29 September 2014


Original Story: freep.com

Detroit's bankruptcy judge today said he lacked the authority to issue a restraining order to stop water shutoffs over delinquent bills, saying that there is no constitutional right to water and a moratorium would be a financial hit to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

"Chapter 9 strictly limits the courts' power in a bankruptcy case," U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes said as he read a ruling from the bench this morning.

While Rhodes' ruling made it clear he understood the scope of the problem of water shutoffs in a city with deep poverty, he said the plaintiffs in the case — advocates including Moratorium Now, the Peoples Water Board and the National Action Network — did not make the case that a six-month moratorium was necessary or within his powers.

He also noted that Detroit and Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties are in the process of approving a new Great Lakes Water Authority under which Detroit would maintain ownership of the region's water and sewer system but lease the pipes that largely serve the suburbs, in exchange for $50 million a year for 40 years dedicated to fixing aging water and sewer lines.

Given that Detroit is in bankruptcy and under intense pressure to make every operation in the city as cost-effective and efficient as possible, "the last thing it needs is this hit to its revenues," Rhodes said.

Alice Jennings, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs who sought a moratorium on water shutoffs, said she is disappointed in Rhodes' ruling and will look to appeal his decision.

"No one ever said the water had to be free," Jennings said. "Our position is the water had to be affordable. We're still looking for affordable water."

Jennings said the most important part of Rhodes' ruling was his admission cutting off water service causes irreparable harm. Jennings pointed out the city does not have specific data on how often water has been cut off at homes with children or disabled people.

Jennings said federal mediators and the state came up with a plan to save art at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Why not a plan to save people without access to affordable water, she asked.

"We need to evaluate how many people are without water and the safety and health risks involved," she said. "Come up with the grand bargain to save the health and safety of the children and seniors."

The testimony came this morning in the hearings on Detroit's bid to get out of bankruptcy.

Rhodes also is likely to hear updates from city lawyers about the agreement reached last week to keep emergency manager Kevyn Orr on the job until the bankruptcy exit strategy is approved, yet restore power to run city government to Mayor Mike Duggan and the City Council.

During a meeting of the city's financial advisory board on Friday, Orr outlined the arrangement that will keep him in charge of shepherding Detroit through the final stages of its bankruptcy.

Orr will technically remain emergency manager until the plan of adjustment is confirmed, but he relinquished control of city government back to elected officials in a deal announced Thursday. Without the powers of emergency manager, he told the board, it wasn't clear he'd have the authority to conclude bond deals crucial to the city emerging from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Orr said he expects testimony to last only a couple more weeks.

"Hopefully sometime between the end of the trial and Thanksgiving we'll have a final ruling," Orr told the board.

Orr is among the next four witnesses Jones Day lawyers for the city plan to call this week. An amended witness list the city filed last week said that, before Orr appears on the stand — for what's likely to be some of the most critical testimony of the case — the city plans to call:

■ Gaurav Malhotra, a managing partner at the accounting firm Ernst & Young's Chicago office, who has been a key financial adviser to the city.

■ Ken Buckfire of Miller Buckfire, the investment banker who has been advising Detroit on matters like creation of a regional water authority.

■ James Doak, a managing director at Miller Buckfire.

Rhodes said last week, after a day and a half of testimony on the water shutoffs, that he would issue a ruling this morning.

Advocacy groups who sought a moratorium on shutoffs testified last week that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department's policies of mass shutoffs — 19,000 in recent months — are leaving low-income households with seniors and children without water service.

They asked Rhodes to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the shutoffs until the city can come up with a better way to address the unaffordability of water service in a city where more than half of households live at or below 150% of the federal poverty level.

Also last week, Rhodes agreed to hear an appeal from labor activist Robert Davis. He asked the judge for permission to file a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court on allegations that the Detroit council illegally met in closed session to debate the agreement that keeps Orr on to manage the bankruptcy.


Original Story: freep.com

General Motors is warning Chevrolet Corvette buyers and owners not to use one of the car's most exotic high-tech features because it could inadvertently result in committing a crime in some states.

The feature involves "Valet Mode," an aspect of the Performance Data Recorder in the 2015 Corvette. It allows owners to secretly record conversations in their cars and performance data when they're not along for the ride, such as when the car is being parked by a valet.

GM has apparently discovered that secret recordings are illegal in many states.

A notice to dealers explaining the problem was posted last week on CorvetteForum.com, a website for Corvette owners. It says GM is working on a software update, due next month, that should take care of the problem.

In the meantime, the notice says, "You must advise any customers who take delivery of an impacted vehicle that they should refrain from using Valet Mode until the update takes place."

If they choose to use it anyway, they need to make sure anyone in the car is aware their conversations will be recorded and make sure that their consent is obtained.

The notice says that Corvette owners are being contacted.

Besides recording conversations, Valet Mode also shows how the car was driven while in the hands of another. It disables the entertainment system and locks storage compartments to deter thefts. Valet Mode is just one part of the Performance Data Recorder, which has the main purpose of being a fun way for owners to make video and audio recordings of their more exhilarating drives in a Corvette, including their choice of some of the car's performance indicators.


Original Story: detroitnews.com

General Motors Co. said Friday it has named John K. Blanchard, director of local government relations for the U.S. since 2011, to immediately serve as its lead executive for GM’s initiatives in Detroit and Southeast Michigan. He will serve as the company’s single point contact in GM’s efforts to help revitalize Detroit.

Blanchard, 52, represents GM on many boards including the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Detroit Economic Growth Corp., Automation Alley and will be recommended to serve as GM’s representative to the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

“As a life-long resident of Michigan, John understands Detroit well,” Bob Ferguson, senior vice president for GM’s global public policy, said in a statement. “Having John lead our efforts will ensure the company has an even greater impact in helping rebuild Detroit.”

