantage for our region.

“Hidden Assets” welcomes your participation, on the air and here.

Back in February, we gave you a heads up about the tough fight shaping up in Indiana for veteran U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar.

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar

He has not had a primary opponent since he first won election in 1976, and he’s been one of the most prominent Republicans in the Senate, leading the Foreign Relations Committee and serving as an advisor to numerous presidents.

But Lugar is being challenged by the state’s treasurer, Richard E. Mourdock, amid criticism from Tea Party members over his record. He’s also been embroiled in controversy over exactly where he lives.

Now, as a primary election approaches next month, his battle to keep his seat is getting even more intense.

Monica Davey in The New York Times takes a look at the race today. She reports that the Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll showed Lugar leading Mourdock by 42 percent to 35 percent among likely primary voters. That is within the poll’s margin of sampling error of plus or minus five points.

 

Before this campaign season, many voters in the Great Lakes had only peripherally heard of Rick Santorum. But his surprisingly strong challenge to Mitt Romney in Midwest Republican primaries most likely kept his campaign alive. 

Now, Santorum is suspending his race for the Republican nomination, effective today.

That most likely clears the way for Romney to become the first Michigan-born Republican nominee since Thomas Dewey. Romney, who hails from Detroit, is likely to face President Barack Obama in the fall.

“This race was as improbable as any you’ll ever see for president,” Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, said this afternoon. But, he added, “We are not done fighting.”

Santorum achieved one distinction during this winter’s primaries, by becoming the only Republican candidate to visit Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He had a pasty for breakfast and picked up nearly all the UP’s delegates.

Read Changing Gears’ coverage of the Midwest Republican primaries here.

Slugger Prince Fielder has only played one regular season game with the Detroit Tigers, but the team is reveling in his economic impact.

New scoreboard, new slugger/photo by Micki Maynard

The Tigers drew a record Opening Day crowd of 45,027 to Comerica Park, the second-highest single game attendance in the park’s 12-year history.

Many people were there simply to see Fielder, the former Milwaukee Brewer who signed a $214 million, nine-year contract with the club earlier this year.

Thanks to Fielder, the Tigers have seen an immediate impact on season ticket sales.

They sold 21,000 season ticket packages (six games or more) before the season started, guaranteeing them annual attendance of at least 1.6 million fans. That’s up 50 percent from the 14,000 season tickets the Tigers sold in 2011, when they won the American League Central Division title.

The team’s season ticket record is 27,000 packages, set in 2008, when the Tigers acquired Miguel Cabrera, who was last year’s American League batting champion. That was also the year after Justin Verlander threw his first no-hitter.

Verlander was on the mound Thursday, throwing eight innings of shutout baseball. Tigers’ closer Jose Valverde spoiled Verlander of the win by giving up two runs in the top of the ninth, allowing the Boston Red Sox to tie the game, but the Tigers came back in the bottom of the ninth to win on a walk-off single by Austin Jackson.

Attendance always rises when Verlander pitches, as I wrote last year in the New York Times.

Fans at Thursday’s game noticed some changes, the biggest being a new centerfield scoreboard. The luxury suites at Comerica also have been updated, with marble countertops, set-in food warmers and fresh paint and pictures on the walls.

Suite lessors got a gift from the Tigers: a embossed bottle of red wine to commemorate the division title.

Although Thursday was Fielder’s first official game, a number of fans traveled to Toledo on Wednesday afternoon for a charity game at Fifth Third Field between the Tigers and their AAA ballclub, the Toledo Mud Hens. That game drew 12,000 people — not bad for the middle of an April afternoon.

Toledo Mayor Michael Bell stopped by to greet Tiger great Al Kaline, who watched the game with a group including Tigers’ general manager Dave Dombrowski and assistant general manager Al Avila, father of Tigers’ catcher Alex Avila. You can see them in our slideshow below.

What do the Tigers mean to you, and to Detroit? Take our survey here.

Spirit of Detroit. Credit: flickr user Urban Adventures.

After weeks of debate and sometimes raucous dissent, leaders in Detroit and Lansing finally signed off on a financial stability agreement for the city yesterday.

You can read the full agreement here. But as important as the agreement is, it doesn’t actually solve any of Detroit’s pressing financial problems. It merely lays out the structure and the powers of the new group that will.

