Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October, 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit. Before her arrival at Michigan Radio, Sarah worked at WDET-FM as a reporter and producer.
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a murder conviction in the case Michigan v. Bryant. The case involved a Detroit man who identified his shooter as the victim lay dying, and whether or not that evidence could be considered in court. A Wayne County jury convicted Richard Bryant of murder based on the victim's statement. But the Michigan Supreme Court overturned that conviction, saying Bryant was denied his constitutional right to confront his accuser. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the initial conviction.
Ken Cole told the Council he thinks the legislation is meant to work in tandem with Governor Snyder’s proposed budget.
Cole described that budget’s impact on Detroit as “bludgeoning.” Among other cuts, it would lose $178 million in state revenue sharing.
But Cole says the Council shouldn't focus on not stopping the EMF legislation. He says there’s little hope of that in the Republican-dominated state legislature.
“Because in the words of the former late state senator David Holmes of Detroit, ain’t no substitute for votes. You either got ‘em or you don’t. Make no mistake, wedon't.”
Detroit City Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr. agrees that some political gamesmanship is in play when it comes to emergency financial managers.
“I think part of what is going on here, part of the approach of the Snyder administration is to try to leverage cities to do what they need to do to fix themselves financially. Or face the risk of somebody coming in and doing it for you.”
Cockrel and Cole say Detroit officials should focus on amending aspects of the legislation they really don’t like.
That includes a provision that would let firms, as well as individuals, act as emergency financial managers. Cockrel says that would be “crazy.”
Detroit Public Schools officials are touting new numbers that show the district’s graduation rate is rising. Those statistics show a 62% graduation rate in 2010. That’s up from about 58% rate in 2007, when the district began using a new method to count graduates.
The plan includes closing half the district’s remaining schools within two years, and increasing some class sizes to 60 students by next school year. It would also create "regional" prinicpals rather than school principals, and cut transportation services for most students.
Union leaders opposing the privatization move question why Bobb is pushing the process along so quickly during the school year.They also raise questions about possible ties between Bobb and a Sodexo executive. Both men belong to the same fraternity. Edward McNeill, with Council 25 of the Michigan Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees, says the deal “makes you wonder what’s going on.”
“And we’re certainly gonna move to have this investigated by the Governor’s office, the attorney general’s office, legislative folks in Lansing, as well as the Detroit School Board.”
Bobb issued a written response to what he called the unions’ “untrue claims” earlier this week.Bobb says the outsourcing will save the district more than $75 million over five years, and improve employee performance.
I didn’t really watch the Super Bowl last night. I only flipped it on toward the very end to see what had happened. I also logged onto my Facebook page about the same time, and was floored to see my newsfeed exploding with updates, nearly all variations on one theme: “Imported from Detroit.”
I was curious to know what this was all about, and fortunately some helpful people had already posted links to the Chrysler 200 ad featuring Eminem. It begins with the familiar stark images of Detroit—the bleak industrial landscape, the vacant and decaying buildings. Then a growling, defiant voice: “I’ve gotta question for you. What does this city know about luxury?”
“What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life?”
The response is an unfolding visual narrative that was a surprisingly moving tribute to Detroit’s aesthetic and cultural beauty. Underlying it all is a frank admission that the city has been to hell, and it may still be somewhere near hell-ish. But like Diego Rivera’s gorgeous murals that depict Detroit in its industrial heyday, the ad also finds beauty in Detroit’s hardscrabble nature. It issues a defiant challenge to recognize that beauty, but offers no apologies to those who won’t.
Detroitspends just over 1% of its current general fund budget on Council expenses. The national median is just under 0.5%.
The study also looked at whether cities have Council term limits, or serve full- or part-time. Detroit has a full-time Council.
Thomas Ginsberg is the Project Manager of Pew’s Philadelphia-based research initiative. He says the research didn’t “find much correlation” between that status and costs.
“Most of the Councils that call themselves part-time…in fact the members work much more than part-time. So we found that’s not a particularly useful term. That’s a commentary more about the term than the numbers.”
But Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh calls portions of the study “totally inaccurate.”
Pugh says Detroit’s Council budget also includes some administrative offices, like the city planning commission. He also points out that Detroit Council members’ have lower salaries than most of their counterparts in other cities.
“We’re witnessing a collaborative effort by a people of different religions, different persuasions, different economic classes…poor, rich…different worshippers from different denominations, all in the streets together.”
Akeel says he never dreamed the Egyptian protests would turn into a possible revolution.
He says it’s understandable the U.S. would be concerned about a potential “vacuum of power” if Mubarak is overthrown. But he maintains the diversity of the demonstrators shows it’s possible the country has a moderate, secular future.
