Detroit

There are two dirty little secrets about journalism most people don’t realize. One is that we assume that the good is normal. If you work hard, are not flamboyant, take care of your business and don’t kill your family, you may well live happily ignored by the media.

Same goes for your community, if it is solvent and your elected officials aren’t stealing or worse.

While great breakthroughs in science or human achievement do get recognized, news tends to be about system or human failures, which is one of the reasons journalists tend to be unpopular.

We come to show you that the mayor is a crook, the legislature incompetent, your schools are failing to educate "Susie," that your city is bankrupt and the water polluted.

Col. Frank J. Hecker House in Detroit
User: Werewombat / Wikimedia Commons

The talk about blight and crumbling buildings in the city of Detroit can easily drown out another fact: The city is home to some stunning buildings that have a long history.

One of the gifted architects who helped Detroit earn a reputation as the "Paris of the West" was Louis Kamper. He envisioned not just office buildings and fabulous homes, but also bridges, hotels, police stations, and even a bathhouse on Belle Isle.

Historian Bill Loomis blogged about Kamper for the Detroit News. He says Kamper helped define the character of city's downtown architecture. 

A student's letter in an effort to bring Pope Francis to Detroit.
User: Let's Bring Pope Francis to Detroit in 2015 / facebook

The last time a pope visited Michigan was 27 years ago this very week. Pope John Paul spoke to crowds at Hart Plaza and Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit, visited Hamtramck, and celebrated Mass for 90,000 people at the Pontiac Silverdome.

Word that Pope Francis is planning a visit to the United States has ignited a letter-writing and social media campaign called "Let's Bring Pope Francis to Detroit in 2015"

The spark of the campaign began at Cristo Rey High School in southwest Detroit. And the movement is drawing support from some big names, including Detroit's mayor and deputy mayor. 

Cristo Rey Principal Sue Rowe and Detroit Deputy Mayor Ike McKinnon spoke to Stateside about their effort.

Many years ago, I met Thomas Friedman, the distinguished New York Times journalist who won two Pulitzer Prizes for his coverage of the Middle East by the time he was 35.

When I told him that I regarded his reporting as indispensable, he told me something I’ll never forget. He said “don’t read my stories every day.”  That startled me, and I asked what he meant.

He went on: “Daily journalists covering a beat have to produce a story just about every day.” That’s partly because everybody doesn’t always read everything. But if you look closely, you’ll see that much of the time, much of the daily stories are repetitious.

There’s an old joke that asks, what’s the difference between an optimist, a pessimist and a Detroiter?

Well, the optimist, of course, sees the glass half full; the pessimist, half empty.

And the Detroiter asks: Who stole my glass?

Years ago, I found it interesting to tell that joke to different groups, suburbanites and city dwellers, and ask what it meant.

Detroiters, most of whom were black, often said it referred to the business interests who used the city up, then took their jobs and factories and left. White suburbanites, on the other hand, would say it referred to the corrupt black politicians who fleeced their own people.

That, or to crime in general, by which they meant black crime.

User: Patrick Julian / facebook/Beyond Olympia Stadium

On Sept. 6, 1964, the Beatles came to Michigan.

The familiar sounds of the Detroit Red Wings playing at Olympia Stadium gave way to something completely different: 30,000 teenagers screaming for John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

They played two shows at Olympia Stadium.

Bob Green was right there, seeing Beatlemania unfold in Detroit.

He was a disc jockey on WKNR, Keener 13, the legendary Detroit radio station. He wasn't just there as the Beatles played Olympia, he was onstage introducing them.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

The official name for it is the “plan confirmation hearing.” The commonly used term is “Detroit’s bankruptcy trial.” And it begins today.

Stephen Henderson is the editorial page editor at the Detroit Free Press. He joined Stateside today to talk about what will be decided and the big questions in the trial.

“(The central question) really has to do with the grand bargain,” says Henderson, “which brings into the bankruptcy proceeding more than $700 million from people who have nothing to do with this proceeding.”

Detroit’s bankruptcy has been with us so long that it is hard to believe that the actual trial is only starting today.

Technically, it is not a trial in the strict sense of the word, but something called a “plan confirmation hearing.”

But it is, in a very real sense, Detroit’s trial of the century. That’s an overused phrase, but totally appropriate here.

In fact, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes, the most important figure in all of this, said it all last week: What happens here will determine “the future of the city of Detroit.”

Actually, it might be technically correct to say that this trial will determine whether the city has a future.

Detroit's historic bankruptcy case is entering the home stretch. The crucial, final trial phase begins Tuesday in a Detroit courtroom.

The trial will decide the fate of a plan to wipe out billions of dollars in debt and help Detroit emerge from bankruptcy as a new, revitalized city.

This trial is a big deal, but don't expect anything with lots of courtroom drama. For one thing, it's federal bankruptcy court — and there's no jury.

User: Marvin Shaouni / Urban Innovation Exchange

You might have heard of urban farming in Detroit, but do you know you can grow seafood in Detroit’s vacant homes?

Aside from the Heidelberg Project, do you know metro Detroit also has community art projects like Green Alley, Scarab Club’s art exhibits, and an upcoming Museum of Curiosity?

These are the kind of ideas Urban Innovation Exchange hopes to explore at its first national convention Sept. 24-26 in Detroit.

It's one in a series of citywide events jam-packed into the month of September to showcase small projects that are transforming the city, from Tour de Troit to Dlectricity.

Jimmy Carter at a book signing in 2010.
Geoff Holtzman / Talk Radio News Service/Flickr

The former president, who will turn 90 on October 1, will be the keynote speaker at the annual conference for the nation's largest Muslim group.

The Islamic Society of North America's 51st annual conference will be held at the Cobo Center from August 29 through September 1. The theme of the conference will be on "elevating Muslim-American culture."

More from the Toledo Blade:

President Carter will talk on the subject of his latest book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power, at a luncheon Aug. 30.

That night, at a session called “Generations Rise: Elevating Muslim-American Culture” -- the same title as the entire conference theme — the outgoing president of ISNA, Imam Mohamed Magid, and four other Muslim speakers will offer ideas for Muslim-American advancement over the next five years. A “secret special guest” is also on the bill.

The Blade reports Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder will speak at the opening of the conference, which will also feature "Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, the national leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the first Muslim member of Congress."

Here's one of the Society's promotional videos for the conference:

Lead in text: 
The Home Depot in Madison Heights, for instance, has a "flood recovery zone" set up inside the store's entrance. Things like drywall, paint, cleaning supplies, dehumidifiers, and appliances are flying off the shelves.
Business
Morguefile

LANSING – State officials say billions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage were dumped in Detroit area rivers and streams after flooding from heavy rains earlier this month.

Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman Laura Verona tells The Detroit News for a story Friday that about 46% of the nearly 10 billion gallons of sewage released Aug. 11 by water treatment facilities was raw, diluted or partially treated sewage.

The state agency has put together a preliminary report on the sewage release.

Combined sewers and retention basins in some communities in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties overflowed due to the Aug. 11 storm. Some areas received more than 6 inches of rain. Water from the storm left parts of freeways flooded and damaged thousands of homes.

SM Giovanni and SM Angela with Edmund Cardinal Szoka.
Felician Sisters of North America / Flickr

DETROIT - Cardinal Edmund Szoka, the former governor of Vatican City and the head of the Detroit archdiocese, has died. He was 86.

The Archdiocese of Detroit says Szoka died of natural causes Wednesday night at Providence Park Hospital in Novi, Michigan.

Pope John Paul II made Szoka a cardinal in 1988. Not long after, he became the Vatican's point man for finance. By 1998, he was running the Vatican City, one of the world's smallest countries.

