Detroit

Politics & Government
10:58 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Detroit bankruptcy judge revives talks on regional water agency

A Detroit Water and Sewerage manhole cover.
Credit user rob zand / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - A judge has ordered the city of Detroit and the suburbs to further explore the creation of a regional water department.

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes granted Wayne County's request Thursday to have the parties sit down with a mediator.

Detroit's water department provides water to Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has expressed interest in spinning off the department as a regional agency.

But some suburban leaders are concerned about future financial burdens on their residents.

The judge says the bankruptcy case is a "unique opportunity" to keep negotiating. Otherwise, Rhodes says the opportunity "will be lost forever."

Stateside
4:54 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Visiting loved ones at Beth Olem cemetery is complicated

A cemetery.
Credit Flickr user afagen / Flickr

As we get together with our families to celebrate the holidays, we often think about those who are no longer with us. For many, a trip to a cemetery to visit loved ones is easy, but for others, it’s impossible.

For families with relatives buried in the Beth Olem cemetery in Detroit, they can’t go pay their respects.

The cemetery is hidden within GM’s Poletown plant, and is only open to the public two days every year: the Sunday before Passover and Rosh Hashanah.

People are able to visit the cemetery if they go on a private tour offered by the Michigan Jewish Historical Society. We heard from some of the visitors today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
4:54 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Southwest Detroit is Michigan's most-polluted area

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Studies by environmental scientists find that 48217 is the most polluted zip code in the entire state of Michigan.

It's the zip for the Boynton neighborhood in southwest Detroit, perched next to the Marathon Refinery, which refines tar sands oil that comes from Canada.

The byproduct of that tar sands refining? Those huge piles of pet coke that appeared along the banks of the Detroit River last year before being removed.

For many people who call the Boynton neighborhood home, life is about belching smoke stacks, terrible odors, worries about what chemicals they're being exposed to, and declining property values.

Renee Lewis recently reported on "Life in Michigan's Dirtiest Zip Code" for Al Jazeera America, and she joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
5:13 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

The latest developments between the DIA, Detroit pensioners, and creditors

Credit JSFauxtaugraphy/Flickr

There have been two big developments this week in the high-stakes showdown over Detroit's pensioners, its art treasures and creditors who hope bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes will pressure the city to put those art treasures on the table.

There's a lot to try to sort out. So, as we do each Thursday, we spoke to Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
6:02 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

"The Joe's" days as the home of the Detroit Red Wings are numbered

For the past 35 years, "Hockeytown" in Detroit has meant the on Detroit's Riverfront.  But " The Joe's" days as the home of the Detroit Red Wings are numbered.

The Wings are headed north to the Cass Corridor area between downtown at Midtown.

A new $450-million, 18,000 seat arena is on the way for Wings owner Mike Ilitch,  perhaps as early as the 2016-2017 season.

And what's drawing fire from critics like my next guest is the fact that the stadium deal has the public covering nearly 60% of the sticker price the Ilitches will get all the revenues from the new stadium, and the whole deal was unveiled publicly the week after Detroit declared bankruptcy.

Bill Bradley is a columnist at Next City, where he covers economic development in cities. He dug into the new Wings arena in a piece for nextcity.org. It's title? "Red Wings Stadium Upset! Why Taxpayers are Losing--Again--in Detroit."

Opinion
2:10 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

If you think the Detroit Institute of Arts is now safe, think again

If you aren’t following every twist and turn in the saga of Detroit’s bankruptcy, you may think things are well on track.

Today, in fact, came the good news that the city has apparently reached a deal with its unsecured bondholders, who are evidently going to settle for almost 75 cents of every dollar owed them. 

But the biggest and toughest challenges are ahead.

And if you think the Detroit Institute of Arts is now safe, think again.

Here is how things stand:

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Politics & Government
12:51 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Detroit starts posting legal notices in new fight vs. blight

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The city of Detroit has started posting legal notices on 79 abandoned homes in one city neighborhood, warning homeowners to clean up the property--or risk a lawsuit, and the city seizing the home.

The effort in the west side neighborhood near Marygrove College was announced Wednesday afternoon by Mayor Mike Duggan, in what he called a "bold experiment" to fight blight.

It will work like this: once a notice is posted, homeowners have 72 hours to contact the city and arrange to sign a consent agreement. It will stipulate that the homeowner clean up the property, and move someone into the house within 60 days.

If that doesn't happen, the city can sue to have the Detroit Land Bank Authority seize the house. The Land Bank will then re-sell properties it deems "salvageable" at auction.

“When you leave your house abandoned, it is a nuisance to the neighborhood," Duggan said. "And you cannot legally leave your property in a way that’s a nuisance.

