Flint writer publishes new book about the city’s downturn

BY DAVID NICHOLAS

Writer Gordon Young lives and works in San Francisco, but he was born and raised as I was, in Flint.

He is currently back in Michigan introducing his new book “Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City.”

We grew up within a few miles of each other; we both went to parish schools and wound up at the same high school, Flint Powers, graduating a year apart.

Even so, we never met, until this week, sitting down on the steps of the house once owned by auto pioneer Charles Nash. We were in Flint’s Carriage Town neighborhood, across the street from the Durant-Dort Office Building where General Motors was born, and steps away from GM’s Factory One, the very center of what was once one of the most powerful manufacturing centers in the world.

I asked Gordon how he wound up living her when he came back to Flint in 2009, then on a different quest, leaving with the stories that have become his book, “Teardown.”

Gordon Young is the author of “Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City.” It’s published by University of California Press.

I spoke with him, in our hometown, earlier this week.

Tonight from 6-7 PM, he will be at McLean and Eakin in Petoskey, part of their Yellow Chair Series. It is a free wine and cheese event, and reservations are encouraged.
For information or to make a reservation, (231)-347-1180.

McLean and Eakin is an underwriter of CMU Public Radio.

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State increases efforts to lure big events to Michigan

BY AMY ROBINSON

Corporate conferences may not be everyone’s idea of a great time, but Michigan officials are hoping that large conferences and sporting events will help fuel the state’s economy.

The state Economic Development Corporation, or MEDC, has established a new fund to attract national and multi-state events and conferences; things like the Final Four and large corporate conventions.  

Matinis Thompkins, is director of meetings and events for the MEDC.

He said this initiative is open to any Michigan community.

“It’s definitely open source, so for instance, I know that areas like Traverse City and some other areas up north, have an interest in the fund and have already submitted bids for money.  So it’s open to everybody you know, as long as they meet the basic criteria outlined in the release,” Thompkins said.

For the remainder of this fiscal year, the program, called, appropriately enough,  the “large special event fund” has set aside $500-thousand.  

After that, the program will provide a-million dollars in each of the next two fiscal years. 

State budget includes money to address health impacts from lead

BY ANTHONY RIZZO

More than $1 million will be included in this year’s state budget to address a persistent public health concern.

The state has earmarked $1.25 million to help keep Michigan children safe from the effects of lead exposure or lead poisoning.

Advocates expect the Department of Community Health to use the money to address the backlog of homes waiting to be made lead safe and for nursing and case management support for affected families.

Tina Reynolds is the Health Policy Director with the Michigan Environmental Council.

“This is money that Michigan is putting in, the state. These are general fund dollars. They state is saying, “you know it’s important; we’re going to help step in and fill the void from the federal dollars.” So it is definitely something we’re excited about. We’re looking at this as a stepping stone,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said the majority of funding had come from federal agencies in the past, but, she said, federal dollars have taken a hit in recent years.

Byrne believe to be found in Missouri

BY ANTHONY RIZZO

Police have confirmed that the remains of a man found in Missouri are that of a Big Rapids man who went missing over four months ago.

An autopsy confirmed the body to be that of Fred Byrne.

The 49-year-old Byrne went missing February 12th after dropping his son off at Hope College and visiting his mother.

Police said Byrne was planning to pick up a Valentine’s gift for his wife and then head home, but he never returned.

Byrne’s car was found in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri one day after he went missing.

His family said he had no ties to that area.

Today, police are not offering any further information about how Byrne died.

The autopsy revealed no evidence of criminal activity.

Supreme Court same-sex marriage rulings won’t immediately affect Michigan

BY JAKE NEHER
Michigan Public Radio Network

Michigan won’t see any immediate effects from Wednesdays Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage.

They could provide some momentum for groups trying to overturn the state’s gay marriage ban.

A federal judge said he’ll rule soon on a case dealing with same-sex adoptions in Michigan. But the decision could extend beyond adoption rights and address the state’s voter-approved ban on gay marriage. The judge said he wanted to wait until after the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act to decide the case.

Attorney Carole Stanyar is asking the court to extend joint adoption and marriage rights to same-sex couples in Michigan. She said the majority opinion on DOMA is a boost to their case.

“The same analysis that Justice Kennedy used in DOMA is what we have been using right along,” Stanvar said.

