Detroit bankruptcy

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Bars could stay open until 4 am

“Legislation at the state Capitol would let downtown bars and restaurants sell alcohol until 4 am. Michigan’s liquor code generally bans alcohol sales between 2 am and 7 am,” Jake Neher reports.

Detroit EM talks DIA assets

“Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr says the Christie's auction house will finish an assessment of city-owned pieces at the Detroit Institute of Arts this month, and he defends including their possible sale in the city's bankruptcy process,” the Associated Press reports.

State rejects private prison

“Michigan has rejected allowing a privately run, for-profit prison to house about a thousand inmates. The state turned down two bids because there was no savings for taxpayers,” Rick Pluta reports.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Kevyn Orr talks frequently with Governor Snyder, considers himself a “technocrat,” and says everything  — including the Detroit Institute of Arts — is “on the table” in Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Orr addressed questions about the bankruptcy, city pensions, and the city’s progression through Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy at a Detroit Economic Club forum Thursday.

Some of the highlights:

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Each week, I review the news with political analyst Jack Lessenberry.

Today we discussed Common Core education standards, new details about some practices that led to Detroit's financial crisis, and legislation to refuse adoptions based on religious reasons.

The White House is doing what it can to help Detroit—but don’t look for much financial aid to flow from Washington.

Some top administration officials told state and local leaders in Detroit Friday that the White House will “unlock” millions in federal funds for the city.

That’s largely money the city had already been granted, but couldn’t use because it didn’t meet certain federal guidelines.

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A delegation of President Obama’s top advisors met in Detroit today, announcing $300 million in federal and private funding for the Motor City.

Most of that aid is earmarked: For instance, about $140 million devoted to public transportation, another $30 million reserved for crime reduction, and another $25 million for demolishing abandoned commercial buildings.

This is the first federal intervention in Detroit after the city filed for bankruptcy on July 18. But don’t call it a bailout — according to federal officials, the aid coming into the city came from galvanizing "public and private partners," and is not a full-fledged bailout of the city. Currently, Detroit owes more than $18 billion to its creditors. 

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Obama administration in Detroit, to announce $300 million for the city

White House officials will be in Detroit today. As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports,

"White House officials are expected to announce about 300 million in public and private dollars for Detroit. It will be a combination of new money, and federal dollars the city had been granted but couldn't access," Cwiek reports.

Fail a drug test, lose unemployment benefits bill moves forward

"Job seekers who refuse or fail an employer drug test could lose their unemployment benefits under a bill adopted by the state House," Rick Pluta reports.

State House votes to restore funding to Common Core

"Michigan would continue to implement a set of state school standards under a resolution that cleared the state House. State lawmakers stopped funding for the implementation of the Common Core standards earlier this year," Jake Neher reports.

General Motors wants tax incentives to help offset an investment in its Detroit assembly plant.

But some Detroiters say the bankrupt city shouldn’t be handing out subsidies to profitable carmakers.

A small group of protesters circled in front of GM headquarters in downtown Detroit Monday, demanding that the corporation “pay its taxes.”

The Reverend Charles Williams II, who led the protest, said it's not right for GM to look for tax abatements while the city is in federal bankruptcy court, and pensioners face possible cuts.

Time now for our weekly check-in with Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes. On the front-burner: The mediation talks between Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and dozens of lawyers representing the city's creditors.

Listen to the full interview above.

More than 1,500 works of art, with more than 160 venues, and 47 countries represented. Those are just a few statistics of this year's ArtPrize in Grand Rapids opening today with some 400,000 expected visitors to the city. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith was on the scene, and we spoke to her as well as the new Executive Director of ArtPrize.

And, Congressman Justin Amash has decided not to run for U.S. senate. What does this decision mean for the rest of the candidates?

The University of Michigan announced earlier that they will now offer in-state tuition to undocumented students. We talked with Serena Davila, the executive director for Legislative Affairs for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, about what this means for the students.

Also, how well are health care systems in the U.S. working? A new report by the Commonwealth Fund gave us some answers.

And, the small town of Colon in southwest Michigan has been dubbed the “Magic Capital of the World.” We spoke with one resident to find out why that is.

First on the show, our weekly check-in with Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes. And, on the front-burner? The mediation talks between Detroit's Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and dozens and dozens of lawyers representing the city's creditors. Howes joined us to tell us more about the mediation.

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This week in Michigan politics Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss the Medicaid expansion, crime rates in Detroit and Flint and the mediation of Detroit’s bankruptcy.

