First Monthly Really, Really Free Market on Sunday

Really, Really Free Market

The first Really, Really Free Market of the summer will be held this Saturday, May 31 from 1pm to 5pm. The market–which is basically a flea market where everything is free–will take place at the empty parking lot at the corner of Wealthy and Fuller. For more information on the event, there is a Facebook event.

It’s kind of hard to describe exactly what the Really, Really Free Market is beyond describing it as a free flea market. In the past, there has been a ton of clothes, free food, bike repair stands, books, garden tools, guitar lessons, and all sorts of random things. As always, you are encouraged to bring usable things that you no longer need. Also, if you can teach a skill or provide a service–for example, guitar or bike repair–you can bring that to the market. In other cities, people have done self-defense workshops and given haircuts.

Markets will be held on the last Sunday of every month through the Summer. The dates will be June 28, July 26, and August 30.

If you would like to help out with the Really, Really Free Markets, check out the Good Morning Revolution website. These kind of projects always need a bunch of help and I am sure they would appreciate your help.

Report: Anti-Union Behavior has Intensified

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A new study by labor expert and Cornell University Professor Kate Bronfenbrenner has found that employer opposition to labor unions has intensified in recent years and has become more punitive.

The new report–titled “No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing“–looks at five years of employer behavior in elections supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The study found that it is standard practice for workers to be subject to threats, interrogation, harassment, surveillance, and retaliation for union activity. In campaigning against unions, corporations frequently engage in a combination of the following tactics:

  • 63% interrogate workers in one-on-one meetings with their supervisors about support for the union
  • 54% threaten workers in such meetings
  • 57% threaten to close the worksite
  • 47% threaten to cut wages and benefits
  • 34% fire workers

Moreover, even in instances when employees are able to form a union, corporations are able to continue to drag their heels. 52% of employees are still without a contract a year after they win a union election and 37% remain without a contract after two years.

Bronfenbrenner compared the results of this study to past studies and found that employers are using a combination of ten common anti-union tactics in 49% of unionization drives, up from 26% twelve years ago.

The report also looks at the difference between private-sector and public-sector unionization rates. In the public-sector, 37% of workers belong to unions compared to just 8% in the private-sector. Public-sector workers often have more freedom to form unions as coercive anti-union tactics are considerably less common. In many cases, they can form unions through a majority sign-up process rather than through elections.

The report blames employers’ anti-union tactics for driving down the unionization rate to 12.4% in the United States.

Study Likely to Fuel Debate over Employee Free Choice Act

Bronfenbrenner’s study and its conclusions will likely contribute to the ongoing debate over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). The Act would make it easier for workers to form unions and would reduce the advantages that employers currently hold (such as using anti-union intimidation tactics). Moreover, it would mandate that contracts be signed quicker and allow unions to be formed either through the elections process–which has been thoroughly manipulated by corporations over the years–or through a majority sign-up.

Not surprisingly, the Employee Free Choice Act has been opposed by major corporations and business groups, including some here in West Michigan. The United States Chamber of Commerce rejected this study, saying that it was skewed in favor of labor, although it was peer-reviewed by other academics in the field.

Local and Michigan Headlines: Detroit Free Press Cutting Its Staff; Auto Worker Contracts

Here are some interesting stories from the past 24 hours:

If we missed anything, let us know.

Headlines: Cheney: Obama Policies Endanger U.S.; Report: GM to Enter Bankruptcy

Democracy Now Headlines: Cheney: Obama Policies Endanger U.S.; Report: GM to Enter Bankruptcy

Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

Obama Backs Indefinite Jailing, Criticizes Bush Measures

President Obama has publicly acknowledged for the first time he supports the indefinite jailing of some prisoners without trial. Obama made the admission during a speech at the National Archives Thursday defending his plan to close Guantanamo.

President Obama: “Let me begin by disposing of one argument as plainly as I can: we are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people.”

Obama also went on to repudiate several Bush administration counterrorism policies and criticize the media and his own party for failing to oppose them.

