Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 2, 2013

Michigan in Brief: 02/02/2013


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State to issue driver's licenses to immigrants

LANSING — Michigan's secretary of state reversed course Friday and said her agency will issue driver's licenses to illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, changing her mind after the Obama administration clarified the issue.

The decision by Republican Ruth Johnson could affect up to 15,000 young immigrants in the state.

President Barack Obama, who last June announced a policy letting some illegal immigrants apply for temporary work permits if they were brought to the country as children, on Jan. 18 cleared up remaining concerns that a small number of states — including Michigan — had about their legal status.

Inmate charged with assisting escapee

DETROIT — Federal authorities have charged a Wayne County jail inmate with assisting the escape of another inmate by switching identity wristbands.

The U.S. Marshals Service says Rocky Marquez had promised to take care of Adrian Rivera when Rivera gets out of jail.

Rivera was charged Friday in Detroit federal court. Meanwhile, Marquez still is on the run, nearly two weeks after leaving the jail — and it's not his first escape.

When Marquez was arrested on Jan. 14, he was wanted in Arizona for escaping the Maricopa County jail in Phoenix eight months ago.

The Marshals Service says Rivera flushed Marquez' wristband down a toilet after the two men made the switch. Rivera told authorities that he would pretend to be asleep when Wayne County jail officers called Marquez' name.

8 plead guilty in Mich. right-to-work protest

LANSING — Eight people have pleaded guilty to misdemeanors after being arrested inside the state Capitol building during a December protest against passage of Michigan's right-to-work law.

Their attorney says they won't get jail time under misdemeanor pleas entered Friday to a Lansing district judge. They will be sentenced in September.

The eight defendants from the Detroit area were arrested and charged with felony resisting and obstructing after police said they tried to push past two troopers guarding the Senate door on Dec. 6.

Okemos attorney Randal Behrmann says his clients pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of attempted resisting and obstructing. If they stay out of trouble, the charge will be reduced further to disorderly conduct.

50 Detroit parks to close, work reduced

DETROIT — Detroit will close nearly half of its parks and reduce maintenance and other services at dozens of others after the City Council passed on a deal with the state to operate the city's massive Belle Isle park, Mayor Dave Bing announced Friday.

Closing 50 of the city's 107 parks will allow it to keep running Belle Isle after the Detroit City Council declined to vote on Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's offer for the popular 985-acre island park in the Detroit River. The city also will reduce services at 38 other parks.

Belle Isle — the same size as about 900 football fields and about 150 acres larger than New York's Central Park — provides views of Detroit and Canada and has a maritime museum and boat marina, as well as woods and hiking and biking trails.

Snyder's proposal called for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to run Belle Isle as a state park. The state would have taken on the $6.2 million annual operating costs, freeing up money for the city to use on other parks, Bing told reporters.

Bing is trying to find as many savings as possible while dealing with a budget deficit of more than $300 million. A review team is expected this month to report the city's fiscal condition to Snyder, who could appoint an emergency manager if a financial emergency is found.

Bing has already decreased spending, cut jobs and instituted unpaid furlough days.

Detroit closed 210 parks between 2008 and 2009.

The 50 parks slated for closure this year will not be fenced. They just won't get mowed and trash will not be collected. Grass at 38 other parks will be cut every 25 to 40 days instead of 10 to 14 days.

Of the city's 65 grounds maintenance staff, 36 are assigned to Belle Isle.

"The inaction by City Council and resulting retraction of the state's participation not only negatively affects Belle Isle, but also has significant impact on the city's other parks and services," Bing said.

Bing also nixed plans to extend hours at six recreation centers and stopped the planned hiring of more workers for new programs.

Detroit would have kept ownership of Belle Isle under terms of the lease and the state would have instituted an annual $11 fee for vehicles to drive onto the island.

The City Council on Tuesday voted against allowing a vote on the lease deal. Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr. said Belle Isle was a distraction on work the city needs to do to fix its financial problems.

"The only reason why the Belle Isle lease was seen as a viable solution to the problem of maintenance and upkeep for the island is because the city's financial problems have made meeting these $6 million annual costs difficult," Cockrel said in a statement earlier this week. "If we fix those finances we will likely find that Belle Isle maintenance and upkeep will cease to be a problem."