"I'm going to give every single person when we sue them the choice—either sign the court order to get it fixed up and occupied, or we’re going to take title.”

Duggan said it will be "fascinating" to see how the program plays out in the Marygrove neighborhood effort plays out over the next 90 days--but that plans are already in the works to expand it to other neighborhoods.

Duggan said represents a shift away from the "mindless demolition" approach to blight eradication--though many homes that are simply unsalvageable will have to be demolished. “If we take down the houses that can’t be saved, and we sell what’s left…I think people will value that," Duggan said.

Lola Holton, a 39-year resident of the neighborhood, said she's ready to see "results."

"I'm very, very excited about having community back," Holton said. "That's what we need. We've lost that. 

"Not only the restoration and taking boards down, but putting families in these houses. To build community."

 

Stateside
3:50 pm
Tue April 8, 2014

Who objected to Detroit's disclosure statement?

Yesterday was the deadline to file objections to the disclosure statement spelling out Detroit's plan to climb out of its bankruptcy hole.

And yes, objections poured in – long lists of objections to the disclosure statement.

Detroit News reporter Chad Livengood joined us today to tell us who's objecting, why, and what comes next.

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Culture
5:53 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Stateside for Monday, April 7, 2014

House Republicans have come up with an annual $500 million solution to fixing Michigan's horrible damaged roads. Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press joins us to discuss the proposition. 

A Clinton Township man was senselessly beaten and robbed on Detroit's east side after stopping to help a 10-year-old boy who stepped into oncoming traffic. Steve Utash is now in a medically induced coma. Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press joins us to try and understand this crime. 

A neighborhood church in Metro Detroit has closed its doors about 91 years. St. Henry's parish numbers have fallen so low that the church is closing. Stateside's Kyle Norris grew up attending the church, and she joins us today to share her story.

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Investigative
5:43 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Clinton Township man remains in coma after severe beating

Steve Utash was attacked on Detroit's East Side.
Credit Peter Martorano / Flickr

A Clinton Township tree trimmer is still in a medically induced coma today. He was beaten by a mob on Detroit's east side after he stopped to help a child who had stepped into the path of his truck. 

Detroit Police say Steve Utash was not at fault, that he'd been obeying the speed limit. And after 10-year-old David Harris stepped out in front of his pickup truck, Utash did the right thing: He got out to help the boy. 

That's when he was attacked by the mob who beat him severely and robbed his truck. 

Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley joins us now to try to make sense of this seemingly senseless crime.

Listen to the full interview above.

Economy
5:41 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

The Arab American News examines small business ownership

Arab American restaurants and businesses in Dearborn, Michigan.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

As the city of Detroit seeks pathways back to economic health, small businesses are seen as a key. And there can be no conversation about small business owners in Detroit without involving the Arab-American community. 

Most of the grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations in Detroit are owned by Arab-Americans.

And, historically, the relationship between these store owners and their largely African-American customers has been not without its tensions. 

Which is why a recent editorial in The Arab American News caught our eye, and we wanted to share its message with you. 

We're joined now by Osama Siblani, the publisher of The Arab American News.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Arts & Culture
7:19 am
Mon April 7, 2014

This is what it sounds like when a neighborhood church closes

Saint Henry's window
Kyle Norris/Michigan Radio

St. Henry’s in Lincoln Park held its first Mass on June 3, 1923 and its last Mass on March 2, 2014.

At the end of the church’s final Mass, parish members took the most important objects and walked them out the door.

The holy oils were carried by five members of the Olive family. Jackie and Bill Balmes carried out the marriage registry (they’ve been married for 65 years). Four men, including Jim Bomia and his two grandsons, lifted the crucifix off the wall (it weighed several hundred pounds), and walked it down the aisle and out the door.

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Politics & Culture
5:06 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Stateside for Thursday, April 3, 2014

It's no surprise that shipping conditions on the Great Lakes are miserable, even though spring has officially sprung and the shipping season officially opened March 25.

No commercial traffic has yet made it to the Soo Locks and ice is still four feet thick in some places, particularly in Lake Superior. On today’s show, we speak with a member of the U.S. Coast Guard about what's being done about this.

Then, what happened as World War II brought women and minorities into Detroit's assembly plants?

And, the Detroit bankruptcy is starting to affect the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Water prices could go up, impacting consumers far outside the city. Daniel Howes joined us for our weekly check-in to tell us more.

Also, Phil Cavanagh became the third candidate to enter the race to replace Robert Ficano as Wayne County Executive.

First on the show, Michigan's economy may be pulling itself up and out of the Great Recession.