President Obama: “I also believe that-too often-our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in this season of fear, too many of us-Democrats and Republicans; politicians, journalists and citizens-fell silent.”

Cheney: Obama Policies Endanger U.S.

Just minutes after Obama spoke, former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered a speech at the American Enterprise Institute defending Bush administration policies. Cheney said Obama is endangering the United States.

Vice President Dick Cheney: “The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some middle ground on terrorism. They may take comfort in hearing disagreement from opposite ends of the spectrum. If liberals are unhappy about some decisions and conservatives are unhappy about some decisions, then it may seem to them that the president is on the path of sensible compromise. Half measures keep you half exposed.”

Senate Approves War Funding

The Senate has approved a $91 billion dollar measure funding the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure passed by a vote of 86 to three.

Ex-Soldier Gets Life Sentence in Iraq Rape, Murder Case

A former U.S. soldier has been sentenced to life in prison for the 2006 rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager and the killing of her family. Steven Green was found guilty earlier this month of being the ringleader in raping and killing fourteen-year-old Abeer Kassem Hamza al-Janabi and killing her parents and five-year-old sister. Green was given the life term after jurors couldn’t come to unanimous agreement on sentencing him to death. Three other soldiers have also been sentenced to life in prison in the case.

UN Launches Appeal for Pakistan Refugees

In Pakistan, the UN is appealing for more than $500 million dollars in aid to help the hundreds of thousands displaced by clashes between government troops and Taliban fighters. Some two million people have fled their homes in the Swat valley following last month’s collapse of a government-Taliban truce. UN humanitarian coordinator Martin Mogwanja said the displacements have caused “incredible suffering.”

Adm. Mullen: Afghan Occupation Could “Further Destabilize” Pakistan

Meanwhile, the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, has admitted the escalation of the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan could end up worsening Pakistan’s internal unrest. Speaking before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mullen said: “We may end up further destabilizing Pakistan without providing substantial lasting improvements in Afghanistan.” He continued*: “Can I… [be] 100% certain that won’t destabilize Pakistan? I don’t know the answer to that.”

Anti-War Protesters Disrupt Senate Hearing

The hearing was briefly interrupted by four anti-war activists protesting the occupation of Afghanistan. The protesters threw money stained with blood and shouted “stop pouring blood money into warfare.” One demonstrator stood up to repeat the words of committee chair Senator John Kerry when he testified as an anti-war veteran during the Vietnam war*: “How do you ask someone to be the last American soldier to die for a mistake?” The activists are members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance.

Obama to Sign Credit Card Bill

President Obama is expected to sign a bill today imposing new regulations on the credit card industry. The final measure excludes stronger proposals that would have capped interest rates and fees. The bill has drawn criticism from gun control advocates over an amendment that would allow people to carry loaded guns in national parks.

15 Anti-Coal Activists Arrested in Sit-In

In other news from Washington, fifteen people were arrested Thursday protesting Democratic Congressmember Rick Boucher over his support for the coal industry. The activists say Boucher has led efforts to weaken the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill while inserting billions of dollars in incentives for coal companies.

Spanish Judge Reinstates Charges Against U.S. Troops in Bouso Killing

In Spain, charges have been reinstated against three U.S. soldiers in the killing of the Jose Couso. A Spanish journalist, Couso died when U.S. troops shelled Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel in April 2003. Ukrainian cameraman Taras Protsyuk also died in the attack. On Thursday, a Spanish judge revived the case against Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip DeCamp over what he called new evidence. Initial charges were dropped after Spain’s National Court dismissed the case. Jose Couso’s brother, Javier Couso, welcomed the reinstatement.

Javier Couso: “The success of what’s happening today is thanks to a joint effort not just of the justice system but of the civil testament in our country. This case was very important here. Jose gave a face to the victims in the Iraq war. It made many very indignant and we all saw it. It was an attack against the press.”

The judge, Santiago Pedraz, says the new evidence includes eyewitness testimony contradicting U.S. claims the tank that attacked the Palestine Hotel came under fire. One year ago, former Army Sergeant Adrienne Kinne told Democracy Now! she saw the Palestine hotel on a military target list and said she frequently intercepted calls from journalists staying there.