Blanchard has worked for GM since 1983, joining the company as a financial analyst. He has worked in GM’s corporate finance division, led the company’s worldwide real estate group and helped oversee redevelopment of GM’s headquarters at the Renaissance Center.


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Chrysler Group LLC CEO and Chairman Sergio Marchionne are optimistic the formation of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will be beneficial for the U.S. and Italy.

Renzi, who was given a tour of Chrysler's Auburn Hills headquarters Friday by Marchionne, said he sees the creation of the new company as an opportunity for his country's automotive industry to compete on a global scale.

"Globalization is not a monster," he said in Italian through a translator during a press conference before addressing about 200 employees. "It is the greatest opportunity for Italy."

The U.S. has already reaped many benefits from Fiat SpA taking a stake in Chrysler as part of the automotive bailout in June 2009, including more than $5.3 billion in new investments and nearly 27,800 new jobs. Many of those investments and jobs have benefited Michigan.

Since announcing aspirations to create FCA in January, Marchionne has continually touted that integrating Chrysler and Fiat to create the world's seventh-largest automaker would be beneficial for both companies and countries. Fiat fully acquired Chrysler as part of a $4.35 billion deal with the United Auto Workers union trust fund that pays health care bills for retirees.

Marchionne, who also serves as CEO of Fiat, confirmed the company still plans to list FCA on the New York Stock Exchange on Columbus Day, Oct. 13.

"Columbus Day, for us, will be the beginning of a new world, a new era," he told employees through a translator.

FCA, Marchionne said, is a global company "not just in numbers, but in spirit," thanks to the combined reach of Fiat and Chrysler.

Renzi's visit to Chrysler's headquarters is the most recent sign of the growing connection between Italy and Michigan thanks to FCA, which is registered in the Netherlands and recently announced a headquarters in London's affluent West End business district.

The London headquarters was chosen for tax purposes and to avoid political controversy in the automakers' current home countries. Chrysler — founded in the U.S. in 1925 — was part of the $85 billion automotive bailout using U.S. taxpayer money, and Fiat was founded in Italy in 1899.

Marchionne and Renzi both downplayed the significance of where the headquarters is located.

"My only great concern is to reduce the number of people that don't have work in Italy," he said, adding Fiat is a "historic" and "great" company for Italy.

Italy's unemployment level is at more than 12 percent. That compares to U.S. unemployment at 6.1 percent in August.

Renzi compared his country's current employment problems to what the U.S. automotive industry went through in 2009, when Chrysler and crosstown rival General Motors Co. were forced into government-backed bankruptcies. He said he hopes his country can come out as well as Chrysler has in the U.S.

"I continue to believe that the best times are yet to come," he said.

This was Renzi's first visit to Chrysler's headquarters. It ends a five-day trip for the 39-year-old prime minister to the U.S. that also included visits to California and New York.


Original Story: detroitnews.com

Toledo, Ohio — A federal agency that has resisted calls to stop depositing tons of mud and soil in western Lake Erie said new research shows that the dumping isn’t contributing to the rising number of harmful algae outbreaks in recent few years.

The study released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that silt dumped into the lake isn’t a primary source of the phosphorus that feeds the algae, which produces toxins that this summer fouled the tap water for 400,000 people in Ohio and southeastern Michigan.

Environmental regulators and political leaders in Ohio have been trying to stop the dumping since the 1980s, arguing that it harms water quality and fish in the lake. The Army Corps has maintained that it’s safe and much cheaper to dump the sediment into the lake than storing it.

Researchers believe as much as two-thirds of the phosphorus in Lake Erie comes from farm fertilizers and livestock manure. Some also comes from sewage treatment plants and leaking septic tanks.

But many environmental groups also have long suspected there was a connection between the increasing algae growth and the dumping of silt in the western end of the lake.

Two members of Ohio’s congressional delegation proposed legislation last week that would force the Army Corps to end dumping sediment from Great Lakes shipping channels into the open water.

A day later, the Army Corps released the results of the 18-month study conducted by two outside engineering consulting firms that concluded dumping dredged sediment in the lake had no measurable impact on the amount of phosphorus in the water.

Two of the main backers of the federal bill — Republican Bob Latta and Democrat Marcy Kaptur, both of northwestern Ohio — said through their offices that the Army Corps’ study did not change their view that the dumping should be stopped.

Latta said that while coming up with the legislation he spoke with a number of experts about what causes the algae growth.

“Preventing the discharge of dredged materials is just one piece of the puzzle,” he said in a statement. “The goal of this legislation is not to shut down or slow navigation channels, but rather implement best management practices for our Great Lakes.”

Kristy Meyer, of the Ohio Environmental Council, said that while depositing sediment in the lake isn’t a main cause of the algae problem, ending the practice will help. There are other environmental reasons to consider as well, she said, including water quality and how dumping affects fish.

Pressure to stop the dumping had been increasing even before Toledo’s water supply was contaminated for two days in early August.

State lawmakers this past spring approved spending $10 million to research alternative uses for the silt dredged from northern Ohio’s harbors. Silt is usually stored because of the costs involved in putting it to a new use. The Army Corps and Ohio’s Environmental Protection Agency pledged to work together on finding new uses.

Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler has set a goal of significantly reducing or eliminating the dumping of sediment dredged from Toledo’s harbor within five years.

Around the Great Lakes, Minnesota and Wisconsin have laws prohibiting nearly all open-water dumping while some other states have taken steps to reduce it.

19 September 2014


Original Story: NYTimes.com

WARREN, Mich. — In December, the sprawling, four million-square-foot factory here where workers assemble Ram pickup trucks, along conveyors that weave for more than 30 miles, suddenly went quiet.

