NEWS FROM AROUND THE STATE
Issue 108, March 2005

Table of Contents

  1. Michigan Introduces Text Version of State Web Site
  2. Granholm Administration Launches Statewide Early Childhood Development Program
  3. Free Credit Reports Available
  4. Michigan Center for the Book Offers New Grants,
    Tools to Help Michigan Libraries Promote Reading
  5. MDOT Highway Program Brings Jobs and Economic Benefits to State
  6. Michigan Solid Waste Management Strategy Announced; Reports Released
  7. Movers and Seekers: Michigan Immigrants and Migrants
  8. Governor Granholm Eliminates 71 Obsolete Boards, Commissions, Positions, and Task Forces
  9. OFIS Releases 5th Annual HMO Consumer Guide and 2004 PRIRA Requests
  10. DNR Unveils Endangered Species Assessment Resource Tool on the Web
  11. Career Portal Website Now Accessible on State's Homepage; New Resources Added
  12. FIA Renamed Michigan Department of Human Services
  13. Governor Granholm Creates Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives
  14. The American Need for a Russian Weed (Michigan History Highlight)
  15. MDOT Unveils the Jeffries Freeway Web link
  16. New Consumer Guide to Michigan Medicaid Health Plans Released
  17. Mackinac Island's Fort Mackinac Open Evenings in 2005
  18. Michigan.gov Continues to Expand Services for Michigan's Citizens
  19. Governor Granholm Launches New Internship Website
  20. Safe Delivery Act Provides Alternative to Abandoning Newborns
  21. State Purging Online Listings for 215,000 Ex-Convicts
  22. Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
  23. Michigan Must Fight Drift Toward Secrecy
  24. MDOT Makes 2005 Construction Map Available to Motorists
  25. Have You Seen Me? (Michigan State Police)


(1) Michigan Introduces Text Version of State Web Site

Yet another enhancement has been made to the award winning web site for the State of Michigan. The e-Michigan Web Development team within the Michigan Department of Information Technology has unveiled a new text version of the Michigan.gov web site. Any web page on the site can now be displayed in a text-only format. A new [Text Version] link now appears directly under the top navigation links and on the right side of each web page. Clicking on the [Text Version] link will replicate the web page in a text-only format, eliminating all of the graphic images.

The text-only enhancement provides for improved accessibility. People with varied types of disabilities who use assistive technologies and adaptive strategies will benefit from a text-only web site, making it less difficult to navigate the site. In addition, text-only web pages are useful for access over low-bandwidth connections, eliminating the need to wait for images to download. It also promotes easier navigation for web devices with text-only browsers, such as WebTV, Interactive TX, WAP phones and wireless devices.

You can click on the new link for the new text-only version of Michigan.gov by visiting the site at http://www.michigan.gov/.

Source: Michigan Newswire, Feb. 25, 2005.

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(2) Granholm Administration Launches
Statewide Early Childhood Development Program

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today (Feb. 22) approved the formation of a new non-profit public corporation to coordinate state and local efforts to promote early childhood development activities in Michigan.

The corporation – known as the Michigan Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC) – will establish standards and guidelines for early childhood development activities that will be implemented throughout the state by the ECIC in partnership with local intermediate school districts (ISDs). The effort will be funded by public and private funds and was first announced in the Governor’s State of the State address earlier this month.

"During the first 36 months of life, dramatic brain development occurs which is either aided or hindered by early childhood experiences," Granholm said today. "It is critical that we provide opportunities to stimulate and feed children’s minds by providing every child the opportunity for high-quality education and care. If the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) is our job growth agency, the ECIC will be our brain growth agency."

According to Granholm, the ECIC will allow the state to more effectively focus existing early childhood efforts, and leverage public and private dollars to expand the availability of high-quality child development and childcare, including parenting education. It will bring together the public and private sectors, including government, business, civic, faith, education, and community groups to develop a long-standing, sustained focus on early childhood.

"We need to ensure that Michigan’s children receive the care that will prepare them for success in school and in life," Marianne Udow, director of the Family Independence Agency, said. "Michigan strives to be a leader in ensuring universal access to early childhood education and care, and the ECIC is the vehicle to help us reach that goal."

A 15-member executive committee that includes representatives from participating ISDs and other gubernatorial appointees will govern the ECIC. It will formulate early childhood development strategies and offer funding for local programs. At the local level, the ECIC will partner with ISDs and community groups to develop and implement strategic plans and programs based on those statewide guidelines. The ECIC will also assist local groups in seeking public and private funds for their programs.

The ECIC is being formed under the Urban Cooperation Act of 1967, with an interlocal agreement initially signed by the Family Independence Agency and the Branch ISD which has an outstanding early childhood development program in place. The Branch ISD partnership is the first of what is expected to be widespread partnerships with ISDs across the state.

According to Udow, many ISDs recognize that education begins at birth, not at age five. And, ISDs are uniquely positioned to bring stakeholders together to design and implement comprehensive early childhood systems because of their experience in administering the All Students Achieve, Parent Involvement and Education (ASAP-PIE), and Great Parents Great Start programs.

The ECIC will coordinate activities in Michigan that promote quality childcare to optimize state investments; support, sponsor, and fund partnerships with communities to promote broad-based programs that provide universal access to quality early education and care for all children from birth to kindergarten; and serve as a central statewide clearinghouse for information, resources, and best practices related to, among other things, early childhood development, educational opportunities and qualifications for child care providers, community activities that promote early childhood education and care, and parent information and support.

"Commitment from major stakeholders in the business community will be a centerpiece of the program," Granholm said. "We want to demonstrate that early childhood education is a critical investment in the economic viability of the state. I strongly urge the businesses in this great state to support the ECIC, as the children who will benefit from this corporation are the business people of tomorrow."

For more information on services available locally, go to http://www.michigan.gov/greatstart.

Source: Michigan Newswire, Feb. 22, 2005.

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(3) Free Credit Reports Available

Starting on March 1, Michigan residents can order free copies of their annual credit report, an important tool in the battle against identity theft, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox announced.

"Educating yourself about your personal credit history is the first step towards empowering yourself as a consumer," Cox said. "I encourage every Michigan consumer to take advantage of this free, quick, and easy opportunity."

Credit reports contain a collection of personal and financial information, such as addresses, telephone numbers, and a detailed credit history, including accounts opened and unpaid debts. By reviewing their credit reports, consumers can detect fraudulent activity early and limit the potential damage done by identity thieves.

"A credit report is an essential document for the savvy consumer," AARP Michigan State President Dr. George Rowan said. "It is a summary of a consumer’s credit activity, and AARP believes it be vitally important for consumers to know what’s happening in their names, particularly in this era of growing concern about identity theft."

Michigan citizens are entitled to free credit reports from each of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Consumers can maximize their chances of preventing identity theft by ordering one report from each agency every four months. Consumers can order their free credit reports by mail from: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281; by telephone at 1-877-322-8228; or online at http://www.annualcreditreport.com.

To obtain more information about free credit reports and preventing identity theft, or to report suspicious activity on your credit report, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division online at http://www.michigan.gov/ag, call toll-free at 1-877-765-8388, or write to: Consumer Protection Division, P.O. Box 30213-7713, Lansing, MI 48909.

Source: Michigan Newswire, March 1, 2005.

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(4) Michigan Center for the Book Offers New Grants, Tools
to Help Michigan Libraries Promote Reading

The Michigan Center for the Book today introduced a new grant program and two new online resources to help Michigan libraries plan and implement programs to encourage reading.

“Michigan’s public libraries do a great job of getting their communities excited about books and reading, and we want to provide some tools they can use in implementing and hopefully expanding those efforts,” said Acting State Librarian Nancy Robertson. “Whether a library is planning an author visit or trying to get adults more involved in its summer reading program, the Michigan Center for the Book can help.”

Michigan Literary Event Funding

As part of a new grant program for literary events in the state, the Michigan Center for the Book will partially fund events or projects in Michigan that fulfill its goal of promoting an awareness of books, reading, literacy, authors and Michigan’s rich literary heritage.

Requirements to apply for funds are:

Funds are limited and are on a first come, first served basis in a given calendar year. Preference will be given to Michigan Center for the Book affiliates.

For more information on funding availability and for forms, contact Michigan Center for the Book Coordinator Karren Reish at (517) 373-3891 or kreish@michigan.gov.

New Author Visits – How-To Site and Forum

Having trouble finding information on how to plan author events? Want to find out who else is having an event in Michigan so you can collaborate? Want to share insights about your events? The Michigan Center for the Book has launched the new Author Visits Web site at http://michigan.gov/authorvisits. The site includes information on how to plan an event, links to publishers and author resources and a forum for librarians and other interested individuals to share information and collaborate with one another.

Summer Reading Program Bookmarks

What suggestions can libraries give to adult readers during the summer reading program? Just in time for summer reading, the Michigan Center for the Book has designed a series of bookmarks for adults focusing on this year’s statewide summer reading program theme. The Summer Knight’s Reading bookmarks list medieval history, fiction, biography or classics for adult readers. For those who want to go beyond the bookmarks, an additional book list offers even more suggestions.

The bookmarks and booklist are available for download from the Center for the Book Web site at http://michigan.gov/mcfb. If you would like files suitable for professional printing, please contact Karren Reish at kreish@michigan.gov or (517) 373-3891.

The Michigan Center for the Book, a program of the Library of Michigan and the Center’s affiliates, aims to promote an awareness of books, reading, literacy, authors and Michigan’s rich literary heritage. New affiliates are welcome. For more information about the Michigan Center for the Book and its programs, visit http://michigan.gov/mcfb.

The Library of Michigan is part of the Department of History, Arts and Libraries (HAL). Dedicated to enriching the quality of life for Michigan residents by providing access to information, preserving and promoting Michigan’s heritage and fostering cultural creativity, the department also includes the Michigan Historical Center, the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Michigan Film Office.

Source: Michigan Newswire, Feb. 28, 2005.

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(5) MDOT Highway Program Brings Jobs and Economic Benefits to State

University of Michigan research says that the Michigan Department of Transportation's road and bridge program is worth millions of dollars in jobs and economic benefits to Michigan. The study found that MDOT's 2005-09 Highway Program will create 26,550 Michigan jobs in 2005 and will amount to $57.6 million of travel time savings for households and $35 million in savings for businesses as a result of improving pavement conditions and increasing capacity between 2005 and 2009. These savings will generate $6.5 billion of inflation-adjusted Gross State Product and create $4.2 billion in real personal income for the state. The study was completed by the University of Michigan's Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations with assistance from the Economic Development Research Group, Inc.

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm welcomed the results of the study, commenting that her administration's transportation priorities "further reinforce the connection between good roads and good jobs for Michigan."

"MDOT's work to preserve state roads and bridges provides residents and visitors alike with a good quality of life, helps promote responsible land use, and ensures that Michigan's businesses keep their global competitive edge," the governor said.

The study noted that a well-maintained and efficient transportation system provides the backbone for all economic activity within Michigan and that MDOT's ongoing investment in the transportation system provides positive economic benefits and creates jobs within the key economic sectors of Michigan's economy, including manufacturing and professional services. In addition, the study demonstrated that MDOT's Five Year Highway Program will reduce the number of unemployed workers and reduce the number of workers leaving the state.

