Virginia Gordan | Michigan Radio
WUOMFM

Virginia Gordan

Reporter

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.

Virginia joined Michigan Radio after a career at the University of Michigan Law School, first as Assistant Dean of Students and later as Assistant Dean of International Affairs. Before that she worked as a lawyer in Washington, DC, on the development of low and moderate income housing.

Virginia loves the state of Michigan and especially enjoys exploring its lakes (including the Great ones) as often as possible.

a classroom of empty colorful chairs
Flickr user Frank Juarez / Creative Commons http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The initial unaudited 2020 fall enrollment count is down by roughly 53,000 students from last fall's count for Michigan's K-12 school districts and public school academies.

State Superintendent Michael Rice announced the 3.7% decline Wednesday. 

In a written statement, Rice estimated that about three quarters of the decline is due, in roughly equal shares, to fewer kindergartners, more homeschool kids, and an estimated public school population decrease based on an average annual decrease of 13,000 students over the last ten years.

Women's prison
Michigan Department of Corrections

The Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), a Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, filed a lawsuit Monday against the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Muslim and Moorish Science women who are being housed primarily at the MDOC's Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Pittsfield Township.


Ahmad Ardity / Pixabay

Wayne County rolled out a new program Thursday, called "Wayne County Cares," to help county residents who have been affected by the state's recent COVID-19 public health orders that shut down or reduced services at many businesses.

The county is offering a one-time, no strings attached $500 cash card to eligible applicants who must have worked in food service, group fitness, hospitality, or entertainment businesses since March 2020 and meet certain income limits.

A rusty barrel in the woods
Bryce Huffman

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is signing up eligible residents of four West Michigan communities for a study of the potential long term health impacts of exposure to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in drinking water. The study is called the Michigan PFAS Exposure and Health Study (MiPEHS).

person dropping absentee ballot into ballot box
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

In total, 15,302 absentee ballots were rejected in Michigan's November 3 election, according to figures released Wednesday by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

That's a rejection rate of 0.46%, or less than half of one percent of the record breaking 3.3 million absentee ballots cast.

In comparison, about 1.6 million absentee ballots were cast in the August primary election, and 10,600 of them were rejected.

designer491 / Adobe Stock

Decisions made by Michigan's Unemployment Insurance Agency to address the unprecedented volume of unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic made the state more vulnerable to fraudulent claims, according to an outside review of the UIA by Deloitte & Touche, LLP. The report was commissioned by the state's Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) in July and released Wednesday. 

Junkyardsparkle / Wikimedia Commons

A third-generation family-owned Big Boy restaurant in Sandusky, Michigan is staying open for in-person dining, despite the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services' three week ban on indoor dining and drinking in Michigan's restaurants and bars. Restaurants and bars may stay open for outdoor dining, carry out and deliveries only under the November 15 order.

The temporary ban took effect on November 18 with the goal of slowing the spread of COVID-19 as it surges across the state.  

user rollingroscoe / morgueFile

A politically diverse coalition of advocacy groups has urged the Michigan Legislature to pass an 18 bill package of criminal justice measures before December's lame duck legislative session ends. 

The 18 bills stem from recommendations for change made in January by the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers from both sides of the aisle joined Governor Gretchen Whitmer Tuesday to announce legislation they say will clear the path to good jobs in Michigan for military families.

The legislation would make veterans, service members and their dependents eligible for license reciprocity in Michigan, provided they are in good standing with no pending disciplinary action and demonstrate competency in their profession through education, training or work experience.

Democratic U.S. Congresswoman Haley Stevens has been elected for a second term representing Michigan's 11th Congressional District.

Stevens defeated her Republican opponent, Birmingham lawyer Eric Esshaki, 50% to 48%, with all votes counted.

voting booths
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced they are getting reports of robocalls to some Flint residents trying to spread misinformation about voting.

The reported robocalls falsely claim the lines are long at Flint polling places, and they wrongly urge voters to delay voting until Wednesday, November 4.

Everyone who wants to vote must be in line to cast a ballot by 8 pm Tuesday, November 3.

Courtesy of Michigan Department of Attorney General

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced multiple felony charges Thursday against Justen Watkins, the self-proclaimed leader of The Base, a white supremacist group that advocates violence, along with another man associated with the group, Alfred Gorman.

Watkins, 25, of Bad Axe, MI, and Gorman, 35, of Taylor, MI, were arrested at their homes early Thursday and taken to the Washtenaw County Jail. 

2020 Census
Adobe Stock

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and  U.S. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) say they may appeal the U.S. Census Bureau's population tally for Detroit when it is announced. 

They described the Bureau's counting efforts in Detroit as "deficient and haphazard," and said that puts the city at risk for an undercount.

"The truth of the matter is, they started later in Detroit, understaffed Detroit, and shut it down earlier for one reason," said Duggan. "There appears to be a national strategy to undercount cities, and it appears to be hitting Detroit most effectively."

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has rolled out a proposed plan he said would help many Detroiters who were overtaxed by the city between 2010 and 2013 due to property tax overassessments. The stated goal is to help Detroiters who were hurt by the overassessments, including many who lost their homes due to tax foreclosures. 