Thousands of workers looked on where a makeshift stage, draped in black, had been assembled. Sergio Marchionne, Chrysler Group’s chairman and chief executive, stepped up to address the crowd.

In the dark days of Chrysler’s bankruptcy — when the company barely escaped extinction thanks to a taxpayer bailout and the purchase by Mr. Marchionne’s Fiat of a major stake, which later turned into ownership — such a staged display and work stoppage could have meant trouble. But not this time.

Mr. Marchionne was there to acknowledge an industry award for the truck, but, more important, to convey a simple message to the workers: well done.

“Today I wanted to come to Warren to personally thank all of you,” he said, and in his signature style joked about the criticism that followed his decision in 2009 to create the stand-alone Ram division. “The skeptics, who were already predicting our company was going down the tubes, thought for sure that we’d been smoking something funny.”

In 2009, when Ram was carved out from Dodge into a stand-alone division, it was a big gamble — and far from a sure thing. Some industry critics scoffed at the idea of a brand dedicated to pickup trucks. Others were puzzled: After the bailouts, the trend was to consolidate brands to streamline automakers’ offerings, but Chrysler was adding a new one.

Five years later, the verdict is in: The gamble paid off. Ram trucks have captured an ever-greater share of the full-size pickup market dominated in the past by General Motors and Ford, and are on track to seize even more. By adding innovative features not found in other pickups, and aggressive pricing to lure truck buyers, who are among the most loyal in the automotive business, Chrysler’s Ram has managed to go from also-ran to a threat in only a few years.

Here in Warren, the plant is now churning out Ram pickups 20 hours a day, six days a week, with occasional Sundays — barely able to keep up with demand.

In the fourth quarter of 2009, when the new Ram division’s trucks were hitting the streets, the company eked out a paltry 11 percent of the market share for full-size trucks. The two other Detroit automakers were lapping Chrysler around the track, with shares of 42 percent for G.M. and 37 percent for Ford. Since then Ram has conquered more and more of the market every year. In August, when sales surged 33 percent over a year earlier, Ram commanded 21 percent of full-size pickup purchases in the United States.

Most of that success has come at the expense of G.M.’s Chevrolet Silverado pickup, which despite its own recent redesign has lost market share this year. Ford’s F-Series pickups remain the overall market leader, but their sales have also dipped this summer as the automaker prepares to introduce a new generation of trucks made with an aluminum body.

Reid Bigland, Chrysler’s head of United States sales and head of the Ram division from April 2013 to last month, said that what made the new division different was an intense focus on pickups, which under the Dodge umbrella and its muscle-car heritage had never quite received their due.

“Selling trucks is just a different business than cars,” Mr. Bigland said, “and we had a group of people who could come to work and do nothing but think about pickup trucks.”

One result was features competitors did not have, like air suspensions, cargo cameras, eight-speed transmissions and, last year, a diesel engine that gets 28 miles a gallon on the highway.

On the factory floor itself, new, lean manufacturing methods transplanted from Fiat began revolutionizing the Warren plant’s operations — not only creating more efficient ways of building vehicles and increasing quality but also giving workers a stake in decision-making.

“The floor has a voice now,” said Tracie Fern, a Warren worker who helps find ways to make jobs on the assembly line more efficient. “When someone has a suggestion, they listen to us.”

Go back to the 1980s, and the Dodge Ram was not even an also-ran. “It was just a blip on the radar back then,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst with Kelley Blue Book. “Ford and Chevy didn’t think about, or care about, what Ram was doing.”

The first real attention-grabber was the 1994 Ram, which featured the aggressive, curved “big rig” look the Ram still incorporates today. But while the muscular design change drew attention and increased sales, the truck languished in a distant third.

When the stand-alone experiment began in 2009, the near-death experience of the bankruptcy and taxpayer bailout had left its mark on Chrysler. Ram executives said they knew they would have to deliver results, and quickly.

“You either come out swinging or you roll over,” said Robert Hegbloom, a Ram executive who last month became head of the brand. (Mr. Bigland was tapped to lead Fiat’s Alfa Romeo unit in North America.)

A conference room in the basement of Chrysler’s headquarters was turned into a makeshift “Ram war room.” The new team members gathered regularly to brainstorm ideas, figure out ways for the trucks to distinguish themselves, and perhaps most important, zero in on what truck buyers wanted.

Mr. Marchionne, well known for his blunt style and attention to detail, held monthly meetings with the Ram executives, where he expected updates.

For light-duty pickups, the team decided to hone in on a priority they were hearing from truck customers. “It was all about fuel economy,” Mr. Hegbloom said, explaining that buyers used to willingly sacrifice gas mileage for hauling capability. Now they wanted both.

Ram engineers went to work, and by adding a host of features — shutters that close the front grille at high speeds to reduce drag, an eight-speed transmission and ultimately a new turbodiesel engine — they managed to increase the trucks’ hauling performance while also topping the charts on fuel economy.

Designers also focused on upgrading the interiors. That was because the nature of pickup trucks was changing. A pickup used to be a bare-bones affair: Bench seats were common, back seats generally nonexistent. Now, so-called crew cabs are ubiquitous, and the comfort and technology match those of any sport utility vehicle.

“They’re really a lot like luxury vehicles these days,” said Jessica Caldwell, senior analyst with Edmunds.com.

Jeff Jagoda, a fourth-generation autoworker, now at the Ram factory in Warren, has seen the evolution firsthand. He bought his first truck in 1975, and with its crank windows, bench seat and exposed steel inside, he said the last word to describe it would be luxury. “When I brought it home my mother said: ‘What are you doing with this thing? You’re not a farmer,’ ” he said. “But that’s what trucks used to be, something people bought to get work done, nothing more. Today, they’re something else entirely; you’ve got all the comforts of home if you want.”

