Monday, March 09, 2009

Six O'Clock News - Detroit to Chicago in Four Hours Edition

  • High speed rail between Detroit and Chicago may be coming thanks to the federal stimulus. MDOT and a nine state consortium called the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative are waiting on guidelines from the feds so they can apply for the funding. Not only would it help relieve congestion on the dreaded I-94 and give people an alternative to the slower-moving Amtrak, it would create lots of jobs, jobs, jobs.

    "All of these categories spin off into additional jobs for Michigan," (MDOT's Tim) Hoeffner said. "Many of those jobs would be in construction, just as they would be for highway construction. We will need workers to rebuild the track system, upgrade railroad crossings, install newer communications systems and (do) inspections."

    Fun fact: Michigan is the only state outside the Northeast that has a stretch (from K-zoo to Niles) where trains can go above 80 miles an hour. Officials want to be able to hit the high-end of 110 to make the Detroit-Chicago run in four hours time.

  • Kathy Barks Hoffman takes a look at the guy with the hardest job in Michigan right now - Michigan Department of Human Services director Ismael Ahmed. Rapidly rising need coupled with budget cuts will be an enormous challenge.

  • Back door tax increases. Don't want to pay for government? They won't be able to track who is contaminating your water. So sorry. Better stock up on the expensive bottled stuff, because we can't afford to hunt down polluters.

    Environmentalists say the budget problems have left the DEQ unable to chase down polluters and force them to clean up their messes. While money is available to provide water to the Kalamazoo Township homes, the pollution won't be cleaned up or prevented from spreading.

    Since 2002, the DEQ has had its budget cut by roughly 67%. Hey, I know the answer. Let's cut taxes. The market will take care of the problem, right?

  • Michigan has a new college-level geology textbook, "Michigan Geography and Geology", the first since 1984. Yes, we know a lot more now, and it's about time we taught it.

  • What recession? 600 people stood in line in the cold rain for Tiger tickets Saturday, setting the third-highest single day sale record. Totals were drastically reduced from 2008 though, from 177,000 to 66,163.

  • George Weeks takes a look at the recent chatter concerning offshore wind energy in Michigan, citing the agreement signed with Denmark last week that will have the state collaborating with one of the world's leaders in alternative energy on the possibilities for our state and the Midwest. Added column bonus: Senate Republican Michelle McManus complaining about cuts to the state budget. Always a pleasure to see such hypocrisy proudly on display.

  • Michigan takes 3rd Place in Site Selection's Governor's Cup for 2008, which "recognizes the state with the most new or expanded capital projects the previous year as tracked by magazine publisher Conway Data Inc.'s New Plant Database". Think about this - we placed 3rd in the entire nation, behind Ohio and Texas, for new projects. Third.

    This shoots down Cassis' theory that this is a horrible place for business, doesn't it? Still, as great as this news is, first-place Ohio had 200 more projects than we did, and they have focused on the same things that we are trying to do here - recruiting and making investments in alternative energy companies (they set their RPS at 25% by 2025), and paying attention to infrastructure and education. The difference between them and us? They have a Legislature that actually works with Gov. Ted Strickland on making their state a better place, instead of insisting on "more tax cuts" all the time. Oh, and by the way, they are looking at film incentives as well.

    Oh well. We still beat "Sneaky" Ed Rendell who finished fourth, so that's saying something.