A Meeting Of The Minds On How To Revive Industrial Cities

As the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago said in a recent paper outlining how to inject some new life into our industrial cities, “‘Rust Belt’ is a phrase that speaks for itself”.

ArtPrize Grand Rapids - this 2010 entry, Elephant Walk, made it into the top ten finalists. (Niala Boodhoo)

That’s why I was pleased to learn that the bank invited a group of people from different cities across the Midwest for a day-long event yesterday to kick off a new project that will look at what works – and what doesn’t – when encouraging economic revitalization.

Among the attendees: representatives from ArtPrize, the annual Grand Rapids public art competition that has brought hundreds of thousands of people to the city’s downtown during the fall event. If you’re not familiar with ArtPrize, here’s some of our reporting on the competition.

ArtPrize’s Brian Burch said the day went well, with lots of analysis and recommendations but a few overarching solutions that are applicable to many industrial cities.

Burch said it also confirmed many of the concepts behind ArtPrize – the idea that a focus on people and creativity foster innovation and economic growth.

“The best things communities can do is invest in education and develop a marketplace of ideas that make it easier for anyone to realize their dreams and take ideas into action,” Burch said.

You can learn more about the Fed’s initiative here.

Don’t Call It A Comeback: Protest Movements Get Ready For A New Push

A scene from southern California this afternoon, as police tried to remove Occupy protesters from the street outside a Wal-Mart distribution center.

Today, the Occupy Wall Street movement started a fresh wave of protest activity across the country. Its the first major action from the group in weeks. Organizers are hoping it won’t be the last. Today’s protests are relatively small, compared to what we saw over the summer. But other events are in the works.

Salon reports today that Occupy organizers are looking into a possible “general strike” on May 1st. If the group pulls it off, Salon says it would be the first general strike in this country in 65 years.

And the 99% Spring movement we told you about earlier this month is also gearing up. The group is planning demonstrations nationwide from April 9-15. They’re hoping to get 100,000 people to participate. Today, the call went out for people to help train the protesters. Last week, the conservative web site The Daily Caller reported that the UAW was behind the training plan. The official 99% Spring website lists a number of union participants, along with liberal groups such as MoveOn.org.

The Rise Of The Reverse-Transfer In American Colleges

More than half of students who transfer from four-year public universities head to two-year community colleges.

Today, Changing Gears’ Kate Davidson has the first in a two-part report on the growing burden of student debt.

We typically think that going to college is all about getting that four-year degree. And we see community colleges as a stepping stone to get there. But a new report released yesterday shows that’s not the path for many college students in America.

In fact, a surprisingly large number of students actually transfer from four-year institutions into two year community colleges.

Continue reading “The Rise Of The Reverse-Transfer In American Colleges”

Michigan’s Done, Now Comes Ohio, With Many Things The Same

Over to you, Ohio. 

Mitt Romney’s narrow victory Tuesday night over Rick Santorum in the Michigan Republican primary now sets the stage for a repeat in the Buckeye State. And already, the situation is mirroring the one in Michigan.

A Quinnipiac University survey, published Monday, finds Santorum with a 7 percent lead over Romney in Ohio, the same lead he held two weeks ago. The Ohio Poll, by the University of Cincinnati, shows Santorum with an 11 percent lead.

Santorum led Romney by as much as 20 percent coming into the Michigan primary, too.

As in Michigan, a lot of people tell pollsters they may change their minds, which means lots of campaign appearances between now and next Tuesday. Continue reading “Michigan’s Done, Now Comes Ohio, With Many Things The Same”

Midwest Memo: High Tech High Schools, Jet Jobs And Right To Work In Court

New high (tech) schools Five giants of the tech world are teaming up to open six new high schools in Chicago. Students at the high schools will stay for six years, and leave with an associates degree in a high tech field.

Jet jobs Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says the state could lose 600 jobs if the Air Force moves its A-10 fighter planes away from the Selfridge Air National Guard base.

Signature move Opponents of Michigan’s emergency manager law say they have enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot, and let voters decide whether the law should stand. Partner station Michigan Radio reports the signatures will be turned in today for certification.

Mine on the mind Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is hitting the road to help promote a controversial mining bill. The bill would open up a new mine in northern Wisconsin. The bill passed the state Assembly, but it now appears to be headed for a close vote in the Senate.

Right to Work in court Opponents of Indiana’s new Right to Work law will get their day in court. Attempts to overturn Right to Work have failed in other states. But activists say Indiana’s law was passed in a hastily, and it contains provisions not found in other Right to Work laws. Both sides will make their case at a preliminary hearing on Monday.

Drilling down into the numbers A new study says shale gas and oil will add $5 billion to Ohio’s economy over the next two years. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports the study was commissioned by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of the Ohio Shale coalition. The study predicts the boom in shale drilling will happen about 10 times faster than previous studies predicted.

A Recipe for Trinidadian Pelau, Courtesy of Niala Boodhoo

Niala Boodhoo as a girl with her family

Today is the last day to enter our recipe contest. Enter here.

My parents are from Trinidad and Tobago, an island perhaps known for its Carnival, great cricket players (and Nobel-winning writers!) as well as one of my personal favorites: fantastic food. My great-great grandparents immigrated to Trinidad from India. Today, families like mine who have Indian ancestry make up a slight majority of Trinidad’s population, about 40 percent, but the nation is a mix of people of African, Chinese and European heritage. That’s why I think Trinidad has the best food in the Caribbean, although I know that opens me up to controversy from other islands!

I was born and raised in Miami, with at least a similar tropical climate – and my mom and especially my maternal grandmother, on visits here and there, provided the food. As I’ve grown up, my uncle on my mom’s side has taught me much more about how to cook – although I’m not sure I can ever reach his culinary standards!