Sean Kilmain, who lives on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, bought his new Ram 1500 in July after test-driving Ford and G.M. trucks. He said he wanted something that could be comfortable for family skiing trips to Vermont but also capable of towing his boat or hauling gear.

“When you’re looking to take two dogs and your nephews along for the ride, space becomes an issue,” Mr. Kilmain said. “This will be the truck that we take places.” What sold him on the Ram, he said, was that he felt the truck offered more features for less money than the competition, and that the fuel economy was also impressive.

“I didn’t want to get a gas guzzler, but also wanted something that could do pretty much anything I wanted,” he said. “Haul some stuff, carry some people.”

Mr. Brauer, the Kelley Blue Book analyst, predicted that Ram might give G.M. a run for its money, and could possibly seize the No. 2 spot in coming years — something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.

“Ford is just a monster in the pickup category, and always will be. But what we could see is a Ford main show, with G.M. and Ram left to fight it out,” he said. “If that’s the case, then Ram is winning.”

18 September 2014


Original Story: Detroitnews.com

Lansing – — Gov. Rick Snyder has asked President Barack Obama to declare a major disaster for Metro Detroit because of Aug. 11 flash flooding that caused an estimated $1.1 billion in damage — a step that could bring federal help to cities, residents and businesses for their losses.

Help would include temporary housing, home repairs and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses suffered by individuals and businesses, state officials said Wednesday. The public assistance also would help local governments recover some of their costs for repairing damage to roads and public buildings such as schools.

The request is the result of a two-week damage assessment of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties where the governor declared a state of disaster on Aug. 13 that allowed state resources to assist with the recovery, said Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel.

"So many communities were devastated by the historic flood, and we're looking for every available resource to help them recover," Snyder said in a statement.

The $1.1 billion estimate for residential and commercial damage in Metro Detroit is in a letter that U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, wrote and plans to send Thursday to the White House with signatures from Michigan's other congressional delegation members in support of the disaster declaration.

"The Michigan delegation will work closely with FEMA and the president to make sure the governor's request is considered on an urgent basis so that affected communities can get the assistance they need," Levin said.

The White House referred questions to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will make a recommendation to Obama on Snyder's request.

"We go as quickly as possible," FEMA spokeswoman Sandy Jasmund said, confirming the FEMA has received the application in Chicago, but declining to put a time frame on a decision.

After an initial review by FEMA's regional office in Chicago, it will be forwarded to Washington for further review, Jasmund said.

"These are very populated areas, so there's a lot of data," she said. "We want to make sure that we give it our due diligence."

The Michigan congressional delegation's letter emphasized that "effective recovery is beyond the capacity of state and local governments."

"We urge you to make a federal disaster declaration and provide the requested assistance so that communities across Southeast Michigan can rebuild," the letter reads.

FEMA and the Small Business Administration officials spent two and a half weeks in Michigan surveying damage and wrapped up last weekend. FEMA had seven separate teams for the individual assistance review and four teams for the public request.

Snyder said the Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division and local leaders conducted a preliminary assessment of the most severely damaged homes, businesses and public facilities in Metro Detroit from Aug. 26 through Sept. 9.

The state is seeking assistance for both individuals as well as local governments and agencies.

The individual assistance would help homeowners and others hurt by the flooding, while money for agencies would cover damage to infrastructure such as roads, overpasses, equipments rental, state or local overtime and other issues.

If Snyder's request is approved, FEMA would create a joint field office with SBA and the state in Michigan and create disaster recovery centers. Under public assistance requests, FEMA reimburses approved projects at 75 percent and the state is responsible or 25 percent of the costs.

Michigan is among the states that have experienced the fewest number of national disasters in the past 12 years — four since 2002 and one in the last six years.

FEMA hasn't declared a natural disaster in Michigan in 2014. It has announced 65 this year, including 32 for major disasters.

Out of 95 disasters approved last year, including 62 major ones, one disaster was declared in Michigan in 2013 — a June 2013 approval for flooding from April 16 to May 14, 2013, in Allegan, Baraga, Barry, Gogebic, Houghton, Ionia, Kent, Keweenaw, Marquette, Midland, Muskegon, Newaygo, Ontonagon, Osceola, Ottawa, and Saginaw counties.

Before then, Michigan hadn't had a disaster approved for federal funding since severe storms, tornadoes and flooding hit the middle and western parts of the state in July 2008. The declaration covered severe storms, tornadoes, and flooding during the period of June 6-13, 2008 in Allegan, Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Missaukee, Osceola, Ottawa, and Wexford counties.

15 September 2014


Original Story: USAToday.com

Detroit isn't just the car manufacturing capital of the U.S. — it's also tops when it come to high car-insurance costs.

The Motor City and its metropolitan area lay claim to the dubious distinction of having the most expensive auto insurance in the nation, according to an analysis by finance-info provider Bankrate Insurance.

Detroit-area drivers on average pay 165% more than the national average for car insurance, followed by New York, where motorists pay 36% more, and Miami, 34% more. The least expensive premiums, the website stated, are enjoyed by Charlotte, N.C., where area residents pay 43% less than the national average; Cleveland, 31% less; and Pittsburgh, 24% less. If you're involved in a Detroit car accident, your insurance rates may increase.

Why so high in Detroit?

"Michigan is the only state where car insurance includes unlimited personal injury protection," says Laura Adams, senior analyst for insuranceQuotes.com, in a statement. "Also, Detroit has a very high %age of uninsured motorists — as high as 50% by some estimates. That unfortunately raises rates for those who do have car insurance." Insurance rates may increase if you're involved in a Warren car accident.

