wayne county

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - A one-person grand jury has been convened to investigate whether any criminal activity is involved in the over-budget Wayne County Jail project.

County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny on Wednesday also banned the release of an auditor general's investigation of the construction project.

Kenny's order came after a petition filed by Prosecutor Kym Worthy. Among other things, the petition says Worthy's investigation will focus on neglect of duty, conspiracy, fraud and misconduct.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This week, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the certification of Detroit’s mayoral primary results, the Detroit ACLU’s case against the FBI, and a union’s “fee-for-service” for employee grievances.

Julia Field / Michigan Radio

Wayne County officials hope to close a deal to sell Detroit's historic Packard Plant next week. County officials say they've been in talks for over a year with Chicago-area developer Bill Hults to buy the property.

Lily Tomlin and Oliver Cromwell have nothing in common, as far as I know.  But I thought of both this morning when I was considering the news from Detroit and Lansing.

Tomlin years ago came up with a perfect line to describe the latest twist in the Detroit elections mess.  “No matter how cynical you get, you can’t keep up.”

That was exactly the case when the Wayne County Board of Canvassers met to certify the totals in the Detroit mayoral primary election two weeks ago. There should have been no mystery about the results. Mike Duggan had been ruled off the ballot on a technicality, but won in a write-in landslide.  He got nearly twice as many votes as his closest competitor, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon. But Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett yesterday announced she was throwing out nearly half of Duggan’s votes, because poll workers merely recorded them, rather than make a hashtag mark next to them.

Not only did this cavalierly disenfranchise twenty thousand voters, it looks and smells highly suspect. Cathy Garrett is the sister of Al Garrett, a prominent union official who is one of Benny Napoleon’s biggest backers.

Now her decision would not have changed the lineup for the November runoff. It will still be between Duggan and Napoleon. But Garrett’s maneuver would have allowed Napoleon’s backers to claim he “won” a primary he actually lost.

Last week, I said merging the governments of Detroit and Wayne County was a sensible solution to both their crises.

This idea was not wildly popular. One woman said I was out of my mind, and added Wayne County “just need(ed) to have their crooks behind bars.”

A more thoughtful man said I was “operating from the usual liberal impulse of having successful entities transfer resources to unsuccessful entities,” something he indicated didn’t work.

Well, that gentleman is right. It usually doesn’t work. That’s what has been happening with revenue sharing.

What I am proposing is creating an entirely new entity, writing a new charter and creating a combined county government. I am not suggesting Wayne County simply absorb Detroit.

  Everybody knows that former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was thoroughly corrupt. He currently is sitting in jail waiting sentencing in federal court on his latest round of convictions.

His political career is dead and his chance at being free is over, at least for years to come. But you can easily make the argument that, at least in terms of cost to the taxpayers, the administration of Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano is worse.

Certainly Ficano has wasted far more of the taxpayers’ money than Kilpatrick’s grubby crimes cost Detroit. One of the enduring mysteries of state politics is why this man is still in his job. Michigan’s largest county has lurched from scandal to scandal.

There was the case of Turkia Awada Mullin, the crony who somehow was vaulted over far more qualified applicants, made head of the airport authority and given a two hundred thousand dollar “severance” to go from one job to another.

Wayne County

 Governor Snyder has suddenly jumped into the middle of Wayne County’s jail mess.

The county has a half-built jail sitting on the outskirts of downtown Detroit. It halted construction on the project in June because it was massively over-budget.

But now Snyder is urging the county to scrap the jail, sell the land, and lease space from the half-empty former Mound Road state prison in northeast Detroit. He’s offering it for just $1 a year.

Wayne County / via Wayne County

It's no secret Wayne County is in rough financial shape, with an accumulated deficit nearing $200 million.

County budget officials say a financial review team that could lead to an emergency manager may not be far off.

Yet perhaps all is not lost: those same budget watchers say the county can still get back on the right track.

But their solution is about as politically popular as a property tax increase for Wayne County residents.

Because it IS a proposed property tax increase for Wayne County residents.

Wayne County

Wayne County has five offers to buy the Wayne County jail property. Construction on the project in downtown Detroit has halted due to increased costs.

The project has cost the county $120 million dollars since construction began in 2011.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano says the county has two options: it can sell the property and move the jail, or it can find investors to help fund the rest of the project.

Wayne County / via Wayne County

Wayne County will stop building a $300 million jail complex while it tries to figure out how the project got so over-budget.