Since his retirement from active ministry in 2006, Szoka had been living in the Detroit suburb of Northville.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

Bridge Magazine writer Mike Wilkinson recently wrote a piece that explored the dollars-and-cents of Detroit, post-bankruptcy and beyond.

It's titled “Can Detroit Pay Its Bills Post-Bankruptcy?”

Wilkinson said though Detroit has been cash strapped for a while in terms of debt, it does generate a lot of money. It has the highest income tax and property tax in the state. It is the only city in the state allowed to levy a utility tax. And it has an averaged $179 million in casino taxes.

“It’s raising more money than Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City, Orlando, in terms of per person,” Wilkinson said.

Assuming that Kevyn Orr’s Plan of Adjustment is approved by Judge Rhodes, will this revenue be enough to pay the bills? Wilkinson wrote in his piece, “Revenues alone do not a budget make.”

And Eric Scorsone, an MSU professor and expert on city finances, said in order to answer that question, we must ask what will Detroit spend the money on?

“The truth is it would be very easy to overspend again as Detroit has in most of its history, and that’s going to be the real challenge for the political leadership of Detroit.” Scorsone said.

user BGilbow / Flickr

The Michigan Department of Transportation announced yesterday that "nearly all freeways" have been reopened after record-breaking flooding in metro Detroit this past Monday (August 11). 

Today we hear news that two lanes of I-94 will close because of pavement buckling that might be related to Monday's downpour.

The right two lanes on eastbound I-94 near Warren Ave. will be closed according to the Detroit News.

Here's a map showing that location:

Last winter was the snowiest and one of the coldest ever in Metropolitan Detroit. Three days ago, the area was hit by an absolutely devastating rainstorm and the following floods.

We don’t know if these events were influenced by climate change. We do know that the infrastructure, from freeway ramps to storm drains, wasn’t adequate to deal with the problems.

Our roads were in urgent need of investment before this happened, and many are in worse shape now. For years, we’ve known that the water infrastructure in southeast Michigan was in need of major upgrading.

But we haven’t done any of it.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Legislation is moving through the state Legislature to improve the way law enforcement agencies handle evidence in sexual assault cases.

In 2009, more than 11,000 rape kits were discovered unprocessed in a Detroit police storage facility. Some of the sexual assault cases dated back more than 20 years. 

In the years since the discovery, testing has linked the DNA of 100 serial rapists to the kits. A national database has linked samples to crimes committed in about two dozen other states. 

Tree planting demonstration led by the Greening of Detroit
User: The Greening of Detroit / facebook

When you bring up your mental image of big post-industrial American cities like Detroit, do you think of blight, decaying buildings, or empty lots?

You probably don’t think of trees or green infrastructure.

Dean Hay wants to change that. He is the Director of Green Infrastructure at Greening of Detroit. This group has planted more than 81,000 trees in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park since it began in 1989.

Hay says with the tremendous challenges Detroit is facing, it is still important to put energy and resources into planting trees.

“Trees are community builders. They help us have safe streets and reduce crime. The shades they produce reduce summer temperatures in these areas. Wherever there’s a large canopy area, the value of those houses increase,” says Hay.

Perhaps we can learn lessons from Milwaukee in building a strong green infrastructure. Joe Wilson is the executive director at Greening Milwaukee, a city which was recently named as one of the 10 Best Urban Forests in America.

"We see trees as a part of our infrastructure. We see it as important and vital as our sewer system, as important and as vital as our utility system," says Wilson.

*Listen to our conversation with Dean Hay and Joe Wilson above.

Doug Coombe

Eighteen-year-old sculptor Austen Brantley makes some pretty impressive art. But don't take our word for it, check out these photos of Austen's work, at the Michigan Radio Picture Project.

Professionals in the art world agree. "It's just amazing to see the amount of talent that he has at 18 years old. He’s right up there with some of his peers that are in their 30s and 40s," says Garnette Archer, owner of Jo’s Gallery in Detroit.

User: kshawphoto / Flickr

As Detroit slid into poverty and eventual bankruptcy, one of the oft-repeated complaints was that Detroiters didn't have a place to shop for fresh, wholesome food. It says they had to turn to "party stores" with an emphasis on snack foods, beer and soft drinks.

But Auday Arabo says that “food desert” is a myth. He's the president and CEO of Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers, which represents more than 4,000 stores in Michigan, Ohio and nearby states.

To find out where the stores are, Arabo says they actually put all the data together and made a map.

"Once we showed people what the stores looked like on the inside, it really changed a lot of hearts and minds," says Arabo.

Arabo says instead of “food desert,” it’s more of a “food access” issue, because lack of public transportation and crime are the two major challenges in Detroit.

However, Arabo says the grocers in Detroit have always been there, especially independent stores, even though they don’t market as much as the big chains do.

* Listen to the story above.

www.detroitmi.gov/detroitdashboard / City of Detroit

The City of Detroit's website has launched a new performance measurement feature. 

The Detroit Dashboard tracks the progress and outcome of improvements across the city.

The data is gathered from various city departments such as the Lighting Authority or EMS. Each colored section of the infographic on the side of the page is a clickable link to a department's website or information page. 

BELT MAGAZINE & RUST BELT CHIC PRESS / beltmag.com

“Detroit is a city of stories. In this way, we are rich. We begin with abundance.”

That’s from the introduction of the book A Detroit Anthology, a collection of essays and poems from Detroiters. Anna Clark is the editor of the book.

Clark said this is a book for people who have some familiarity and connection with the city, and the stories in it come from people who can tell them in the first person.

Lead in text: 
Excellent Schools Detroit tries to help parents navigate the educational landscape in Detroit. Dan Varner heads up the group, and says the amount of choice is simply overwhelming. Dustin Dwyer sat down with Varner to learn more about what he thinks can help and how Varner got to where he is.
Families & Community
Reem Nasr

Last year, more than 10,000 people came out of prison in Michigan. Of those, about a third live in metro Detroit.

And as the city attempts a comeback, more jobs will open up and need to be filled.

One of the programs that's trying to give Detroit's parolees a fighting chance at employment is Green Works.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss what races and issues to follow before next week's primary election, how Detroit's emergency manager has shifted responsibilities of the city's water department to Mayor Mike Duggan after controversies for water shut offs, and recent developments with the new international bridge from Detroit to Windsor, ON.

Maegan Tintari / Flickr

The only time Kristy Tillman could fit in an interview was on her lunch break. That's because of the insane number of reporters emailing her.   

“We never expected the press to get so big! We’re just like, oh man. So we decided we’re going to probably limit the time on that today, so we can get real work done.”

All those reporters want to talk with her about the website she and friend threw online this past Thursday.

It's called Turn on Detroit's Water

Orchestra Hall in Detroit sat vacant for almost 20 years before renovation started in the 1970s. An iconic building saved from ruin.
screen grab / http://detroiturbex.com/

DEE-twah

The French word for "strait" (détroit) was how it all started in 1701.

A French explorer founded Fort Pontchartrain on the "straits" - the water between Lake Huron and Lake Erie - on July 24, 1701.

It didn't become incorporated as a city until 1806, and the city grew from there.

This population graph shows the timing of the rise and decline of the city:

Olympia Entertainment

Downtown Detroit could undergo a major transformation under a development plan unveiled today.

The organization that owns the Detroit Red Wings says it wants to transform the northern part of downtown Detroit into a sports/entertainment/retail and residential destination.

Civil rights groups are asking to meet with Detroit officials about a controversial water shut-off campaign.

The ACLU and the NAACP want to meet with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to find a “fair, humane, and meaningful review process,” which would include adequate notice and a hearing to determine whether individual water customers can’t or won’t pay their bills.

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