While New York ranks No. 2 among the most expensive car-insurance cities, the nation's next-largest cities, Los Angeles and Chicago, check in at Nos. 4 and 21, respectively. L.A. motorists pay 25% more than the national average, while Windy City-area drivers pay 16% less. Dead-center on the list at Nos. 12, 13 and 14 are Boston, Dallas and Portland, Ore., where residents pay 2% more, 1% more and 1% less. States with metro areas appearing most frequently on the list include California (five times), Pennsylvania (four times) and Florida (three times).

Researchers say population density is naturally a major contributor to insurance rates: more people, more cars, more potential for crashes. Other factors include theft rates, state regulations and %age of uninsured motorists. If you're involved in an Ann Arbor car accident, your insurance premium may increase.

Does your area rank among places with the nation's costliest insurance? Below are the top 25 metropolitan areas in order of most- to least-expensive, followed by the percentage paid compared with the national average:

1. Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor, Mich., 165%

2. New York-Newark, N.Y.- N.J.-Conn.-Pa., 36%

3. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Port St. Lucie, Fla., 34%

4. Los Angeles-Long Beach, Calif., 25%

5. Atlanta-Athens-Clarke County-Sandy Springs, Ga., 17%

6. Sacramento-Roseville, Calif., 16%

7. San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Calif., 10%

8. Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, Pa.-N.J.-Del.-Md., 10%

9. Houston-The Woodlands, Texas, 10%

10. Tampa-St. Peterseburg-Clearwater, Fla., 9%

11. San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif., 2%

12. Boston-Worcester-Providence, Ma.-R.I.-N.H.-Conn., 2%

13. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas-Okla., 1%

14. Portland-Vancouver-Salem, Ore., -1%

15. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.-Wis., -5%

16. District of Columbia-Baltimore-Arlington, Md.-Va.-W.V.-Pa., -6%

17. Seattle-Tacoma, Wash., -10 %

18. Orlando-Deltona-Daytona Beach, Fla., -10%

19. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Ariz., -10%

20. Denver-Aurora, Colo., -12 %

21. Chicago-Naperville, Ill.-Ind.-Wis., -16%

22. St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington, Mo.-Ill., -18%

23. Pittsburgh-New Castle-Weirton, Pa.-Ohio-W.V., -24%

24. Cleveland-Akron-Canton, Ohio, -31%

25. Charlotte-Concord, N.C.-S.C., -43%

11 September 2014


Original Story: Clickondetroit.com

DETROIT - Just one day after signing a one-year, $5.48 million qualifying offer with the Detroit Pistons, forward Greg Monroe has been suspended by the NBA for two games for driving while impaired.

“I take full responsibility for my actions and made a regrettable mistake," Monroe said. "I apologize to my family, the Pistons’ organization, my teammates and fans. I will learn from this and continue my work to be a positive influence in the community.” A Westchester County DWI Lawyer has experience managing a wide variety of impaired driving cases.

On Monday Monroe assured fans in Detroit that he was excited to play for new head coach Stan Van Gundy this season.

"I look forward to playing for coach Van Gundy and his staff," Monroe said. "He has a proven track record and I'm excited about working with my teammates to get better and prepare for the season."

Van Gundy took over as the Pistons' coach and team president this offseason. A Suffern DWI Lawyer provides legal counsel and extensive experience in many aspects of impaired driving cases.

The Pistons released the following statement regarding Monroe's suspension: "The organization is aware of the matter resulting in the NBA’s announced two-game suspension for Greg Monroe. Greg has taken responsibility in a conscientious manner and resolved the matter with his representatives."

The Pistons will begin their preseason on October 7 against the Chicago Bulls. The regular season starts on October 29 in Denver, and Monroe will be eligible to return on November 1 for the team's first home game against the Nets.


Original Story: Clickondetroit.com

LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan Legislature has approved a bill to let drivers who owe extra "responsibility" fees for certain offenses do 10 hours of community service instead. A Westchester County Speeding Ticket Lawyer provides professional legal counsel and extensive experience in many aspects of traffic ticket litigation.

The option would apply for drivers assessed $400 in fines for not having mandatory auto insurance. Drivers fined $300 for operating without a valid license also could do community service.

Extra fines for the offenses went away in 2012, but some motorists still owe them for old offenses.

The Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to send the bill to Gov. Rick Snyder. A Yonkers Speeding Ticket Lawyer manage a wide variety of traffic violations.

Snyder this year signed a law to lessen and gradually eliminate responsibility fees. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has said they are a "double penalty" for people who already have to pay fines, court costs and face higher insurance rates for driving violations.


Original Story: Detroitnews.com

Detroit— The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission is seeking the suspension of 36th District Judge Brenda Sanders, citing “psychotic delusions” and alleged judicial misconduct.

The commission has petitioned the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately remove Sanders from the bench temporarily without pay pending disciplinary hearings.

Sanders has been off work since October. She was on medical leave and then placed on administrative leave from her $138,000-a-year position.

In a 14-page complaint filed Tuesday and released publicly Wednesday, the commission justifies its request based on what it says is Sanders’ “mental disability which prevents the performance of judicial duties as defined by the Michigan Constitution.”

Sanders’ attorney, Brian Einhorn, disputed the report, saying the evaluation of the judge’s mental status was done without a mental examination ordered by the commission.

“The main problem is that she was ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination without any physical evidence to support it,” Einhorn said Wednesday. “The doctor has not examined her at all. Never spoken to her.”

The commission said five appointments, which Sanders had agreed to, where scheduled, but she didn’t go to any of them.

The Sanders issue is the latest controversy at the court. Major reforms were put into place at the 36th District Court in 2013 after a feasibility report found the court was $4.5 million over budget and court officials had failed to collect more than $280 million in traffic and other fines.

