Southwest Michigan Today: Monday June 11, 2018

Jun 11, 2018

Charles Pickett Jr. is sentenced to prison for killing five bicyclists and injuring four others near Kalamazoo in 2016. The U.S. Department of Justice backs a Washington, D.C. group that is suing the University of Michigan. Backers of a ballot proposal to legalize marijuana prepare for the November election. Economic growth continues in West Michigan. Battle Creek gets a win on the baseball field, while Kalamazoo's four game winning streak ends. 

A man convicted of killing five bicyclists and injuring four others near Kalamazoo two years ago has been sentenced to prison. Charles Pickett Jr. crashed his truck into a group of cyclists riding north of Kalamazoo in June 2016. The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that Pickett will serve at least 40 years of multiple sentences for murder and operating under the influence. He’ll be at least 90 years old before he’s eligible for parole. Experts who testified at Pickett’s trial found he had multiple drugs in his system after the crash, and that he was driving 58 miles per hour in a 35 mile-per-hour zone when he hit the bicyclists.

The US Department of Justice is supporting a civil liberties group that’s suing the University of Michigan. Washington, DC-based Speech First claims the U of M’s anti-bullying and harassment policies are unconstitutionally broad. The Detroit News reports the group says U of M’s rules infringe on campus free speech. The Department of Justice backed up those arguments in a statement of support filed on Monday. The University says the group has misstated its policies, but it has also revised some of those since the lawsuit was filed. The case is being heard in federal court.

November is months away. But the group that put recreational marijuana use on the general election ballot is already planning how to convince voters to mark ‘yes.’ On the Michigan Public Television program Off the Record Josh Hovey a spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol said they’re working with an organization that has helped successfully legalize recreational marijuana use in other states. Hovey says they expect opposition to their measure, so they’re trying to raise millions of dollars to get the word out about why legalization is right for Michigan. The Legislature let the deadline for voting on the measure lapse last week, officially sending the measure to the ballot.

Economic growth continued in West Michigan last month. Grand Valley State University economist Brian Long’s report for the Institute for Supply Management shows the pace of growth picked up in May. Economic indicators were positive, and most of them improved from April. But Long says business leaders surveyed during the last two weeks of May expressed concern over a possible trade war.

State wildlife officials will present recommendations this week for reducing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease. The disease attacks the brains of infected animals and has decimated deer populations in other states. The state has been involved in a six month public engagement campaign to figure out the best ways to keep the disease from spreading. A DNR spokesperson says the recommendations that will be presented to the Natural Resource Commission Thursday include increasing the number of counties being watched for the disease, banning feed piles, and increasing hunting days in specific regions. (WCMU

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the Soo Locks are a vital part of America’s infrastructure, and are critical to the steel industry. Freighters carry ore from iron mines to steel mills throughout the Great Lakes. Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Sugrue commands the Corps’ Detroit district, which oversees the locks. He says the Poe Lock—named for one of the locks’ original designers—is the only one large enough to handle ships longer than 780 feet. Sugrue says if that lock fails, it would disrupt the U.S. economy. President Trump promised to improve the locks during a visit to Metro Detroit in April. Sugrue says it would take about seven to ten years to build a new lock…and cost about $1-billion. (WDET

In baseball, Battle Creek beat Green Bay Sunday 10-2. The Bombers ended their three game losing streak, they will host the Bullfrogs again Monday night at C.O. Brown Stadium.

Kalamazoo’s four game winning streak ended with a 2-0 loss at Rockford Sunday. The Growlers and Rivets will conclude their two game series Monday night.