Changing Gears is a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest. Each week, reporters Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor cover issues of interest to the Great Lakes region. Changing Gears also sponsors public events and conversations.
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. Labor report: No new jobs. Friday’s monthly report from the U.S. Labor Department showed that the nation’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent in August. Financial markets feared the report signaled a weakened recovery, and edged lower on the news. Approximately 14 million people were unemployed last month, and nearly 43 percent of them have been without work for six months or longer.
2. Americans narrowly support unions. Fifty-two percent of Americans approve of labor unions, according to a new Gallup poll reported by The New York Times. The rate was unchanged from a previous poll in 2010 and up four percentage points from 2009. The poll showed a sharp divide in how Republicans and Democrats viewed unions. In the poll of 1,008 adults, 78 percent of Democrats approved of unions while 26 percent of Republicans did, the lowest percentage ever for Republicans in an annual poll taken ever year since 1936.
3. Ohio politicians reach agreement. Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State and Cuyahoga County’s Democratic executive have reached a compromise on how the state will handle absentee ballots in two upcoming elections, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Secretary of State Jon Husted will mail applications to all 88 counties for next year’s presidential election, in exchange for Ed FitzGerald’s agreement to not mail them this year. “Through a productive exchange of ideas, we were able to develop a plan and achieve consensus to preserve the uniform standards I have sought statewide,” Husted said in a statement.
Rahm Emanuel reached the 100-day milestone of his tenure as mayor of Chicago earlier this week. All week, our partner station WBEZ has examined the early accomplishments and shortfalls of the Emanuel administration. Using his own 72-page transition report as a checklist, WBEZ graded his progress. Here are some highlights:
Goal: Structural changes totaling $75 million savings in 2011 budget. Progress: Complete. Emanuel cut $75 million from the budget on his first day in office.
Goal: End revolving door between government service and lobbying. Progress: Complete. Emanuel signed an executive order banning mayoral appointees from lobbying former colleagues for two years.
On a three-day bus tour through the Midwest this week, President Obama expressed confidence the region’s fragile economy would show gradual improvement over the next year.
Depending on the vantage point, that has different meanings.
In Iowa, the unemployment rate hovered at 6.0 percent in June,” a rate that “is much higher than Iowans are comfortable with,” said David Swenson, who teaches economics at Iowa State University, during a roundtable discussion Wednesday on PBS News Hour.
In Michigan, such a figure would be cause for relief. The state holds the Midwest’s highest current unemployment rate at 10.5 percent. It also endured the region’s highest peak unemployment rate, reaching 14.1 percent in September 2009.
The turmoil that enveloped Wisconsin politics since spring is over, at least for now.
Two Democratic state senators hung on to their seats in yesterday’s recall elections, leaving Republicans in control of state government. The senators, Jim Holperin of Conover, and Bob Wirch of Pleasant Prairie, defeated Republican challengers.