Bronson Healthcare Group wins best place for working mothers for the ninth time

BY CONSUELO MCABOY
As the number of mothers in the workplace continues to increase nationwide, a Kalamazoo organization is being honored as one of the 100 best companies for working mothers. 
Bronson Healthcare Group received this honor from the annual Working Mother Media competition. 
This is the ninth year that Bronson has been awarded this honor.
Bronson’s workforce is more than 80 percent female.
Monalisa Watson is the manager for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for Bronson. 
“It seems like now there are more working women more so than ever, and a lot of those working women are working mothers so it makes sense for Bronson, being one of the largest employers in southwest Michigan and the largest employer in the city of Kalamazoo, to make sure that we offer the type of benefits and opportunities to working mothers that attract the best and so we want to make sure that we have all those different components set in place.”
Watson said the company offers exercise programs, discounted gym memberships and a concierge service.
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Support overwhelming for southeast regional transit authority at committee hearing

BY JAKE NEHER
Michigan Public Radio Network
Supporters of a plan to create a regional transit authority in southeast Michigan say they’re confident lawmakers can make that happen soon. 
A state House committee heard from many supporters of the plan during a hearing.
County, city, and business leaders from southeast Michigan told the House Transportation Committee a transit plan for the region is long overdue. They say it would attract young talent and jobs to the metropolitan area.
 
State officials have tried many times to pass similar plans, with no success. But regional transit system director John Hertel said this time could be different.
“This is the first time there is support across the board from the city and the suburbs.”
Hertel’s still skeptical about the bill’s prospects in the Legislature. And although many southeast officials agree a transit authority should be created, they’re still wrangling over details about how to pull it off.
Copyright 2012, MPRN

Lawsuit says no emergency managers until after the election

BY RICK PLUTA
Michigan Public Radio Network
A lawsuit claims no state-appointed managers should be running Michigan cities or school districts until after voters determine the fate of the emergency manager law in November. The action was filed Thursday in Lansing by lawyers opposed to emergency managers. 
The lawsuit said Governor Rick Snyder lost the authority to name managers to run struggling cities or school districts once the referendum on Public Act Four was put on the November ballot. That suspended the law enacted last year, but the governor claims authority to name emergency financial managers, with less-sweeping powers, under the law that preceded it. 
That makes no sense, said attorney John Philo.
“Something strikes me as very wrong about that. The presumption should be that until the people decide, we go back to our standard form of government, which is elected officials.” 
There are seven Michigan cities and school districts being run by state-appointed financial managers. The lawsuit said those managers should be ordered to step down and turn their operations over to mayors, city councils, and school boards. 
Copyright 2012, MPRN

Schuette orders audit of Blue Cross assets

BY RICK PLUTA
Michigan Public Radio Network
Hearings continued Thursday at the state Capitol on the future of Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Michigan. Attorney General Bill Schuette showed up to urge a cautious approach to overhauling the state’s largest health insurer. 
The attorney general would give up a considerable amount of oversight under the plan proposed by Governor Rick Snyder. It would convert Blue Cross from a tax-exempt charity to a member-owned not-for-profit company. Bill Schuette said he wants Blue Cross and its assets audited to make sure this is a fair deal for Michiganders. 
Schuette said he’s not out to stop the changes. 
“All I’m doing is raising some cautionary flags for people to think about to make sure this is done right, and that’s my job as attorney general.” 
Governor Snyder and Blue Cross executives want the switch done by the end of the year. They say the changes are needed because the new federal health care law will change the mission of the Blues.
Copyright 2012, MPRN

Midland provides a safe community for youth through education and community involvement