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Detroit bankruptcy mediation begins today

“The mediation portion of Detroit’s bankruptcy starts today. The city and its creditors will try to find common ground outside court. City and state officials will meet with the city’s major unions and retirement systems,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

16% of Michiganders are driving with fraudulent insurance

“Michigan’s Secretary of State says statistics show a large percentage of Michigan motorists are driving around with phony auto insurance policies. A recent one day survey found 16 percent of auto registration renewals used fraudulent paper insurance certificates,” Steve Carmody reports.

Flint and Detroit still get top rankings for violence

Flint and Detroit remain the most violent cities in America. The Detroit News reports on FBI crime statistics released Monday.
 

“Flint saw an overall rise in violent crime. The city reported 2,774 violent crimes in 2012, nearly 400 more than 2011’s total of 2,392, the FBI reported. Detroit saw a small drop in violent crime with 15,011 incidents in 2012, compared to 15,245 in 2011.”

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Detroit officials and some of the city’s creditors will sit down for their first official mediation session Tuesday.

The mediation was ordered by Judge Steven Rhodes, who’s in charge of Detroit’s Chapter 9 bankruptcy case. Rhodes has appointed chief federal district court judge Gerald Rosen as mediator.

DETROIT (AP) — Crews will begin a block-by-block review of streetlights in two Detroit neighborhoods this week as part of a three-year plan to overhaul the city's decrepit lighting system.

Fewer than half of Detroit's 88,000 streetlights are believed to be working, and Public Lighting Authority workers will inspect each light in areas on the city's east and west sides to map out which aren't working and to determine the cause of each malfunction.

"We will use the information we gather to design a specific plan to relight both of these areas as a prelude to moving out into the rest of the city to completely restore street lighting," the authority's Executive Director Odis Jones said in a statement.

Workers will be wearing yellow vests with the Public Lighting Authority's logo and will be driving vehicles with PLA signs on the side.

After approval from City Council, the Public Lighting Authority was set up earlier this year to design and implement the plan to improve Detroit's public lighting system. Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation last year to allow lighting authorities in some cities.

A few days ago, Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reported a story worth thinking about. The market for municipal bonds has nosedived since Detroit announced its intention to file for bankruptcy in July.

Now, if you would like a clear and concise explanation of how the bond market works … good luck with that. But essentially, communities sell bonds to raise money, bonds they pay off gradually with interest over time. They are a traditional and time-honored way of raising money for civic improvements.

There’s also been an understanding, at least since the Great Depression, that money owed to bond holders -- especially the holders of general obligation bonds -- was sacrosanct. No matter how hard things were, the bond holders had to be paid. Well, that’s not happening in Detroit, which, as all the world knows, has filed for bankruptcy.

Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr isn’t honoring Detroit’s general obligation bonds. And that has investors across the state spooked. Battle Creek and Genesee County have pulled back from plans to sell new bonds. So has affluent Oakland County. In fact, the value of all the municipal bonds sold in the state last month was the lowest in ten years. Something is clearly going on.

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This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss Governor Rick Snyder's agreement to answer questions about the Detroit bankruptcy filing to union lawyers, how the bankruptcy has affected borrowing abilities in other Michigan cities and a new investment program to impact social programs.

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Gov. Snyder will answer questions on Detroit bankruptcy

"Gov. Rick Snyder has agreed to answer questions in a deposition about his decision to let Detroit file for bankruptcy protection. Attorneys for Snyder and other state officials had been resisting testifying based on executive privilege. Unions opposed to the bankruptcy say Snyder's sworn testimony is important. They say Detroit is ineligible for Chapter 9, a process that could let the city shed billions in long-term debt," the Associated Press reports.
 

Proposal to allow religious and moral objections in adoption placements

A bill being considered in the state House would allow adoption agencies to refuse to place children in homes based on religious or moral beliefs. More details on the bill can be found here.

Increased hunting and fishing fees move forward

"Michigan lawmakers have given final approval to the first significant increase in hunting and fishing license fees since 1997. Legislation passed by the House will raise about $20 million more, a 40 percent boost," the Associated Press reports. More details on the fees can be found here.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has agreed to answer questions in a deposition about his decision to let Detroit file for bankruptcy protection.

Attorneys for Snyder and other state officials had been resisting testifying based on executive privilege. They've now changed course and informed Judge Steven Rhodes during a hearing Tuesday.