Morales Calls for Shift in U.S.-Bolivia Ties

In Bolivia, President Evo Morales is calling for a new phase in relations with the United States. The Bush administration funneled tens of millions of dollars to Morales’ opponents in an effort to destibilize his government. Bolivia expelled the U.S. ambassador last year over allegations of conspiring with opposition groups. On Thursday, Morales held talks with Thomas Shannon, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs.

Bolivian President Evo Morales: “On the issue of cooperation, whatever cooperation that is undertaken must be from state to state. On the issue of investment, the investment must be orientated towards having partners, and the investment must not just made to guarantee the plunder of groups, without any benefit for the people of Bolivia.”

Netanyahu: Israel Won’t Allow Division of Jerusalem

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared Israel will never cede control over all of Jerusalem. Palestinians have called for sovereignty over East Jerusalem as part of any future peace deal. But on Thursday, Netanyahu said Jerusalem will remain undivided.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “A united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Jerusalem was and will always be ours. It shall never be divided and split again.”

Netanyahu’s comments come just three days after his White House meeting with President Obama where he pledged to seek peace with Palestinians.

Report: GM to Enter Bankruptcy

Back in the United States, the Washington Post is reporting the Obama administration plans to steer General Motors into bankruptcy as early as next week. The move would enable GM to take out nearly $30 billion dollars in additional government loans. Meanwhile the government has increased the bailout of GM’s financing arm, GMAC, with an additional $7.5 billion dollars in taxpayer money on top of the $5 billion it’s already poured in.

Fed Closes Florida’s BankUnited FSB

Federal regulators have shut down the Florida-based savings bank BankUnited FSB. The bank was the largest banking institution headquartered in Florida, and the 34th federally-insured financial institution shut down this year.

AIG CEO to Step Down

And the bailed-out insurance giant AIG has announced Edward Liddy will resign as chair and CEO. Liddy has led AIG since the U.S. government bailed it out last September with what’s grown to a $180 billion dollar commitment.

State Website Tracks Michigan Stimulus Spending

Michigan Recovery Spending

A couple of weeks ago, we posted about the City of Grand Rapids stimulus tracker that allows people to see where money from the federal stimulus package is being spent.

Now, the State of Michigan is following suit with a new website that reports where stimulus money is being spent in the state. Thus far, $3.6 billion has come to the State of Michigan and it is expected that over the next two years that total will reach $7.5 billion.

Large allocations include:

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  • More than $1 billion for roads, bridges, mass transit and airports.
  • $931 million for education.
  • $464 million additional for Medicaid.
  • $538 million to upgrade sewers and drinking water facilities.
  • $400 million in tax cuts for 3.7 million workers.
  • $242 million for weatherization programs.
  • One of the nicer features of the website is a map that allows visitors to track stimulus spending by county. For example, the Kent County map reports that $6.9 million has been designated for home weatherization in the county, $1.5 million for Community Services Block Grants, $854,366 to the Grand Rapids Housing Commission for improvements to public housing in the city, and $400,000 for Brownfield Redevelopment Grants.

    “Fault Lines” episode examines life in Detroit

    A recent edition of “Fault Lines” on al Jazeera English explores life in Detroit for the city’s poor and working class and is definitely worth a watch. It’s hosted by journalist and filmmaker Avi Lewis, who made the excellent documentary The Take with his wife, activist and author Naomi Klein.

    “Despair and Revival in Detroit” hits on the auto industry’s imminent collapse and the push for a declaration of bankruptcy, the decline of industry in general, gentrification and “urban renewal,” community gardening, and a number of other issues. Lewis’s focus on and interviews with poor and working class people provide a perspective of a decaying but hopeful city that we aren’t exposed to often.

    Part I:

    Part II:

    Economist Dean Baker at the Michigan Policy Summit

    Economist Dean Baker, the co-founder and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C., was the keynote speaker at the 2009 Michigan Policy Summit in Detroit on Saturday, May 16, 2009. Baker has a Ph.d. in Economics from the University of Michigan and blogs for the American Prospect.

