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Detroit Journalism Cooperative

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Downtown Detroit is in a revival, but neighborhoods across the city are still declining. One of the reasons is the onslaught of tax foreclosures.  Those foreclosure mean more vacant houses. Soon the homes are stripped by scrappers, and the destruction can affect the whole block.

Ulysses Jones drove me around his neighborhood, MorningSide, on Detroit’s east side. He’s with a community organization also called MorningSide.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan
City of Detroit

Detroit is still on track to exit state financial oversight next year, despite having to make unexpected pension payouts out of its annual budgets.

That’s what Mayor Mike Duggan told the City Council at a preview of his proposed 2017-18 budget on Thursday.

The pension liabilities are not included in the city’s bankruptcy-court mandated plan of adjustment—something Duggan says was “concealed” from him by former emergency manager Kevyn Orr during the bankruptcy.

According to Laura Reese, while Midtown Detroit is seeing some income growth, the rest of the city is only getting worse
Wikimedia user, Andrew Jameson / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Over the past several years, the conventional wisdom has been that Detroit is recovering. Every new restaurant, boutique store, or retail chain setting up shop in Detroit is offered as proof.

There’s a major flaw in that assessment.

The focus of recent development has been the city’s central business districts. Meanwhile, the people in the neighborhoods are not sharing in that prosperity. If anything, the plight of Detroit’s long-time residents has been getting worse.

Lester Graham

In Detroit, jobs are scarce. Money is short.

That has led to an underground economy that one Detroit reporter calls a “gift economy.”

Valerie Vande Panne’s piece is titled “Life Without Money in Detroit’s Survival Economy.” 

Screenshot from the Pathways to Prison trailer

Tonight at 8 p.m., Detroit Public Television will debut a new documentary focused on the high rate of imprisonment in the U.S. and Michigan.

It's entitled Pathways to Prison.

Courtesy: St. Louis Public Radio

Racial tensions between white people and people of color are reaching levels not seen since the 1960s and ‘70s.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

At one time, Detroit’s black families had one of the highest home ownership rates in the nation. Now that rate is among the lowest. Every year in Detroit, thousands of people lose their homes to tax foreclosures. In many cases, it is unnecessary. The city is accused of illegal taxes and denying tax exemptions homeowners deserved.

When I got to Darryl and Alisa Beavers' house, I was greeted by Jackson, their small dog. They’ve been living in a three-bedroom, two bath, 1,600 square foot home on Detroit’s east side. There are a lot of nice houses in this neighborhood.

Andrew Colom and Davide Alade
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When we talk about investment in Detroit, the likes of Dan Gilbert or Christopher Ilitch come to mind. Certainly Gilbert has led the way in buying downtown buildings, reshaping the look of downtown Detroit. 

But today, we're going to look at investment in Detroit's neighborhoods.

Andrew Colom and David Alade both gave up jobs to move to Detroit and launch an investment company called Century Partners

Their idea was to invest in Detroit's neighborhoods, and to close the wealth disparity gap by helping people invest in the rehabilitation of their neighborhoods. 

Headshot of Gary Brown, Director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department
Courtesy of Detroit City Council website

After heavy storms led to flooding in Detroit this summer, 800 people filed claims asking for help dealing with the damages.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and the Great Lakes Water Authority will eventually have to figure out which claims each department is responsible for settling.

But in the meantime, officials are going to start paying out settlements. Director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Gary Brown says he wants to get money in the hands of customers as soon as possible.

From left to right: EAA chancellor Veronica Confirme, DPSCD interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather, DPSCD transition manager Steven Rhodes.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

What remains of the Education Achievement Authority will merge with Detroit’s public schools district, then dissolve next July.

That’s when the EAA, Governor Snyder’s fumbled attempt at a state-run “turnaround district” for the lowest-performing schools, will finally cease to exist.

Making that transition as smooth as possible will be the mission between now and July, according to Detroit Public Schools Community District transition manager Steven Rhodes.