Unions opposed to the bankruptcy say Snyder's sworn testimony is important. They say Detroit is ineligible for Chapter 9, a process that could let the city shed billions in long-term debt.

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Proposal could ease restrictions on microbrewers

"State lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow Michigan’s craft brewers to expand. Among other things, the bills would double the number of barrels microbrewers could produce each year.  They would also let larger craft brewers such as Bell’s and Founders open second locations in the state," Jake Neher reports.

Climate changing Great Lakes levels

"Experts say there's no guarantee that placing structures in the St. Clair River would elevate Lakes Huron and Michigan to their normal levels because they might not offset the effects of a warming climate," the Associated Press reports.

Detroit bankruptcy affects Michigan's borrowing ability

"Michigan cities and school districts sold $71.5 million worth of municipal bonds in August. That’s the lowest amount of monthly bond issued for the state since 2003. It’s a sign that Detroit’s bankruptcy is hurting municipalities’ ability to borrow money," Sarah Cwiek reports.

It looks like Michigan municipalities are finding the bond market a tough go after Detroit’s historic bankruptcy filing.

Michigan cities and school districts sold just $71.5 million worth of municipal bonds in August.

That’s the lowest amount of monthly bond issues for the state since 2003. And it’s a sign that Detroit’s bankruptcy is hurting municipalities’ ability to borrow money.

Ever since the city of Detroit's historic bankruptcy filing, there have been accusatory fingers pointed at past mayoral administrations -- black administrations.

On today's show, we talked with Marilyn Katz. She played a leading role in the Students for a Democratic Society demonstrations and has recently penned the piece "Detroit's Downfall: Beyond the Myth of Black Misleadership."

And, the band "Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr." stopped by to talk about the inspiration for their music.

Also, Michigan plans to try experimental "social impact bonds." What are these bonds and what do they mean for the state?

First on the show, as the headlines unfold over the civil war in Syria and whether the United States should or should not take military action against Bashar Assad's regime, there are thousands of people in Michigan watching with the most intense interest.

Syrians first started coming to Michigan at the turn of the 20th Century. Today, the Syrian Community in Michigan numbers about 25,000.

We wanted to get a sense of what this civil war looks and feels like for these thousands of people in Michigan with close ties to Syria.

Dr. Yahya Basha came from Syria to Southeast Michigan in 1972 after graduating from medical school at the University of Damascus. He is a leader in the Syrian-American Community in Michigan.

He joined us today.

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Ever since Detroit made history with its bankruptcy filing, there has been a mountain of opinion as to what got us here, what exactly happened, and why.

There have been many accusatory fingers pointed at black leaders like Kwame Kilpatrick and Coleman Young, at union leaders, even at Detroiters themselves.

But, there are, of course, other views about just what went wrong in Detroit.

One such view comes from Marilyn Katz of Chicago, a long-time liberal political and social activist, dating back to the 60's. Katz was an active member of Students for a Democratic Society, the SDS. She played a leading role in the SDS demonstrations during the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago.

Katz recently published a piece on the website inthesetimes.com.

Its title? "Detroit's Downfall: Beyond the Myth of Black Misleadership."

Marilyn Katz joined us from Chicago, where she heads up her firm MK Communications.

Listen to the full interview above.

Detroit is in the news a lot these days, and will continue to be, for obvious reasons, as the city goes through the agony of the bankruptcy process while simultaneously conducting an election. An election, that is, for a new mayor and City Council who will be essentially figureheads until Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr leaves, something that will probably happen a little over a year from now.

But while the media is concentrating on the bankruptcy itself, I sense that we aren’t asking the really important questions. For me, the most important of all is simply this: What happens after bankruptcy is over?

There are streets in Detroit that bear an uncanny resemblance to Germany at the end of World War II. The shells of red brick buildings stand, most of them burned out, roofless, some with homeless and destitute people squatting in the ruins.

Looking at a street like that the other day, I was struck by the thought that throughout the last year of the Second World War, as vast armies raged across Europe, there were teams of planners in Washington and elsewhere working on how to govern the conquered nations after the war; How to lead them on an eventual path to a return to normalcy and democratic self-government.

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Money in Detroit’s pension fund was misspent on bonus checks, The Detroit News’ Robert Snell reported.

That information is coming from a report on the city’s General pension fund from consulting firm Conway MacKenzie. According to the report, more than $532 million was distributed as bonus checks over the last two decades, instead of staying in the pension fund’s coffers.