Economic effects including the estimation of the highway program's spin-off benefits were measured using the REMI (Regional Economic Models, Inc.) model. The University of Michigan has been using some version of the REMI model since 1983 to evaluate projects for numerous state and local government agencies in Michigan. The researchers said that REMI is especially well-suited for assessing initiatives such as MDOT's Highway Program.

The economics benefit study is available on the MDOT Web site here or from MDOT's Five Year Transportation Program page at: http://www.michigan.gov/mdot5yearplan.

MDOT: Celebrating 100 years of transportation innovation, 1905-2005

Source: Michigan Newswire, Feb. 17, 2005.

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(6) Michigan Solid Waste Management Strategy Announced; Reports Released

Testifying before the Senate Natural Resources Committee, Department of Environmental Quality Director Steven E. Chester outlined a comprehensive solid waste strategy designed to improve Michigan’s recycling programs, ensure landfill capacities remain adequate, and keep Michigan clean and healthy.

“Michigan citizens pay for waste disposal in a multitude of ways, including bearing the burdens of living near landfills and coping with truck traffic and noise, and it is time for that subsidy to end,” said Director Chester. “We must work together to end the free use of Michigan as a dumping ground for out of state waste.”

The DEQ has released a series of solid waste reports that emphasize the need for a comprehensive solid waste strategy to be enacted in Michigan including reducing waste generation, diverting materials from disposal, ensuring appropriate disposal capacity, and applying safeguards to protect public health and the environment when disposal does occur.

According to Director Chester, the cornerstone of a responsible solid waste management policy for Michigan must include:

The reports, described below, are available on the DEQ website at http://www.michigan.gov/deqwaste (under Announcements):

Recommendations for Improving and Expanding Recycling in Michigan contains information on the state’s “capacity to handle material recovered for recycling within the state, and the ability of the state to sustain markets for products containing recycled content.”

Solid Waste Planning Report presents DEQ recommendations for (1) amending the solid waste planning and disposal area siting provisions of Part 115 and (2) methods for securing reasonable and necessary regional and statewide disposal capacity, considering the paramount public concern in the conservation of the natural resources of the state. This Planning Report was prepared based on consultation with affected parties.

Report of Solid Waste Landfilled in Michigan for FY 2004 details the amount of waste disposed of in Michigan landfills, landfill capacity, and future trends.

Green Glass Task Force Final Report is submitted by the DEQ on behalf of the Green Glass Task Force in order to make recommendations to the Legislature on recycling problems posed by green glass beverage containers.

Solid Waste Management Fund Staff Activities Report provides details of staff activities during FY 2004 in the administration of the Solid Waste Management Program.

Revised February 22, 2005 by Pat Watson

Source: Michigan Newswire, Feb. 22, 2005.

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(7) Movers and Seekers: Michigan Immigrants and Migrants

Everyone who has lived in what is now Michigan has roots somewhere else.

Movers and Seekers: Michigan Immigrants and Migrants, a special exhibit debuting at the Michigan Historical Museum and appearing through October 9, 2005, tells the stories of 20th-century immigrants and migrants who left their distant homelands to live in Michigan.

The new Michiganians had a variety of experiences, dreams and challenges. Sometimes family members who had already immigrated to Michigan welcomed their newly arrived relatives, but other immigrants arrived not knowing anyone. Some people brought household treasures; others brought only necessities. Some could not bring anything with them. Many brought photographs of family and friends.

Movers and Seekers will examine the reasons people left their homes to come to Michigan and then explore the differences and similarities in their experiences. The exhibit celebrates the diversity of backgrounds in Michigan's communities. By understanding others' stories, we will come to better understand our own.

Mark your calendar for these special events held in conjunction with the Movers and Seekers special exhibit:

Tour the Michigan Historical Museum's online gallery of selected special exhibits.

The Michigan Historical Museum is located inside the Michigan Library and Historical Center, 702 West Kalamazoo Street, Lansing. The museum and visitor parking are on the north side of Kalamazoo Street, two blocks east of M. L. King Jr. Boulevard.

Movers and Seekers: Michigan Immigrants and Migrants evolved out of a project that began in 1999 with a grant from the Ameritech Corporation. The exhibit is sponsored, in part, by the Esther and Seymour Padnos Fund of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, The Louis and Helen Padnos Foundation and the Friends of Michigan History. Find out about the Friends of Michigan History mission, membership and benefits.

Also, this project is funded, in part, by the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Source: Michigan Newswire, updated Feb. 25, 2005.

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(8) Governor Granholm Eliminates 71 Obsolete Boards, Commissions, Positions, and Task Forces

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today (Feb. 15) acted to abolish 71 obsolete, non-functioning or redundant state boards, commissions, councils, positions, task forces, and other advisory bodies.

“We’re cleaning up Michigan’s bureaucratic clutter,” Granholm said. “Getting commissions and task forces whose work is long done off the state’s books is part of the process of streamlining state government. We’re focused on running Michigan efficiently and economically, while still providing great service to our taxpayers.”

Michigan law authorizes the governor to abolish special commissions and other similar bodies by executive order whenever, in the judgment of the governor, the governmental body has completed the work assigned to it, fulfilled the purposes for which it was created, or the need for the body no longer exists. Executive Order 2005-4 and Executive Order 2005-5 are part of the Granholm Administration’s on-going effort to make a leaner, more efficient state government.

Since taking office in 2003, Governor Granholm has eliminated over 100 bodies or positions, including:

In addition, in 2003 Granholm eliminated the Department of Consumer and Industry Services and the Department of Career Development, merging many of their functions to create the Department of Labor and Economic Growth and reduce the number of principal state departments from an all-time high of 20 to 19.

Most of the commissions in the order were created under prior administrations, have completed their work, and made their recommendations to the Governor and Legislature some years ago. In several instances, Governor Granholm eliminated boards and commissions she created, which completed their work in full and on time.

