State Roundup

Detroit

NYC mayor: Immigration key to rescuing Detroit

DETROIT (AP) -- Detroit should take a page from Lady Liberty and shine a beacon of welcome to immigrants as a way to overcome its severe population loss, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Sunday.

Bloomberg floated the proposal during an appearance on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press."

Unlike many of America's central cities, New York has seen its population inch up, thanks in large part to a steady influx of immigrants.

Its newcomer-friendly spirit is enshrined in Emma Lazarus's words engraved on the Statue of Liberty, in which the statue is quoted as saying: "I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Bloomberg's prescription for Detroit's salvation came in a discussion about what he called a "crisis of confidence" among business people about the nation's economy. Bloomberg said the "most obvious" answer is to encourage immigration.

"This is a country that was built by immigrants ... that became a superpower because of its immigrant population, and unless we continue to have immigrants, we cannot maintain as a superpower," he said.

"Take a look at the big, old, industrial cities, Detroit, for example," he said. "They've got a great mayor, Mayor (Dave) Bing, but the population has left. You've got to do something about that. And if I were the federal government, assuming you could wave a magic wand and pull everybody together, you pass a law letting immigrants come in as long as they agreed to go to Detroit and live there for five or ten years. Start businesses, take jobs, whatever."

Detroit has seen its population fall from 1.8 million in the 1950 U.S. Census to 714,000 in 2010. The population dropped 26 percent in the last decade alone.

"You would populate Detroit overnight because half the world wants to come here," Bloomberg said. "We still are the world's greatest democracy. We still have hope that if you want to have a better life for yourself and your kids, this is where you want to come."

Detroit officials were not aware Bloomberg "was going to make that recommendation," Bing spokeswoman Karen Dumas said Sunday night.

"He had not discussed it with the mayor," Dumas added. "We certainly would like anyone who comes to the city of Detroit to have a quality of life here."

Carrollton Twp.

Michigan: Methadone patient lists on the rise

CARROLLTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan's spending on methadone treatment for people addicted to heroin and other opiates has risen 22 percent in the last annual report, an expense that supporters say is well worth the cost because of the much higher cost of sending drug abusers to prison.

Figures for 2009 show the state spent $6.5 million on methadone treatment and $3.3 million on counseling for those receiving the narcotics alternative, The Saginaw News reported Sunday.

Michigan health statistics say the number of opiate addicts who get state-subsidized treatment rose from 8,758 people in 2000 to 19,806 in 2010.

Victory Clinical Services in Saginaw County's Carrollton Township now serves about 280 opiate addicts.

According to Director David Blankenship, his clinic will reach its capacity of 400 patients within a year if the current rate of growth continues.

To get subsidized methadone treatment, an applicant has to be uninsured and earn less than three times the federal poverty level, or an income of $34,107 a year for a single individual in 2010.

About 283,000 Americans get government-funded methadone at a cost to taxpayers of about $1.1 billion per year, according to 2009 data from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"The alternatives to not taking the methadone ... are also expensive," said Phil Chvojka, a specialist with the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Victory Clinical Services gave out 38,835 doses of methadone and held 2,934 counseling sessions for 200 patients using government resources in 2010, at a total average daily cost per patient of just under $16, said Amy Murawski, director of substance abuse treatment and prevention services for the Saginaw County Department of Public Health.

Officials compare the expense of treatment to that of keeping someone in prison -- a place where many drug addicts end up because of crimes committed to finance their drug habits.

It costs an average of $29,056 per year to house an inmate with the state Department of Corrections, according its website.

In 2009, 1,476 of state's prisoners, or 14.6 percent, were incarcerated for nonviolent drug crimes at a cost of about $42.8 million.

"A lot of times, they committed the crimes as a symptom of their disease, because they were trying to score," Blankenship said.

Battle Creek

Woman who insists she's innocent loses appeal

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) -- A Calhoun County woman released from prison in 2009 could lose her freedom after the Michigan Supreme Court again refused to intervene in a sex-abuse case that has been in the courts for years.

