Author Archives: Amy Robinson

About Amy Robinson

I enjoy being an observer and reporter of issues related to education, the environment, the economy, (sometimes) politics and (always) human behavior, and I believe that nobody does news better than NPR.

MDOT continues to keep travelers safe with Mi Drive App’s first update

Looking to drive around Michigan? There’s an app for that The Michigan Department of Transportation has updated its MI Drive app.

Jeff Cranson, MDOT Director of Communications said the app uses cameras to notify users in real time. Users are also able to save their favorite cameras.

“Everything we do is about safe travel and trying to help people avoid congestion, avoid construction zones, anything that causes backups because it’s in backups that people get impatient and do things that can lead to crashes,” Cranson said.

Cranson said he hopes to see more cameras in rural areas.

The MI Drive App was originally released in November. The new version has faster loading speed and new map layers.

Cransons said it also helps cut down on pollution as well.

“It’s about the environment because any time you can avoid congestion and sitting stalled in traffic, you’re not idling, and you’re conserving fuel and cutting down on emissions too,” he said.

Transportation officials say they plan to continue updating the app as it receives feedback.

State Transportation Director Kirk Steudle said the app has some 38,000 downloads.

Mi Drive App

Wildlife officials say bat die-off in Michigan likely to “get considerably worse”, before it gets better.

Dead bats with white-nose syndrome (inset) at a mine opening in Keweenaw County. Photo courtesy of Gina Nicholas

Dead bats with white-nose syndrome (inset) at a mine opening in Keweenaw County. Photo courtesy of Gina Nicholas

Officials with the state Department of Natural Resources say they have received the first reports this winter of bats in Michigan dying from White Nose Syndrome.
The bats were found near the opening of a copper mine in Keweenaw County in the UP. Continue reading

Putting a face on poverty

WHWH Square logo
We’re into the final day of our Warm Hearts, Warm Homes campaign. Tuesday, we’ll be done raising funds and back to our usual programming. But for the people who need the funds that we generate, the “winter campaign” is just beginning. They’re strategizing ways to keep the car running, buy Christmas gifts for loved ones and keep their homes warm, through December, and for four-or-five more months.

Amy Robinson spoke with a woman who says she has needed heating assistance before, and likely will again. Amber said she wanted to talk with us to help put a face on poverty. She said this is her way to help give back

Amber is one of the people you might pass on the street or know know as a casual friend, and you’d have no idea that her family is struggling. You know the term “working poor”? Let me introduce you to someone who fits the description. “I work 40-hours a week in an assisted living home making minimum wage. I love the work, Amber said. My husband is currently unemployed, but is looking, which makes life more difficult.”

Amber earns about $300 a week for a family of four. She has a lot of experience in juggling small amounts of money to meet large problems. “Your car can break down and that can take hundreds of dollars, and that would be money that maybe you had to put toward your electric bill. sometimes it comes down to, do I pay my electric bill? Do I pay my car insurance? Do I go without a phone? It’s not cut and dried, it’s not black and white. You have to make choices every day and with children you have to say, ok what needs to my kid need met?”

Amber lives in a rural area. That means transportation is a constant concern. She said her most recent vehicle died, so she bought a car from a cousin. She’s making small payments until she can pay it off with her tax return. Unfortunately bargain basement vehicles can come with a host of mechanical problems “Come to find out that it needed a new fuel pump so my dad is working on the fuel pump and putting in the power steering pump, and then I should be back on the road.” At least until something else breaks. That’s the thing with old cars…

Amber said she has needed heating assistance before. Last winter, of course, was a bad one. She said she doesn’t think her family would have made it through without the help of Eight Cap, that’s the community action agency that serves Gratiot, Ionia, Isabella, and Montcalm counties.