Gay rights activists in Michigan are also gearing up for a 2016 ballot campaign to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Copyright 2013, MPRN

SCOTUS marriage decision sets stage for gay rights fights in MI

BY RICK PLUTA
Michigan Public Radio Network

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on gay marriage don’t really change the legal status of same-sex couples in Michigan. In 2004, voters amended the Michigan Constitution to enact a sweeping ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions. There’s a lot happening on the issue in courts, the Legislature, and on the campaign trail.

The Supreme Court’s decision returns gay marriage battles to Michigan and the 34 other states that prohibit same-sex marriage.
    
Gay rights groups here have set their sights on November of 2016. That’s when they hope to run a ballot question to reverse the state’s gay marriage ban. 

“I believe the votes absolutely will be there in 2016 for us to repeal that constitutional ban,” Dievendorf said.

Emily Dievendorf of Equality Michigan said gay rights advocates will use the time to organize, fund-raise, and persuade.
 
“In just those years since the 2004 ban was put into place, there has been a complete reversal in terms of the public position on this issue,” Dievendorf said.

“We’re confident that the people of Michigan will continue to support what is best for society, what’s best for children, and that is to continue to define marriage constitutionally as only between one man and one woman,” Glenn said.

Gary Glenn of the American Family Association is one of the drafters of the Michigan amendment. Glenn said he does not believe public opinion is shifting to get behind same-sex marriage.

But a lot of politicians do. Democrats, in particular, see this as the moment to push for LGBT rights. Because Democrats are in the minority in Lansing, these proposals are more about making a point than a policy.

But, at a rally in Ann Arbor following the U.S. Supreme Court decision, state Representative Jeff Irwin said it’s an important point to make.

“What we still need to see progress on are equal rights for issues like adoption, equal rights for issues like benefits and employment,” Irwin said.
  
But the next big development in Michigan could take place in a federal court in Detroit. April DeBoer is asking Judge Bernard Friedman to grant her and her partner the right to jointly adopt the children they’re raising together. 

“As we’ve always said, this isn’t a case about our marriage. This is case about our children and the civil rights of our children, and we’re hoping that Judge Friedman has received the answers that he needs and the guidance and the guidance that he needs to overturn this, so that our children have the same rights as everybody else,” DeBoer said. 

But this case could be about more than just adoption rights. That’s because the judge opened the case to arguments on whether marriage is a fundamental right, that is, one that’s so basic it cannot be legislated away or denied by voters in an election.
  
So, Judge Friedman could rule just on Michigan’s adoption law. Or he could rule on the bigger question of Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban. And that could set the case on a path to the nation’s highest court.
 
Carole Stanyar is an attorney for DeBoer and her partner. She said they’re ready for that.

“The clients do want to help other people, and they would be willing to go the distance on this,” Stanvar said.

“And that may happen, and that will, perhaps, force the United States Supreme Court to address the merits of those issues,” Glenn said. 

Again, Gary Glenn of the American Family Association.

Judge Friedman has promised a quick decision now that the U.S. Supreme Court makes its rulings.

Copyright 2013, MPRN

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NRDC releases water quality report

BY DAVID NICHOLAS

Summertime at the beaches of Michigan’s Great Lakes brings out crowds almost as numerous as the grains of sand along the shorelines.

Those kinds of numbers can translate into pollution or contamination.

Earlier today in Traverse City, the Natural Resources Defense Council released its 2012 report, “Testing the Waters: A Guide to Water Quality.”

Karen Hobbs is an NRDC Senior Policy Analyst from the Chicago office.

She said the data is a summary from the EPA and individual states, data taken on beach monitoring, beach closings and swimming advisory decisions at more than 3,000 vacation beaches nationwide.  

The report does not cover inland lakes, but Hobbs said the Michigan numbers reflects 639 coastal beaches.

She said before going to the beach, you should be aware of how the testing is being done, is it accurate and timely?

“So a lot of beaches in Michigan are using “predictive modeling” so anticipating what the beach water quality will be tomorrow rather than current testing methods which really test the water a day late. So you might jump in the water today, but not find out until tomorrow that there was human or animal waste in the water,” Hobbs said.

The report is available on the NRDC web site, www.nrdc.org. You can search there for the “Testing the Waters” report, it has the national picture as well as the focus on the Great Lakes.

Hobbs said the site also provides information about consumers can lend their voice to elected officials to call for more rigorous testing and overall increased safe water practices and policies.