Blogs We Dig: 365 Days of A

model a and cherry orchardThrough the TC Ticker, we learned about a cool project by Jonathan Klinger, PR Manager of Michigan based Hagerty Insurance. They begin:

For the past eight months, the 29 year old has been driving a 1930 Model A as his everyday car. His project, dubbed “365 Days of A,” has him parking his Ford Explorer and Honda Accord and, for one year – with no exceptions for weather or distance – driving the beautiful blue Model A instead.

“It’s something I wanted to do for a few years,” says Klinger, who owns a 1919 Model T and ‘a few other cars.’ “I wanted to show that an old car like this can be driven every day.”

spark advance leverHead over to 365 Days of A to follow Jonathan through the ins (learning to slow down) and outs (fixing what goes wrong) and saga of his Model A experiment from Day 1 (October 13, 2010) to Day 252 (and beyond). Be sure to check out the FAQs for the who, what and where.

The video below looks at how they got the A into shape, and you can see a lot more on their 365 Days of A playlist!

Future Midwest Conference this week in Detroit

Painting A Picture Of Optimism by DetroitDerek Photography
Painting A Picture Of Optimism by DetroitDerek Photography

Later this week (April 27-29) the 3rd annual  Future Midwest Conference kicks off in Detroit. It’s the largest digital business conference in the Midwest and  seeks to accelerate business and cultural transformation by uniting community passions with emerging technologies. In 2011, they’ve selected Eastern Market in Detroit as the conference venue. In this interview, conference co-founder Adrian Pittman explains that:

FutureMidwest is a digital business conference that focuses on the impact of technology in five areas:

  • Integrated marketing: How to integrate digital platforms into a well-rounded marketing mix
  • User experience: How to create an engaging experience across a variety of digital media
  • Mobile: How it’s impacting information exchange and user access and how to utilize it
  • Business Intelligence/Analytics: How to define metrics that matter most and apply them
  • Regional growth: How the Midwest is participating in the information age

future midwest

The conference features 2 full days of presentations, panels and exhibitions about technology, social media and how all of this ties into creating a new future for the Midwest. The 2011 conference debuts  Funded by Night, one-day competition to fund tech startups where 25 companies will create to will compete to win a $100,000 convertible note from two local venture capital firms Detroit Venture Partners and Ludlow Ventures.

Any video with a space cow in it has to be good, and the 2010 conference video is no exception!

Detroit 20/20: Mayor Dave Bing & Governor Rick Snyder

Detroit 20/20 on Facebook!Detroit 20/20 D-20-20from WXYZ TV seeks to address the challenges facing Detroit and the region with the goal of making Detroit a better place to live, work and raise families. In this four-part interview, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing discuss a wide range of the daunting challenges facing and the often controversial solutions that are being proposed.

Thanks Blogging for Michigan for the find!

Emergency Financial Manager Bill rumbles toward passage

R.I.P. - James McMillan School (1894-2008) by SNWEB.ORG Photography, LLC.
R.I.P. – James McMillan School (1894-2008)
by SNWEB.ORG Photography, LLC.

HB-4214 – the “local  government and school district fiscal accountability act” –  passed the Senate yesterday.  This is such a strange & sweeping bill that vests power in the executive branch to exercise extra-ordinary powers of finance, administration and even the very existence of municipalities and schools that we’re still trying to come to grips with the implications. You can read stories from the right (Detroit News or any suggestions?) and left (Michigan Messenger or  AFL-CIO). The Messenger version says (in part):

According to the law, which has already been approved in the House, the governor will be able to declare “financial emergency” in towns or school districts and appoint someone to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, and eliminate services.

Under the law whole cities or school districts could be eliminated without any public participation or oversight, and amendments designed to provide minimal safeguards and public involvement were voted down.

An amendment to require Emergency Managers to hold monthly public meetings to let people know how they are governing was rejected by Senate Republicans, along with proposals to cap Emergency Manager compensation and require that those appointed to run school districts have some background in education.

Hrum. Thoughts? If you’re thinking that the above paragraph is hyperbole, I urge you to click to read the text of the bill. Page 34 for example. The fact that the proposed 2011 budget includes big cuts for already struggling school districts and municipalities pretty much guarantees that the Emergency Managers will see action.

