Midwest Memo: Obama Stumps, Emanuel Delays And Michigan Teaches Online

Stumping President Obama was in the Midwest yesterday. He talked about job training in Ohio, according to partner station WCPN Ideastream. At a stop in Dearborn, Mich., the president emphasized the importance of “making things,” according to Michigan Radio.

Delayed, not defeated Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has agreed to a six day delay on a vote for his $7.2 billion infrastructure plan, after getting more pushback than expected from City Council. The Chicago Tribune says the Mayor will probably still get approval, and “the brief nature of the pause suggested the maneuver was primarily tactical and designed to project the appearance of compromise.”

Fewer teachers  The number of school teachers in Wisconsin dropped 2.3 percent last year, according to the AP. Despite the cuts, Gov. Scotte Walker’s spokesperson says his education reforms are working.

Internet instruction The University of Michigan is one of only three universities in the country that will try out a new, more interactive online learning program, according to Michigan Radio. The program was developed at Stanford.

Paying for pensions Chicago teachers are pushing to get support from the state to fund their pension plan. Partner station WBEZ reports that many public employee pension accounts in Illinois are underfunded.

Midwest Memo: Detroit In Legal Limbo, Ohio Becomes Dumping Ground And Etch-A-Sketch Gets A Bump From Gaffe

It’s a mess, basically Efforts to avoid a financial meltdown in the city of Detroit are turning into a confusing legal situation. Partner station Michigan Radio reports a judge says the state can’t enter into its proposed consent agreement with the city until he decides whether the state’s review team broke open meetings laws. And there’s some disagreement over when the actual deadline is to reach a deal.

Wasteland BusinessWeek reports on how Ohio has become a dumping ground for the chemical-laced wastewater brine that’s a byproduct of new natural gas drilling in the U.S. BusinessWeek says Ohio has 176 storage wells for the “fracking” fluids. In comparison, Pennsylvania has just six such wells.

Romney is helping business The Toledo Blade reports on how an Ohio company has benefited from a political gaffe. Ohio Art Co., the maker of Etch-A-Sketch, has seen its stock more than double since a Mitt Romney aide referenced the toy in an interview on CNN. The statement has turned into one of the biggest gaffes of the GOP primary, but Ohio Art Co. isn’t complaining. Sales of Etch-A-Sketch toys are on the rise, and company executives are trying to manage requests for media interviews.

O-H-I Am Pandering President Obama visited Ohio State University yesterday. He promised to increase drilling in the United States, but he says he draws the line at drilling in Ohio Stadium. The President also made some hand signs that won’t play well in Ann Arbor.

Hogan out Partner station WBEZ reports on the resignation of University of Illinois president Michael Hogan.

Chicago secession? A landfill operator is trying to secede his 86 acres of property from the city of Chicago, and join the suburb of Dolton. The move is an attempt to get around the city’s ban on landfills.

Midwest Memo: Fracking Taxes, Manufacturing Grants And Head Start Problems In Detroit

Taxing the fracking Bloomberg reports that Ohio Gov. John Kasich has a new proposal to tax oil and gas drilling in his state. Taxes on the new kinds of drilling, known as “fracking,” could raise $1.02 billion for the state by 2016, according to the report.

$1 billion for manufacturing President Obama plans to be in Virginia today to promote a new $1 billion grant program to fund innovation in manufacturing. The plan requires approval from Congress.

Turning it around Wisconsin added jobs last month. But previous months’ figures were revised, creating a more mixed jobs picture.

Head Stop The federal government will stop sending $50 million a year to the city of Detroit to administer Head Start programs. The Detroit Free Press says the decision follows reports that city officials mishandled the money. Now, the government will try to find other organizations to run Head Start in the city.

Lower funds for higher ed Michigan is losing about $4 million in federal higher education funds. The loss is because the state cut its own budget for higher education, according to the Gannett news service.

Midwest Memo: Big Profits For Ford, Heading Down The Rabbit Hole In Wisconsin

Party like it’s 1998 Ford is reporting its highest annual earnings in over a decade. The Wall Street Journal says the auto industry’s profits are part of its new math: sell fewer cars, make more money (subscription required).

Curiouser and curiouser Keeping track of Wisconsin politics gets more complicated by the day. While the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is still busy counting recall petitions against Gov. Scott Walker, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that two of the governor’s former aids have been charged with illegal campaigning. The charges are part of an ongoing “John Doe” investigation of Walker’s staff during his time in county government. Despite the investigation and the recall threat, Walker’s poll numbers are rising.

Meanwhile, in actual economic news, the Wisconsin Assembly voted to ease the way for a proposed Iron ore mine in the state’s northern region. Republicans say it will create jobs. Democrats say the changes could lead to environmental harm.

190 Acres of transformation In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, a 190-acre industrial site represents, in microcosm, the changes facing the Midwest. Officials in the town of Beachwood are hoping to rezone the property as the industrial sector declines and other sectors grow. Officials say they want to see the property used for health care, retail and residential investment.

