Local News Archives

Judge: Lawmakers Can Be Questioned About Straight-Party Voting Ban

From the Associated Press — A federal judge says some Michigan lawmakers must sit for interviews about a law that bans straight-party voting. The questions will be limited to what they might have said about their motives to people outside their offices. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub says communications between lawmakers and their staff are protected. The depositions are part of a lawsuit. Straight-party voting means making a single mark on a ballot to pick candidates of one party. Critics of the ban say it violates the rights of black voters in urban areas who typically vote for Democrats. A judge suspended the law in 2016, but the litigation is ongoing. Majzoub’s decision affects Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, Senator Marty Knollenberg, Sen. David Robertson, Rep. Michael McCready, and former Rep. Lisa
Lyons.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Moves To Boost Personal State Tax Exemption

From the Associated Press — Governor Rick Snyder’s administration is proposing legislation so taxpayers can continue claiming Michigan’s personal exemption in the wake of the federal tax overhaul, and also is calling for a large state exemption increase. The plan was first unveiled Monday by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, who is running for governor. The administration has warned that state taxes will rise if nothing is done. Calley tells The Associated Press that while 98% of the potential tax increase is because of how Michigan’s exemptions are linked to the U.S. tax code, Michigan’s personal exemption should be raised to address other issues such as the elimination of deductions for moving expenses. Calley says the “simplest, most fair answer” to protect people is to increase Michigan’s $4,000 personal exemption to $4,500 by 2021.. ...Read Full Story

Minimum Wage Push Continues In 2018

Michigan rang in 2018 with a 35 cent hike to the minimum wage, but some say that doesn’t go far enough and want voters to have the final word. This week marked the last of three scheduled increases under a law passed in 2014, taking the state’s minimum wage to $9.25 an hour. The group Michigan One Fair Wage is circulating petitions to put a measure on the November ballot to raise it to $12 an hour by 2022. Alicia Renee Farris chairs the campaign and tells us the state’s lowest earners still need more money.. ...Read Full Story

Whirlpool Showing Off New Tech This Week

With the annual Consumer Electronics Show underway in Las Vegas this week, Whirlpool is showing off some new tech. The appliance maker tells us it’s using the event to showcase its Apple Watch and Honeywell thermometer compatibility. Whirlpool says starting this year, its smart and connected appliances will be controllable with the Apple Watch. You can also use the wrist device to check the status of an appliance. That’s including ovens, washers, and dryers. Additionally, this year Whirlpool is rolling out a new collaboration with Honeywell that will enable customers to connect smart appliances to Honeywell’s line of connected thermostats. That means remote management of their appliance operating modes and energy outputs. Whirlpool Vice President of Brand and Strategy in North America Brett Dibkey says the company’s “consumers are sophisticated and expect their appliances to work smarter, not harder.”. ...Read Full Story

Berrien County Woman Wins $1 Million In Lottery

A Berrien County woman is the latest big-time lottery winner in Michigan. The Michigan lottery tells us the 65-year-old has chosen to remain anonymous after she won $1 million from a scratch-off last week. She picked up her prize money on Friday, opting to take a lump sum payment of $634,500 instead of a 30 year annuity. The woman bought her winning Triple Millions instant ticket at the Exit 76 Auto Truck Plaza in Byron Center. She told the Michigan Lotto she’s been playing lottery games for years and still can’t believe she really won. She plans to pay bills, donate to her church, buy a brand new car, and then save the remainder of the money.. ...Read Full Story

Missing Woman Found Dead In Benton Harbor

A woman who was reported missing in Benton Harbor over the weekend has been found dead, and police suspect foul play. The Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety tells us a young woman was reported by family as missing on Sunday. Police later found her vehicle and body outside the Hayward Wells apartment complex in Benton Harbor. A suspect was quickly identified, and he was later arrested in Kalamazoo on unrelated charges. A warrant request is pending in Berrien County for open murder, and an autopsy is planned on the victim for Tuesday. Police have not released the victim’s name.. ...Read Full Story

Statewide Gas Price Average Falls 6¢

AAA Michigan says gas prices statewide have declined by about 6¢ per gallon in the past week. The Dearborn-based auto club says late Sunday the average price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline was about $2.63 per gallon. Michigan’s lowest average price was about $2.55 per gallon in the Bay City, Midland and Saginaw areas. The highest was about $2.66 per gallon in the Jackson area. We’re at $2.64 in the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph area, down 5¢ in the past week.. ...Read Full Story

One Hurt In Snowmobile Vs Vehicle Crash

The Cass County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a crash between a snowmobile and a car in Silver Creek Township. The sled was piloted by Joseph Vantuyle of Dowagiac, who didn’t yield at a snowmobile crossing to the vehicle driven by a San Antonio man. Vantuyle was taken to Borgess Lee Memorial Hospital in Dowagiac to be treated for minor injuries. Deputies tell WSJM News that helmets and seat belts were worn, and alcohol isn’t believed to have been involved. The crash happened around 5 p.m. Saturday.. ...Read Full Story