    Baker’s talk:

    Note: This video was submitted to us by Thomas Rico, you can check out his blog for more related video at ricothomasrico.blogspot.com.

    Local/Michigan Headlines: Chrysler Closing Dealerships; New Study on Tax Breaks and Jobs

    Here’s some of what has been happening in Grand Rapids and Michigan in the past twenty four hours:

    If we missed anything, let us know in the comments.

    Headlines: Obama Reverses Pledge to Release Photos of Prisoner Abuse; Senate Defeats Proposal to Cap Credit Card Rates

    Democracy Now Headlines: Obama Reverses Pledge to Release Photos of Prisoner Abuse; Senate Defeats Proposal to Cap Credit Card Rates

    Headlines from DemocracyNow.org, a daily TV/radio news program, hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, airing on over 650 stations, pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US.

    Report: Admin Mulling Indefinite Jailing of Gitmo Prisoners in US

    The Wall Street Journal is reporting the Obama administration is considering holding foreign prisoners indefinitely and without trial following the planned closure of the US military jail at Guantanamo Bay. The plan would revive the military commission tribunals that President Obama ended shortly after taking office. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham says current proposals include establishing some form of national security court that would authorize the indefinite imprisonment.

    Obama Reverses Pledge to Release Photos of Prisoner Abuse

    The Obama administration, meanwhile, has reneged on a pledge to release several dozen photos showing the torture and abuse of prisoners at overseas CIA and military jails. Last month, the Justice Department chose not to challenge an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit seeking the photos’ release. But after indications he was having second thoughts, President Obama confirmed Wednesday he will block the photos’ release.

    President Obama: “The publication of these photos would not add any additional benefit to our understanding of what was carried out in the past by a small number of individuals. In fact, the most direct consequence of releasing them, I believe, would be to further inflame anti-American opinion and to put our troops in greater danger. Moreover, I fear the publication of these photos may only have a chilling effect on future investigations of detainee abuse.”

    Around forty-three photos had been set for release. The military is believed to have as many as 2,000 photos depicting prisoner abuse. Amrit Singh, an ACLU lawyer who argued the case, said, “This essentially renders meaningless President Obama’s pledge of transparency and accountability that he made in the early days after taking office… [The Obama administration] has essentially become complicit with the torture that was rampant during the Bush years by being complicit in its coverup.”

    FBI Agent, Ex-State Dept. Official Detail Torture Objections

    The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the interrogation of foreign prisoners Wednesday, the first such hearing since President Obama released the Bush administration legal memos authorizing torture. Testifying behind a wooden screen to protect his identity, former FBI agent Ali Soufan said the Bush administration’s so-called enhanced interrogation techniques were “slow, ineffective, unreliable and harmful.”

    Ali Soufan: “From my experience, I strongly believe that it is a mistake to use what has become known as enhanced interrogation techniques, a position shared by professional operatives, including CIA officers who were present at the initial phases of the Abu Zubaydah interrogation. These techniques, from an operational perspective, are slow, ineffective, unreliable and harmful to our efforts to defeat al-Qaeda.”

    Also testifying was former State Department counselor and 9/11 Commission head Philip Zelikow. Zelikow said Bush administration officials ordered him to destroy a memo he wrote criticizing the approval of torture. Subcommittee chair Senator Sheldon Whitehouse criticized the censorship of Zelikow’s objections.

    Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse: “We were told that waterboarding was determined to be legal, but were not told how badly the law was ignored, bastardized and manipulated by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.”

    Senator Whitehouse went on to call for the establishment of a “truth commission” to further probe the Bush administration torture programs.

    US Shares Drone Intelligence with Pakistan

    The Pentagon says it’s provided Pakistan for the first time with surveillance material gathered by US drones. It’s unclear whether the intelligence sharing will continue beyond this one instance. Pakistani officials have recently increased calls for the US to share control of the drones, which have killed hundreds of Pakistanis in a series of bombings.