But our schools are still mired in an "education recession" and all of our children are paying the price.

That's the finding of the newest State of Michigan Education Report from The Education Trust-Midwest.

It's an eye-opening exercise to see how our state's schools and student performance compares to two states that are powering ahead in the national assessment: Massachusetts and Tennessee.

What lessons can Michigan learn from those two states?

The co-author of the new education report, Amber Arellano of The Education Trust-Midwest, joined us today.

Stateside
4:53 pm
Thu April 3, 2014

Detroit bankruptcy struggle now affects Water and Sewerage Department

Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The spotlight of the Detroit bankruptcy struggle is widening. From the DIA to the retirees and now to water.

As the clock ticks, emergency manager Kevyn Orr has fired the latest salvo in the increasingly testy talks with county representatives over the future of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes joined us today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
3:26 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

A former housing project challenges Detroit's urban planners

The Brewster-Douglass Projects.
Amber Leigh Flickr

To those of us who have seen those decaying buildings along I-375 near downtown Detroit, it’s pretty difficult to realize that the Brewster-Douglass Projects were once seen as a shining example of public housing.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt turned up on Sept. 7, 1935 for the groundbreaking. And when Brewster homes opened in 1938, they became the America’s first public-housing project built for African-Americans.

Brewster-Douglass went on to become home to names like Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, Smokey Robinson and Lily Tomlin.

The projects helped launch many blacks into the middle class.

Now the last phase of demolition is under way. No one will miss the crime-ridden, decaying housing project that sat empty since 2008. And now the question is: What should be done with the site?

We welcome June Manning Thomas. She’s an urban planner with the University of Michigan College of Architecture and Urban Planning. We also talk to her colleague, urban designer Roy Strickland.

Listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Culture
5:01 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Stateside for Monday, March 31, 2014

When it comes to road repair, this winter has left Michigan in a state of despair. Where will the money come from to fill in the potholes and crater lakes that pepper our roads? Is it possible that the argument of funding will follow Democratic and Republican roads? Chris Gautz from Crain's Detroit joins us. 

We are joined today by a special guest from the BBC, Ros Atkins. Ros just produced an hour-long documentary that traces the lives of four girls in four countries to examine if there is anywhere in the world that truly treats women as equal to men. 

Is graffiti art, or vandalism? Nancy Derringer explored these questions in a recent article for Bridge Magazine that examines graffiti in places like Detroit, Pontiac and Flint. 

Listen to the full show above.

Arts & Culture
4:57 pm
Mon March 31, 2014

Graffiti: Is it art or a nuisance?

Graffiti inside Detroit's Fisher Body Plant.
user: memories_by_mike Flickr

When you drive through cities like Detroit, Pontiac, and Flint, graffiti can be found in unexpected and expected places.

The constant debate over graffiti is whether it should be seen as a nuisance, or as art. Does it signal signs of cultural revival? Is it that black and white?

Nancy Derringer explored those questions in a recent article for Bridge Magazine.

Listen to the full interview above.

Opinion
10:25 am
Mon March 31, 2014

The Ilitch family seeks a monopoly on the backs of taxpayers

Jack Lessenberry talks about Detroit's deal with the Ilitch family.

I’ve talked before about the sweetheart deal that the city of Detroit gave Mike Ilitch in connection with the new hockey stadium and entertainment complex being built in downtown Detroit.

The city is giving Ilitch’s Olympia Entertainment all the land they need, absolutely free. The taxpayers are also kicking in most of the cost of the project.

In return, the city gets nothing – not one dime of the parking or pizza or ticket sales revenue.

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Arts & Culture
7:00 am
Mon March 31, 2014

How diversity can help Michigan arts organizations

Gabriela Frank
Credit sphinxmusic.org

Gabriela Frank is probably not what comes to mind when you think of a contemporary classical music composer.  For starters, she considers herself a hippie.

“I was born in the 1970s in Berkeley, California, during the Vietnam protests," says Frank. "My dad was a nice Jewish boy from the Bronx who married a Peruvian woman from the coast. I’m also a woman and I have a hearing loss, so technically I’m disabled as well.”

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Economy
12:11 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Here's a short list of the 8 Detroit creditors who will win and lose the most

Courtesy of Bridge Magazine

Long before Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr rolled out his proposal in February for paying back the city’s creditors, bankruptcy experts knew the pain would not be spread evenly.

Because so much of the city’s debt – nearly $6 billion owed to pay back loans for the city’s sprawling water and sewer department – cannot be reduced in bankruptcy court, the creditors feeling the brunt of the cuts are retirees and city employees.

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