"If the prosecutors were picking one person and saying, this is the rare one, that would be very different. But they're picking 250 people and saying, they're all rare, without exercising the discretion," Labelle said.
flickr user Thomas Hawk / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Michigan Radio is involved with several news media partners in a project called the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. One of the issues we're looking at this year is justice, things such as mass incarceration and wrongful conviction. 

There's a nationwide network of legal clinics that are working to litigate claims of actual innocence by prisoners. Many of these clinics base their work on DNA evidence which has led to clearing the names and the release of hundreds of people. 

At the University of Michigan, the Michigan Innocence Clinic operates a little differently. It pursues cases in which DNA evidence is not available. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

In 1967, many American cities were rocked by civil disturbances, including Detroit. Black people rose up against police brutality and unfair treatment.

Razor wire at a Detroit police station.
Tim Jones / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Heather Ann Thompson has been in the news recently because of the success of her new book, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy, a nonfiction finalist this year for the National Book Award.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit's immigrant population is on the rise once again.

After taking a dip between 2000 and 2010, the number of immigrants in the city has grown more than 12% since then, according to U.S. Census Bureau data analyzed by the non-profit group Global Detroit.

That accounts for more than 4,000 new Detroiters, says Global Detroit Executive Director Steve Tobocman.

“That is a major turnaround, and hopefully it’s a bellwether for the stabilization of neighborhoods in the city of Detroit,” Tobocman said.

DWSD

Detroit found more lead in drinking water samples this summer than it has in recent years, and there’s a few reasons to account for the uptick.  

Unofficial results posted this month by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department show Detroit’s water is safe to drink by federal standards.

Brandy Gutierrez was evicted from her house in Lincoln Park. She says no one told her it had gone into tax foreclosure until it was too late.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

In Wayne County, tens of thousands of properties go into tax foreclosure every year.

Most are in Detroit. But it happens in the suburbs too.

Some suburban communities have started buying those tax-foreclosed homes, and turning them over to developers.

But many of the affected homeowners didn’t know that until it was too late to save their homes.

Some tried to fight anyway. But this month, that fight came to a bitter end.

VIDEO: Interview with Russell Simmons

Oct 31, 2016
Russell Simmons.
DPTV

We sat down with entrepreneur, author, clothing line creator, and film and music producer Russell Simmons to get his take on the state of police and justice for Chapter 6 in our Detroit Journalism Cooperative series: Justice.

Simmons talks about the frequency that African Americans are being killed by police which has shocked a nation. He also speaks about the importance of having African American police officers in urban areas like Detroit.

Watch the clips below:

Public Act 343 makes Michigan the 32nd state to provide exonorees with compensation for time served.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The prison reform movement in Michigan – and across much of the nation – is one of the rare issues in this contentious era that attracts support from individuals, public officials and organizations with a wide variety of agendas and political views.

Grosse Pointe Farms Municipal Court

Black and white residents of southeast Michigan differ in their perceptions of how people of color are treated in local courts, according to a recent poll commissioned by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

About half – 49%– of African-Americans surveyed said blacks were treated worse in the courtrooms, but just 16% of whites agreed. Nearly two-thirds – 64% – of whites said they think blacks are treated the same as whites, but only 40% of African Americans agreed that treatment is similar.

Max Nussenbaum is the CEO of Castle, a company looking to make property management simpler and more efficient
Courtesy of Generation Startup

What's the barrier between you and the life you truly want to lead?

That's one of the questions Cheryl Miller Houser explores as co-director of the documentary film Generation Startup.

It follows some young entrepreneurs as they build startups in Detroit. They try, stumble, learn, and try again.

Room in an abandoned school in Detroit
user Freaktography / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

More than 152,000 students in metro Detroit attend class in a district or charter other than the district where they live. As minorities move into some districts, other students use the state schools-of-choice law to move to less-diverse districts.

