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Community
1:59 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Mostly Positive Reaction to State of Union at Clean Water Action Viewing Party

People concerned about climate change watching the State of the Union address at Arbor Brewing Company Tuesday night gave President Barack Obama generally positive reviews. 

Clean Water Action hosted about 25 people at a viewing party. 

Eric Keller is an campaign organizer for the group.  Keller says he likes the fact Obama outlined ways he will bypass congressional gridlock.  He gave Obama high marks for re-affirming that the climate change debate is over and calling on reduction in carbon.

Eric Harrington however says he was disappointed.  Of particular concern to him was Obama promoting natural gas.  Harrington says overall Obama could have done a lot more to get us to the place we need to be going.

Veteran Jordan Paul Redwine missed the beginning of the speech but says he was particularly touched by Cory Remsburg being recognized at the end of the address.

Obama also received applause for comments regarding unemployment insurance, a hike in minimum wage, health care, and supporting veterans.

— Andrew Cluley is the Ann Arbor beat reporter, and anchor for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him acluley@emich.edu.

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Ann Arbor
7:18 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

University of MIchigan Cancels Classes for first time since 1978

Credit University of Michigan

The University of Michigan Tuesday canceled classes for the first time in 36 years.  School officials based the decision on the extremely low temperatures forecast, and the danger they pose to students traveling across campus to attend classes.     University of  Michigan spokesperson Rick Fitzgerald says other parts of the university, such as the Health System, remained open. The cancelation of classes was a departure from Michigans's controversial decision earlier this month to remain open during a similar cold spell.

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Community
2:08 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

U-M Program Receives Award for International Education

Credit umji.sjtu.edu.cn/ / University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute

A University of Michigan program that sends engineering students to China has picked up one of the highest honors in international higher education. 

The University of Michigan-Shanghai Jiao Tong University Joint Institute has won an Andrew Heiskell Award from the Institute of International Education. 

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News
6:54 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

SCHOOL CLOSINGS: Washtenaw County and Surrounding Counties - Tuesday, January 28th

Credit WEMU-FM

Sub-zero temperatures and  frigid wind chills have once again forced school districts throughout the region to cancel classes on Tuesday, January 28th.

A complete listing for Washtenaw, Lenawee, Livingston, Monroe, Oakland and Wayne Counties is available to you here.

Listen to 89.1 WEMU for latest developments throughout the evening.

SEE ALSO:

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Ann Arbor
11:27 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Ann Arbor Non-Profit gets $25,000 from Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan

Credit Girls Group.org

  A local non-profit that helps young women in middle and high school become first-generation college students has received a $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Southeast Michigan. 

Girls Group provides assistance such as help with homework, ACT preparation and filling out college applications. 

Executive Director Sue Schooner says a pilot program in Pioneer High School has Girls Group visiting every week to offer help.

Girls Group is based in Ann Arbor, and since it's creation in 2003, all of it's high school seniors - 51 of them - have graduated from high school and gone on to college.

— Bob Eccles is a reporter and the host of 89.1 WEMU's All Things Considered. Contact him at 734.487.3363, email him reccles@emich.edu, or follow him on Twitter @BobEcclesWEMU

 

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Community
12:18 am
Mon January 27, 2014

Ann Arbor City Council Likely Revisiting Crosswalk Ordinance

Credit matthileo / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Ann Arbor City Council soon may be once more looking at revisions to the city's crosswalk ordinance. 

Council member Stephen Kunselman says another proposed amendment is likely.  He adds that the new proposal will be based on language used by Mayor John Hieftje in his veto of the amendment council passed late last year.  Kunselman says the mayor mentioning motorists need to stop if they can do so safely is a change.

Hiefjte says the comment about motorists stopping if they can safely do so is nothing new.  He says pedestrians remain safer if they don't have to step into the road to get motorists to stop. 

The city also has a new task force looking at a wide variety of pedestrian safety issues including the crosswalk ordinance.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor City Council likely taking yet another look at the city's crosswalk ordinance.

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University of Michigan
12:52 pm
Fri January 24, 2014

U-M's New President Mark Schlissel on the Role of the University Beyond Campus [AUDIO]

Mark Schlissel address the audience at the University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting Friday
Credit Screenshot/ University of Michigan live stream

The University of Michigan has named Dr. Mark Schlissel as the school's 14th  President.

On a unanimous vote this morning the University of Michigan Board of Regents, chose to hire Brown University Provost, Dr. Mark Schlissel to serve as Mary Sue Coleman's successor. 