FYI, Michigan law already allows for Emergency Managers, but their authority is nowhere near what it will be when these bills become law.

Film Friday: High Five for Michigan Film Incentives

“This is not about saving Hollywood. This is about saving Michigan.”
~ Mitch Albom

Read on for a report on last night’s Town Hall meeting but we definitely want to start off by featuring High Five for Film Incentives. Deep Blue Pictures takes a road trip to hear from some of the people and businesses who are benefitting from the incentive. When you hear numbers like 200 jobs at one company and 6,000 room nights at one hotel, you have to take note. Tip: Stick around for the closing song. Amazing work!

Not Your Average Point & Shoot by photofrenzy2000
Not Your Average Point & Shoot
by photofrenzy2000

The Detroit Free Press has a report on last night’s overflowing Michigan Film Town Hall Meeting:

More than a thousand strong, members of Michigan’s movie industry came together Thursday evening in a dramatic show of unity, gearing up for a massive lobbying campaign in Lansing to save their livelihoods.

…”We spawned the growth of a new industry in Michigan that might be 1/20th or 1/10th of the 21st-Century economy,” said Andy Meisner, treasurer of Oakland County, who helped create the tax breaks. “Can you put a price on bringing young people back to Michigan?”

(and from the other side of the argument)

Though the industry has generated $649 million in spending in Michigan since April 2008, John Nixon, Snyder’s budget director, has said the incentives are too much of a drain for a state facing a $1.8-billion budget deficit. Since the program began in April 2008, Michigan has approved $304 million in tax credits for 202 productions, paying out $96 million so far.

The Detroit News has a report as well. On the video front, America Jr was on the scene and has some videos from including Jeff Daniels & Mitch Albom addressing the crowd and some interviews with attendees. There’s lots more at!

What do you think? Post a comment, Tell Rick on Facebook or  head over to Rick’s Wrong (About the Michigan Film Industry Tax Credit).

Governor Rick Snyder: Job 1 is still Jobs

michigan-governor-rick-snyderLast night Michigan Governor Rick Snyder delivered his first State of the State address.

In addition to repealing “the job-killing Michigan Business Tax” and replacing it with a 6% corporate income tax, other highlights of the speech included $25 million for Pure Michigan, more attention to our state’s agricultural industry, a new Office of Urban Initiatives to address issues in Detroit, Grand Rapids, the Flint-Saginaw corridor and other cities and support of the proposed publicly owned Detroit River International Crossing bridge over the St Clair River in Detroit. Something that we at Absolute Michigan found particularly heartening was Snyder’s support for Michigan’s natural resources and the Great Lakes when he stated:

I urge the prompt passage of a capital outlay bill that implements the recommendations of the Natural Resources Trust Fund. From the greatness of the land and the resourcefulness of the citizens of the Upper Peninsula to the unquestioned beauty and economic engine of the Great Lakes, natural resources and recreation have always been among our strongest areas. The Fund’s board of trustees has recommended 117 recreation and land acquisition projects totaling $100 million.

These projects will positively impact every corner of our state, from Iron County in the Upper Peninsula, to Traverse City , to Luna Pier in Monroe County . Also included is a significant expansion of the William G. Milliken Park on the Detroit riverfront.

governor rick snyder state of the state wordle

He unveiled the Michigan Dashboard, a series of measurements that chart progress in meeting objectives that impact economic growth, education, public health and safety, value for taxpayer dollars in government, and overall quality of life.

“The State of the State will from now on be a report card of where we are as a state,” Snyder said. “It will be a realistic assessment of where we are improving, where we are not improving and what we need to do to move forward.”

You can read the complete transcript in the Freep and until we have the YouTube of the address, here’s a WOOD-TV report on the highlights.

“Groundbreaking” Chevy Volt is Car of the Year, Good Timing for GM IPO

“I expected a science fair experiment. But this is a moonshot.”
~Car of the Year Consultant Judge Chris Theodore

Chevy Volt on the Assembly LineThe Wall Street Journal says that this week’s General Motors (GM) Initial Public Offering could be the largest in history, but is complicated by the $40 billion the automaker owes the US Government, which will be seeking to sell its stock as well:

Earlier Tuesday, GM confirmed it would raise the expected price for shares sold in its IPO to a range of $32 to $33 from the previous $26 to $29. GM also plans to sell up to $4.6 billion of preferred stock, up from $3 billion previously planned. The IPO will be priced Wednesday after the U.S. stock markets close and the shares will start trading Thursday.