A Canadian environmental group says studies supporting the proposed Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) are flawed. DRIC supporters on both sides of the border say a new crossing will create jobs and bolster international trade. The Canadian and Ontario governments strongly support the project, and Governor Snyder recently voiced his approval too. But a Sierra Club of Ontario report says the traffic projections DRIC supporters cite are flawed. They say cross-border traffic has declined for 12 years, and shows no sign of rebounding anytime soon. Sierra Club director Dan McDermott says the DRIC would be a costly boondoggle. “There is simply no demand for DRIC. No cross-border traffic demand that justifies five-plus billions of dollars.” McDermott says he hopes the report will bolster its cases against the DRIC in Canadian courts. Those lawsuits challenge the project’s environmental permits.
The largest long-term children’s health study in United States history has launched in Michigan. Wayne County is the Michigan county participating in the National Children’s Study. Genesee, Grand Traverse, Lenawee and Macomb will also join over the next several years. The study aims to document how social and environmental factors affect children’s health. Dr.
The Detroit School Board has approved a settlement that could end a long-running lawsuit with the district’s Emergency Financial Manager, Robert Bobb. The Board voted ten-to-one in favor of a settlement that would give them control over the district’s academics.
The Wayne State University Board of Governors has named Allan Gilmour its 11th President. The Board unanimously approved Gilmour to fill a three-year term as University President. Gilmour has been acting as the interim President since August. He took over after Jay Noren resigned for personal reasons. The 76-year-old Gilmour initially said he wouldn’t consider staying on permanently, saying he was too old. The Board had promised to conduct an outside search for a new President.
The head of President Obama’s Auto Task Force paid a visit to the North American International Auto show. Ron Bloom is also the President’s top advisor on manufacturing policy. Bloom and Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow toured Detroit automakers’ exhibits at the auto show. Bloom says the Obama administration is “cautiously optimistic” about the U.S. auto industry’s recovery. He says automakers’ profits are “better than expected," but admits that job growth is slower than he’d like. Still, he’s optimistic.
The 2011 North American International Auto Show is in a decidedly upbeat mood.
After two years of somber shows, automakers are rolling out new products and showcasing an unusual level of variety and innovation. And they're bullish about how consumers will respond to all those new choices.
Chrysler might be the poster child for the resurgent feeling at this year’s show.
Last year, the automaker barely had a presence, and Chrysler Brand President Olivier Francois remembered how that felt.
Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb “has a busy few months” ahead. Bobb’s contract with the schools expires in March. Governor-elect Rick Snyder has said he’ll extend it through June. Bobb was dealt a defeat last month when a Wayne County Circuit Court Judge ruled Bobb overstepped his duties by implementing academic plans.
Here's some video of the release of the indictments from the Detroit News:
Update 4:28 p.m.:
Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney in Detroit, had this to say of the new indictment:
“The indictment charges all of them with working together to abuse Kwame Kilpatrick’s public offices. Both his position as state representative, as well as his position of mayor of Detroit, to unjustly enrich themselves, through a pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud.”
Update 4:18 p.m.:
Here's an excerpt of the indictment (info in parens added):
"(Former Detroit Mayor) Kwame Kilpatrick, (Kilpatrick’s long-time friend) Bobby Ferguson, (Kilpatrick’s father) Bernard Kilpatrick, (former director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) Victor Mercado and (Chief Administrative Officer then Chief Information Officer to Kilpatrick) Derrick Miller… extorted municipal contractors by coercing them to include Ferguson in public contracts, and/or by rigging the award of contracts to ensure Ferguson got a portion of the revenue from those contracts…. Ferguson got tens of millions of dollars in work and revenues from municipal contractors."
Update 3:39 p.m.:
Federal Prosecutors in Detroit are announcing more corruption charges against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
The indictments also include Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick; former city contractor Bobby Ferguson; former Detroit Water Department head Victor Mercado; and former city official Derrick Miller.
Representatives from the FBI, IRS, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Housing and Urban Development are also on hand for the announcement.
The new charges are a sign the years-long investigation into Detroit municipal corruption is approaching an apex.
Peter Henning is a Wayne State University law professor. He says this investigation has been typical of public corruption probes that slowly “work from the outside in.”
“The government’s committed a lot of resources. When that happens then it’s much more likely to see charges brought, simply because the government wants to see some return on its investment.”
Kwame Kilpatrick already faces federal tax evasion and other charges for allegedly using a non-profit civic fund as a personal slush fund.
Ferguson also already faces federal charges in an alleged city bid-rigging scheme.
The other shoe is finally dropping on former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The US Attorney in Detroit is holding a news conference at 4pm to announce indictments against Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, and others allegedly involved in city hall corruption in Detroit.
The U.S. Attorney's Office is considering prosecuting the mayor under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, among other federal criminal laws, according to a source. The Department of Justice's Organized Crime and Racketeering Section reviews and approves each proposed federal prosecution under the RICO statute.
So far, 14 people have pleaded guilty to felonies and one person has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with the Detroit investigation and a spinoff probe in the city of Southfield. Those convicted include former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers.