12.17.14:  Firefighting equipment stolen


A volunteer firefighter with the Oakfield Fire Department of Kent County, had over $2,000 worth of equipment stolen.

Ryan Ford said when he went to fight a fire Sunday night, he found that his gear was gone.  It had been stolen from his vehicle during the night.


The Oakfield Fire Department says the money it will cost to replace Ford’s gear will take away from some urgent repairs that they were hoping to make before the end of the year.

12.17.14:  Grand Rapids giving police body cameras a look


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — A pilot project is being discussed in Grand Rapids that could include the use of body cameras as part of a broader effort to improve police relations with the public.

Most city leaders say they support giving body cameras a try and many residents at a Tuesday hearing reiterated their desire to see that happen.

Other changes called for at the hearing include a racial profiling study, psychological testing to determine any underlying racial bias that police officers may have, a task force to study how to improve public attitudes toward police and targeted recruitment of black police officers.

Andy Bingel, president of the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association, says they’re not opposed to the cameras, but they worry about the cost. Roughly $1 million could be spent on cameras and Bingel says that same money could add eight to 10 officers to the department.

President Barack Obama has promoted the use of body cameras by police in the wake of the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.


12.17.14:  Michigan road funds deal in doubt this session


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders are still talking about how to raise taxes to improve Michigan’s roads, as chances rise that no deal will be struck before lawmakers adjourn for the year.

The Republican governor says negotiators are trying to balance at least five priorities by Thursday’s deadline. They will meet again Wednesday after days of talks.

Top legislators’ main concerns include generating at least $1.2 billion more a year for transportation infrastructure but not harming schools and local governments also funded in part by a sales tax on fuel. Other priorities range from ensuring taxes at the pump go to road repairs and that they aren’t too high.

Snyder says that negotiators are “in the hunt” to strike a deal and “we are not just going in circles.”

12.17.14:  Bills signed to create parolee work certificate


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation allowing Michigan inmates released on parole to be given a work certificate if they complete a career and technical education course and meet other requirements.

The “certificate of employability” would be good for four years and is geared to helping reduce the high unemployment rate among parolees.

They could show the document to potential employers as evidence of job training, no major misconduct in prison and that they passed work skills assessments. The state Corrections Department would have to revoke the certificate if a prisoner commits another felony.

Snyder said in a statement after Tuesday’s signing that: “Finding employment … helps parolees become productive members of society and it saves taxpayers money.”

The legislation requires the state to give released inmates documents regarding their criminal convictions, history behind bars and whether they obtained degrees or completed other programs while incarcerated. It also would let employers cite a certificate of employability as evidence that they were not negligent in hiring someone with a criminal history.

Meanwhile, Snyder signed a bill that seeks to modernize licensing practices and requirements and defines common phrases across the debt management industry. Snyder’s office says the bill brings Michigan more in line with current business practices.

Snyder also signed legislation to enable Michigan and Indiana to continue working together through Jan. 1, 2018, to survey the Michigan-Indiana state line. The original partnership calling for shared responsibilities and costs was established in 2010 and was due to expire.


12.17.14:  Wind park starts service in eastern Michigan


AKRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A Consumers Energy wind park has started serving electric customers in Michigan’s Thumb region.

The company says its $255 million Cross Winds Energy Park in Tuscola County is its first wind park on the east side of the state. The utility estimated in April the wind park will have a 20-year economic impact of around $126 million in the state.

The park includes 62 wind turbines in Akron and Columbia townships and can generate 111 megawatts. The utility says more than $100 million of the $255 million project went to construction and components from Michigan manufacturers.

Consumers Energy says the park’s completion means it has met Michigan’s pending standard of 10 percent renewable energy production ahead of the requirement deadline in 2015.

The unit of Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp. serves 6.5 million Michigan residents.

12.17.14:  Fed wraps up discussions


WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy is doing better, and the Federal Reserve may be ready to acknowledge that fact.

Fed policymakers wrap up their latest meeting with a statement on interest rates this afternoon. Analysts are expecting they will drop a promise to keep rates low for a “considerable time.”

Dropping that language would be viewed as a signal that the Fed is moving closer to an interest rate hike, though no immediate change in monetary policy is expected.

The Fed has said monetary policy will return to normal sometime next year following its history-making stimulus in the aftermath of the 2008 global crisis. Most economists expect it will wait at least until June to raise short-term rates.

The Fed will also update its economic forecast today, and Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to hold a news conference this afternoon.

12.17.14:  NYC premiere of Rogen film canceled as threats fly


NEW YORK (AP) — The New York premiere of the comedy “The Interview” has been canceled following threats of violence against theaters carrying it.

The Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy is about a CIA plot to kill North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, and security fears have spurred Sony to allow theater chains to cancel showings.

The New York premiere was scheduled for tomorrow night and the movie is expected to debut Christmas Day.

The Department of Homeland Security says there’s “no credible intelligence to indicate an active plot against movie theaters,” but it says it’s still analyzing messages from a shadowy group calling itself Guardians of Peace, which has escalated its attack beyond the hacking of private Sony emails.

The group had released a trove of data files including 32,000 emails to and from Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton.

12.17.14:  Toll in Pakistan now over 145


PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Authorities in Pakistan have raised the death toll from yesterday’s school massacre to 148.

They say some critically wounded members of the school staff died overnight, including the school principal, who had lock locked herself in a bathroom, but couldn’t escape militants, who threw a grenade through the bathroom vent.

Army commandos killed all 7 attackers in the day long battle Tuesday.

More than 130 of those killed at the military-run school were children and a three-day mourning period began today.

Most of the dead are expected to be buried today and the funerals have already begun.

12.17.14:  Jenner, Johansen lift Columbus over Detroit in SO


DETROIT (AP) — Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 30 shots through overtime and two more in a shootout as the Columbus Blue Jackets outlasted the Detroit Red Wings 1-0 on Tuesday night for their seventh straight win.

Boone Jenner and Ryan Johansen both scored in the tiebreaker for Columbus against Jimmy Howard, who made 29 saves. Detroit has lost four straight.

Columbus has three shootout wins during its streak.

Pavel Datsyuk had the lone shootout goal for Detroit, which has dropped three consecutive home games in shootouts.

Bobrovsky allowed five goals to Detroit in a Nov. 18 shutout loss in Columbus.

12.16.14:  Former G.R. Clerk files 1 Billion dollar lawsuit


(Mlive) – Lauri Parks, fired from her job as Grand Rapids city clerk in 2013, has filed a $1 billion job discrimination lawsuit against the city, according to a document filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

A docket for the civil case shows Parks is suing Mayor George Heartwell and the city in federal court. Further information about the case has not been filed.

Parks, who was appointed to the job in 2008, was fired in October 2013 after city commissioners voted in a special meeting performance review not to renew her contract and to place her on paid administrative leave for three months. They said Parks’ dismissal was prompted by negative feedback about her job performance and that she failed to make improvements in teamwork, judgment and leadership.

She was offered the option to resign with six months’ pay or take another city job. Parks left during the closed-session performance review.

Black community members stood behind Parks and expressed outrage and disappointment at the City Commission’s decision.

An attorney for Parks alleged discrimination and said there was no basis for the firing.

Heartwell told the city’s Community Relations Commission, which investigates complaints of discrimination, that “at no time was Ms. Parks’ race or gender a factor in the commission’s decision.”

Parks is the granddaughter of Grand Rapids’ first African-American mayor, the late Rev. Lyman S. Parks.