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Fri July 6, 2012
In this morning's Michigan news headlines...
Power outages continue
Utilities say crews worked through the night to restore electricity to thousands of Michigan homes and businesses without power following this week's severe thunderstorms, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:
DTE Energy says Friday morning that about 105,000 of its customers were without power. Early Friday, Consumers Energy reported about 52,100 without power. Most of those without electricity lost service after storms late Wednesday and Thursday. Friday's forecast calls for temperatures to hit or surpass 100 degrees in several cities across the state, including Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing. That also happened Thursday. Consumers Energy had 160 crews on the job Thursday and more are being called in from Indiana. DTE Energy says its crews are working 16-hour shifts. At its peak, the outages affected about 325,000 DTE Energy customers and 104,000 Consumers Energy customers.
Detroit fire department shutdowns
The head of Detroit’s firefighters union says drastic new overtime restrictions have thrown the department into “utter chaos.” Sarah Cweik reports:
Dan McNamara says 26 of the city’s 66 fire companies were shut down yesterday. McNamara says the situation has “spun completely out of control”—and people “are going less protected than ever before." But top city officials dispute McNamara's assertions. They acknowledge the department will need to change its operations, but insist the changes can be managed with minimal impact.
Kirk Lewis is Detroit's Deputy Mayor. "We're using data, we're using a lot of expertise, to be able to assess on a daily basis how to deploy the assets that we have." Fire Commissioner Donald Austin acknowledges that his department is understaffed. But he says “the city doesn’t have the money to staff anymore.” Austin says if "everybody comes to the table," he can manage overtime costs and ensure reasonable response times.
Home health care
A campaign to guarantee union bargaining rights for home health care workers says it will turn in more than half a million signatures to get on the statewide ballot. Rick Pluta reports:
The measure would also require background checks for home health aides, and set up a registry for them. Home care assistants help seniors and people with disabilities who are on Medicaid remain in their homes. Often they are family members of the people they’re taking care of.
Don Hoyle is the treasurer of Citizens for Affordable Quality Home Care. He says there was a pilot program in Michigan to create a registry and require training and background checks for home health aides before it was de-funded by the Legislature. He says that care deserves protection in the state constitution. “We think the right of people to live in their own home is one of those things that ought to be protected. We think the right of people to get the kind of supports they need to be healthy and safe is something that needs to be protected.” Opponents of the ballot drive say it’s an effort by unions to tap into Medicaid for membership dues.