The work of two of the 71 bodies eliminated, the Debt Advisory Board and the State Military Board, can be performed more effectively by individual state departments:

“The work these bodies have done over the years has provided great service to our state,” Granholm said. “It is time to let their good works speak for themselves, relieve them of their duties, and remove them from our rosters.”

Related Documents:

Source: Michigan Newswire, February 15, 2005.

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(9) OFIS Releases 5th Annual HMO Consumer Guide and 2004 PRIRA Requests

The Office of Financial and Insurance Services (OFIS) today released the fifth annual health maintenance organization (HMO) Consumer Guide. The interactive guide is available on the OFIS web site at http://www.michigan.gov/ofis under “Featured Services” or by calling OFIS toll free at 877-999-6442.

“HMOs continue to be an important component in the Michigan healthcare provider network,” said OFIS Commissioner Linda A. Watters. “The purpose of the HMO Consumer Guide is to equip Michigan citizens with essential information about Michigan HMOs.”

The quality information in the guide is based on the Health Employer Data Information Set (HEDIS®) and the Consumer Assessment of Health Plans (CAHPS®) from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). HMOs are measured on access/service, doctor communication/service, staying healthy services, and getting better/living with illness services. Additional information on the quality measurements is available at http://www.ncqa.org.

The HMO Consumer Guide contains complaint statistics required by the Patient’s Right to Independent Review Act (PRIRA). This act sets up a review process for Michigan consumers who have received an adverse determination, such as a denial of a health care claim, from an HMO or other health carrier. Information about the review process is required to be provided to consumers by their HMO or other health carrier. A consumer may begin the process by:

The PRIRA complaint process is usually concluded by a final Order issued by the Commissioner.

In 2004, OFIS received 574 requests for review under PRIRA. Of those requests, 155 directly involved HMOs. The remainder involved BCBSM and commercial insurers. In addition to PRIRA cases, OFIS handled 291 other HMO complaints.

The HMO financial information contained in the guide tracks the solvency of Michigan HMOs. This web site is updated with PDFs of the HMO financial reports roughly 45 days after the end of each quarter and year-end. The financial information can be directly linked at http://www.michigan.gov/cis/0,1607,7-154-10555_12902_18956---,00.html.

Other Health-Related Links for Information:

Michigan Department of Human Services
http://www.michigan.gov/dhs.

Michigan Department of Community Health
http://www.michigan.gov/mdch.

Michigan Office of Services to the Aging
http://www.miseniors.net/.

Michigan Surtgeon General
http://www.michigan.gov/surgeongeneral/.

Michigan Association of Health Plans
http://www.mahp.org/.

Michigan State Medical Society
http://www.msms.org.

Michigan Health and Hospital Association
http://www.mha.org/.

Michigan Osteopathic Association
http://www.mi-osteopathic.org

Source: Michigan Newswire, February 9, 2005 (Revised/Appended 2/14/05)

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(10) DNR Unveils Endangered Species Assessment Resource Tool on the Web

State wildlife officials today announced a new Web site that will help citizens identify the potential presence of rare species and unique natural features on lands in Michigan.

Called the Endangered Species Assessment, the new Web site can be accessed clicking here.

The site is designed to provide private landowners, consultants, local governments, developers, and other citizens with a preliminary evaluation of whether endangered, threatened or special concern species; high quality natural communities or unique natural features have been known to occur at or near a site of interest. Following the preliminary assessment, users may contact the DNR to request a more formal assessment to learn whether rare species or unique natural features have been documented at or near the location.

"The Web site makes it possible for people to access important information about rare species early in the planning process," said Todd Hogrefe, endangered species coordinator. "With this new resource tool, people will be able to anticipate potential adverse impacts and then be able to take the appropriate actions to avoid them."

The Web site was developed through a partnership between the DNR, the Department of Information Technology Center for Geographic Information, and the Michigan Natural Features Inventory at MSU Extension.

Source: Michigan Newswire, February 11, 2005.

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(11) Career Portal Website Now Accessible on State's Homepage; New Resources Added

The Michigan Career Portal website -- the state’s online service for career and job information – can now be accessed on the state of Michigan’s homepage, http://www.michigan.gov, under Careers, Colleges and Training. In addition, the public can continue to access the site at http://www.michigan.gov/careers. About 150,000 people visit the Michigan Career Portal each month.

“The site provides links to state and national employment, career, education, training, and business resources and services,” said Brenda Njiwaji, director of the Bureau of Workforce Programs, Department of Labor & Economic Growth. “Since the Career Portal’s launch two years ago, many key links and resources have been added for all audiences.”

Following are the services that are new to the website:

For job seekers:

For employers: For teachers: For students and parents: For more information about the Michigan Career Portal, e-mail careerhelp@michigan.gov or call toll-free 1-888-253-6855.

Source: Michigan Newswire, Feb. 10, 2005.

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(12) FIA Renamed Michigan Department of Human Services

It's time once again to play "Name ThatGovernment Agency".

Remember FIA, as in the Michigan Family Indepence Agency?

Well now its DHS, as in the Michigan Department of Human Services, and the new url is: http://www.michigan.gov/dhs.

They still run the cash-assistance programs like Foods Stamps and TANF, child protective services, adoption, foster care, day care regulation and hundreds of other programs. Given the state's budget woes I doubt anyone will be rushing out to change the signs on the buildings so we'll have to remember both names for a while.

Previous names: The department was known as the State Welfare Department from 1939-65 and as the Department of Social Services from 1965-95. Governor Engler and the state Legislature renamed it the Family Independence Agency during the welfare reform era of the latter 1990s.

Previous Announcement.