According to the commission’s complaint, Sanders sent a letter to U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade in December 2013 requesting a federal investigation, saying she (Sanders) was the target of corruption and a conspiracy in an attempt to eliminate her from the 36th District Court bench before she was sworn in as a judge in December 2008.

Sanders also wrote two judges have “suddenly died under suspicious circumstances” in the past two years and that “judges have been murdered because they spoke out against some of the wrongs that were being committed ‘in this court.’ ”

In the letter to McQuade, Sanders, who is the alleged author, wrote “all of my email accounts, bank accounts, cell phones, etc. have been hacked and are currently being tracked.” She added someone threatened to burn down her residence.

Psychiatrist's opinion

The commission requested Sanders undergo an independent mental examination, to which she agreed. The exam was scheduled for April 10 but, according to the commission, Sanders failed to keep the appointment.

The appointment was re-scheduled for June 4 and June 12, with Sanders’ consent, but she failed to keep those appointments, according to the complaint.

Other appointments with the Lansing psychiatrist were scheduled for July 31 and Aug. 11. Sanders didn’t show up for either one.

The doctor then issued an opinion stating Sanders “suffers from psychiatric symptoms that include psychotic delusions” and her delusions are “paranoid in nature where she believes irrationally that she is a victim of conspiracies and plot.”

“Judge Sanders should not be sitting in judgment of anyone until she is determined to be free of the psychosis that renders her a danger to self and others,” the psychiatrist’s evaluation of Sanders reads, according to the complaint. “Judge Sanders is psychotic and suffering from insane delusions, and is likely to remain so indefinitely.”

The psychiatrist also stated that “as a result of her delusions, respondent fears that she is in danger and is manipulated wrongly.” The doctor also stated Sanders “has carried a gun as self-protection in response to these delusions.”

Einhorn said Sanders is not a danger or a threat to the public and she deserves to remain on the bench.

Einhorn added Sanders missed a couple of the commission-ordered appointments because she was going out of state to deal with her sick, elderly mom.

Sanders recently Tweeted that her 94-year-old mother died Sept. 5.

Sanders, a 1980 graduate of the University of Michigan, earned her law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy Law School in 1983.

Sanders was elected to the 36th District Court in November 2008 to a six-year term that began in January 2009.

Wayne State University Law School professor Peter Henning said the allegations against Sanders shouldn’t jeopardize the outcome of many of the cases over which she presided since it’s a district court. Most criminal cases are tried in circuit court.

2nd Sanders complaint

In its case to have Sanders removed from the bench, the commission alleges the judge fraudulently received a long-term medical leave in September 2013 on a physical disability she failed to prove. Sanders said she needed to have both her knees replaced.

“Since September 2013, (Sanders) refused/failed to answer any of the JTC’s questions regarding the medical condition of her knees which she used in support of her long-term medical leave,” according to the complaint.

The result of an independent medical/orthopedic examination scheduled in March revealed “there is no basis for (Sanders) to have a leave of absence from her judicial position.”

The commission also charges Sanders misrepresented her medical condition and failed to bring medical records to an appointment set up with the medical/orthopedic expert.

Sanders, according to the commission, said she was not told to bring the records, but the commission said that was not true.

This is the second judicial complaint filed against Sanders.

In 2008, the commission filed a complaint in connection with her campaign to run for mayor of Detroit in a special nonpartisan mayoral primary while she was a judge on the 36th District Court bench. She was suspended without pay by the Michigan Supreme Court for 21 days on the complaint.


Original Story: Freep.com

It was a remarkable moment Tuesday, after 40 years of fierce fighting among Detroit and its suburbs over water rates and control, to see Mayor Mike Duggan, flanked by the county executives of Oakland, Macomb and Wayne, jointly announcing a deal for regional governance of the water system.

But make no mistake, those guys would still be haggling if not for the hammers wielded by Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes and Gov. Rick Snyder to force a settlement.

FAQ: How Detroit's regional water deal affects you

The fault lines between Detroit and its suburbs, the decades of deep mistrust, could not have been breached unless the local elected leaders were given no other option but having an edict imposed upon them by the court or the state.

L. Brooks Patterson, the Oakland County executive, acknowledged as much in the news briefing on the water deal.

"I was a doubting Thomas going in. I didn't think we'd get there," Patterson said about being forced into court-ordered mediation by Rhodes to seek a regional solution.

In the end, Patterson added: "We didn't have any options. If we didn't come up with a deal, Judge Rhodes and the bankruptcy court could have imposed a cram-down ... He could cram down our throats his settlement of the issue ... and this was always looming over our heads like the sword of Damocles."

Gov. Rick Snyder holds another powerful weapon as part of the water deal struck by Duggan and the three county leaders. If the elected commissioners of Oakland, Macomb or Wayne counties vote not to ratify the water deal, Snyder gets to appoint the representative for the reluctant county on the six-member board.

"I don't want the governor appointing my representative for Oakland," Patterson said. "I want to pick a guy or a gal who will be as conscious as we've all been in crafting this."

In other words, Patterson doesn't trust either Snyder or Rhodes to be as protective of Oakland's ratepayers as he would be.

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel concurred, saying he found it "troubling" and "upsetting" that Macomb would not get to appoint its own water authority representative if county commissioners vote against the deal.

Patterson told me in late May that he felt like "the last of the Mohicans" for resisting pressure from Snyder and Orr and others to rejoin talks to create a regional water authority. He said then that he'd rather bargain a deal with Duggan on water system governance "than have it crammed down my throat by court edict or the Legislature."

"I have to fight the fight, " Patterson said then, "even though I know the train's coming down the track. I can see it. But I won't sign off. I just cannot in good conscience sign off. I'd rather have the train run me over."

In the end, Patterson got half his wish. The bankruptcy court and Orr still insisted that a regional water deal be part of Detroit's plan to exit bankruptcy, but Duggan worked closely with the suburban executives to frame a deal acceptable to all.