RELATED STORY: U of M Names Schlissel as 14th President - Full speech here

 Schlissel comes to the U of M from Brown University where he has been provost since July of 2011. Prior to working at Brown, he served as Dean of Biological Sciences in the College of Letters and Science at the University of California–Berkeley. Schlissel says the health of the university is connected to the community and the entire state of Michigan.  He says the Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign will be important to maintain the university's high quality programs.

Schlissel says the breadth of academic excellence and the openness and accessibility of a public university made U of M one of the tiny handful of places that would make him consider leaving Brown University.  He says academic excellence and diversity are linked.  Schlissel says that's because students can learn from other students that look at the world differently.

 Schlissel will begin serving on July first, following the official retirement of current president Mary Sue Coleman.  He says he will make frequent trips to Ann Arbor over the next several months to learn more about the challenges and opportunities he will face when starting work at Michigan.

 Coleman says she's thrilled the regents have chosen another biochemist to serve as president.  She says Schlissel will soon see being the President of the University of Michigan is the best job in the world. — Andrew Cluley is the Ann Arbor beat reporter, and anchor for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him acluley@emich.edu.

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Safety
7:15 am
Fri January 24, 2014

Extreme Cold Weather Safety Tips for Washtenaw County

Credit Flickr/ Creative Commons/Brixton

Sub-zero temperatures and  frigid wind chills have once again forced many schools to close throughout the region. The record cold temperatures may cause many in the WEMU listening area to develop cold-weather injuries like frostbite and hypothermia.

For road conditions and frequent weather updates, stay tuned to 89.1 WEMU for the latest developments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted its tips on how to be "prepared to stay safe and healthy in winter." For instance, if you have to go outside be sure to do what mom always said:

 

"Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: layers of light, warm clothing; mittens; hats; scarves; and waterproof boots."

We simply suggest: Stay inside if you can.

Cold weather safety tips include: 

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Education
7:47 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

Ann Arbor Public Schools Prepare for New Federal Food Guidelines

Credit Cali4beach / Foter.com / CC BY

Ann Arbor Public Schools officials continue to work with principals, PTO councils, and others to prepare schools for new federal food guidelines.  Starting in July all food sold in schools during the school day need their first ingredient be a whole grain, fruit, vegetable, or protein.  The new guidelines are designed to promote healthy eating habits for all kids across the country. 

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on steps Ann Arbor Public Schools are taking to be prepared for new federal guidelines on food sold in schools that go into effect July 1st.

SEE ALSO: Ann Arbor Public Schools Avoid Borrowing to Meet Cash Flow Concerns in December

Jenna Bacolor, chair of the district's Wellness Committee says they hope discussions now will help avoid headaches at the start of next school year.

Bacolor adds that unfortunately, the federal government and state haven't announced all of the final rules so some questions remain, particularly around exemptions for food sold through fundraisers. 

The new guidelines don't apply to food brought to schools by students.

SEE ALSO: Cash Or Credit? How Kids Pay For School Lunch Matters For Health

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Education
5:34 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Ann Arbor School Board Tells Superintendent to Bring Forward Proposed Program Enhancements

The Ann Arbor School Board has asked administrators to move ahead with a series of program enhancements for the next school year in an effort to better fill the district’s buildings.

The improvements include a K-8 Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics program at Northside Elementary, pre-school programs at Allen and Thurston Elementary Schools, and co-location of a variety of alternative High School programs at the Stone School building.

Superintendent Jeanice Swift says the programs came from community comments raised during her Listen and Learn tour and staff did enough prep work so they can be ready this fall.

The board is expected to get more complete reports on the program enhancements at their meeting next week and could vote on them with two weeks.

School Board President Deb Mexicotte says the quick turn-around should work since the controversial issues like co-locating Roberto Clemente and Ann Arbor Tech have been worked on by the district over the last few years.  She says most of the other changes come directly from what the community asked for repeatedly during the Listen and Learn tour.   Mexicotte says the district is finding ways to respond quickly to community needs without additional funding.

The programs were part of seven next steps Superintendent Jeanice Swift made as part of her report on the listen and learn tour.  Swift gave her initial report on the tour at the board retreat.  The report will be available online at the district’s website Friday and Swift will hold public meetings to get feedback starting Tuesday at Clague Middle School.

At the retreat the board also worked on establishing board and superintendent goals, and discussed the superintendent evaluation.

Mexicotte says it’s great to see that the program enhancements being considered work toward achieving many of the board’s goals.  She says this shows the board’s goals are aligned with want the community wants to see from the district.

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Education
11:05 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Ann Arbor School Board Hears Initial Report From Superintendent Swift on Listen and Learn Tour

Ann Arbor Public Schools Superintendent Jeanice Swift has given the school board an initial report from her Listen and Learn tour.  