Lorinda Swain's 2002 conviction was thrown out by a Battle Creek judge in 2009 after new witnesses raised doubts about her guilt. But the appeals court reversed that decision last year.

Swain next went to the Supreme Court. It declined to get involved and is refusing to take another look after a 4-3 vote last week.

Bridget McCormack of the Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan law school says Swain is prepared to be locked up again, although there are some issues still pending in Calhoun County court. Swain's minimum prison sentence was 25 years.

Detroit

City reaches 1-year goal of 3,000 demolitions

DETROIT (AP) -- Detroit has reached Mayor Dave Bing's goal of demolishing 3,000 blighted and dangerous houses in one year.

Bing on Friday marked the 3000th demolition under the effort at a house on the city's east side.

The goal was to have 3,000 leveled by the end of April. The city has thousands of vacant structures as it deals with the effects of a shrinking population.

The mayor has vowed that another 3,000 houses would come down by April 2012. He wants 10,000 demolished by the time his four-year term ends in December 2013.

Only 860 empty houses were torn down by the city in 2009.

Lansing

Michigan police aim to find drug-impaired drivers

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Michigan's police agencies are working to boost the number of officers trained in catching motorists driving under the influence of drugs -- drivers state police say are no less a threat than drunken drivers.

The Lansing State Journal reports that police agencies facing a recent rise in traffic fatalities involving drug use began an effort last week to greatly expand the number of officers statewide trained in spotting drug-impaired motorists.

Alcohol-impaired drivers often can be detected with a quick preliminary breath test, but drug-impaired drivers are much harder to spot.

Determining whether suspected drug-impaired motorists are actually under the influence can take an hour or more of assessing a suspected motorist and include even taking a suspect's pulse and blood pressure at the roadside.

"This will improve our chances to identify drugged drivers and make our roadways safer," said Michigan State Police Capt. Kari Kusmierz, commander of the State Police Training Academy, which is hosting the first two weeks of the three-week training effort.

On Tuesday, 15 police officers from the Michigan State Police and 10 other agencies began the federally funded course. Five prosecutors from across Michigan also are participating.

Ingham County Assistant Prosecutor Nicole Tlachac said the goal is to turn the student-officers into "drug recognition experts."

Although the course focuses on police techniques to correctly identify drugged motorists, Tlachac said she believes it's vital to learn how these cases are prepared so she can better prosecute offenders.

"I do think it's important," said Tlachac, citing recent accidents caused by drug impairment. "A lot of people (until now) have focused on drunk driving and alcohol offenses."

Despite a decrease in alcohol-related crashes, fatalities and arrests in recent years, Michigan's number of drug-related traffic fatalities last year rose 29 percent from the 119 drug-related fatalities recorded in 2009, according to preliminary data from the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.

Statewide, about one in five drivers killed tested positive for drugs in 2009, officials said.

State officials say the increase is due partly to enhanced testing techniques that allow investigators to better detect drugs, but also could reflect increased drug use among motorists.

Michael Prince, director of the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, said there is no data yet to indicate that more motorists are driving while impaired with marijuana because of the state's medical marijuana law, approved in 2008.

But Auburn Hills Police Chief Doreen Olko said she has seen cases anecdotally of medical marijuana users driving while impaired.

"There are people who believe that the medical marijuana law allows them to medicate and then drive (while impaired). It's not OK," said Olko, whose department was the first statewide in 2005 to staff a drug recognition expert.

Programs to train officers to spot drug impairment began in the California in the late 1970s, but Michigan has lagged behind other Midwestern states in adopting the strategy.

Auburn Hills Police Officer Jeramey Peters, a drug recognition expert, said assessing whether a motorist is drug-impaired involves examining a suspect's pupils, taking blood pressure, pulse, body temperature and several dexterity tests similar to those performed on those suspected of being alcohol impaired.

"Our nickname for a while was 'doctor cops,'" Peters said.

Published: Tue, May 3, 2011