The new jail was supposed to save Wayne County money by consolidating several facilities into one new, high-tech one.

Ivan Baldivieso/Flickr

Men who live on one side of Rawsonville Rd. have a life expectancy that's six years longer than men on the other side.

In fact, the life expectancy for males in Washtenaw County is the equivalent of Switzerland, while in Wayne County it's the equivalent of Syria. 

Ron French is a contributing writer for Bridge Magazine, and recently published a story about the health disparities between Wayne and Washtenaw counties, and spoke with us about what he found.

County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

A new survey shows your health may depend on where you live in Michigan.

The University of Wisconsin puts out an annual assessment of the health of the nation’s counties. The survey compares different factors, including access to clinical care and personal habits, like smoking.

As you may expect, counties surrounding Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids score high on the survey, but so do several counties in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - A consumer advocacy group objects to a judge ordering a Detroit area man to remove comments critical of a restaurant class-action lawsuit on his Facebook page.

Public Citizen said Friday that Wayne County Circuit Judge Kathleen Macdonald's ruling violates the First Amendment. The group filed a motion to have the injunction removed.

Stateside: Fending off bitter temperatures with shelters

Jan 23, 2013
Homeless man
SamPac / creative commons

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

During these frigid weeks the warmth of a home is invaluable.

But for the homeless, these winter conditions pose life-threatening challenges.

Reverend Chico Daniels, president and chief executive of Mel Trotter Ministries and Cass Community Social Services  executive director, Reverend Faith Fowler, spoke with Cyndy about the necessity of homeless shelters in the winter.

“In the Cass Corridor we have a warming center for 50 homeless women and children. Beyond that we have two regular shelters and some transitional housing,” said Fowler.

The Woodward Spine

Some communities in Wayne County have been using tens of thousands of dollars in property tax money intended to support the Detroit Zoo for their own civic improvement projects.

Voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties approved a property tax increase in 2008 to help fund the Detroit Zoo. 

But the Detroit Free Press reports some Wayne County cities have collected the tax and spent it instead on sprucing up their own downtowns.  In some years, the money has added up to more than $200,000.

New Michigan Laws Increase Arson Penalties

Jan 3, 2013
Photo courtesy of the Project's facebook page

Four new laws are going into effect in 2013 that will dramatically increase penalties for arson in Michigan.

The laws revise sentencing guidelines to give courts more latitude to hand down longer prison terms.

Dilapidated homes in Delray near Detroit.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Wayne County has finished the first round of what’s been called the "world's largest property auction."

The county is trying to get rid of more than 22,000 tax-foreclosed properties by auction. More than 20,000 of them are in Detroit.

But despite the glut of vacant properties, housing prices are headed up in certain areas of the city. Bob Dorsey is chief analytics-officer with F.N.C., which tracks housing prices nationwide every month.

"We've noticed that there are certain neighborhoods that have done extremely well, and others that have are still very flat or even declining," said Dorsey.

Dorsey said many investors see money in an expanding rental market in Detroit, and nationwide. Leaders in Detroit’s downtown and midtown areas say housing demand now out-paces supply there.

The Diego Rivera mural at the DIA. The museum had a good week after their millage passed in three counties.
DIA

Last Tuesday, the Detroit Institute of Arts got a major vote of confidence from area voters when they approved a millage request to fund the museum. Taxpayer support means the museum will have a stable source of funding for the next ten years.

The next day, the museum was free to the residents in Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties.

Robert Ficano
Robert Ficano / RobertFicano.com

Today, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that when Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano imposed 20 percent pay cuts on county workers, he was acting within his rights, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Andrew Jameson / Wikimedia Commons

Grosse Pointe Shores' City Council is considering whether or not to move the city into Macomb County's jurisdiction.

The city, home to only about 3,000 residents, straddles the Macomb-Wayne County border. Most of the city is in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, while part is in Macomb County. A law from the 1970s allows communities in this position to choose one county in which it wishes to officially reside.

According to the city's website, research revealed that Macomb County taxes are nearly four mills lower than Wayne County taxes, and that the city "receives virtually no direct services from the tax dollars [residents] pay to Wayne County." Calculations by the Grosse Pointe Shores Move to Macomb Committee show the city could save $1 million in taxes if they decide to shift into Macomb County.

On Aug. 21, the City Council will decide if the question will go to voters in November, reports the Detroit News. In order to make the move, voters in Wayne and Macomb counties would also need to approve the idea.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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