BY CONSUELO MCABOY
Midland was recently honored for being one of the 100 best communities in the nation for youth.
This is the fifth time the community has won the award.
Consuelo McAboy visited the area to learn what makes Midland a great community for young people.
“United States population is approximately 310 million people. Okay so you guys let’s put that into perspective…” 
Cheering for a fellow student, engaging in deep conversation and enjoying each moment of class, those are the sounds of Monique Albright’s sociology class at Midland High school. 
Albright has been teaching there for 16 years. She said the thing the school does the most is…
“…we encourage, encourage, encourage. We also encourage that it’s not just four year degrees. It is go to technical school, go to cosmetology school, you need to go beyond high school. There are things out there for you and education is going to be key to the success in your life.”
The graduation rate for Midland High School is around 90 percent, well above the national average of 72%. 
Amy Hutchinson is the Assistant Principal. She said the school has programs in place to curb dropout rates. 
“There are lots of reasons why students don’t stay in school. A lot of it has to do with home, a lot of it has to do with attendance so those are areas of intervention as well. We monitor attendance closely. We work with our court system and our probation officers and our youth intervention specialist as partners to help these kids get through.”
The school has created specific career pathways to encourage students to continue learning after they receive their diploma. 
Walking through the halls of Midland high school, I passed a number of students, all involved in different clubs, organizations and seeking different career paths. 
“There’s a wide variety of things you can do from drama club to sports to programming club, and basically like there’s a thing for everybody here.”
“There’s a big sense of community here and my group of friends in my class especially is really close knit and another thing that I like is it’s kind of cool to be smart.”
The “cool to be smart” idea that senior, Gracie Potter described, is why the school offers the IB diploma program. 
It’s a two year program that is recognized around the world for its challenging and rigorous curriculum.
But, providing an intriguing community for youth goes beyond the high school walls. 
The community of Midland has a number of community outreach programs, designed especially for kids.
Jennifer Heronema is the C.E.O of the Legacy Center for Community Success. 
The foundation works with youth to combat the challenges they face. 
“We also have a youth development component that looks at some of the challenges youth face. Adolescents don’t think like us adults and that’s true because their brains aren’t as far along as ours. They may be willing as they try to deal with the challenges of growing up and they take risks. What we’re talking about is the risk of doing drugs or turning to alcohol or having sex at a very young age and violent behavior and those things that we’re trying to look at…”
Heronema said the city also offers the Youth Action council and Community Center, providing kids with more outside opportunities. 
Kevin Heye is the Executive Director for the Community Center. He said the facility is family focused. 
“There’s something for everyone whether it’s just dropping in for the day for a family getaway or more of a recreational program or even some of our competitive programs that we offer too.”
Heye said Midland’s success throughout the years is the result of community collaboration and the unique leadership opportunities the city offers to its youth. 

What ever happened to the Farm Bill?

Congress’s failure to pass a new Farm Bill has many wondering what will happen to agriculture programs in Michigan.
John Crabtree is with the Center for Rural Affairs. He said some programs included in the farm bill are critical to future generations of farmers, including ones that help with the purchase of land…
“The ability to purchase or even rent land can be prohibitively expensive, and, you know, we’re not doing enough to create opportunities for the next generation to get in.”
The Farm Bill is set to expire in less than a week, and there is little chance of Congress taking action before the November election.
When the bill expires, some programs will remain in place, including food stamp provisions.

Several mayors urge Legislature to kill handgun bill

BY JAKE NEHER
Michigan Public Radio Network
Eight Michigan mayors are urging the state Legislature to reject a measure that would make it easier for people to buy handguns. 
The coalition of mayors sent a letter this week to Senate and House leadership and to Governor Rick Snyder. It said a package of bills making its way through the Legislature would add to the difficulties of police trying to protect communities. The group includes the mayors of Detroit, Flint, Ann Arbor, and Dearborn. 
The legislation would no longer require a person to license a handgun before buying or carrying it. It would also get rid of a registry keeping track of the criminal backgrounds of handgun owners.
Critics of the proposal say there should be background checks on people who buy firearms gun shows, over the internet, or from private individuals. They say those account for nearly half of all guns purchased in the state. 
The House passed the bills in June. It’s not clear whether the Senate will take it up this year. 
Copyright 2012, MPRN