The so-called 13th checks — or annual bonuses — weren’t a part of the city’s pension plan. Yet, the report claims that even in the “good and bad years,” the money intended for the workers’ saving plans was doled out early -- which according to the report, was “effectively robbing (the General pension fund) of precious funds necessary to support the traditional pensions the city had promised.”

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Medicaid expansion awaits Governor Snyder's signature

The state House took final action yesterday to approve a Medicaid expansion in Michigan. It now awaits Governor Rick Snyder's signature. However, the bill does not have immediate effect, meaning it won’t start until the spring, instead of in January. The delay will cost the state $7 million a day in federal funds.

Duggan is the official winner of Detroit mayoral primary

"The board of state canvassers has declared Mike Duggan the winner of Detroit’s mayoral primary. The state took over the issue after Wayne County elections officials threw out thousands of write-in votes based on how they had been tabulated. Duggan was a write-in candidate. The state restored more than 24-thousand votes to Duggan, giving him a big margin of victory over Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Detroit EM says casino money is key for Detroit

"Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager testified that access to casino tax revenues is key to the city staying afloat financially. During the deposition, Kevyn Orr said he has 'no plans to use art to relieve the liquidity crisis that the city is in now,'" the Associated Press reports.

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DETROIT (AP) - Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager has fired the chairman of one of the city's two pension funds from his municipal job.

The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press report Friday that Kevyn Orr fired Cedric Cook. Cook served as a senior data program analyst for information technology services and has been chairman of the Detroit General Retirement System.

Cook took an all-expenses-paid trip this year to a conference in Hawaii. Orr spokesman Bill Nowling says the dismissal was due to Cook's poor job performance, not for taking the trip.

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Chad Livengood of the Detroit News reports that a closed-door meeting will take place today between the city and bond insurers, pension funds, and Detroit's casinos.

Livengood reports a Portland-based bankruptcy judge, Elizabeth Perris, will be leading the mediation. She's worked on the Stockton, CA bankruptcy proceedings.

Here's what they'll be talking about according to Livengood:

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit News reports that Kevyn Orr is considering a sale of the city's parking system.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is looking into this story further and will have more later.

Parking systems can be a source of revenue for a city, but according to the News, Orr says the system is losing money:

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It's Thursday, which means it's time for our weekly check-in with Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

And today he's got his eye fixed on the storm clouds that are gathering over the Detroit Institute of Arts. This particular growing cloud comes from the Oakland County.

Daniel Howes joined us today to talk about the troubles the DIA now faces.

Listen to the full interview above.

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In the five weeks since Detroit filed for bankruptcy, there has been much conversation, much reporting, much editorializing.

What does it mean? Who will be affected? How can Detroit turn itself around? A lot of opinions, and a lot of views.

One view we have not gotten yet on Stateside is the view of the Detroit bankruptcy from "Up North."

That's something we remedied today as we welcomed Ken Winter, former editor and publisher of the Petoskey News-Review and member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.

And, freshly returned from his trip to the Upper Peninsula, where he was able to get an up-close take on the UP's view of Detroit, Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry also joined the discussion.

Listen to the full interview above.

On today’s show we explored the differences residents in the UP have as compared with "trolls," you know, residents under the Mackinac Bridge.

How do perspectives about our state change depending on where we live?

And, we got the story behind Banner Gibson guitars in Kalamazoo and the women who made them.

Also, the UP’s own poet laureate joined us to talk about the rise in regional poet laureates, as well as what that honor means to him.

First on the show, as you've likely heard by now, a state election panel will have to decide the official outcome of Detroit's mayoral primary. That's because Wayne County's election board refused to certify the election. It should be noted that the county election board acted on the very last day before the deadline to certify the election.

The controversy centers on some 20,000 write-in votes that may have been incorrectly marked by Detroit poll workers.

Former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan appeared to win the primary handily over Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.

Despite running as a write-in candidate, Duggan won by about 16 points, according to unofficial results.

But if these almost 20,000 write-in votes get thrown out, the two winners would switch places, with  Napoleon coming out on top, and former Detroit Medical Center Mike Duggan finishing second.

Whatever the outcome, Duggan and Napoleon will face off in November.

But this drama raises many concerns, including the ability of Detroit poll workers to do their jobs properly, whether there needs to be a recount, and whether---as suggested by Benny Napoleon--the U.S. Department of Justice needs to babysit the big November election.

Jocelyn Benson, interim dean of Wayne State University's law school and an expert in Michigan's constitutional and election law, joined us today to help us sort this all out.

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