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Community
3:14 am
Wed January 22, 2014

Ann Arbor City Council Gives Approval to Move Forward With Downtown Zoning Changes

Ann Arbor City Council has passed a resolution asking the planning commission to move forward with some zoning changes on the edge of downtown. 

Council unanimously passed the resolution Tuesday night after asking the planning commission to also make suggestions on possible zoning changes for other downtown areas. 

Council member Sabra Briere says a lot of hard work remains on what core design guidelines should be considered for developers to be eligible to build larger projects.

Briere says the request for planning commission to review areas such as South University, Thayer, and Ann is in response to concerns raised by the community that the initial review was too limited.
She says the consultant that worked on the project and the planning commission noted this desire by the community to expand the scope of the project, but the planning commission's final recommendation was limited to the original council request.

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Community
11:53 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

14 Story Apartment Project for Church Street Approved by Ann Arbor City Council

Ann Arbor City Council has approved the site plan and development agreement for an apartment building at 624 Church Street.  The proposal is for a 14 story apartment building built partially over the Pizza House Restaurant.  The plan calls for 232 bedrooms in 123 units. 

The project has been given positive reviews from the city’s Design Review Board but parking issues led to a lengthy conversation at the council table.  The concerns centered around having spaces reserved in the Forest Avenue parking structure for the next 15 years, and three five year extensions to have spaces somewhere in the city’s parking system. 

Council members say the city’s payment in lieu of parking program needs to be reviewed, as well as the requirement for parking at downtown developments. 

The developers of the project hope to begin work in the spring with a targeted occupancy date in August of 2015.

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Ann Arbor
2:13 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Michigan's Black Student Union says Lack of Contact from the University is Unacceptable

Credit @THEBSU/Twitter

The University of Michigan's Black Student Union says it's unacceptable that it has not yet been contacted by the university regarding seven demands presented Monday by the Union and the group Being Black at U-of-M. 

Geralyn Gaines is Secretary of the Black Student Union, which has threatened "physical actions" if its demands are not met in seven days. She says the actions will be non-violent, but declined to be more specific.

The demands made Monday include making affordable housing for low-income students available on the main campus, giving black students experiencing financial difficulty emergency scholarships, improving the university's multicultural center, and giving black students an equal chance to effect change. 

The group’s full demand:

  • We demand that the university give us an equal opportunity to implement change, the change that complete restoration of the BSU purchasing power through an increased budget would obtain.
  • We demand available housing on central campus for those of lower socio-economic status at a rate that students can afford, to be a part of university life, and not just on the periphery.
  • We demand an opportunity to congregate and share our experiences in a new Trotter [Multicultural Center] located on central campus.
  • We demand an opportunity to be educated and to educate about America’s historical treatment and marginalization of colored groups through race and ethnicity requirements throughout all schools and colleges within the university.
  • We demand the equal opportunity to succeed with emergency scholarships for black students in need of financial support, without the mental anxiety of not being able to focus on and afford the university's academic life.
  • We demand increased exposure of all documents within the Bentley (Historical) Library. There should be transparency about the university and its past dealings with race relations.
  • We demand an increase in black representation on this campus equal to 10 percent.

University Provost Martha Pollack said Monday the school is focusing on three areas: Improving the Trotter Multicultural Center, improving the climate on campus, and increasing enrollment of under-represented minorities as allowed by law. 

Gaines says the Provost's comments were "comforting," but fall short of what the Black Student Union expects from the university.

— Bob Eccles is a reporter and the host of 89.1 WEMU's All Things Considered. Contact him at 734.487.3363, email him reccles@emich.edu, or follow him on Twitter @BobEcclesWEMU

12:14 pm
Tue January 21, 2014

Answer This! Screening

Lead in text: 
Sunday, January 26 at 7 PM. A special fundraising screening with proceeds to benefit Food Gatherers and the Michigan Theater. Brothers and Ann Arbor natives Chris and Mike Farah shot Answer This! in Ann Arbor in 2009 and the film had its world premiere in 2010; this special screening will also include a Q&A about the Farahs’ new Discovery Channel TV project, currently filming in Detroit.
Advance tickets at ticketweb.com.
Schools
12:09 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Ann Arbor Public Schools Avoid Borrowing to Meet Cash Flow Concerns in December

Credit Jesse f/2.8 / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Ann Arbor Public Schools planned to borrow money up to three times during the school year to address cash flow issues caused by a smaller fund balance than in previous years.  The district has now made it through two of the three months that were most likely to require borrowing without needing to seek outside cash. 