Sources: Debbie Gallagher, Government Information Selector, Michigan eLibrary (MeL), March 16, 2005. Michigan Newswire, March 15, 2005.

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(13) Governor Granholm Creates Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today (March 14, 2005) signed an executive order creating the Governor’s Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives. The new office will focus on supporting the critical community support services that faith-based organizations provide. Granholm’s office has been engaged in community and faith-based outreach since 2003. Creation of this new office formalizes the efforts.

“This administration is working every day to protect our state’s children and strengthen our families,” said Granholm. “This new office will help Michigan partner with community and faith-based organizations on that critical work. There are rich opportunities for partnership in mentoring children, in helping citizens train for new work, in helping senior citizens, and in so much more. I look forward to working with our partners to help make Michigan’s families stronger, so our state can be stronger.”

The Governor’s Office for Community and Faith-Based Initiatives will offer a single point of contact for community and faith-based organizations hoping to assist the State in providing critical social services in local communities.

The office, which will be located within the Department of Human Services, will perform the following functions:

The Governor has named Greg Roberts to serve as director of the new office. Roberts currently coordinates community and faith-based outreach for the Governor’s Office.

“This new office is the direct result of the administration’s efforts to build a stronger link between faith leaders and state government over the past two years,” said Roberts. “Both government and faith-based organizations have a critical role to play in protecting the most vulnerable in our society. This new office will provide a direct resource to our state’s front line of providers.”

Executive Order 2005-6 will take effect March 15, 2005.

Source: Michigan Newswire, March 14, 2005.

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(14) "The American Need for a Russian Weed"

As America went to war in 1941, it faced a major shortage of its rubber supply. To make up the loss of this strategic article, the United States desperately sought a natural source of latex. Remarkably, they found one in Russian dandelions.

“When we think about Michigan’s contribution to the Arsenal of Democracy, we think of tanks, jeeps and planes,” says Michigan History Editor Roger L. Rosentreter. “We would never think of dandelions.”

In the March/April 2005 issue, Michigan History magazine chronicles how a Russian version of this pesky garden weed was brought to Michigan in 1942 as an experiment to produce rubber for the war effort. To find out more about this issue and read other great stories, visit Michigan History online.

Michigan History online also offers the following online extras:

To order Michigan History, telephone (800) 366-3703 or visit http://www.michiganhistorymagazine.com.

Michigan History has provided engaging articles about the state’s past since 1917. Six times per year, it tells exciting stories of Michigan people and places, is filled with bold illustrations and colorful photos, and highlights history-related books and places to visit. Michigan History also makes the past fun and exciting for kids with Michigan History for Kids magazine.

Michigan History magazine is published by the Michigan Historical Center, an agency of the Department of History, Arts and Libraries. Dedicated to enhancing the quality of life in Michigan, the department also includes the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, the Library of Michigan, the Michigan Film Office and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs.

Source: Michigan Newswire, March 11, 2005.

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(15) MDOT Unveils the Jeffries Freeway Web link

The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has announced the creation of a Web link designed to keep I-96 (Jeffries Freeway) commuters updated regarding the $115 million preservation project between M-39 (Southfield Freeway) and I-75 in Detroit. The "Keys to the Jeffries" link is available on MDOT's Web site at http://www.michigan.gov/mdotprojects.

This link provides users with a PDF map of the eight-mile-long project that outlines the work zone and its key components. The link includes time frames for ramp closures scheduled at the I-96/I-94 and I-96/M39 interchanges.

"Because more than 177,000 vehicles per day use I-96 in Detroit, minimizing the inconvenience to the motoring public is vital to our success," said Rita Screws, manager of MDOT's Detroit Transportation Service Center. "Just look for the I-96 icon on our projects page where the details are just a mouse click away."

MDOT: Celebrating 100 years of transportation innovation, 1905-2005.

Source: Michigan Newswire, March 17, 2005.

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(16) New Consumer Guide to Michigan Medicaid Health Plans Released

The Michigan Department of Community Health is releasing the 2005 Consumer Guide entitled, “A Guide to Michigan Medicaid Health Plans - Quality Check-Up.”

“I am pleased that we can offer this guide in support of quality care in Michigan,” said Janet Olszewski, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health. “This guide also supports our Department’s initiatives to provide consumers, policymakers and other stakeholders with information about the quality of care and services provided to Medicaid managed care enrollees."

This guide was developed by MDCH in collaboration with the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Information from the 15 contracted health plans was used for the guide, which includes five major categories of comparative information, as well as accreditation information.

The categories included are:

This comparison guide of all Medicaid health plans can be used by beneficiaries to help them choose a health plan in their county that will best meet their needs.

As in previous years, the Guide will be distributed to new Medicaid enrollees statewide, and will be available on the MDCH website at http://www.michigan.gov/mdch. Click on Health Care Coverage, then Medicaid, and then scroll down to 2005 Health Plans Quality Check-Up. For more information, please call 1-888-ENROLLS (1-888-367-6557).

Source: Michigan Newswire, March 15, 2005.

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(17) Mackinac Island's Fort Mackinac Open Evenings in 2005

As evening falls on Mackinac Island, shadows lengthen across the parade ground of Revolutionary War-era Fort Mackinac. Twilight enhances the mystery of the island fort: guides dressed as 1880s soldiers combine with 18th- and 19th-century buildings to beckon guests into the Victorian era. Laughter and conversation drift up from the patio of the fort’s Tea Room Restaurant, where diners take in the view from 130 feet above the village, marina and Lake Huron.

For the first time, Mackinac State Historic Parks will extend Fort Mackinac’s hours into the evening from June 11 through Aug. 21, providing island visitors a new way to experience the Michigan vacation tradition. Ticket booths will remain open until 7:30 p.m., and fort buildings until 9 p.m.

