Michigan Watch

Courtesy: Michigan Department of Transportation

When the Gordie Howe International Bridge from Canada to the U.S. is complete, it’s expected that thousands of trucks a day will travel through the Detroit neighborhood of Delray. Residents there want the government to keep additional pollution to a minimum.

The entrance to Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The new bridge planned between Detroit and Canada will land on the U.S. side near one of Michigan's landmark jewels. Historic Fort Wayne dates back to the 1840s and played many roles in U.S. military history.

While Detroit residents are aware of the fort, many Michigan residents outside of the city say they don't know much about its history and have never visited. So here's a short video on the history of the fort and a look at what little that's known about its future.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio


This year marks the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. But the end of slavery in the United States wasn’t official until the 13th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in December of 1865. The end of slavery also meant the end of the Underground Railroad. Detroit was one of the last stops before freedom for thousands of former slaves. 

This story was updated to include a link to the 2015  Event Price Structure.

After two weeks and several requests via email, telephone, and in person, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has finally revealed information which should have been easily available to anyone.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio


Alarms are going off. People are checking gauges, trying to determine what's wrong.

We’re in a large simulator of a nuclear reactor control room at the DTE Energy Fermi 2 power plant on Lake Erie near Monroe. Employees are being trained to deal with just about any foreseeable problem a nuclear power plant might face. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio


For many years Detroit residents and businesses didn’t see a lot of services from the city. After an emergency manager and bankruptcy, one of the first city officials some people saw was an inspector or police officer citing them for a building or business violation. Some business owners say it got ridiculous.

Last fall Arab-American gas station owners asked to meet with the Detroit Police Department about getting multiple citations for the same offenses. They complained that police officers would issue tickets for things such as an expired business license. The gas station owners would apply for the license and pay the fee. Before City Hall would issue the license, the police would stop by and issue another ticket.

World War II ended 70 years ago in September. Here are three stories from veterans who live in Michigan.

We'll start with a love story.

Bill Berkley, U.S. Navy, Pacific

Bill Berkley was just a kid without a care in Paducah, Kentucky until December 7, 1941.

“I was 14 years old, but I can remember that day just like it was yesterday. We had been playing football and I got home and mom was crying,” Berkley says, recalling when he first learned of the attack and the death of so many sailors.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio


People in Detroit pay some of the highest auto insurance rates in the nation. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan believes that’s part of the reason people move out of the city. He’s put together a plan to provide cheaper auto insurance for city residents. Some critics think it would be a bad deal for Detroiters.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The emergency manager of the Highland Park schools organized a community forum which turned out to be a carnival of surrounding schools. They set up tables and handed out flyers, trying to entice Highland Park’s students. That’s  because the charter school operating the district is closing the high school.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit has one of the busiest fire departments in the nation. One problem in the city causes fires to be worse than they should be: broken fire hydrants. It’s a problem city hall doesn’t want to talk about.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It seems every new restaurant, bar, or national retail chain opening in Detroit generates excitement in the wake of the city’s bankruptcy. Most are owned or operated by white people.

But Detroit has many black-owned businesses that survived the worst of the city’s struggles. One of them has even become something of a landmark in the city.

House Foreclosure
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Thousands of Detroit and Wayne County homeowners face tax foreclosures.  Some of those families still have time to save their homes, but they might be paying more in taxes than they should have had to pay.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

About two-thirds of Michigan roads get no federal funding. Once you get off the interstates and highways, most of the county, city, and township roads are totally reliant on state and local taxes. A new survey indicates nearly half of those 80,000 miles of roads are in poor condition.

The numbers come from the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council.

Vox Efx / Wikimedia Commons

When Dow Chemical Company started in Midland, Michigan in 1897, it produced two chemicals. One of them was bleach. Now, Dow is getting out of the bleach business.

A hedge fund has been pressuring Dow officials to spin off what are called 'commodity chemicals' in order to focus the companies efforts. 

A new poll indicates voters will turn down a road funding proposal on the ballot in May. Target Insyght conducted the poll commissioned by the political news service MIRS. “Fifty-five percent of voters say if today the election was held they would vote ‘no’ against it,” said Ed Sarpolus with Target Insyght.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The unemployment rate in Detroit is nearly double the statewide rate. Detroit residents need jobs. But too few people have marketable skills. What does it take to go from out-of-work to trained and employed?

For 30 years a group in Detroit has been training people to go to work as machinists, in IT, and beginning this year, in health care.

While central business districts in Detroit are seeing the beginnings of resurgence, the neighborhoods are lagging behind. People who live in the city need jobs. To get them, many need new skills. In the second of a series of reports for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, we're following a student who is trying to get the training she needs to help her family.

In the first report, I introduced you to Fatima Mixon. She’s been studying at Focus: HOPE to become a machinist. A few weeks after I first met her at the school, I visited Mixon and her family at home.