Despite the help Eight Cap has been able to offer, Amber said she has had her heat shut off. The propane tank went dry. When that happened, she says she relied on small electric heaters. She described her family as fortunate because they had a heater in each room. Amber said some of her happiest memories were made in cold rooms; In the middle of a Michigan winter with an empty propane tank, and an electric heater struggling to keep up, snuggled under a blanket, watching a Christmas movie with her daughters. If you’re getting the impression that this lady is irrepressibly positive, you’re right. “Just because you can’t afford to pay your utilities, it doesn’t mean you’re less of a person”, she said. “If you can find any way to make your family happy and create happy memories”

Amber said that’s her game plan: Keep her daughters safe and happy, and work hard at her job. There is nothing glamorous about working in assisted living. But Amber said she’s come to really care for the residents. She said she’s gotten better lately at mindfulness, living in the moment. and it helps. “In my line of work, I see a lot of vulnerability. I see complete helplessness. I see sadness. And, it’s not something you want to focus on. If I can take five-minutes to realize that I am sitting here with a friend in a coffee shop. You know, everything is not the end of the world. I have two beautiful daughters that I have to take care of , so I have to find a way to get to Mt Pleasant to get heating. That’s ok. Because I’m not the only one and I do have a happy life”.

Of course, “happy” can take on a new meaning during the holidays. Caring and togetherness, is great. Trying to arrange for gifts and a meal for your family; not so much. Amber said friends have stepped up to help with her Christmas, and she’s grateful. She’s made the choice to be happy. And not just for the holidays. “I can either look at it as ‘woe is me, my life is horrible, I can’t afford anything. Or I can think… I try to pay it forward. Try to put all of the love that people show me into my work and I hope it comes through”, she said.

Amber said her dreams for 2015 are that the car runs, her husband finds work and their finances stabilize. She said she would like to become Certified Nursing Assistant, but her daughters come first. And she said she won’t give up her job. It’s near her home and she really likes her co-workers and the residents. Her other hope for the new year is that people who are able will help out. “If you do see somebody asking for assistance or you do know somebody who needs help with heat, or Christmas, or something, I can tell you that even if it’s a small $5 gift or a kind work, offer that to them, because they might be smiling, but it’s not very easy to live in poverty.

Surviving in a Michigan winter when the heat goes off

WHWH Square logoCMU Public Radio is partnering with Consumers Energy, Michigan Community Action and listeners to support heating assistance in central and Norther Michigan. It’s one thing to understand there’s a problem, it’s quite another to experience it. “Louisa” fell into poverty last year, and last winter, during the record-breaking cold, she learned what it’s like when the heat goes off. Continue reading

Bill Ballenger, Editor of Inside Michigan Politics, shares thoughts about August primary election.

2003-503-32-Ballinger,-BillTuesday, August 5 is D-day for many political races. It’s the date of Michigan primary election, or, as political watcher, Bill Ballenger calls it “the most important election of the year”.

Ballenger is the Editor of “Inside Michigan Politics”. CMU Public Radio’s Amy Robinson spoke with him for an overview of the primary. The first thing he said, important or not, expect low-voter turnout. Continue reading

DNR restores flow to Ocqueoc River in Presque Isle County

Ocqueoc River before debris removal

Ocqueoc River before debris removal

Ocqueoc River after debris removal

Ocqueoc River after debris removal

Just in time for summer travel, a popular river in Presque Isle county is looking a bit better and a lot safer. The DNR has removed an old, crumbled grist mill from the Ocqueoc River. Continue reading

Doctor says some cases of autism could be linked to a rare but serious genetic disorder

Steven Roberds, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer at the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance says Tuberous Sclerosis Complex – or TSC is roughly as common as cystic fibrosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and may be linked to some cases of Autism.

New worksite wellness program is aimed at improving productivity.

office workHealth department officials in central Michigan have launched a new program to help improve the health of workers.

The Central Michigan District Health Department is making house-calls, or to be more accurate- business-calls in its new Worksite Wellness program. Continue reading

Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism targets international and culinary tourism

Tourism confState tourism officials are taking a break from their winter work this month to discuss trends in the Michigan travel industry. The annual Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism begins Sunday in Traverse City. Nearly a-thousand travel industry insiders are expected to attend. Continue reading