Obama talks higher ed President Obama will be in Ann Arbor, Mich. today to talk about his ideas for higher education funding.

The Speech Behind Him, Obama Heads To The Midwest

You might have heard something about a speech last night. From his claim that GM is back on top (rated “half-true” by PolitiFact.com), to his mention of a battery plant worker from Holland, Mich. (which, by the way, we’ve covered before), the Midwest got plenty of attention from the President during his State of the Union address.

And he’s not done with us. This afternoon, the President is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to talk manufacturing jobs. He’ll also be traveling to Arizona and Nevada. This Friday, the President returns to the Midwest for a stop in Ann Arbor, Mich. This time, he’ll be talking about higher education.

During the State of the Union speech, President Obama said higher education shouldn’t be a luxury, and he’s committed to funding it. That was the carrot for colleges and universities. This was the stick:

“Let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,”

The idea is similar to a law passed in Michigan last year for the state’s public universities. They raised tuition anyway.

Midwest Memo: Downtown Development In Indy, Wind Farming In Ohio And A Wrigley Icon Survives Bankruptcy

The President sure talked about manufacturing a lot last night. And the Detroit carmakers got a big shout out. Meanwhile, another Midwesterner offered a different view.

But enough about speeches. Developers are planning an $85 million residential complex for downtown Indianapolis.

A state law in Michigan will force the city of Detroit to lower its income tax rate. That could cause an $8.5 million hole for a city already struggling to fix its budget.

In Champaign County, Ohio, which is northeast of Dayton, a $20 million wind farm project is inching forward, but residents still aren’t completely sold on the idea.

Finally, Wrigley Field is one of the most iconic venues in all of sports. One of its many charms is the nearby rooftop seating that overlooks the field. One of those buildings with that rooftop seating recently went into bankruptcy. It sold at auction for $4.8 million.

GM, Chrysler Could Have Ended Up In Bankruptcy Sooner

The 2009 bankruptcies at General Motors and Chrysler were a historic moment for the Midwest economy. But a new memo published this week by The New Yorker shows that they were in danger of happening even sooner.

The insight can be found starting on page 36 of a 57-page memo by Lawrence Summers, written to President-elect Barack Obama on Dec. 15, 2008. The memo provides an in-depth look at the thinking that went into drafting Obama’s economic recovery plan.

At the time of the memo, Congress was considering emergency financing for car companies, who had been unable to borrow money from the nation’s banks. The Bush administration also was considering whether to use money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, originally intended to rescue struggling banks. Continue reading “GM, Chrysler Could Have Ended Up In Bankruptcy Sooner”

Five Reponses To President Obama’s Proposal For Toughened Fuel Efficiency Standards

On Wednesday, the White House formally issued a proposal to nearly double automotive fuel efficiency standards by 2025. The proposal to boost the standards to 54.5 miles per gallon – a jump from the 27.3 mpg required today – comes on the heels of an agreement President Obama reached this summer with automakers.

Here’s a glance at five responses to the news:

Dan Becker, Safe Climate Campaign

“It is not every decade that a president does something to simultaneously help the environment, consumers and the auto industry. President Obama has done just that. These standards are the biggest single step any nation has taken to fight global warming. They will slash our oil addiction.”

Continue reading “Five Reponses To President Obama’s Proposal For Toughened Fuel Efficiency Standards”

Midwest Memo: Obama Chides China, New Detroit Dock Boosts Michigan Tourism, New Owners For Gary Casinos

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Obama chides China. Using uncharacteristic blunt language, President Obama said America had enough of China’s currency manipulation and encouraged the global power to abide by “the same rules as everybody else.” At the closing news conference of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Obama told reporters, “Enough’s enough,” and that “we don’t want them taking advantage of the United States.” The comments came one day after Obama held face-to-face talks with President Hu Jintao, according to Reuters. Obama and other U.S. leaders have grown weary of China keeping its currency value artificially low, thus hurting American companies and jobs.

2. Detroit dock brings tourist upswing. When a $21.5 million dock opened in Detroit earlier this summer, critics doubted the facility would see much use. Although only two cruise ships visited the port this past summer, according to the Detroit Free Press, cruise-ship operators have scheduled 23 visits in 2012. The uptick is expected to bring 2,500 new visitors and an increase in Michigan tourism dollars. Calling it a “significant win” for the region, W. Steven Olinek, deputy director of the Wayne County Port Authority, told the newspaper, “in future years we hope to play an even greater role in the re-emerging Great Lakes cruise industry.”

3. Gary casinos have new owner. New Mayor-elect Karen Freeman-Wilson says new ownership for two bankrupt casinos in Gary, Ind. is good for both the casinos and the city. “Investment in their structure will attract more gamers,” she said. Freeman-Wilson tells our partner station WBEZ that money is needed for infrastructure improvements, especially fixing city streets. Attendance has dropped at Northwest Indiana casinos, according to recent numbers, a falloff that comes even before a proposed Chicago casino heightens competition. Wayzata Investment Partners in Minnesota has taken over at the Majestic Star Casinos, which owe the city up to $15 million.