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.
Gambling go-ahead Partner station Michigan Radio reports last night the Lansing city council voted to approve a new $245 million casino. The casino would be built in the city’s downtown. It still needs federal approval.
Not the Abba song, right? Wisconsin governor Scott Walker talked to Greta Van Susteren of Fox News last night. He said the recall against him is a “Waterloo” for unions.
So much for pancakes this year Maple syrup producers in Wisconsin say this is their worst year in memory, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Because of the warm weather, sap only ran for one day in some places. Usually, it runs for weeks.
An expensive building The Wall Street Journal reports that the historic Chicago Board of Trade building has found a buyer. The price tag? Between $150 and $180 million, according to the paper (subscription required).
Industrial Output: Production from the nation’s factories fell in November, dragged down by the automobile industry, the Federal Reserve said today. The 0.2 percent decline followed a rise in industry output during October. The Fed said the output of motor vehicles and parts fell 3.4 percent in November, while mining and utilities rose. The capacity utilization at American factories, which reflects how full they are running, fell to 77.8 percent in November. That is still up 2 percent from a year ago, but it is below the average for 1972 through 2010, the Fed said.
Donations Fall: Charities in the Detroit area are concerned at a drop in donations over the holidays, according to the Detroit News. The Salvation Army has raised only $3 million of its $8.2 million goal, with nine days left for bell ringers across the metropolitan area. Easter Seals, which holds five raffles a year, came up $50,000 short on its November raffle. It sold only 3,500 of the 5,000 tickets it aims to sell. One group that’s on track is the Gleaners Community Food of Southeastern Michigan, which is set to reach a quarterly goal of $5.2 million in donations.
School Protests: About 50 protestors in Chicago shut down a meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, upset over the city’s plans to close and consolidate schools. District officials want to close five under performing schools, gradually close two more and turn around 10 troubled schools. The protestors included parents, community activists, current and former teachers, and members of the Occupy Chicago movement. The meeting was abruptly adjourned after the protestors interrupted a presentation by schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard.
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. Factory orders rise. Demand for automobiles and motor vehicle parts surged in July. The U.S. Commerce Department said Wednesday orders rose 9.8 percent in July, the biggest recorded jump in more than eight years. Overall, factory orders climbed 2.4 percent in July on auto demand and a jump in commercial airplane orders. The increase follows a 0.4 percent decrease in June, which had worsened fears the country was falling into a double-dip recession.
2. Chicago school considers conversion. One local school in the Chicago Public Schools district is mulling an unusual strategy in improving its performance – it’s considering the possibility of shutting itself down. On Tuesday, the school council at Wendell Smith Elementary, seven times on probation, will likely vote on whether to shut down and reopen as a charter school, according to our partner station WBEZ. It’s believed to be the first time a CPS school has held a vote on whether to shut itself down.
3. JobsOhio heads to court. A lawsuit in Ohio is challenging whether Gov. John Kasich’s privatized development corporation is eligible for exemptions from corporate regulations. Two Democrats and a liberal policy group filed the suit Tuesday, also arguing the state cannot invest “public dollars in a private entity,” according to The Columbus Dispatch. Earlier, the Ohio Supreme Court said it did not have jurisdiction in the case until it had been heard in lower courts. Tuesday’s lawsuit was filed in Franklin County Common Court.
John Covington, the first chancellor of Michigan’s new statewide school district for poor-performing schools could receive more than $1.5 million in salary and bonuses over four years. The contract has upset some union officials in Michigan.
A spokesman for Roy Roberts, emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools, tells the Detroit Free Press the contract was necessary “to attract top talent to what may be the toughest job in the country.”
Last week, the Michigan Department of Education released a list of 98 schools that were classified as “persistently low achieving,” which means they must submit a plan for improving results and are subject to being placed in the new reform district to be led by Covington.
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. Michigan’s low-achieving schools named. A list of 98 schools in Michigan deemed “low achieving” was released Friday by the state’s Department of Education. More than half of the schools are located in Wayne County, which includes Detroit. Fifty-eight of the schools also earned the same designation last year, according to the Detroit Free Press. In 2010, the state enacted a law that created a state reform district to include the state’s worst-performing schools.
2. Chicago teachers reject proposal. A proposal to lengthen the school day for Chicago students by 90 minutes has met swift rejection from the Chicago Teachers Union. District officials said teachers would receive a 2 percent raise, but union president Karen Lewis tells our partner WBEZ, “they’re asking us to do 28 percent more work for 2 percent – so do the math, it’s not coming out.” Chicago students receive 166 fewer hours of classroom instruction than the nationwide average, school district officials said.
3. Hard to find good help? Some small-business owners in Ohio say they’re having a hard time filling job openings in the Cleveland area because they cannot find workers will needed skills – or with much interest in working. They tell the Plain Dealer in Cleveland that some workers appear complacent because they can fall back on unemployment benefits. “With this economy, I’m very shocked at how hard it is to find skilled help,” car-care center owner Mike Paradise tells the newspaper.
1) Exporting to economic growth. A study released today on nine Midwestern states shows that exports are helping to revive the economy.
Creighton University’s Business Conditions Index for the Mid-America region rose to 60.2, from 57.7 in April. The index is a survey of supply managers and purchasing executives, who rate the economy on a scale of zero to 100. Anything above 50 reflects growth in the next three to six months.
2) From yachts to wind. The recession forced many small manufacturers to find new products to make in an attempt to survive. Tiara Yachts, a Michigan manufacturer, is taking risks to keep its factory open and employees on the job. Lindsay Smith of our partner station Michigan Radio looked at the company.
One-third of Detroit’s public schools may be turned into charter schools – publicly funded, but privately run. That’s if everything goes according to the plan laid out by Detroit Public Schools’ emergency financial manager, Robert Bobb. According to an announcement this past weekend,, Bobb says handing over control of 41 of the district’s 142 schools to charter operators would save up to $99 million dollars, and will hopefully improve many of the city’s worst schools without having to close them.