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State Briefs

By The Associated Press • May 8, 2019 at 8:00 AM

Leader of Kalamazoo schools chosen as state superintendent

LANSING (AP) — Michigan's Board of Education has selected Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Michael Rice to be the next state superintendent.

The board voted 5-3 for Rice on Tuesday after conducting final interviews with three candidates. Once a contract is signed, he will lead the state Department of Education, starting in July and making $216,000 a year.

Board members say they liked Rice's focus on addressing the achievement gap among students and his experience as an educator in other states.

Other finalists were Randy Liepa, superintendent of the Wayne Regional Educational Service Agency, and Jeanice Swift, superintendent of Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Michigan has had an interim superintendent, Sheila Alles, for a year since the May 2018 death of Brian Whiston.

The elected board has six Democrats and two Republicans.

Discrimination complaints target Grand Rapids Police Department

GRAND RAPIDS (AP) — Michigan's Civil Rights office is investigating 23 complaints accusing the Grand Rapids Police Department of discrimination.

The state office said Tuesday that more than 80 people spoke about their interactions with police and their concerns about the department at two "listening sessions" in March.

Interim Police Chief David Kiddle said the "department is committed to transparency" and welcomes a review.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center last month filed complaints against the department on behalf of several people of Latino descent. The complaints allege police discriminated against a mentally ill war veteran in November 2018 by contacting immigration officials even though he's a U.S. citizen. They said another officer drew a gun on a 15-year-old who jaywalked and pulled away from the officer.

Michigan village OKs smoking ban covering beaches, parks

ELK RAPIDS (AP) — A northern Michigan village has decided to ban smoking at its parks, beaches and trails following complaints about discarded cigarette butts.

The Elk Rapids Village Council voted Monday to approve the ban, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported.

The ban includes smoking of any tobacco product or other plant, such as marijuana, whether smoked using cigarettes, cigars, pipes, bongs, vaporizers or electronic cigarettes. Prohibited areas would include all village-owned buildings, plus parks, beaches, public access sites, fishing piers, trails and pathways.

Plans calls for self-policing of the ordinance, though a violation could draw a civil infraction.

Village Clerk Caroline Kennedy reviewed communities' tobacco restrictions before drafting the proposed ordinance. She said the idea is to protect air quality for parkgoers and beachgoers, while also minimizing litter in public places from smoking.

Lawmakers seek update of Great Lakes disaster maps

TRAVERSE CITY (AP) — Members of Congress want to modernize computer maps that assess which natural resources and infrastructure in the Great Lakes region are most vulnerable to disasters.

Environmental Sensitivity Index maps are developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They provide information that supports advance planning to deal with oil spills, major storms and other calamities.

Sens. Gary Peters of Michigan and Todd Young of Indiana have joined with several House members of both parties to introduce legislation requiring the first update of the maps in more than 20 years.

When revised, the maps would provide accurate assessments of coastal resources that are at risk. They include endangered and threatened species, sensitive shoreline habitats and community resources such as beaches, parks and boat ramps.

Thousands of Detroit's new streetlights dimming, burning out

DETROIT (AP) — Thousands of Detroit's new LED streetlights are prematurely dimming and burning out in parts of the city and more could fail, according to city officials.

A February letter from the Public Lighting Authority's law firm says problems were discovered last fall with units made by Leotek Electronics USA that were "charred, burned, or cracked," The Detroit News reported.

The last of Detroit's 65,000 new LED streetlights were installed in 2016 as part of a $185 million program that was hailed as a success in the city's turnaround efforts.

Leotek made about one-third of Detroit's new lights and they were expected to last at least a decade. The San Jose, California-based company acknowledged in a December 2018 letter to the lighting authority that there were problems. It apologized and pledged to work with the city to correct them.

Leotek didn't immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The lighting authority, which maintains the LED streetlights in neighborhoods across Detroit, sued Monday in federal court, saying upward of 20,000 LED lights are "prematurely dimming and burning out."

Mayor Mike Duggan told the newspaper it could cost the city up to $9 million to make fixes, but repairs will be done as reimbursement is sought from the manufacturer.

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