Tickets On Sale For Humane Society Fundraiser

On sale now are tickets to one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the Al-Van Humane Society in South Haven. The organization’s Jennifer Nuernberg tells WSJM News the bi-annual Fur Ball fundraiser will be in late February, but you’ll want to reserve your spot now. They’ll be pitting some top chefs from South Haven against each other in a competition.. ...Read Full Story

Four Winds Preparing For New Casino Opening

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi has announced the opening date for its new Four Winds Casino. The new one in South Bend will open to the public on Tuesday, January 16 at 4 p.m. The casino is located on 166 acres of tribal trust land and will be the first casino in Indiana owned and operated by a Native American tribe. It’s the latest addition to the Pokagon Four Wind brand, with the other locations being in New Buffalo, Hartford, and Dowagiac. The tribe tells us Four Winds South Bend will have 175,000 square feet and 1,800 games, four restaurants, a players lounge, a coffee shop, three bars, a retail outlet, and about 4,500 parking spaces. When complete, the casino will employ about 1,200 people. John Warren, Chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, says the new location will “generate revenue to fund services and programs that will create additional economic opportunities for Pokagon Citizens, the city of South Bend, and also fund community projects, local organizations and schools.”. ...Read Full Story

Bill Aims To Prevent Rapists From Getting Partial Custody Of Children

State Senator John Proos is praising legislation now headed for a vote of the full Senate designed to prevent an individual convicted of rape from getting custody of a child born as a result of that crime. He tells us there’s currently a loophole that can give a rapist partial custody when a mother applies for welfare assistance through the Family Independence Program. That’s because the mother has to disclose paternity of her child when applying.. ...Read Full Story

Tickets On Sale For SJ Beer Fest

Tickets are now on sale for the next St. Joseph Winter Beer Festival. St. Joe Today’s Daniele Crevier tells WSJM News 16 local and regional breweries will be on hand offering samples. The event isn’t until January 27, but tickets are limited, and they may go fast.. ...Read Full Story

Muhammad To Deliver State Of The City Address

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad is planning to deliver a State of the City address. The mayor announced this week he’ll be discussing Benton Harbor as it is heading into its first year of total local control after a long period of state intervention while previewing goals for the future. Muhammad’s State of the City speech will be at the Benton Harbor Public Library on Tuesday, January 23 at 6 p.m. Everyone is invited to come and listen.. ...Read Full Story

BH Police To Get New Radios

The Benton Harbor Department of Public Safety will be getting some new radios. City Commissioners on Tuesday approved the purchase of 22 police radios at a cost of $31,500. A $25,000 grant pays for most of it, with Public Safety Director Dan McGinnis telling commissioners the extra money makes these replacements a lot easier.. ...Read Full Story

Upton Reviews 2017

Congressman Fred Upton is maintaining that much was accomplished in Washington throughout 2017. His office has released a 2017 year in review report, which can be found on its website. Upton says, “2017 was a transformational year but my focus never wavered from local initiatives such as helping constituents with problems big and small, and on bipartisan policies that create jobs and improve our economy.” He then predicts both parties can work together throughout 2018 to solve problems everyone cares about. Among accomplishments Upton wants to highlight for last year are helping South Haven’s Jim McCloughan get a Medal of Honor, his role with the Fuel Economy Harmonization Act, a plan that’s designed to reduce manufacturing costs for cars, and the FDA Reauthorization Act. You can see Upton’s report right here.. ...Read Full Story

Eagle Injured In Indiana Finds New Home At Detroit Zoo

From the Associated Press — A bald eagle that was injured in southern Indiana has a new home at the Detroit Zoo in Royal Oak. The Detroit Zoological Society says Thursday that the eagle named Mr. America could not be released back into the wild because one of its wings had to be amputated after the bird possibly flew into a power line. A licensed rehabber in Vincennes, Indiana, cared for the eagle. It arrived at
the zoo in mid-November and has been recovering from its injury. Mr. America is believed to be between 5 and 6 years old. He joins another rescued bald eagle, Flash, at the zoo’s American Grasslands habitat. The zoological society operates the zoo.. ...Read Full Story

Lake Effect Snow Wrapping Up

Allegan, Van Buren and Berrien Counties were hit hard over the past few days as winds out of the north put a steady lake effect tendril over our area. Some areas received up to a half a foot of new snow overnight, on top of the foot that fell just the day before. Buchanan is reporting 29-inches and they will be spending the weekend digging out. The story inland has been the blistering cold with temperatures well below zero. We could see a high of near 30 tomorrow and actually see highs above freezing and a melt off this coming work week.. ...Read Full Story