Five city council members have co-sponsored Duggan's proposal, and a resolution was introduced Tuesday at a formal session of the city council. 

morgueFile

Health care workers are slated to be in the first group to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan if it becomes available, according to a draft COVID-19 vaccination plan submitted last week to the Centers for Disease Control by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

straight-party voting
Lars Plougmann

More than half of the three million requested absentee ballots have already been cast, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said at a press conference on Tuesday. 

Benson said that voters have received nearly all of the three million absentee ballots they have requested with two weeks left to go before Election Day. 

"When you reflect on the fact that just under 4.8 million voted in the November 2016 election, the fact that two weeks out, already three million are on track to vote early in this election is just extraordinary," said Benson, predicting that the number of absentee ballot requests will continue to climb.

Ford Truck Plant workers with PPE
Ford Motor Company

Emergency rules have been issued by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) that clarify what employers have to do to help protect workers, customers and communities from the spread of COVID-19. 

MIOSHA is a division of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO).

flickr user Charlie Nguyen / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Fair and Equal Michigan campaign that seeks to amend Michigan's civil rights law to add anti-discrimination protection for LGBTQ people has submitted more than 483,000 petition signatures to state election officials, according to an announcement by the group on Tuesday.

Elissa Slotkin
Cheyna Roth / MPRN

Two Democratic congresswomen with national security experience want Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to make a public commitment to upholding the military's apolitical role.

Michigan Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin and New Jersey Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill said this is critical because President Donald Trump has used the military for partisan purposes and has suggested he might reject the results of the 2020 election if he loses. 

Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has ordered all Michigan public and private K-12 schools to publicly notify their school communities about probable and confirmed school-associated cases of COVID-19. 

Child reading
User Melanie / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The package of four bills (S.B. 1172, 1173, 1174, and 1175) would mandate a statewide strategy for identifying and intervening to help students with dyslexia. 

The focus on dyslexia is needed to improve childhood literacy in Michigan because it's the most common learning disability that affects reading and writing, according to the bills' sponsors, Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor), Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia), Sen. Jim Runestad (R-White Lake), and Sen. Lana Theis (R-Brighton).

Two Democratic state senators have introduced a pair of bills this week (SB 1158 and  SB 1159) that would prohibit open and concealed carry of firearms inside Michigan's Capitol building.

The ban would not apply to state law enforcement or Capitol security, and firearms would still be allowed outside on Capitol grounds.

City of Detroit

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced Tuesday the creation of the Detroit Housing for the Future Fund (DHFF), a public-private partnership that seeks to  bridge the funding gap between the cost of redevelopment and the income developers will receive from a particular project. 

"If you want to hold rent low enough that people of low income can afford it, but your housing costs to build are the same as every place else, you lose money," said Duggan. "Nobody is going to build apartment units where the cost of building it costs more than they get back in rent. They'd all go out of business."

One in three parents do not plan to have their children vaccinated for the seasonal flu this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

And only one third of parents believe that it's more important for their children to get a flu shot this year than in previous years.

That's according to the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at Michigan Medicine. 

prescription pill bottle
Melissa Benmark / Michigan Radio

Michigan health officials want to hear from residents of each region of the state about how the opioid crisis has affected them, their loved ones, and their community.

And they want feedback about services, programs, and policies.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday the results of her office's investigation into three separate incidents of alleged police misconduct involving officers in Jackson, Saginaw and Washtenaw counties.  

Former city of Saginaw police officer Adam Collier, who is white, will face felony charges for allegedly using excessive force during an arrest on July 11. Collier is accused of striking a handcuffed woman, who is Black, with a closed fist, first as she entered his patrol car and later at the jail after she allegedly spat at him. Collier was fired on July 17.

Jocelyn Benson
Benson for Secretary of State

The Michigan Department of State is notifying millions of potential Michigan voters how to register and cast ballots in the November election. The mailings are expected to arrive in people's mailboxes within a week or so, according to the Department's press release.

Letters are on their way to about 700,000 Michiganders who have a Michigan driver's license or state ID and who are eligible to vote but not yet registered in Michigan. The letters explain how to register and how to apply for an absentee ballot.

Terry Gonda
Courtesy of Terry Gonda

Terry Gonda says she is devoted to the Catholic Church, despite being fired on Wednesday from her job as a part-time music director at a suburban Detroit parish because she is in a same-sex marriage.

In a June 12 email, Father Michael LeFevre, the current pastor of St. John Fisher Chapel University Parish in Auburn Hills, told Gonda that she was going to be fired.

University of Michigan near Rackham and Michigan League
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal judge ordered the University of Michigan on Wednesday to immediately stop communicating with alumni who could be potential plaintiffs in class action litigation against the school.

The order came after Judge Victoria Roberts learned that in April, U of M had contacted more than 300,000 former students in connection with its investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and sexual abuse by the late Dr. Robert Anderson. 

Michigan State University
John M. Quick / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan State University is cutting the salaries of non-unionized faculty and academic staff because of the budgetary impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

MSU President Dr. Samuel Stanley, Jr., announced in a letter Monday to all university employees that the pay cuts will start on September 1 and last at least one year.

Pages