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January 20th, 2012
The camera shows members of the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, or GAB, verifying more than 1 million signatures delivered earlier this week by opponents of Gov. Scott Walker, seeking his recall in November.
Although the work is essentially repetitive, and the staffers solemn, the GAB cam has become an instant must-see for political junkies in Wisconsin and elsewhere. It has its own parody Twitter account — @recallcam — and some watchers keep track of their favorite verifiers.
That might seem the ultimate waste of time. But, given the high stakes involved, others see it as a civics lesson. As the Associated Press put it, “You know you live in a state consumed by politics when a webcam showing bureaucrats silently shuffling around a nondescript room feeding papers into a scanner attracts tens of thousands of viewers.
Our friends at NPR’s The Two-Way blog have more, if you’re as fascinated as we are.
So, click on the link above (not the photo, that’s a screen grab) and enjoy due process at work.
January 20th, 2012
Michigan Film Incentives: In our very first story, Changing Gears told you about The Film Factory — the race between our states to attract movie productions. But last year, Michigan capped its film incentives, and the result was immediate, reports The Atlantic Cities. Only 84 productions applied for incentives in 2011, and just 22 were approved. That compares with 119 applications in 2010, when 66 were approved.
Ohio Police: Tiny Woodmere, Ohio, is known for having one of the highest ratios of police to residents — one officer for every 50 residents. But Woodmere now may shut its police force and hire protection from nearby Orange, Ohio, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Its mayor feels the half-square mile village can no longer afford the $1.2 million cost. Orange, which surrounds Woodmere, plans to charge $500,000, the mayor says.
Wisconsin Web Cam: Wisconsinites have been riveted by the debate over recalling Gov. Scott Walker. So much, that a Web Cam showing bureaucrats counting recall signatures has become a hit. The Associated Press reports that watchers have given nicknames to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board who are reviewing the signatures, and the Web Cam has gotten its own Twitter account, @recallcam. (The account is following just one person: The Reverend Al Sharpton.)
January 19th, 2012
Flint Plan: Michael Brown, the emergency manager of Flint, Mich., unveiled his plan yesterday for reducing an $11.3 million deficit. Not surprisingly, one of his top priorities is to overhaul bargainingagreements with city unions, something an emergency manager is allowed to do under Public Act 4, passed last year by the Michigan Legislature. Brown also wants to reopen the city jail, which closed in 2008.
Wisconsin Candidates: Democrats are raising their hands for the opportunity to challenge Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who appears to face an almost certain recall election this fall. Former Dane County chief executive Kathleen Falk said the 1 million signatures submitted by opponents to Walker on Monday convinced her to run. State Senator Tim Cullen of Janesville also plans to enter the race.
Toyota Milestone: It may be hard for car buffs to believe, but Toyota’s plant in Princeton, Ind., will turn 14 years old this year. And this week, it built its 3 millionth vehicle. The factory, in southwest Indiana, makes the Sienna minivan, which was the best selling family van in the United States last year. It has 4,100 workers and an annual payroll of $288 million.
Rock Hall: Dead Heads, listen up: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland will celebrate the Grateful Dead this spring with an exhibit called The Long Strange Trip. It opens April 12, giving you plenty of time to launder your tie-dye t-shirts and get out your Jerry Garcia ties.
January 18th, 2012
Proponents of the drive to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker needed 540,208 signatures to put the issue on the November ballot. Yesterday, they arrived at the Government Accountability Board in Madison with more than 1 million signatures, virtually guaranteeing voters will consider the proposal.
If it gets on the ballot, the recall Walker initiative would be the first such vote in Wisconsin history, and only the third in the nation’s history. Voters kicked out California’s governor, Gray Davis, in 2003, and North Dakota governor Lynn Frazier in 1923.
The subject has riveted Wisconsin politics and means the debate over Walker’s push to eliminate collective bargaining rights for most public employee unions will continue through the fall.
But there are hurdles, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported. For one thing, no Democratic candidate has emerged as the leader to challenge Walker. The Wisconsin governor, meanwhile, has had plenty of time to prepare for a recall election, and has been raising funds around the country.
And, Republican party officials say they’ll scrutinize every signature, amid reports of people signing petitions multiple times.
Read up on Wisconsin and its turbulent year here. Then, tune in for our coverage Feb. 1 when Niala Boodhoo looks at Wisconsin a year after Walker took office.
January 17th, 2012
It’s been a year since new Republican governors were elected in Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. We all know the headlines.
Michigan enacted a strict new law giving enormous powers to emergency managers, including the one that might run Detroit.
But life has changed in other ways, as well.
Starting tomorrow, Changing Gears presents STATES, a three-story series looking at people in each of our states and the ways they’ve been affected.
Kate Davidson kicks things off with a look at Laingsburg, Michigan, a small town north of the state capital where the big news camouflaged some small, but meaningful changes.
January 11th, 2012
Our friends at Michigan Radio report that the Hudsonville Creamery and Ice Cream Company wants to create a flavor that reflects the taste of the Michigan outdoors. (Okay, we know Moose Tracks already exists, but maybe Creme de Pine?)
That got us thinking: what flavors would you pick for each of our Great Lakes states?
Wisconsin Cheese Curds?
Ohio Buckeye Crunch?
Illinois Corn Pudding?
Indiana — Anything?
Send us your nominations and we’ll post a list for each state.
Update: Culvers tells us on Twitter.