…At the new level, the U.S. government would raise around $13 billion, including the overallotment, at the midpoint of the higher price range. That’s up from $8.3 billion at the lower price and share number.

You can Read on to make sense of the issues surrounding the IPO. One thing that will doubtless fuel the IPO is the fact that yesterday Motor Trend named the Chevy Volt 2011 Car of the Year. The award is the biggest in the auto industry, and Motor Trend says that the Volt has some of the most advanced engineering ever seen in an American car and writes:

In the 61-year history of the Car of the Year award, there have been few contenders as hyped — or as controversial — as the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt started life an Old GM project, then arrived fully formed as a symbol of New GM, carrying all the emotional and political baggage of that profound and painful transition. As a result, a lot of the sound and fury that has surrounded the Volt’s launch has tended to obscure a simple truth: This automobile is a game-changer.

You can read much more about their decision and watch this video summarizing the selection:

Photo Credit: 2011 Chevrolet Volt in Production by ibmphoto24

2011 Michigan Budget Deal Reached

.seek balance by *ojoyous1*
.seek balance by *ojoyous1*

Michigan has been staring down the barrel of an estimated $800 million deficit in the state’s general fund for the 2011 fiscal year. The Detroit News reports that a budget deal without tax increases was reached by Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, House Speaker Andy Dillon and state budget director Bob Emerson. The deal is expected to be signed today and reportedly includes:

  • A 3 percent cut in budgets of all state departments.
  • A tax amnesty program.
  • An early retirement program for state workers.
  • Reforms of the state’s liquor laws.
  • Changes to the state’s unclaimed property law, allowing the state to take possession of property earlier than in previous practice.
  • Refinancing of some state bonds to take advantage of favorable interest rates.

Tax Day Special: Michigan’s Senior Tax Breaks Lead the Nation

vroom. by artsy_T
vroom. by artsy_T

A Chicago Tribune article last month (now gone) took a look at Michigan’s senior tax breaks, calling them “the most generous in the nation.” Some highlights:

  • Michigan exempts all Social Security and public pension benefits from income taxes, as well as up to $45,120 a year for a single return and $90,240 on a joint return in private retirement and pension benefits, a cap that increases annually with inflation.
  • Taxpayers aged 65 or older also get to deduct up to $10,058 on a single return or $20,115 on a joint return in interest, dividends and capital gains. The deduction is reduced by any deduction for retirement and pension benefits.
  • Those 65 and over get double the $2,300 annual tax exemption other taxpayers get.
  • Seniors can claim a larger proportion of their property taxes in figuring their homestead property tax credit on their income taxes. The average credit for seniors is more than 1.5 larger than the average credit for other filers.
  • The home-heating credit allows low-income seniors to claim extra exemptions which increases the available credit.

You can get all the details on Michigan’s tax benefits for seniors from the State of Michigan.

Michigan lawmakers stare at the same chasm

hold on, I'm thinkin' by buckshot.jones
hold on, I’m thinkin’ by buckshot.jones

Lansing’s inability to execute compromises deprives many other agencies of the ability to plan properly as well.

So write the editors of the Detroit Free Press, who say that this week is a crucial week for Michigan lawmakers as they address next year’s budget without any kind of agreement as to the cuts. Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry digs into the herculean challenge they face of filling an ever-widening budgetary sinkhole and says that:

We’ve all been used to getting services from the state that come so automatically we don’t think about them.

Except now we have to. We need our elected leaders to level with us, and offer us competing and honest visions for the future. There’s less money than there used to be.

There also ain’t no such thing as a free lunch. Do we want what we are used to having?

If so, we are going to have to raise taxes.

Unfortunately, with no agreement and (worse) no will on either site of the aisle to make difficult choices, it looks as if we may be in for another long summer as everyone waits for the legislature to make the tough choices.