    Obama Seeks New Regulation of Derivatives

    The Obama administration is proposing new regulatory powers over derivatives, the complex financial instruments that played a major role in the nation’s economic collapse. Derivatives include credit default swaps, the controversial insurance contracts that led to the government bailout of insurance giant AIG. The White House wants new rules that would have credit default swaps traded on public exchanges and backed by existing capital. On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the proposals would bring urgently needed oversight.

    Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: “Part of our approach will be not just getting the better rules, more sensible rules, more conservative rules across–risk taking across the financial system, but a cleaner, more simple, more consolidated oversight structure so that there’s less opportunity for arbitrage. It’s less easy for risks to just migrate around and move around the parts of the system where regulation is carefully designed.”

    Senate Defeats Proposal to Cap Credit Card Rates

    The Senate has defeated an amendment that would have capped credit card interest rates at 15 percent. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders tried to include the measure in a bill imposing new regulation on the credit card industry. Democratic lawmakers have vowed to protect consumers and crack down on the credit card companies’ abusive practices. But Sanders’ proposal drew just thirty-three votes, with a bipartisan group of sixty senators voting against. Sanders said, “When banks are charging 30 percent interest rates, they are not making credit available. They’re engaged in loan-sharking.”

    Geithner-Led NY Fed Knew of AIG Bonuses

    Newly released documents show federal officials were aware of the large bonus payments at the insurance giant AIG more than five months before they became a major public controversy. The bonus details were provided to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then headed by Timothy Geithner, before he became President Obama’s Treasury Secretary.

    Drug Czar Calls for End to “War on Drugs”

    The nation’s new drug czar is calling for an end to the so-called “war on drugs.” In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Gil Kerlikowske said, “People see a war as a war on them. We’re not at war with people in this country.” A former Seattle police chief, Kerlikowske has emphasized treatment and harm-reduction approaches to curbing drug use rather than standard US methods of criminalization. Kerlikowske also says he supports needle-exchange programs as part of viewing drugs as an issue of public health.

    Pope Criticizes Israel’s Separation Wall

    In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Pope Benedict XVI continued his visit with a trip to Israel’s separation wall around the Palestinian town of Bethlehem. The Pope called for the establishment of a Palestinian state and decried the wall as “tragic.”

    Pope Benedict XVI: “I have seen, adjoining the camp and overshadowing much of Bethlehem, the wall that intrudes into your territories, separating neighbors and dividing families. Although walls can easily be built, we all know that they do not last forever. They can be taken down.”

    Mother of Slain Soldier Cites War Zone Stress, Poor Mental Health Treatment

    The mother of a US servicemember killed by another soldier in Iraq has said the war zone conditions and a lack of proper mental health services are partly responsible for her son’s death. Shawna Machlinski’s son Michael Edward Yates, Jr., was one of five US servicemembers who died in Monday’s shooting by Sergeant John Russell at a US military clinic in Baghdad.

    Shawna Machlinski: “As much as I have a lot of anger towards him, I also have some sympathy, because I know he must have been going through a lot as well. That doesn’t excuse the fact that he murdered my son. But I believe that if he would have gotten the help that he was there to get maybe sooner or gotten more help, and other people recognized the signs, because there are signs, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure those signs out.”

    Russell is being held on five counts of premeditated murder and one count of aggravated assault. The Pentagon says Russell’s gun had been taken away and that he opened fire at the clinic where he’d been urged to receive counseling.

    Suu Kyi Jailed, Charged for Uninvited Visit from US National

    In Burma, the military junta has charged the confined pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi for an uninvited visit from a US citizen who swam across a lake to reach her home. The junta says John Yettaw spent two days in Suu Kyi’s home before he was captured as he made his way out. Her attorneys say Yettaw ignored Suu Kyi’s pleas to leave and spent a night sleeping on a ground floor. Earlier today, Suu Kyi and two aides were taken to a prison near the former capital of Rangoon. Suu Kyi has spent thirteen of the last nineteen years under house arrest. She’s being charged with violating the terms of her detention.