Families say they use "choice" to move their kids to higher-performing, or safer, schools. Consciously or not, however, this law has left many districts in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb County more racially segregated.

Black Lives Matter protesters Anthony Sammour, Shauna Jones, Michelle Bishop-Dawkins, Samona Dunn, and Jade Bishop in Ann Arbor.
Catherine Shaffer

The Detroit Journalism Cooperative commissioned a poll, asking people about race. It was conducted by Epic-MRA.

The sample was unique in that one-third of those surveyed lived in mostly black communities, one-third from communities which include different races, and one third from mostly white communities.

Metro Detroit racial divide is widest over police

Sep 16, 2016
Demostrators in downtown Detroit protest police-involved shootings that have killed African-Americans.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

While black and white metro Detroiters are finding common ground on racial progress, there remains a gulf, shaped by vastly different experiences, in how the two groups view police.

And nowhere are those differences laid more bare than in the divergent views on the protest movement known as Black Lives Matter.

Roughly eight-in-10 African-American residents in metro Detroit express support for Black Lives Matter, according to to a survey on racial attitudes conducted this month for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. BLM arose three years ago in reaction to the killing of unarmed blacks by police. Black support for the group (79% strongly or somewhat support BLM) is more than double that among white metro-Detroiters, 34%.

School choice, metro Detroit’s new white flight

Sep 13, 2016
Photo courtesy of Chastity Pratt Dawsey / Bridge Magazine

When the high school in Eastpointe recently welcomed the football team from Lakeview High, it was a homecoming of sorts.

That’s because nearly 700 students from Eastpointe actually attend school in Lakeview, a public school district five miles away in St. Clair Shores. As it happens, many of the students who left Eastpointe for Lakeview are white.

A newspaper clipping of Detroit's busing era.
clipping courtesy of Ray Litt / via Detroit Free Press

The U.S. Department of Education says kids at schools with mostly black or Latino students don’t get as good of an education as kids at schools with mostly white students. Generally speaking, their teachers are not as experienced and their buildings are in worse shape.

You can see that in Detroit, Flint, and other Michigan cities.

There was a major Michigan court case that could have ended segregated schools and made it possible for children to have a good education no matter where they lived.

Here's how that court case might have made a difference today.

MDOT / via Twitter

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says 22,000 owners of surface parking lots and other parcels covered in impervious materials like concrete need to start pitching in for the city's $125 million annual cost for wastewater treatment.

Gary Brown is Director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Members of the so-called "Homrich 9" before their initial trial.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Why has a criminal misdemeanor case involving seven Detroit protesters been stalled for nearly nine months?

Those defendants and their lawyers want to know, and in a letter sent to Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway, they petition him to resolve the case “promptly.”

The defendants, part of the self-proclaimed “Homrich 9,” had briefly blocked contractors’ trucks tasked with shutting off water to Detroit homes.

A Detroit water shutoff notice
Ali Elisabeth / Michigan Radio

Detroiters looking for help with their water bills are hitting some barriers, as a new aid program tries to get a handle on its funding situation, and navigate confusion between the different agencies involved.

The Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) just launched in March. It was touted as a comprehensive solution to Detroit’s chronic problem with delinquent water bills, and the subsequent service shutoffs that have hit tens of thousands of households over the past three years.

Wikimedia Commons

UPDATE: The EAA has released emails that appear to show the state and DPS agreeing to revise payments from the EAA. You can read those emails here.

Yesterday, the governor's office said this debt debate is "really an issue for the EAA and MDE to be responding to," while the Michigan Department of Education declined to comment and referred questions to the Treasury Department. 

By Bill McGraw is a reporter for Bridge Magazine, a Detroit Journalism Cooperative partner

Though their sprawling region had long wrestled with segregation, and racial violence has dominated national headlines this summer, about half of all metro Detroit residents say local race relations today are generally good, according to an exclusive new poll by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

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