The standard, of course, is Trinidad’s variation of curry, a green curry that’s hard to describe – it’s not like Thai curry, and in my exploration of South Asian food, I haven’t come across a similar version. But I haven’t perfected my mom’s or Uncle Victor’s curry, which is hard to top, and a great favorite with my nieces and nephews in Michigan and California. I do make my mom’s pelau – a chicken and rice dish, all in one pot, flavored with pigeon peas, coconut milk and the essential scotch bonnet pepper. I base my recipe on a cookbook my mom gave me a few years ago from her high school. I’ve yet to find parboiled rice in Chicago – which is essential to this recipe, because otherwise the rice gets mushy, so I import it from Miami, along with the brown sugar. Trinidad no longer produces the caramel, rich demerara sugar that is a standard for stew chicken – it now all comes from Guyana, but having a good quality brown sugar makes a difference, too.

As any West Indian will tell you, “seasoning” is key to imparting the flavor of this recipe. It’s best to let the chicken marinate in this green seasoning at least overnight. I also find that pelau always tastes better the day after it cooks, and like my mom, I like to serve this with a creamy, tart coleslaw as a foil for the spice of this dish. My parents also like to add ketchup as a condiment.

Continue reading “A Recipe for Trinidadian Pelau, Courtesy of Niala Boodhoo”

Student Debt: The Cost Of Learning A Trade

Kate Davidson
For $2, this little guy gets a “college boy” cut from barber student Tom Amundson


America’s student loan debt is now bigger than its credit card debt. It’s approaching a trillion dollars. Student loan default rates are rising too. While many families struggle to afford traditional colleges, a lot of student debt comes from attending private, for-profit schools that focus on vocational training. These students default on their loans twice as often as students from public colleges. Today we’re looking at one small school battling big defaults.

Continue reading “Student Debt: The Cost Of Learning A Trade”

Election Night in Michigan, From Changing Gears

Thanks for reading our updates on the Michigan primary race. We’ll be back on Wednesday with a look ahead to Ohio’s contest on Super Tuesday.

10:35 pm ET News organizations declare Romney the winner. It wasn’t the blow out that Romney might have wanted, but virtually all the major news organizations, including NPR, the New York Times, and the broadcast and cable networks, have called the Michigan primary for him.

With about 70 percent of votes in, Romney is leading Santorum by 41.6 percent to 37.3 percent. Since delegates are awarded on congressional districts, and the vote totals are not in, it’s not possible to divide them up yet. But both will get some.

CNN reports that Santorum called Romney before his speech to concede.

“Thank you, Michigan, what a win. Thanks, you guys,” Romney said at his campaign event. in Novi, Mich. “This is the place where I was born, this is the place that I was raised…I know that Michiganders in this room, we consider you all family.”

He added, “We didn’t win by a lot, but we won by enough, and that’s all that counts.”

10:15 pm ET. NBC calls it; Santorum speaks. NBC News becomes the first network to call the state for Romney. In Grand Rapids, an upbeat Santorum speaks to his followers. He thanks his supporters and says, “A month ago, they didn’t know who we were. They do now.”

He talks about his mother, who lived in Saginaw, and speaks of his college-educated wife. The comments are a contrast to Santorum’s dismissal of President Obama as a “snob” because he supports college education programs. Continue reading “Election Night in Michigan, From Changing Gears”

Stunning Photos Of Michigan’s New Winter Sport, Ice Climbing

Tourism is a growing industry in the state of Michigan. By now, you’ve probably seen plenty of the state’s Pure Michigan ads. In the summer, the ads show beaches and sunshine. In the winter, it’s all about the snow.

This year, officials at Pure Michigan have also been pushing a winter sport that most people probably haven’t heard of: ice climbing. Meg Cramer went to the Michigan Ice Fest earlier this month to report a story for our partner station, Michigan Radio.

She took some amazing photographs we just had to share.

Click here, to listen to Meg’s full story on Michigan Radio.

And tell us what you think – would you climb a frozen waterfall?

Cake, Shortbread, or Pastry? Mazurek Is All That, And More

As part of our Your Family Story series, we’re collecting recipes that have been passed down within families. Send in your mother’s, grandfather’s, or cousin’s famous recipe for goulash, pozole, dumplings or any dish that your family has enjoyed.

We’re collecting recipes until midnight tomorrow. We’ll publish all the recipes. The winner, to be chosen by the Changing Gears team, will be announced here and on our partner websites. They’ll collect a grab bag of public radio goodies.

Today, Changing Gears Senior Editor Micki Maynard shares this recipe for Mazurek:

My father’s family, which is of French descent, has been in the United States for many generations, settling primarily in Massachusetts. But my mother is a first generation American. Her family came to the United States around 1905. Her father hailed from what was known as Byelorussia, and now Belorus, an area also known as White Russia.

My mom learned European dishes from her mother and New England recipes through my dad, so we enjoyed a varied menu at home. I’ve always heard my mother say what a good cook my grandmother was. But, I didn’t know until this year that my grandmother was co-owner of a bakery in Grand Rapids. The Northwestern Bakery stood on Leonard Street, although the building is no longer there.

Each Easter, my family gathers for brunch, and Mazurek (pronouncd mah-ZUR-eck) is always the last dish that is served. We sit over coffee and tea and enjoy this dense, rich pastry, very much like a soft shortbread. My mom was always the Mazurek baker, until she offered to teach me. She also shared the recipe with my brother, who baked the Mazurek that you see here.

Want to add Mazurek to your repertoire? Follow this recipe.

Continue reading “Cake, Shortbread, or Pastry? Mazurek Is All That, And More”