Even lame-duck Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, who lost his re-election bid in the August primary, can take a small bit of solace in the outcome, having supported court-ordered mediation on water issues back when Patterson and Hackel were still playing hard to get.

Ultimately, as the old saying goes, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. So even if the parties had to be dragged into the fray, regional governance certainly makes sense for a regional water system.


Original Story: Freep.com

The City of Detroit and creditor Syncora have reached an agreement, in principle, that would end the bond insurer’s vigorous opposition to the city’s restructuring and turn the company into an ally, reflecting a remarkable breakthrough in the city’s historic bankruptcy case.

The proposed deal — which came on the same day that Detroit and its suburbs struck a deal for a regional water authority — would leave bond insurer Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. (FGIC) and several hedge funds as the last remaining major creditors preventing an amicable resolution of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. A Texas Litigation Lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Crucially, the deal is contingent on Syncora and the city convincing UBS and Bank of America to release the insurer from certain interest-rate liabilities that are connected to the $1.4-billion pension debt deal Syncora and FGIC insured.

“There is a tentative agreement between Syncora and the City that we believe is an acceptable resolution for all concerned,” Syncora said in a statement. “We have asked that the trial be delayed for 48 hours so that we can work through certain contingencies contained in the deal, including obtaining full resolution with Bank of America, UBS and other stakeholders. We are hopeful the deal will be finalized in the next 48 hours.”

While the breakthrough could delay the trial until Friday, it could ultimately shorten hearings currently scheduled to go into October.

“I think this is the happiest Kevyn Orr has been in some time,” said John Pottow, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. “This is a big happy night.”

Syncora would get a total of about 26 cents on the dollar when all elements of the deal are included — up from no more than 10 cents under the city’s current proposal, two people familiar with the deal said Syncora is owed hundreds of millions of dollars.

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes must still approve the deal.

Pottow said he is surprised at how generous the terms of the agreement are, and predicts that Rhodes will take a close look at the agreement and will likely ask his financial expert to review it. A Boston Bankruptcy Lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

“It sounds like a lot of money to me,” Pottow said. “If I am a feasibility expert, I will want to know how they found all of this extra money.”

A person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity said terms of the deal would include giving Syncora control of a city parking garage near Grand Circus for 30 years. The deal also includes a 20-year lease extension of operation of the U.S. part of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. The insurer currently controls the U.S. side of the tunnel through a contract that expires in 2020.

Syncora owns the company, American Roads, that operates the tunnel on the city’s behalf. Windsor owns and operates the Canadian side of the tunnel. Proceeds from the lease are around $4 million to $5 million a year. The new lease would go through 2040.

Syncora also would receive $23.5 million in cash through so-called B-notes, bonds Detroit had already floated in the bankruptcy, the person said.

Despite the tentative deal, Bank of America and UBS stand in the way.

Syncora won’t agree to settle with Detroit unless the banks release the insurer from its responsibility to cover the banks’ losses on an $85-million deal brokered in the spring to eliminate a costly swaps deal reached by Kwame Kilpatrick’s administration to secure a steady interest rate on a $1.4-billion debt.

The banks were owed nearly $290 million on the swaps but agreed to take significantly less after Rhodes said the swaps were probably illegal.

If the banks don’t agree to end their legal fight against Syncora, Detroit may still face the insurer in court.

“Once again, the swap banks are standing in the way,” one person familiar with the deal said.

The news comes on the same day the city struck a tentative 40-year deal with Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties to create a regional water authority that will provide $50 million annually to finance badly needed upgrades and help low-income residents avoid water shutoffs. The two deals represent major breakthroughs toward resolving the city’s $18-billion bankruptcy, the largest in U.S. history.

The city has already reached deals with unions and pensioners, leaving FGIC and the hedge funds as the last big creditor holdout in Detroit’s bankruptcy. There are hundreds of small and objectors and creditors.

Syncora would get a long-term lease on the city’s parking garage beneath Grand Circus Park, which could raise significant funds for the bond insurer, but it also must invest $13 million in upgrades. After it invests for repairs, Syncora would keep the proceeds from running the garage but would eventually give Detroit 25% of the profits. Syncora would also get parking bonds worth $21 million.

Syncora also would get $6.2 million in credits toward purchasing city property and buildings that might go up for sale in the coming years, including Joe Louis Arena. Syncora could use the credits to offset the sale price.

The settlements reflect a significant achievement for the largest municipal bankruptcy that was filed on July 18, 2013. Many thought it would take years to settle. A Baton Rouge Bankruptcy Lawyer represents businesses involved in a wide range of bankruptcy cases.

But several days into the city’s historic bankruptcy trial — after which Rhodes will have the power to approve the plan of adjustment — resolving the dispute with Syncora would be a major breakthrough.

The company has been the city’s most vociferous opponent, decrying Orr’s plan to favor retirees over financial creditors and transfer the Detroit Institute of Arts to an independent trust in exchange for outside funding to reduce pension cuts.

In August, Syncora drew Rhodes’ ire by accusing bankruptcy mediators Gerald Rosen and Eugene Driker of “naked favoritism” on behalf of pensioners. The judge is considering sanctions on Syncora’s attorneys. But a deal could help smooth over the differences.

John Roach, spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan, said the mayor is declining to comment on the bankruptcy process, which is Orr’s responsibility. Orr’s office also refused to comment Tuesday.

Syncora and FGIC insured a $1.4-billion pension obligation certificates of participation deal brokered by Kilpatrick’s administration in 2005 to eliminate the city’s unfunded pension liabilities.A Tulsa Tax Lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Doug Bernstein, a bankruptcy attorney and partner with Plunkett Cooney who represents the outside foundations that helped fund the grand bargain to save the DIA and reduce pension cuts said Rhodes will still want to closely evaluate the bankruptcy plan and decide if it will solve the city’s financial issues after the city emerges from bankruptcy.