“We have done a Pretzel and Mustard Fresh Frozen Custard for a special event in Middleton, Wis., for the Mustard Museum!”
January 6th, 2012
Wrangling over the potential recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is heating up, as a Jan. 17 deadline to turn in recall petition signatures approaches.
On Thursday, Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis ordered the State Government Accountability Board to pro-actively screen signatures on the recall petitions of Walker and five other state officials.
In the past, those gathering the recall signatures were the only ones responsible for ensuring signatures on petitions were not fake or otherwise invalid.
The Board warned that the extra verification could take up to eight additional weeks or $94,000. It’s unclear if the state will need to spend that amount of time or resources.
But there was a major caveat in the court ruling. The judge gave the board some breathing room in its decision, saying that their obligation to verify the signatures will be limited by the resources they have or can reasonably find.
Those organizing the recall drive are confident they will have enough signatures on the 17th to allow the recall process to move forward. They’ll need just over 540,000 or one-quarter of the number of voters who cast in the November election. Whatever the review process, it’s likely that more court challenges to the recall drive will happen after signatures are filed.
Walker, who took office a year ago, was at the center of a bitter battle over stripping most public employees of their collective bargaining rights. Voters subsequently recalled some of the lawmakers who voted in favor of a new law, but Republicans retain control of state government.
Read Changing Gears’ coverage of Walker and Wisconsin politics here.
January 6th, 2012
It’s been a tumultuous year in many of the Great Lakes states.
New Republican governors in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio have pushed for legal and policy changes. Illinois has faced a fiscal crisis. And Indiana’s governor is now backing a Right to Work law.
We know what the political debate has been like. But we’d like to know how the changes are affecting you. What did state government do that mattered to you?
Let us know, and then check in as Changing Gears covers how these leaders are changing the way things are in our states.
Pete Bigelow · Midwest Memo: Detroit Suburbs Seek Spurned Transit Money, Wisconsin May Revisit Controversial Case
December 22nd, 2011
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. Contenders seek spurned transit funding. The city of Troy, Michigan rejected federal funds to build a mass-transit center. Now other suburban Detroit municipalities are lining up in hopes of claiming part of the $8.5 million. A U.S. Congressman pledged to have the money allocated to Royal Oak and Pontiac. The Detroit Free Press reports today a high-speed “turnaround area” for buses could be built in Pontiac while a rail facility could be built in Royal Oak. Meanwhile, Troy has faced a backlash for its decision. Gov. Rick Snyder wrote a letter saying he was “disappointed” in the decision, and Magna International, which employs more than 1,000 in Troy, said it will no longer seek expansion or job creation in the city.
2. Wisconsin fight not over yet? The Wisconsin Supreme Court could be asked to reopen a controversial case about collective bargaining legislation because a justice who presided in the original hearing received free legal service from an attorney involved in the case. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Dane County district attorney Ismael Ozanne is “taking a hard look” at asking the Supreme Court to reopen the case. Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman cast the deciding vote in a ruling that said state legislators had not violated the open meetings law when mulling the controversial legislation, which allowed a decision to limit collective bargaining for public workers to stand.
3. EPA mandates could cost Ohio. Many utilities in Ohio and elsewhere must cut 90 percent of the mercury emitted from their power plants under toughened air pollution limits announced Wednesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “This is a great victory for public health, especially the health of our children,” said an EPA spokesperson. Industry representatives say the new rules mean more expensive electricity for customers and job losses because older plants may shut down rather than overhaul. The Columbus Dispatch says Ohio typically ranks No. 1 in the nation for the amount of toxic pollutants emitted by industry, largely because of power plants that burn coal.
Pete Bigelow · Questions Emerge About Wisconsin Mining Bill, Detroit Suburbs Rejects Mass Transit, Housing Shows Slight Uptick
December 20th, 2011
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. Who wrote Wisconsin mining bill? New details are emerging on who helped write a bill that overhauls Wisconsin’s mining laws. Last week, state Republicans declined to provide details on who authored the legislation. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported today that five Republican legislators, their staffs, representatives from the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce business lobby and officials from the mining company Gogebic Taconite all participated. Earlier this year, Gogebic Taconite demanded changes in mining legislation so the company could move forward with plans to open a $1.5 billion mine in a forested area of Iron and Ashland Counties.The Journal Sentinel reports that details of Assembly Bill 426 had been “kept under wraps for months,” leading to questions from environmentalists about who authored the legislation.
2. Detroit suburb rejects mass transit. The city council of one town in southeast Michigan rejected a proposal Monday to build a federally funded transportation center within its borders. The center in Troy, considered a key piece to a mass-transit system in metro Detroit, was voted down, 4-3. Opponents called the $8.5 million center a “waste of tax dollars,” according to the Detroit Free Press, although Troy would not have footed the bill. Earlier, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder sent a letter urging the council to support the proposal. Monday was the final day for a decision in order to complete the project by the Oct. 1, 2013 deadline set by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
3. Housing shows slight improvement. The homebuilding industry is showing modest improvement headed into 2012, according to analysts. The Associated Press reports that apartment construction and permits “surged” in November, jumping 9.3 percent from the previous month. It’s the highest level since April 2010. Still, the market remains troubled. Builders broke ground on a seasonally adjusted rate of 685,000 homes last month, but economists say a healthy housing market would produce 1.2 million homes each year. “While beginning to improve, a strong, sustained recovery in the housing market, especially the important single-family sector, is still a ways off,” Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics, tells the AP.