    Red Cross Worker Killed in Sri Lanka Bombing

    In Sri Lanka, a Red Cross worker has become one of the latest victims of Sri Lankan government shelling on a tiny strip held by Tamil Tiger rebels. The attack followed the Sri Lankan military’s two separate bombings of a crowded hospital, killing fifty civilians. On Wednesday, President Obama called on both sides to end the violence.

    President Obama: “First, the government should stop the indiscriminate shelling that has taken hundreds of innocent lives, including several hospitals. The government should live up to its commitment to not use heavy weapons in the conflict zone. Second, the government should give United Nations humanitarian teams access to the civilians who are trapped between the warring parties so that they can receive the immediate assistance necessary to save lives.”

    7 Afghans Killed in Bombing Near U.S. Base

    In Afghanistan, at least seven people were killed and another 21 wounded in a suicide bombing near a U.S. military base in the city of Khost. The victims were all Afghan workers employed at the base.

    90 Hospitalized in Poison Attack at Afghan Girls’ School

    In other news from Afghanistan, around 90 Afghan school girls were hospitalized this week following a poison attack at their school in Kapisa province. It was the third attack on an all-girls’ school in Afghanistan in as many weeks. Afghan police have blamed the Taliban but the group has denied responsibility.

    Illinois Senate Opposes Escalation of Afghan Occupation

    President Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan is facing opposition in his home state of Illinois. The Illinois State Senate has passed a resolution calling for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan instead of Obama’s plans to increase the occupation.

    Low Pay led to Fatigue for Co-Pilot in Buffalo Plane Crash

    Federal transportation officials have revealed the Continental airlines plane that crashed near Buffalo earlier this year was co-piloted by a sleep-deprived twenty-four year old who made just $16,000 a year. Because of her low pay, Rebecca Lynn Shaw was forced to live with her parents in Seattle and commute by plane across the country to her Newark-based job. Fifty people were killed in the crash of Continental Flight 3407 on February 12th. The victims included Alison Des Forges, one of the world’s foremost experts on Rwanda and Beverly Eckert, who had become an advocate for 9-11 families after losing her husband in the attacks on the Twin Towers.

    Denied Honoray Degree, Obama Delivers Commencement Address at ASU

    President Obama delivered the commencement address at Arizona State University Wednesday, his first since becoming president. The school has sparked controversy over its refusal to award Obama an honorary degree, with officials explaining that Obama’s “body of work” has yet to come. During his address, Obama used the apparent snub to make the point that recognition shouldn’t be conferred based solely on titles or celebrity status. Obama is set to deliver the commencement address at Indiana’s Notre Dame University Sunday where he’s expected to face protests for supporting abortion rights.

    Video Shows Police Officer Kicking Suspect’s Head

    And in California, a police officer has been videotaped kicking a man in the head who had led police on a high-speed chase. The video shows the man voluntarily lying on the ground before the officer approaches and strikes him with his foot. The officer then high-fives another officer after the man is handcuffed.

    Michigan’s Infrastructure Ranked Poorly in Study

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    In January–before the Obama administration took office and amidst discussion about the possibility of pouring millions of dollars into the economy for infrastructure improvement projects as form of economic stimulus–the American Society of Civil Engineers released a “Report Card for America’s Infrastructure” that found that the United States needs major improvements in its infrastructure.

    Now the group has released state-by-state rankings, and not surprisingly for anyone that has driven on Michigan’s roads, Michigan ranked quite poorly with the group stating that “Michigan’s infrastructure is in dire need.”

    In a 50-page report on the state of Michigan’s infrastructure, the group rated several key components of Michigan’s infrastructure:

    AVIATION: C – Michigan’s 200+ airports generate $4.3 billion for Michigan’s economy each year. The individual components — runway systems, pavement conditions, terminals, weather access, security and pilot and aircraft services — are in satisfactory condition. However, current infrastructure repair, maintenance and expansion needs exceed $1.3 billion over the next five years, a figure well beyond existing revenue. It is imperative that Michigan establish dedicated funding for airport infrastructure.