So today is when the real work begins.

The Detroit Free Press reports today that the first step in the process is to hire 11 people. Mayor Dave Bing is in charge of finding the first two:

Mayor Dave Bing now has six days to create the positions of the city’s chief financial officer and program management director and 30 days after that to hire the people for the positions. Those holding the jobs must have experience in municipal finance and balancing the books of a government operation of at least $250 million. The candidate list and ultimate hires will have to be approved by Snyder and Bing.

The mayor, governor, state treasurer and city council will also each have a say about who goes on the nine-member financial advisory board that will oversee the city’s finances for the next few years.

Once the team is in place, the next big question is how to salvage Detroit’s finances. That’s where things may get ugly.

Sarah Cwiek, from partner station Michigan Radio, reports one of the biggest tasks will be to negotiate new contracts with the city’s unions:

They already agreed to give up historic concessions, only to have the state block final approval. Snyder says those agreements don’t go far enough.

Union leaders now say they’re in no mood to bargain. And they may have little recourse at this point but to strike.

Detroit’s new financial team may also face the difficult decision of whether to sell off city assets. The city is running an estimated deficit of more than $200 million, and Governor Rick Snyder says the state won’t offer up any cash to help fill the hole.

And there’s still a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the entire process, as legal challenges to the agreement work their way through the courts. There are challenges to the agreement itself, and challenges to Public Act 4, the state law that outlines what to do when a city faces a financial emergency. There are provisions in the agreement that say it’s still valid even if Public Act 4 is struck down. But a judge could just strike down those provisions.

Michigan Radio reports that Governor Snyder mostly dodged questions about the legal challenges during a media roundtable yesterday.

“I hope we can continue on this path, because I thought it was good, thoughtful legislation to begin with, and that we’re working in good faith to really make sure our communities are successful,” Snyder said.

Court challenge or not, the new team will have to work fast to fix Detroit’s problems. Estimates project the city will run out of cash completely by the end of June.

Michigan, Ohio and Illinois voters have had their chance. Now, it’s Wisconsin’s turn.

Wisconsin State Capitol

Voters in the dairy state go to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots in the Republican primary. We’d love to hear how you voted, and what’s the most important issue on your minds.

After you vote, take our survey (or if you’ve already voted early, let us know now). It will help us understand whether different topics are of importance to people in different parts of the Great Lakes.

Earlier this year, we told you about The 99% Spring, the protest movement sponsored by a variety of political and labor groups including MoveOn.org, the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters Union.

It’s part of a fresh wave of protests that are taking place across the country, in the wake of the Occupy movement.

The 99% Spring Protest Movement Gets Organized

Starting next week, 99% Spring events will be kicking off across the United States, and especially in the Midwest.

Supporters are vowing to train 100,000 people to “to tell the story of what happened to our economy, learn the history of non-violent direct action, and use that knowledge to take action on our own campaigns to win change.”

Over the weekend, the UAW sent an email to its members, encouraging them to take part. “We are at a crucial point in America where if we continue to ignore the opportunity to rebuild this great country, then we risk losing the very essence of what has made this country great,” the email said. 

Some 918 events have been scheduled thus far. MoveOn.org, which is associated with the Democratic Party, has a locator for events, where you can put in your zip code and find those closest to you.

Here are the ones for the Detroit area, Chicago and Milwaukee, and Cleveland. To be sure, the 99% Spring movement hasn’t said what will happen once people are trained, but given the training events, it’s pretty clear it will meet its goal of training 100,000 people.

Are you planning to take part in 99% Spring? Let us know where and when.

National Journal picked Illinois' 7th as one of the nation's "10 Most Contorted Congressional Districts." Credit: Google Map by National Journal

National Journal has a look at who wins and who loses in the Congressional redistricting process that happens every 10 years. The piece, which only subscribers can see, also comes with a sidebar on “Modern Gerrymanders,” including maps of the 10 most contorted Congressional districts.

The Midwest has three of the 10. Chicago alone has two. But, this is a pretty subjective list, and we think some Midwest Congressional Districts were robbed. What about the Illinois 17th? Or Indiana’s 4th?

What do you think? What’s the most contorted Congressional district in the Midwest?