“This is a chance for our guests to see Fort Mackinac in a new light,” said Gregory Hokans, chief of development and marketing for Mackinac State Historic Parks. “At 6:30 p.m. guests can watch a visiting Girl or Boy Scout troop perform the flag lowering and folding ceremony that traditionally ends our day, and then take in our regular rifle and cannon firing demonstrations and guided tours. Our soldier guides are on duty until 8 p.m., and after that our guests will have a chance to take in the beautiful views of the Straits of Mackinac and explore the 14 original buildings at their own pace.”

In another first, Grand Hotel will offer full dinner service at the Fort Mackinac Tea Room Restaurant. Seating will take place from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

“Grand Hotel has provided breakfast, lunch and afternoon service at the Tea Room Restaurant for many years, and has served evening meals for special group events at Fort Mackinac,” said Hokans, “but now individual families and travelers can experience Grand Hotel food and service while taking in the incredible panoramic views from the Tea Room.

Fort Mackinac and the Fort Mackinac Tea Room Restaurant will be open seven days a week, and will only close in the evening for select special events. Fort Mackinac opens for the 2005 season on May 6.

Mackinac State Historic Parks is a family of living history museums and parks in Northern Michigan’s Straits of Mackinac region, and is an agency within the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries. Sites include Fort Mackinac, Historic Downtown and Mackinac Island State Park on Mackinac Island, and Colonial Michilimackinac, Historic Mill Creek and Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse in Mackinaw City. The sites are accredited by the American Association of Museums. Visitor information is available on the Web at http://www.mackinacparks.com and by phone at (231) 436-4100.

Source: Michigan Newswire, March 14, 2005.

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(18) Michigan.gov Continues to Expand Services for Michigan's Citizens

The Michigan.gov website continues to grow as Michigan’s citizens use the site more and more for business, travel resources, license renewals and government information.

February saw two all-time highs for Michigan.gov site hits. On February 1st, 1,457,907 people visited Michigan’s portal home page, which was topped with 1,470,043 hits on February 23rd.

e-Michigan, a unit within the Michigan Department of Information Technology is responsible for the oversight and maintenance of the Michigan.gov web portal. e-Michigan director Michael Shanahan credits his staff’s hard work as the major reason for the continuous growth of the website. “The e-Michigan team has worked incredibly hard to expand the services available on Michigan.gov, and also to better organize and simplify the information available. Michigan’s web services are now separated into easy to use themes, and each department’s website continues to add and improve features,” says Shanahan.

The Michigan.gov website was also an important component in Michigan claiming the top prize in the recent Digital States Survey. Michigan was formally recognized during ceremonies at the National Governors’ Association Summer Meeting as the number one state in the nation for using information technology to provide service delivery, cost saving and efficiency, collaboration, and leadership in all aspects of state government.

For more information, visit http://www.michigan.gov.

Source: Michigan Newswire, March 11, 2005.

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(19) Governor Granholm Launches New Internship Website

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has announced the launch of a new website to help students find internships in the State of Michigan. Internships help students find the skills they need to land a full-time job and give businesses a cost-effective way of finding talented workers. The new website, MiInternship, can be found at http://www.michigan.gov/miintern.

“For students, an internship today, leads to a job tomorrow. For businesses, an internship allows companies to try out potential employees at a minimal cost. And for the state, it means keeping more young knowledge-workers with jobs here in Michigan,” Granholm said. ”Now critical information to help Michigan students and businesses find each other is just a click away at the MiInternship website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

MiInternship, powered by the Michigan Talent Bank, offers valuable tips for students, employers and educators. The site features a search engine that allows students to review more than 400 internship opportunities by employer/organization name or location. Students will also find an Internship Tool Kit with information on getting the important first job, resume and cover letter writing, and job interviewing.

“We encourage businesses of all sizes to visit the website to add their information to the internship and job database. Employers will also find valuable tips on recruiting, choosing and supervising an intern,” said David C. Hollister, director of the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth. “We’re one of only a few states to offer this type of innovative website and we expect it to be a big hit with Michigan students, businesses, and educators as more people learn about it.”

In her 2005 State of the State Address, Governor Granholm announced a comprehensive plan to fuel Michigan’s 21st century economy and create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs. Granholm’s Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow plan outlines a strategy to create jobs immediately and diversify and grow Michigan’s future economy. One of the priorities is to give children in school and adults in the workforce greater access to higher education and to the skills they need to fill both the jobs of the future and job vacancies that exist in Michigan today. The MiInternship initiative is just one example of how Granholm is helping students jump-start their careers early.

“This is just the first phase of the MiInternship website. There are plans to make the site even more robust but it was important to get something up and running in time for students seeking summer 2005 internships,” said Teri Takai, director of the Michigan Department of Information Technology which created the site in partnership with the Department of Labor & Economic Growth.

Crain’s Detroit Business, which partnered with DLEG in its Hire Education report, says an internship is key to launching a career and even trumps computer skills, course work and GPA. Crain’s reported that Southfield-based American Society of Employers showed 48 percent of companies placed internship and work experience above all else, followed by related course work, computer skills, the type of academic degree and leadership experience. Dead last in the rankings was grade-point average.

“An internship used to mean making copies and getting coffee. Those days are gone. Today the experience of an internship is considered practically a pre-requisite for a full-time job. Some companies say they will consider interns as early as high-school graduation so the sooner students get started with their internship, the better,” added Hollister, who is a former educator. “The MiInternship website provides a one-stop shop for students to jump-start their careers and businesses to find the talented workers they are looking for the future.”

Source: Michigan Newswire, March 10, 2005.

