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Detroit Journalism Cooperative

Detroit is commonly and correctly thought to be doing better than it has been in a long time. There’s a sense of hope again. The streetlights are back, and the bankruptcy’s over.

 There are still more problems than solutions.

The former Carstens Elementary School building, on Detroit's east side, is one of many, many schools that have been shuttered in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Three Detroit charter schools are closing and two are merging this year, adding to the school turnover and churn families in that city are seeing.

One of the larger charters, Allen Academy, is being shut down because of poor academic performance.

“The test scores over the last several years, they’ve been outperformed by the resident district, Detroit Public Schools,” says Ron Rizzo, director of the Charter Schools Office at Ferris State University, which authorized Allen Academy.

The latest re-invention of public schools in Detroit is underway with the state trying yet again to overhaul the district facing huge financial and academic difficulties.

But it’s still too early to declare victory.

This new plan out of Lansing is without the support of legislative Democrats, the Detroit delegation and Mayor Mike Duggan. But it does return the Detroit public schools back to the control of a locally elected school board. This is coming after many state appointed emergency managers over seven years have tried but failed to turn around the district.

DPS website

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a $617 million bailout of the Detroit Public Schools – which he says represents a fresh start for the financially and academically struggling district.

The plan creates a new debt-free Detroit school district, which will focus on educating the district’s 46,000 students while the old district pays down the old debt. 

The bills signed by the governor also return control of the district to a locally elected school board following seven years of state control that saw it sink deeper into debt.

Mendez currently works with Minute Men Staffing Services, a staffing agency located in Southwest Detroit. She says the work environment treated her well, but she felt that as a woman she didn’t have as many advantages as a man would.
DJC

“Let’s go take my daddy out of that place. I miss him why is he there?”

These were the words of a three-year-old Dana whose father had just been detained to be deported.

The mother, Mireya, says the little girl cried every night, saying she wanted her father home and was confused as to why he was in there in the first place, demanding that he is brought home to her. The mother says on one visit to the detention facility, the daughter asked her to break the glass, unbeknown to the child that she would probably never see her father free any time soon.

A man begs for money from a patron leaving one of Midtown’s critically acclaimed restaurants, where a roasted mushroom salad is $14.
Bill McGraw / Bridge Magazine

While Detroit has seen positive changes in the police department and the inclusion of African Americans in civic life since 1967, the decline of manufacturing and flight of people over the past five decades have contributed to significantly higher levels of unemployment and impoverished residents in the city. Reynolds Farley, a retired University of Michigan sociologist, notes that in 1950, Detroit had the nation’s “most prosperous black population.”

Reporter's Notebook

I watched an old black man cry today.

Sitting at a picnic table in Chandler Park, by census estimates the poorest area of the city of Detroit, John Henry Irelang talked about poverty in his neighborhood. But, empathy for his neighbors was not the only reason he cried.

He cried because of lost opportunity.

“I put in 89 days,” he said. That’s one day short from transitioning from a temporary worker to a full time worker. “I was paid $5 an hour while the guy working next to me doing the same job was making $11.”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Politicians and media reports indicate Detroit is in the middle of an economic resurgence. That’s true for the central business districts. That’s not the case for many residents in the poorest neighborhoods.

“Some people just don’t have the hope. And, especially living in an environment like this, it’s kind of hard. It’s kind of hard. It’s very stressful,” said Alita Burton.

Metro Detroit ranked third nationally in momentum of walkable urban development in a recent study.
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Residents of the metro Detroit area might be surprised to learn that, in a recent study, their region ranked third on the list of areas making the biggest strides toward increasing walkability. They wouldn't be the only ones. 

"We were surprised, too," said Michael Rodriguez, a transit planner who co-authored "Foot Traffic Ahead," a study published by the George Washington University School of Business.

The Detroit Police Department has had a frequently troubled past, particularly in regard to the way it treated African-Americans. 

Bridge Magazine​'s Bill McGraw is one of the reporters working with the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. His story in Bridge is an extensive look at Detroit's police department and its chief

According to Joshua Akers, nearly 20% of all land parcels in Detroit are owned by speculators
flickr user Berndt Rostad / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July 2013, claiming the top spot as the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the United States. The filing closed in December 2014, but its story is far from over. 

There's a new book about the bankruptcy, Detroit Resurrected: To Bankruptcy and Back.

According to author Nathan Bomey​, "Detroit's bankruptcy was the first time in which the city finally put the people of Detroit before the creditors of Detroit."

St. Louis Public Radio

  

More in this series from Michigan Radio and its Detroit Journalism Cooperative partners can be found at www.detroitjournalism.org

The news has been full of stories in recent years about police killing unarmed African-Americans. Those reports have been disturbing.

Brian Widdis / Bridge

Bill McGraw reports for Bridge, a Michigan Radio partner in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

The Black Lives Matter movement was peaking a year ago, when protesters took to the streets of Baltimore over the death of a black man in police custody. On the same day, an angry crowd gathered on Evergreen Road on Detroit’s west side.

The situation on Evergreen quickly grew tense. An agent from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who was on a task force with Detroit police had shot and killed a 20-­year-old black Detroiter, Terrance Kellom, a parole absconder who was wanted for armed robbery.