Horizon Bank Welcomes New President

Horizon Bank has a new leader. The chairman and CEO of Horizon Bancorp announced on Wednesday James D. Neff has been named president of both Horizon and Horizon Bank. In addition, Neff will serve on Horizon Bank’s board of directors. The promotion was effective January 1. Neff has worked in banking since 1978, and has been part of Horizon’s executive management team since 1999. He serves on the Purdue University Northwest Advisory Board, the Sinai Forum Board, and is a member of the Michigan City Rotary Club. Horizon Bancorp says Neff’s “expanded authority and responsibilities will ensure Horizon’s continued commitment to excellence and profitable growth.”. ...Read Full Story

Secretary Of State Calls For Elimination Of Driver Responsibility Fees In 2018

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is asking state lawmakers to use 2018 as an opportunity to do away with driver responsibility fees. The fees are charged to drivers on top of their normal fines when they commit offenses like drunk driving or reckless driving. They were created in 2003 to fill a budget hole, but many drivers, especially those with low incomes, have lost their licenses and jobs due to being unable to pay them. Secretary of State spokesperson Fred Woodhams spoke with WSJM News about Ruth Johnson’s position on the issue.. ...Read Full Story

State Police: Speed The Cause Of Friday Semi Crash

Michigan State Police are pointing to a Friday highway crash in Berrien County as an example of what happens when drivers don’t slow down in winter conditions. The state police post in Niles tells us troopers were sent to I-94 near the 36 mile marker and found a crash between three semis. One of the drivers was pinned in the vehicle and responders couldn’t reach him. Troopers called in a heavy duty wrecker from Hasse’s Towing and the Benton Township Fire Department to remove a trailer blocking that driver. The 38-year-old from Plano, Illinois received serious but non-life threatening injuries. Police say the crash was caused by the injured driver going too fast in the snowy conditions. The drivers of the other two semis were not hurt, and were able to drive from the scene with damage to their trailers.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Speaks To SWMI Sports Organization

State Senator John Proos is saluting conservation and sportsman groups as he promotes the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund. Proos last month met with the St. Joseph County Conservation and Sportsman Club in Sturgis to talk up some of the trust fund’s latest parks projects. He tells WSJM News he always listens to the thoughts of such organizations.. ...Read Full Story

Registrations Now Being taken For Girls On The Run

If you’re looking for an after school program for your daughter, one option is Girls on the Run. The southwest Michigan program is now taking registrations for its 2018 program. Girls on the Run Southwest Michigan Director Julie Boss tells us girls between the third and eighth grades can sign up to learn life skills and self-esteem, leading up to a 5K run in the spring.. ...Read Full Story

BH Commissioners To Interview Assessor Applicant

Benton Harbor City Commissioners will interview a candidate to the position of assessor. After much discussion Tuesday, they voted to schedule an interview with the lone candidate for the position. Some questioned why the applications were sent to the city manager and not the clerk or mayor. City Manager Darwin Watson said, in the end, who to hire is the commission’s decision.. ...Read Full Story

BH Audit Presentation This Month

Residents of Benton Harbor who are interested in learning more about their city’s finances will have a chance to do so at a meeting this month. Set for Tuesday, January 16 at 7 p.m. will be a meeting at city hall for the annual audit presentation. City Manager Darwin Watson tells us it covers the 2016-2017 fiscal year. It’s the first audit presentation for Benton Harbor since the city regained total local control of government. Everyone is welcome to the meeting.. ...Read Full Story

Association Of Realtors Launches Placemaking Grant Project

The Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors is launching a Placemaking Challenge Grant Program. It’s offering local groups a chance to apply for grants between $500 and $3,500 to create small, inexpensive, and incremental community projects. Their goal is to help improve neighborhoods. The association tells us the grant program is being called the “Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper Placemaking Challenge.” The Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors is now accepting applications for the grants. All your group has to do is submit a description of the project you have in mind along with a photo of the area you’re hoping to improve. A local realtor must also serve as a group’s sponsor. You can find out more by contacting the Southwest Michigan Association of Realtors. You can also find information on the program right here.. ...Read Full Story

Proos Praises Plan To Protect Rape Victims

State Senator John Proos is praising legislation now headed for a vote of the full Senate designed to prevent an individual convicted of rape from getting custody of a child born as a result of that crime. He tells us there’s currently a loophole that can give a rapist partial custody when a mother applies for welfare assistance through the Family Independence Program. That’s because the mother has to disclose paternity of her child when applying.. ...Read Full Story

