SW Michigan Today: Tuesday, June 26

Jun 26, 2018

The state puts $100 million toward expanded vocational training; a former public safety officer sues the City of Kalamazoo for alleged discrimination; the Coast Guard warns of dangerously cold water in the Great Lakes, and more.

Michigan will put $100 million toward skilled trades training and career exploration. Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation into law today. State Senator Goeff Hansen is a bill sponsor. He says the state has a shortage of people in the skilled trades workforce. That’s because for a long time there was too much emphasis on getting a college degree.

"Not everybody is going to be a four-year degree student and not everybody can work with their hands, and this is for the folks that want to work with their hands also," he said.

More than a quarter of the money will be used to expand kindergarten through twelfth grade education programs that focus on training and education for so-called “high-demand” fields. Other money will be put toward scholarships for low-income students to help with the cost of getting a degree in a high-demand field.

A former officer with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety is suing the city for alleged discrimination. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that Amir Khillah was fired from KDPS in March. The department claims misconduct on Khillah’s report during a traffic stop he made early this year. But Khillah says his former supervisor harassed him and discriminated against him based on his race and ethnicity. Khillah is of Egyptian descent. He filed a lawsuit in US District Court on Monday. KDPS Chief Karianne Thomas says she knows a lawsuit was filed but can’t comment on it.

The St. Joseph City Commission has joined the Berrien County Board in passing a resolution against a proposed tax break for utilities. The St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Herald-Palladium reports that a bill introduced by State Senator John Proos would cut personal property assessments on utility upgrades. The tax break does not include generating plants. Proos says he doesn’t want the cost of utility upgrades to fall on ratepayers. But a Senate analysis found that local governments will lose hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade if the tax break becomes law.

If you’re planning to go boating on any of the Great Lakes, make sure you prepare for cold water. The Coast Guard is warning that all five lakes’ temperatures are low enough to quickly cause hypothermia. People who enter the water unexpectedly might experience a “gasp reflex,” leading them to swallow water and possibly drown. The Coast Guard recommends that mariners wear life jackets and tell someone on shore where they’re going.

Democrats in Lansing want to get rid of a state law they say protects drug companies that hurt consumers. Legislation in the State House would repeal a law that blocks lawsuits if the drug is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and properly labeled. Wendy Block at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce says people and governments can sue drug companies. She says they just have to prove that there was wrongdoing. But Democrats behind the new bill say drug companies have abused the law to push dangerous drugs that are approved by the federal government, like opioids. Kalamazoo County is thinking about joining a lawsuit against opioid maunfacturers.

A Detroit pastor who’s a manager of Shri Thanedar's Democratic primary campaign for governor was arrested outside his church on Sunday. The Detroit News says police accuse David Bullock of interfering with an investigation. Bullock says a member of his congregation called about a disturbance. And he says an officer who came to investigate told Bullock to leave and then arrested him for staying on his property. Thanedar released a statement supporting Bullock, suggesting that he was treated unfairly because he's black.

An art competition in Grand Rapids that draws entries from far beyond Michigan will no longer be held every year. ArtPrize says the competition is moving to a biennial schedule. During the "off" years it will commission works of art and place them around Grand Rapids. ArtPrize Artistic Director Kevin Buist says the commissions will let ArtPrize explore new territory. ArtPrize will hold a competition this year. It will launch the first commission, which it calls Project One, next year.

The man convicted of killing a Western Michigan University student in 2016 will spend the rest of his life in prison. The Kalamazoo Gazette says Jordan Waire was sentenced in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court on Monday. He'd earlier been convicted in the shooting death of Jacob Jones near campus two years ago. Waire was also convicted on firearms and armed robbery charges. Another man, Joviair Kennedy, was acquitted of murder in the case earlier this month. But he was found guilty of armed robbery and a firearms charge.

A program started by Kalamazoo baseball star Derek Jeter has graduated six high school students from a development program. The Kalamazoo Gazette says the six will get $5,000 college scholarships from Jeter's Leaders. The program run by Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation focuses on leadership and academic achievement and encourages students to stay away from drugs. Ten more students were admitted tio the program this week. The students who will be high school freshmen this fall come from Kalamazoo, Portage, Parchment, and Plainwell.

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