“Huge crowd. We were surrounded,” Assistant Chief Steven Dolunt recalled in late March. “They were calling for the chief. I called him. I said, ‘You need to get here right away. Now.’’’

The chief of police is James Craig. The crowd knew him because in nearly three years at the top of the Detroit Police Department, he has become such a familiar figure on city streets and media outlets that some people, both friends and foes, call him “Hollywood.”

Craig’s style is low­-key and controlled, more Woodward Avenue than Sunset Strip, but he doesn’t mind the nickname. He says his visibility is part of a deliberate strategy to communicate with Detroiters.

A Detroit water shutoff notice
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

With all the attention paid to water issues in Michigan thanks to the Flint water crisis, the Detroit News highlighted another problem in the city of Detroit: water shutoffs.

Joel Kurth’s article begins with the following:

Photo courtesy of the Reuther Library

by Bill McGraw, Bridge Magazine

Was it a riot or a rebellion?

Or both?

Nearly five decades after the last fire was extinguished, the discussion continues over what to call the events in Detroit during July 1967.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

America struggles with race and those struggles are intensifying. As the white majority has been shrinking, racial tensions have been rising. You can see it in anti-immigration movements. It’s in the feeling among some white people that they’re being oppressed.

Meanwhile, a new generation of black protest organizations has been taking to the streets as black Americans feel a greater threat from white-dominated politics and police.

Race relations have changed since the civil rights movements of the 1960s and they seem to be changing again.

In an African-American city, black clout wanes

Mar 10, 2016
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Stately, stout Charles Williams II takes the microphone in an old church auditorium on Detroit’s west side and convenes the Saturday rally with a familiar war cry.

“No justice!” Rev. Williams shouts, stopping conversations and focusing attention on the front of a smallish room.

“No peace!” yell back some 65 people.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has awarded more than $659,000 to public media organizations across Michigan to fund the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, or DJC. 

Today, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative (DJC) introduced its newest project, titled, The Intersection.

Watch a short video explaining the project below:

LBJ Presidential Library

News media around the world are talking about Detroit’s resurgence.

Politicians in the city and the state, such as Gov. Rick Snyder, hype its revitalization.

“New investments have helped fuel a rapid dramatic transformation of Detroit and today it’s America’s comeback city,” he said in a video.

But that’s only part of the story of Detroit.

In the city’s neighborhoods, many people are still struggling.

However, there was a plan released in the 1960s to help end racial discrimination in Detroit and the nation.

Recently I was led through an abandoned building in Detroit.

“The first time we came in here in 2013 it was still relatively intact. The power was off, but pretty much everything else was in decent shape. It wasn’t in great shape, but just a matter of months and this place was completely destroyed,” one of my guides told me.

So, who walked away from a perfectly good building, failed to secure it well enough to keep metal thieves out?

The Detroit Public School District.

Ali Lapetina / Michigan Radio Detroit Journalism Cooperative

It's been just over a year since Detroit emerged from bankruptcy. As 2015 draws to a close, it will be the first full post-bankruptcy year for Detroit.

For city residents, life continues. Some city services have improved, many people are optimistic about the city's future, and some people see no difference at all.

We asked photographer Ali Lapetina to take her camera all over the city in a single day, and shoot pictures from before sunrise until after sunset.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A special report looking at the progress, struggles, and failures in Detroit during the city’s first year out of bankruptcy:

Members of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative will present a special event today entitled Detroit Bankruptcy: One Year Later. This free community event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, at Wayne State University’s Community Arts Auditorium in Detroit. Key figures in the bankruptcy case, including Gov.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

As Detroit approaches the one-year anniversary of emerging from the nation’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy, Michigan Radio is examining one of the lessons learned.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

By Mike Wilkinson
Bridge Magazine

When state-appointed emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr first pleaded with a federal bankruptcy court to help Detroit in July 2013, he made his case with sobering statistics: the city’s high levels of poverty, blight, and abandonment, its declining population and tax revenues, and its insane crime rate.

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.

Bill McGraw / Bridge

by Bill McGraw

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is a disciplined speaker whose message rarely varies from the nitty-gritty ways he and his administration are repairing the wounded city they inherited: improving emergency response times, auctioning vacant homes, turning on streetlights, demolishing abandoned property, and trying to lower auto insurance rates.

Mike Wilkinson / Bridge Magazine

Detroit has a host of well-documented problems – poverty, crime, street lights, mass transit – that hamper its recovery.

But the ability to create jobs may be its biggest hurdle. More jobs could mean less poverty and more tax revenues to fix the many broken things.

“It’s absolutely critical that Detroit grow jobs,” said Teresa Lynch, nonresident senior fellow at Brookings Institution and a principal at Mass Economics, which is helping the Detroit Future City’s group work on economic development strategies.

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.

Bridge photo by Bill McGraw

This story was written by Bill McGraw and first appeared in Bridge Magazine as part of our Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

No matter how well-preserved certain neighborhoods remained through the decades of Detroit’s decline, residents could always gauge the city’s overall troubles by the condition of their local park.

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