“The city still has to get past that feasibility hurdle,” Bernstein said. “The biggest remaining hurdle is feasibility.”

FGIC, as the last remaining major creditor objecting to the plan, will have a tougher time arguing against the plan on its own, Bernstein said.

08 September 2014


Original Story: Detroitnews.com

Lapeer— The first person who tried to help a Livonia man during a fatal mauling testified Friday the two large dogs were “hanging from him” before being chased off with gunfire.

Edward Elmer said he was on a riding lawnmower cutting his lawn along Thomas Road in Metamora Township and waved to jogger Craig Sytsma just minutes before the July 23 attack by the Cane Corsos.

When Elmer heard Sytsma screaming he tried to go to the man’s aid but backpedaled when one of the animals looked at him menacingly. He then yelled to his girlfriend, Helen Barwig, “to get a gun,” he testified during the second day of a preliminary hearing for the dogs’ owners. A Warren dog bite lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Elmer said he fired one shot in the air from the .44 Magnum handgun and one dog released its grip on Sytsma and just stood and looked at him as if it was going to attack Elmer. Elmer fired a second shot and heard one animal “yelp” and the two dogs ran off.

Sebastiano Quagliata, and Valbona Lucaj, 44, are both charged with second-degree murder and harboring a dangerous animal in the bleeding death of Sytsma, 46. Lapeer District Judge Laura Barnard will decide if there is enough evidence for them to stand trial on the charges, which carry up to life in prison.

After the dogs ran off, Barwig tried to stop Sytsma’s bleeding with a roll of paper towels.

“It (blood) was pouring out, gushing out,” testified Barwig, who said Sytsma appeared to have suffered deep wounds to his right and left sides. A Mt. Clemens Dog Bite Lawyer has experience representing animal attack victims.

“At one point he said they got an artery and he was going to die,” she said, her voice breaking.

As they waited for an ambulance to arrive, Barwig, who is an emergency medical technician, said she could not get a pulse from Sytsma, who went limp.

She tried CPR for several minutes but was unable to revive him.

During the rescue efforts, one of the dogs returned and Elmer said he fired again at the animal and it turned away.

Two other people testified Friday they had had been attacked by Quagliata and Lucaj’s dogs.

April Smith, 25, said she and a sister were walking their leashed dogs on Thomas in May 2012 when they were attacked by one of the Cane Corsos, which bit Smith three times in the back of the leg. A Grosse Pointe Dog Bite Lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Jim Salego said he was walking on the street in November 2013 when he was surrounded by three growling Cane Corsos he kept at bay briefly with a walking stick before one of them bit him in the leg and the animals were called off by Quagliata.

“He (Quagliata) came out yelling ‘Don’t call cops. I will pay. I will take you to the hospital,’ ” said Salego, who said his leg was bleeding and he did call the police.

Salego said the bite required stitches and when he later asked police “what happened to the dogs” he said he was told the matter would be handled by the county animal control division.

Salego and Smith have since sued Quagliata and Lucaj for damages.

In testimony last week, veterinarian Dr. Sherry Wallace said Quagliata and Lucaj were warned weeks before the fatal attack their dogs were dangerous and should be seen by an animal behaviorist.

Wallace testified the two dogs tried to bite her and co-workers during routine examinations to be weighed and had to be restrained by Lucaj and the couple’s teenage children. She warned the couple the dogs were aggressive and dangerous.

The two Cane Corsos and another adult dog that had been involved in a previous attack have all since been destroyed. Seven puppies kept in the home have been turned over to an animal rescue group in Texas, authorities said.

The couple remain jailed in lieu of $500,000 bond each, pending resumption of the exam 1:30 p.m. Sept. 12.


Original Story: Mlive.com

COOPERSVILLE, MI -- A 26-year-old Grand Rapids man was killed Wednesday when his motorcycle collided with a car in Coopersville, authorities said.

Michael VanHolstyn was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash that occurred at 64th Avenue and Randall Street about 1:25 p.m. Aug. 20, deputies said. A Grand Rapids motorcycle accident lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

The driver of a Chevrolet Impala, identified as 61-year-old Bradley Silvis, of Muskegon, told deputies he was traveling south on 64th Avenue and stopped at a stop sign before proceeding through the intersection.

Authorities said VanHolstyn was westbound on Randall Street, and his motorcycle struck the Impala in the front of the car on the driver's side.

VanHolstyn was thrown from the Suzuki motorcycle and pronounced dead at the scene, deputies said. He was wearing a helmet. A Warren motorcycle accident lawyer has experience in motorcycle accident claims.

Witnesses told investigators that VanHolstyn's motorcycle appeared to be traveling faster than the 45 mph speed limit.

Silvis and a front seat passenger, Peggy Silvis, 62, of Muskegon, were not injured in the crash. Both were wearing seatbelts.

The crash is under investigation.

07 September 2014


Original Story: Freep.com

A 37-year-old man lost most of his left hand in a fireworks accident over the weekend in New Haven, according to the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office. A Mt. Clemens injury lawyer is reviewing this case.

Deputies said a fireworks mortar blew up in the man’s hand Saturday night at a home on First Street, leaving only the index finger and thumb remaining. The man was initially transported by ambulance to a hospital in Mt Clemens and subsequently flown to University of Michigan Hospitals in Ann Arbor for further treatment, the sheriff’s office said in a news release Monday.

A witness told police the man, whose name was not released, was on a patio behind the home and holding a mortar in his hand when it went off sending debris several hundred feet into the air.

Drinking was a factor in the incident, deputies said.