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(20) Safe Delivery Act Provides Alternative to Abandoning Newborns

In an effort to eliminate incidences in which newborn babies are abandoned in hazardous locations, Family Independence Agency Director Marianne Udow and Michigan Department of Community Health Director Janet Olszewski today reminded parents that the Michigan's Safe Delivery of Newborns law provides a safe alternative for both the child and parent.

"Many of the parents who abandon newborns are teens or young adults who are not ready emotionally or financially to be a parent," Udow said. "While there are a number of reasons a young, scared parent may abandon a baby, this newborn abandonment phenomenon has led many states to look at how they can prevent these incidents from occurring, thus saving lives."

Under Michigan's Safe Delivery of Newborns law, a parent can anonymously surrender an infant, from birth to 72 hours of age, to an Emergency Service Provider (ESP). An ESP is a uniformed, or otherwise identified, employee of a fire department, hospital or police station that is inside the building and on duty. Since the law went into effect in January 2001, 20 newborns have been surrendered in Michigan.

According to the law, the parent has the choice to leave the infant without giving any identifying information to the ESP. While a parent may remain anonymous, he or she is encouraged to provide family and medical background that could be useful to the baby in the future.

"Critical health status information has enormous ramifications for the health and welfare of anyone, especially for a child left safely in the hands of a caregiver with no previous knowledge of the family medical history," Olszewski said. "Health care providers and adoption agencies would find the health information very useful, and parents who chose to share it anonymously could be giving the child a wonderful gift that would last a lifetime."

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that as many as 100 newborns are abandoned in public places each year, with nearly a third of those infants found dead.

Once a newborn is in the custody of an ESP, the baby is taken to a hospital for an examination. If there are no signs of abuse and/or neglect, temporary protective custody is given to a private adoption agency for placement with an approved adoptive family. If the examination reveals signs of abuse and/or neglect, hospital personnel will initiate a referral to Children's Protective Services for an investigation.

"There are many families out there who want to adopt a newborn" Udow said. "This law helps ensure unwanted newborns have a good home where they can grow up healthy and happy."

A toll-free, 24-hour telephone line has been established to provide information on services available to a prospective parent. That toll free number is: 1-866-733-7733. For more information about Safe Delivery, visit the DHS Web site at http://www.michigan.gov/dhs/0,1607,7-124-5452_7124_7200---,00.html.

Source: Michigan Newswire, March 4, 2005.

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(21) State Purging Online Listings for 215,000 Ex-Convicts

The state Corrections Department says it is purging its public Internet database of the names of 215,000 ex-convicts who have completed their parole or probation.

The Michigan Offender Tracking Information System has about 120,000 searches a day. On March 21, the prison system is removing the names of those who are no longer in custody or on probation and parole, department spokesman Russ Marlan said.

That would delete the records for such people as Grammy-winning rapper Eminem, who received one year of probation in 2001 on a felony weapons charge, and ex-Detroit Tigers pitcher Ron LeFlore, who served time in prison for armed robbery before joining the club in 1974.

The system will retain information on and photographs of about 144,000 current prisoners, parolees and probationers, he said.

Corrections Director Patricia Caruso said the internet database is misleading because it lacks information on arrests, misdemeanor convictions and post-release criminal activity.

For that reason, it can give users a false sense of security, she said.

"We don't keep the official criminal records," Caruso said.

A critic says ending easy access to department records could compromise public safety.

"This is public information. It is soft on crime to allow maximum-security prisoners to discharge and purposefully not tell the public about it," said former prison spokesman Matt Davis, who helped develop the database.

People seeking a more complete criminal background check can search the state police Internet Criminal History Access Tool system. It costs $10 per search.

Source: Lansing State Journal, March 11, 2005, 1B.

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(22) Michigan Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

The week of March 13 has been declared Sunshine Week by media organizations and other groups pressing for government access, contending information is being withheld more often by officials who cite post-September 11 security concerns. The following addresses Michigan's Freedom of Information Act, which gives all citizens the right to obtain most state and local government documents, decisions and other information.

Q: Who's covered by FOIA?

A: All state agencies, county and other local governments, school boards, other boards, departments, commissions, councils and public colleges and universities, along with anyone who is an employee or member of those agencies.

Q: Who's not covered?

A: The governor and lieutenant governor, along with the executive offices of both and any of their employees.

Q: What's covered?

A: All records except those specifically cited as exceptions. FOIA applies to any piece of paper, computer files, tapes, photographs, maps or anything else recorded as text, sound, pictures or symbols.

Q: What's not covered?

A: Specific personal information about an individual if the release of the information would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of that individual's privacy; some investigative records compiled by law enforcement; records that could endanger safety at prisons; some trade secrets or commercial or financial information; information subject to attorney-client privilege; applications for university presidencies; and certain other information, including records that would disclose an individual's Social Security number.

Q: What must be done to file a FOIA request?

A: Requests must be made in writing and sent to the FOIA coordinator of the public body.

Q: What happens after the request is sent?

A: The public body must respond to the request within five business days; it also can extend the response an additional 10 business days. If a request is denied, written notice must be provided to the requester within five business days, or within 15 business days if an extension is taken. The public body must explain why the request was denied.

Q: What can be charged for materials requested under FOIA?

A: A government agency may charge a fee for providing a copy of a public record. It also may charge fees to search, examine and review records and to separate exempt information if not charging a fee would result in unreasonably high costs.

Q: Where can I get a sample FOIA request letter?

A: http://www.michiganpress.org/foiagenerator.shtml.

Q: Where can I get a sample FOIA request letter for the federal level? A: Sample FOIA letters and fill-in-the-blank forms are available at http://www.rcfp.org/foi.html courtesy of the nonprofit Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

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(23) Michigan Must Fight Drift Toward Secrecy

Who is spending money to elect politicians or get them out of office? And what are public officials saying and doing behind closed doors?

