Items of potential interest to government documents librarians or government information managers in Michigan. For more information contact Jon Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gov. Rick Snyder and other state officials allegedly withheld lead testing results from county health officials while they worked to find ways to present the information to the public, according to emails obtained by The Flint Journal.
Local health officials say the governor and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality withheld lead testing results, including results from a Flint elementary school, while the agency discussed the best way to present the information to the public.
But, Snyder's office said Wednesday, Feb. 10, that information was shared quickly after testing.
Emails obtained this week from the Genesee County Health Department through the Freedom of Information Act, show growing frustration on the county's part as it attempted to obtain information from the DEQ.
"MDEQ explained that the Governor prohibited releasing all Genesee County lead results until after the press conference," wrote Jim Henry,Genesee County's environmental health supervisor.
Henry, in an interview Wednesday, said county officials didn't learn of the test results until they were distributed following a press conference.
"They should have alerted the schools and they didn't," Henry said.
Gov. Rick Snyder announced Oct. 8 during a press conference that three buildings within the Flint School District tested above the federal limits for lead in the drinking water, including results of more than six times the federally allowable level at Freeman Elementary School.
For the full article, see Gary Ridley, "Snyder ordered DEQ to withhold Flint lead test results, emails claim", MLive, February 10, 2016.
Strip clubs and sodomy are two topics that don’t get a whole lot of attention in the halls of the state Capitol, but that changed Wednesday.
The Senate passed a bill, on a 27-10 vote, that would prohibit full nudity at strip clubs that serve alcohol. That’s already the law in Michigan, but the Legislature wanted to reinforce existing law in response to a recent federal judicial hearing that ruled the state’s law unconstitutional.
For the full article, see Kathleen Gray, "Senate act on strip clubs adds to sodomy criticism", Detroit Free Press, February 10, 2016.
Michigan’s historic districts may have to deal with more red tape. Two paired bills (HB 5232 and SB 720) propose changes to Michigan’s preservation laws that would force historic districts to close or sunset unless residents or preservationists reapply for the districts’ status every ten years. The two joint bills also impose other limitations that would seriously hinder the ability of districts to retain their status as protected historic places.
Among the restrictions under the new legislation, every ten years, historic districts within towns and cities, which would include Detroit’s Indian Village, Corktown, and Lafayette Park, among other places, will need to obtain approval from two-thirds of the area’s property owners as well get as a majority vote from the entire city in the next general election to renew their status.
Preservationists and others, like Suzanne Schulz, the planning director for Grand Rapids, are concerned that areas unable to keep the “historic” designation would be vulnerable to the whims of property owners.
“The value is that your neighbor can’t do something inappropriate,” said Nancy Finegood, director of the nonprofit Michigan Historic Preservation Network. “They can’t put up a chain link fence around their house and change the look of your block, which would affect your property value as well. There’s been research done that property values are higher in local historic districts.”
According to John Gallagher from the Detroit Free Press, this legislation is part of a series of disputes by conservative lawmakers looking to put individual property owners’ rights above what’s best for the community. Indeed, Rep. Chris Afendoulis, a Republican lawmaker who sponsored the legislation, said he did so out of concern for property rights. According to Afendoulis, since the enactment of the 1970 law that established historic districts in Michigan, home and property owners have been restricted in the ways they can remodel their property. “If you live in an historic district, in some ways, you don’t have control over your property. […] If you’re not flexible, then a lot of people can’t afford to remodel their homes.”
At least 78 Michigan cities and towns have historic districts within their communities, including all the major ones. Finegood estimates there are around 20,000 properties within those districts, which means there’s the potential for significant change if the legislation passes. However, the legislation assumes the problem of property owners wanting to alter their property but feeling restricted by the boundaries of a historic district is widespread. Given how easily this legislation would allow the viability of historic districts that have been in place for decades to be reevaluated, we would expect to hear complaints where preservation laws have significantly violated property owners’ rights.
“It’s true that over the years we’ve heard some low-level complaints about how tough local historic boards can be in protecting the integrity of their districts,” says Gallagher in his piece. “But this proposed legislation goes way too far in trying to correct a so-called problem that is hardly a problem at all.”
If concerns truly are minimal, then this proposed legislation overreaches. Among the other restrictions included in the legislation, a city’s local council could decide autonomously that it would like to abolish a local area’s historic district status.
Locally, there has already been movement to stop the legislation from being passed. The Detroit City Council’s advisory staff has also recommended the Council pass its own separate resolution to limit the impact of the legislation should it pass. The bigger question, as also asked by Gallagher in his piece, is whether Gov. Snyder, who is already knee-deep in the Flint crisis, will take a stance on the bill.
For the full article, see Shafaq Hasan, "Michigan Legislation Endangers Historic Districts, Empowers Property Owners", Nonprofit Quarterly, February 10, 2016.
Ted Roelofs, "Signs of trouble at MDEQ, years before Flint lead crisis" : A 2010 federal audit expressed concern about shortcuts Michigan’s drinking water safety program was taking to save money. An expert testifying before Congress today concludes from the audit that water safety regulation in Michigan is “more broken than we think.”
Belle Isle became Michigan’s 102nd state park Monday as the state Department of Natural Resources began running the island park in a move that is expected to save the city up to $6 million a year and infuse tens of millions of dollars in clean-up and upgrades.
Access to the 982-acre island has been free and will remain so for pedestrians. But the state plans to begin phasing in a requirement that vehicle drivers have an annual recreation passport indication on their license plate to enter the park.
The passport costs $11 for vehicles and $5 for motorcycles and can be bought when drivers renew their license plate registration through the Secretary of State or at the park, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. The passport also allows drivers to enter any state park or recreation area.
The fee will help finance upgrades on the island, where conditions have deteriorated in recent decades when the park was run by the city.
For the full article, see George Hunter, "Michigan officially takes over operation of Belle Isle", Detroit News, Febraury 10, 2014.
For another, see "Belle Isle becomes a state park today, improvements continue", Michigan Newswire, February 10, 2014.
Craig Fahle, "The ‘New’ Belle Isle? : As the state eases into its transition game, some improvements are already underway — including more law enforcement", Hour Detroit, June 2014.
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