SEE ALSO: Ann Arbor Public Schools Parents Hopeful for Return of Tuition Based Pre-School

Chief Financial Officer Nancy Hoover says the planned use of $1.7 million in fund balance this school year, means they may still need to borrow money in June.
 
Hoover adds, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District helped the district avoid the need to borrow money in December by making a bill for transportation services not due until this month. The city of Ann Arbor also helped the district avoid the need for borrowing in December by quickly remitting some of the taxes they collect for the district. 

Hoover says the district's budget included spending $200,000 in interest payments which most of these have now been avoided.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor Public Schools not needing to borrow money last month despite concerns about cash flow issues caused by a smaller fund balance than in recent years.

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Community
12:04 am
Mon January 20, 2014

Report Shows Impact of $90 Million from Washtenaw County Non-Profits

NONPROFIT ECONOMIC IMPACT REPORT 2013

A new Washtenaw County study says a local investment of $4.4 million in non-profit agencies has an economic impact of over $90 million.  The non-profits provide assistance to the community well beyond the direct help individuals receive. 

SEE ALSO: Washtenaw County Looking At Adding Program to Help Businesses

Director of the Office of Community and Economic Development, Mary Jo Callan says unfortunately non-profits as a sector are underfunded and it will take more than government action to solve the funding problems.

“This report provides a clear justification for the continued investment in our local nonprofit sector – in addition to providing critical services to vulnerable residents, these small businesses save taxpayers money by preventing the need for costlier government services and impact our local economy through their direct employment and purchasing power.” -Mary Jo Callan, Director of the Office of Community & Economic Development for Washtenaw County

Callan adds that benefits non-profits provide the community include bringing in 10 dollars of outside funding for every 1 dollar of local funds, stabilizing the local work force, jobs, and spending money at local businesses.  She says this assistance is needed as the economic recovery continues to not reach lower income residents.

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on a new study of the economic impact from an investment in Washtenaw County non-profit agencies.

Read the full 2013 Nonprofit Economic Impact Report.

— Andrew Cluley is the Ann Arbor beat reporter, and anchor for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him acluley@emich.edu.

Education
3:32 am
Thu January 16, 2014

Ann Arbor School Board Votes to Open 750 School of Choice Seats for 2014-15 School Year

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on Ann Arbor Public Schools opening up 750 seats for school of choice students from other Washtenaw County school districts.

Up to 5% of Ann Arbor Public Schools students in the fall could be coming to the district from other school districts in Washtenaw County.  The school board Wednesday night voted unanimously to open 750 school of choice seats for out of district students. 

Superintendent Jeanice Swift says the jump in school of choice seats is one of several efforts to better fill the district's classrooms.

The district has increased the number of school of choice students attending in each of the last four years, but never has filled all of the available seats. 

To help fill the spaces this year the district is planning a marketing campaign and district officials hope having spaces in all grades except the last two years of high school will help attract families with multiple children.

School of choice applications will be accepted March third through April first.  From Friday through February 14th the district will accept applications for in-district school of choice for students who don't want to attend the school where they live.

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Education
3:26 am
Thu January 16, 2014

Ann Arbor Public Schools Catalog of Online Classes Approved

WEMU's Andrew Cluley reports on the Ann Arbor School Board approving the catalog for online classes available to district students through the Ann Arbor Virtual Academy, and opening one class to a limited number of students from other districts.

Ann Arbor Public Schools will offer over 225 online classes to middle school and high school students this semester. 

The school board Wednesday night approved the district's virtual academy's catalog, and also approved opening ten seats in one algebra class to students from other districts. 

School board member Christine Stead says new state laws regarding online learning are yet another unfunded mandate, but the district is working to make the best of the changes.

District officials are hoping to learn a lot from offering the single algebra class to students from other districts.  They expect to have many more online classes available to students from other districts in the fall. 

Superintendent Jeanice Swift says with the uncertainties around new state laws about online classes every district in Michigan is facing similar challenges.

The deadline for registering for online classes this semester is January 22nd with classes starting one week later.

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Education
3:20 am
Thu January 16, 2014

Ann Arbor School Board Keeps Same Officers

The Ann Arbor School Board is maintaining the same leadership positions as last year. 

The board held its organizational meeting Wednesday night and President Deb Mexicotte was unanimously re-elected.  Christine Stead will remain vice-president, Andy Thomas continues as secretary, and Glenn Nelson is still the treasurer. 

Mexicotte says with the new superintendent in place and program changes to be considered the board wanted to maintain some stability in an area that's working well.

The board also made no changes to standing committee assignments.  However the future of an ad-hoc committee investigating options around a possible recreation millage is up in the air after they present their report in two weeks.

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