Two Found Dead In Niles

A father and daughter have been found dead in Niles. Police were called to their home in the 600 block of Woodruff Street Wednesday night after neighbors noticed snow piling up on their cars. Police say the man in his 80s and woman in her 50s were found deceased inside. Firefighters tested the home for carbon monoxide, but did not find elevated levels. Police told NewsCenter 16 WNDU the home was cold, although there was a working pilot light in the furnace. The cause of death is under investigation, but police say they have found no evidence of foul play. The names of the victims have not yet been released.. ...Read Full Story

New Four Winds Casino To Open This Month

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi has announced the opening date for its new Four Winds Casino. The new one in South Bend will open to the public on Tuesday, January 16 at 4 p.m. The casino is located on 166 acres of tribal trust land and will be the first casino in Indiana owned and operated by a Native American tribe. It’s the latest addition to the Pokagon Four Wind brand, with the other locations being in New Buffalo, Hartford, and Dowagiac. The tribe tells us Four Winds South Bend will have 175,000 square feet and 1,800 games, four restaurants, a players lounge, a coffee shop, three bars, a retail outlet, and about 4,500 parking spaces. When complete, the casino will employ about 1,200 people. John Warren, Chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, says the new location will “generate revenue to fund services and programs that will create additional economic opportunities for Pokagon Citizens, the city of South Bend, and also fund community projects, local organizations and schools.”. ...Read Full Story

One Arrested In Benton Twp Crack Bust

A Benton Township man is facing a variety of charges following a crack bust this week. The Southwest Enforcement Team tells us officers raided a home in the 1,100 block of East Main Street in Benton Township on Tuesday. They say the 42-year-old suspect tried to destroy evidence by flushing it down the apartment toilet. Detectives say they were able to recover several grams of crack and marijuana from the apartment plumbing. Palmer is charged with possession with intent to deliver crack-cocaine, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, maintaining a drug house, and tampering with or destruction of evidence. The Southwest Enforcement Team is made up of several police agencies from all over southwest Michigan.. ...Read Full Story

Benton Harbor Mayor To Deliver State Of The City

Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad is planning to deliver a State of the City address. The mayor announced this week he’ll be discussing Benton Harbor as it is heading into its first year of total local control after a long period of state intervention while previewing goals for the future. Muhammad’s State of the City speech will be at the Benton Harbor Public Library on Tuesday, January 23 at 6 p.m. Everyone is invited to come and listen.. ...Read Full Story

Horizon Bank Announces New President

Horizon Bank has a new leader. The chairman and CEO of Horizon Bancorp announced on Wednesday James D. Neff has been named president of both Horizon and Horizon Bank. In addition, Neff will serve on Horizon Bank’s board of directors. The promotion was effective January 1. Neff has worked in banking since 1978, and has been part of Horizon’s executive management team since 1999. He serves on the Purdue University Northwest Advisory Board, the Sinai Forum Board, and is a member of the Michigan City Rotary Club. Horizon Bancorp says Neff’s “expanded authority and responsibilities will ensure Horizon’s continued commitment to excellence and profitable growth.”. ...Read Full Story

Researcher Recommends Keeping Resolutions Realistic

It’s the start of a new year and many Michiganders have again made lofty resolutions, but what’s the trick to making them stick this time? Dr. Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor at DePaul University who studies chronic procrastinators, has a few tips for making good on goals this year. Ferrari says perhaps the most important piece of advice is coming up with a realistic resolution instead of something big. Otherwise, people could be setting themselves up to fail.. ...Read Full Story

Michigan Treasurer Differs With Economist’s Take On New Tax Law

From the Associated Press — Michigan’s treasurer differs with a prominent economist’s characterization of the new U.S. tax law’s effect on state income taxes. Treasurer Nick Khouri said Wednesday he has a “technical disagreement” with economist Patrick Anderson, a former state deputy budget director. Khouri says the legislature must act to prevent an “unintentional” state tax increase spurred by the federal overhaul, while Anderson contends the new law won’t lead to a hike. Anderson says the federal law doesn’t eliminate a $4,050 personal exemption, but sets it to zero for several years. The law is explicit, he says, in saying the reduction shouldn’t be taken into account for other purposes. Khouri says state law stipulates taxpayers get the number of exemptions on their federal forms. He adds dealing with that discrepancy will require more than a policy directive by his department. The Snyder administration plans to make recommendations related to the exemption issue next week at a next revenue-estimating meeting.. ...Read Full Story

Former Prosecutor Named Interim US Attorney In Detroit

From the Associated Press — A former federal prosecutor is returning to lead the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit. Matthew Schneider was named interim U.S. attorney by the Justice Department. He’s also been mentioned as a candidate for the full-time post, but President
Donald Trump hasn’t nominated anyone in Michigan yet. Schneider was an assistant U.S. attorney for eight years before he joined the
Michigan attorney general’s office in 2011. He’s been serving as chief deputy attorney general under Bill Schuette.. ...Read Full Story