    DAMS: D – Over 90% of Michigan’s 2,581 dams will reach or exceed their design life by 2020. Many dams are abandoned, no longer serve any useful purpose, and pose safety hazards to downstream residents. No funding is currently available in Michigan to help dam owners repair, or remove aging dams.

    DRINKING WATER: D – The State of Michigan is in the unique position of being surrounded by the Great Lakes, which offer an abundant supply of fresh water. Yet the State faces crucial funding challenges both in treating and distributing clean drinking water to continue to meet the level of service demands of its residents. Nearly 75% of Michigan’s population is served by a community water system. The current fiscal needs for water system rehabilitation in the State exceed $11 billion.

    ENERGY: C – The overall health of the energy generation and transmission system in Michigan generally meets the state’s current needs. However, reliability and security concerns are posed by the state’s dependence on coal and natural gas fueled generation and reliance on fuel supplied by external sources. Congestion limitations and interface limits exist between the State of Michigan’s transmission system and neighboring grids in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio and Ontario, Canada. Diversification of energy supply, investments in renewable energy and transmission system upgrades are needed to alleviate congestion and to reduce dependency on fossil-based generation.

    ROADS AND BRIDGES: D – Michigan’s extensive network of roads and bridges allows the state’s 10 million residents to safely and freely travel while enabling businesses to efficiently serve their customers. However, Michigan’s network is rapidly aging. 38% of roads are in poor condition, 28% of the bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and U.S. truckers rate Michigan roads as 3rd worst in the country. While road and bridge funding should be increasing to keep pace with rising construction costs, the reality is that revenues are declining. Continuing to shortchange our transportation system will lead to declining quality of life and reduced economic competitiveness in the global economy. Bold action is required now.

    STORMWATER: D – Michigan’s stormwater management system provides flood protection, fosters development, improves agricultural production and extends the service life of roads, streets and highways. Stormwater management improves the water quality of streams, rivers and the Great Lakes. Statewide operation and maintenance procedures are inconsistent and the state does not maintain an inventory of its stormwater management system. Funding for continued maintenance, repair and water quality improvement is inadequate and nonexistent in many areas.

    TRANSIT: D – Following a national trend, transit use in Michigan has grown faster over the last two decades than any other mode of transportation. The rise in demand is outstripping capacity. Often the money used for the expansion comes from funds allotted to maintenance. As a result, the physical condition of the infrastructure is declining. Some form of public transportation is available throughout the state and in many rural areas, but the capacities of most urban systems fail to meet demand. The presence of efficient public transportation increases property use and value. Improving public transportation services within the state is a key component in reviving Michigan’s economy.

    WASTEWATER COLLECTION SYSTEMS: C – The Great Lakes State’s 35,000 inland lakes and ponds, 54,300 miles of river systems and five million acres of wetlands are its greatest resource. Much of the state’s wastewater collection system infrastructure — sewers, pumping stations and wastewater treatment facilities — is decades beyond a system’s life expectancy. The EPA calculates Michigan’s funding requirements at $6 billion to address the system’s replacement, rehabilitation, expansion and process improvement needs. Approximately $2 billion alone is needed to prevent combined sewer overflows.

    NAVIGABLE WATERWAYS: C – Michigan’s navigation system includes coastal infrastructure, navigation harbors, channels, locks, and dams. The system contains approximately 90 harbors, 14 waterways or rivers, the significant Soo Locks system, and disposal facilities for depositing dredged material. Annual maintenance and repair costs outpace the limited federal funding from the Army Corps of Engineers, which causes total system needs to grow each year. Because commercial harbors have priority and the needs exceed the available funding, recreational harbors rarely receive dollars for maintenance or improvements.

    In each section, the group makes specific recommendations for improvement. These include everything from allotting more staff members to regulatory agencies to increasing taxes to pay for necessary upgrades.

    Nationwide, the group calls for more federal involvement in maintaining and expanding the country’s infrastructure.