Too often in Michigan, laws designed to provide answers to these questions are weak or ineffectively enforced. That must change if the phrase a "government of the people" is to have any meaning.

Today is the start of Sunshine Week, a cooperative effort by journalists to emphasize the importance of open government. But it isn't just reporters who should have an interest in open government. Everyone pays for it, and everyone is affected by what it does -- or doesn't do.

Last week, for example, The Detroit News reported on instances in which people who have contracts with Detroit gave money to political action committees connected with Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. That's useful information to the voters of Detroit, who can then make their own decisions about the effectiveness of the services provided.

But political actions committees aren't the only committees involved in politics. There are so-called "education committees" and "issue committees" that make contributions or buy ads that discuss politicians. In the race for state Supreme Court last year, for example, incumbent Justice Steve Markman was praised in ads sponsored by the Michigan State Chamber of Commerce, and attacked in ads from an outfit called Citizens For Judicial Reform. But to this day, we don't know what companies or individuals supported the Chamber ads, and we don't even know who is behind Citizens for Judicial Reform.

The fact that Citizens for Judicial Reform group hasn't filed its report, and that the contributors to the Chamber of Commerce ads aren't required to be identified, indicates that Michigan campaign finance law isn't helping to shed enough light on the connection between money and politics, notes Rich Robinson of the nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Even where state law is enforced, Robinson says, the law calls for "informal resolution" rather than vigorous investigation. "These laws are written for politicians by politicians to avoid making politicians uncomfortable," Robinson says.

Similarly, the state's Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act are under attack. Last year, some state legislators wanted to exempt information gathered by police agencies in internal investigations of possible rogue officers from the Freedom of Information Act, which is supposed to make public documents easily available to citizens. Dawn Hertz, attorney for the Michigan Press Association, notes that other interest groups besides the police often try to get material removed from the Freedom of Information Act. Meanwhile, the Rochester School Board had to have a refresher course on the state Open Meetings Act when citizens complained that business was being conducted in closed meetings. Livonia's school district had to pay $20,000 in attorney fees a couple of years ago when it lost an Open Meetings suit. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis' statement that "sunshine is the best disinfectant" is a well-worn axiom. But it's still true. Michigan residents deserve tougher disclosure and public information laws.

Sunshine Week

Sponsored by the American Association of Newspaper editors and the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Sunshine Week is designed to alert citizens to the importance of their right to know what money is being spent and what government officials are doing in their name.

Source: Detroit News, March 13, 2005, 16A.

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(24) MDOT Makes 2005 Construction Map Available to Motorists

Ever wish for a guide on how to navigate around and through construction sites on state roads? The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) has a free publication just for you. Called Paving the Way, the free annual map is updated every construction season to help motorists locate major road and bridge projects in all seven MDOT regions. As in years past, the 2005 edition of Paving the Way also details construction on state roads in Detroit and Grand Rapids with maps specific to these two areas of the state.

"We hope that motorists will use Paving the Way to learn about the major projects planned for the 2005 construction season and enjoy a smoother, safer ride," said State Transportation Director Gloria J. Jeff. "As we embark on yet another construction season, we reaffirm MDOT's commitment to preserving state roads and bridges, improving the quality of life for residents and visitors alike, helping to promote responsible land use, and providing Michigan businesses with a first-class transportation system that safely and efficiently moves people, goods and services."

Paving the Way will be available at MDOT's Transportation Service Centers, region offices, and Michigan Welcome Centers - and it will be posted at state rest areas. In addition to the printed map, you can access a regularly updated electronic version on the MDOT Web site at http://www.michigan.gov/mdot and by clicking on the 2005 Construction Map, Paving the Way link. In addition, a regularly updated list of lane closures appears on the MDOT Web site at http://www.mdot.state.mi.us/laneclosure.

MDOT also operates 24-hour phone lines with information about metro Detroit and west Michigan road repair. Motorists can call 1-800-641-MDOT (6368) for 24-hour, toll-free access to project information for the Detroit's tri-county area. For information about travel in west or southwest Michigan, drivers can call 1-888-305-PAVE (7283). To request copies of Paving the Way, please contact the MDOT Office of Communications at 517-373-2160.

Team MDOT and You: Working together to move Michigan forward

Source: Michigan Newswire, March 29, 2005

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(25) Have You Seen Me?

The Michigan State Police (MSP) has added age progression drawings of Michigan's most wanted fugitives to its website in an effort to increase the likelihood that someone might recognize one of the state's most wanted criminals.

"An age progression drawing is a rendering of how a subject might look today based on old photographs and family genes," stated D/Sgt. Mark Krebs, located at the Bad Axe Post and a member of the Forensic Artist Program. "Considering some of the available photos of these fugitives are over 20 years old, a significant change in physical appearance may have occurred making it difficult to make a positive identification."

MSP forensic artists created the age progression drawings using old photographs and photos of family members covering a longer period of time.Family photographs allow the forensic artist to see how family genes may affect the fugitive as they age.When family photographs are not available, an artist uses his/her knowledge of facial muscles and anatomy to predict how the fugitive might have aged over time.

MSP forensic artists are trained in age progression drawings, composite sketches, 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional skull reconstruction and post-mortem drawings. The department has eight artists located throughout the state at the Bad Axe, Bridgman, Detroit, Lansing, Metro South and Richmond posts, as well as at the Grayling and Lansing laboratories. The MSP Forensic Artist Program is one of the nation's only state-level teams with a network of artists available on a 24-hour basis to assist state, county or local police agencies at no cost to them.

To view the age progression sketches, visit http://www.michigan.gov/have_you_seen_me. To report information regarding a fugitive, please call 1-800- 500-3151. Callers can remain anonymous.

Source: Michigan Newswire, March 22, 2005

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