The unemployment rate in Detroit is nearly double the statewide rate. Detroit residents need jobs. But too few people have marketable skills. What does it take to go from out-of-work to trained and employed?

For 30 years a group in Detroit has been training people to go to work as machinists, in IT, and beginning this year, in health care.

“When folks come out of here with that Focus: HOPE stamp of approval, you can be certain that you’re getting somebody who should work out pretty doggone well in your workplace,” said William Jones, CEO of Focus: HOPE.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit is seeing more private investment and new businesses in its downtown areas, but some residents in the neighborhoods don’t see how they’re benefiting from that.

On a recent weeknight, I visited ten of Detroit’s popular night spots ranging from the trendy to the tourist spot to the traditional. All but one had something in common, the vast majority of the patrons were white.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

At a meeting of business and civic leaders, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan outlined a number of concerns and looming issues facing the city.

Following a speech at the Detroit Regional Chamber Policy Conference, Duggan was interviewed by Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson about challenges ahead.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Last night Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan gave his first State of the City address since the municipality emerged from bankruptcy.

"Well, as we gather here tonight, I can sum up the condition of our city in a phrase we haven’t been able to use for years. Detroit is now on the road to recovery."

Duggan outlined progress made in getting families into once abandoned houses, demolishing blight, and putting up street lights.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Just three months after the November elections, a Democrat has announced she’ll run against Republican Congressman Tim Walberg.

Second-term Michigan State Representative Gretchen Driskell (D-52nd) is challenging Walberg in the Seventh Congressional District.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit businesses sometimes have a hard time finding qualified workers. Even a bakery determined to hire its neighbors has had a tough time.

“At one school I was hiring from,  I had to get rid of most of the people that I hired from that school because they didn’t know the poundage or how to read recipes or anything like that,”  Tony Johnson said. He’s the Human Resources manager for Avalon International Breads.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It’s been more than three months since parts of the Detroit area were flooded by torrential rains. People are still cleaning up the mess. Organizations from around the nation are helping, but it’s a huge job.

In Berkley, AmeriCorps volunteers are in Duane Van Geison’s basement, cutting up waterlogged wood frames and cleaning up a mess. It smells like rotting wood and mildew.

Upstairs, Van Geison is huddled by a space heater, trying to keep warm. He’s 74 years old and disabled. He's no longer able to walk downstairs.

More and better jobs?

Oct 30, 2014

Incumbent Republican Governor Rick Snyder has been vague about what he would do in the next four years in office, saying only, "We're on the road to recovery." He also says he'll pursue "more and better jobs." Political observers expect Snyder will continue on the path he's established, working to stimulate businesses while keeping a tight rein on state spending.

In an ad, Snyder says, "Our unemployment rate is the lowest in six years with nearly 300,000 new private-sector jobs." 

In the race for governor, few things are disputed more than education funding under Gov. Rick Snyder. Challenger Mark Schauer claims Snyder cut funding by a billion dollars. Snyder has called that a lie and says he’s added a billion dollars. They’re both sort of right and they’re both wrong.

“Both sides have truth. Neither is lying, per se,” said Mitch Bean.

He is a former director of the Michigan House Fiscal Agency. That’s a nonpartisan agency within the Michigan House of Representatives. Now he’s a consultant and he’s been looking at the budgets to try to find out exactly what has happened to money for schools.

The bottom of the ballot is often ignored. That’s where the non-partisan races are located and includes candidates running for Michigan Supreme Court. Bridge Magazine’s Truth Squad recently reviewed a radio ad being aired on behalf of two of the candidates running for the three open seats.

Incumbent Justices David Viviano and Brian Zahra were both put on the court by Gov. Rick Snyder.

A radio ad sponsored by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce makes this statement:

“Viviano and Zahra use common sense on Michigan’s Supreme Court. They’re rule-of-law judges.”

That statement colors the rest of the ad.

Politicians like to take credit for improving the economy, and challengers like to blame sitting officials for damaging it. In the race for governor in Michigan there have been plenty of both those kinds of accusations. Lester Graham with Michigan Watch examines how much politicians can really affect the economy.

Outside a Michigan WORKS! employment office, I asked a few unemployed people if they thought any state politician could make a difference in creating jobs.

Davina Carey has been out of work since June. “Hopefully," she said, laughing. "I mean, I don’t know.”

The Truth Squad at Bridge magazine has had a busy summer looking at ads in the race for governor. The close race between Republican Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer has meant many ads on TV and online. Some are just not true. Others are slightly misleading. We went over a couple of them with the Truth Squad’s editor.

The Truth Squad at Bridge magazine is handing out "fouls" to Democrats and Republicans. Political groups are airing ads on behalf of the candidates running for governor in Michigan.

First let’s look at an ad put together by the Democratic Governors Association. In it a school teacher, Kim Stanley, ties together three separate issues.