Jodi Westrick

The Next Idea

If everyone knows of 20th century Detroit as the Motor City, what's Detroit's identity today and what should it be for the future? Every Thursday on our Next Idea segment, we look at the innovations and we look at the new ideas that could reshape Michigan. 

flickr user Motown31 /

The state-appointed manager of Detroit Public Schools laid out his plan to turn the struggling district around during a public meeting Tuesday night.

Judge Steven Rhodes told a hostile crowd that included teachers, students and community members that he's trying to set a path for long-term success for students and educators.

Dozens of people at the meeting repeatedly interrupted Rhodes during his presentation.

Water running from tap
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Some 20,000 Detroit water customers could have their water shut off starting Tuesday.

That's how many are behind on their bills, according to the city.

In Detroit, the average monthly water bill is $75. The average past due amount? $633.

All those unpaid bills add up: Last March, the city was owed some $47 million in past-due residential bills – though a department spokesperson said they’re not sure what the current amount owed is, because so many people are currently making payments to avoid shutoffs.

Student performers at the Detroit NAACP Freedom Fund dinner.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President took her through Detroit this weekend.

Clinton was the keynote speaker at the Detroit NAACP’s annual Freedom Fund dinner.

She said the kind of suffering seen in cities like Detroit and Flint are symbolic of communities across the country that are being “left out and left behind.”

Clinton, who has been vocal about the Flint water crisis since it started drawing national attention, called it “unacceptable.” But she also said there are “too many Flints in America.”

Andre Johnson, President and CEO of Detroit Recovery Project.

The White House will recognize a Detroit man for his role in establishing a drug recovery program. Andre Johnson is the President and CEO of the Detroit Recovery Project and will be recognized by President Obama as one of 10 “Champions of Change.”

Listen to the full interview below.

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 /

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."

Morgan Willis

The Next Idea

When Amber Williams and Morgan Willis talk about #ICantBreathe or #BlackLivesMatter, they aren't just talking about Twitter hashtags. For these black activists and many others in Michigan, digital technologies create important spaces of solace, solidarity, struggle, and connection. At a recent conference at University of Michigan called #UMBLACKOUT, Williams, Willis, and an array of local and national black activists discussed the myriad ways that black organizers use technology for both politics and pleasure, online and offline. 

Anyone who knows Ismael Ahmed knows he is one of the most remarkable people in the Detroit area. He co-founded ACCESS, the nation’s largest Arab-American private human services organization, while he was still a student at the University of Michigan Dearborn.

That was 43 years ago. Today, ACCESS, which he ran for many years, offers more than 90 programs and reports nearly a million client visits a year.

Once built, the Gordie Howe International Bridge could double the number of trucks rolling through the Detroit neighborhood of Delray
wikimedia user Notorious4life /

Once it's built, the Gordie Howe International Bridge from Windsor to Detroit will be one of Michigan's most important tools for international trade.


It's projected that truck traffic will double from the current 10,000 to some 20,000 trucks each day rumbling through the southwest Detroit neighborhood of Delray.


So what's good for Michigan trade – not to mention America's and Canada's trade – is going to be felt deeply by the folks living there.

A DDOT bus in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Detroit is tweaking bus service again as the city plugs away at revamping its notoriously bad transit system.

The latest changes kick in this coming weekend.

They include schedule modifications, some additional trips and other adjustments across eight bus routes, to “increase reliability” and “alleviate crowding.”

7,100 bodies are buried at the former Eloise mental hospital in Westland, near Detroit. But you'd never guess that from walking around the property.

That’s because the cemetery, which was never meant to be a traditional cemetery, looks more like an empty field. But look down, and you'll discover rows and rows of cement markers the size of large bricks with numbers stamped into them.

“This person buried here is number 5,632,” says Felicia Sills, as she gets on her knees and gently traces her finger over each number.

Stephen Harlan / flickr creative commons

Detroit mayor Mike Duggan announced plans today to recruit more Detroit-based, minority contractors for the city's expanding blight-removal efforts.

Duggan wants them to help meet increased demand for home demolition and rehabilitation in the city's neighborhoods.

Duggan announced several upcoming fairs to connect contractors with opportunities. The first will be held on May 13 at the Northwest Activities Center at 18100 Meyers Road.

Sacramento Knoxx performs at Michigan Radio
Ben Foote

As part of Michigan Radio’s Songs from Studio East series, this year we are exploring music that combines both contemporary and traditional music from around the world.

Today, we meet Sacramento Knoxx from southwest Detroit.

Knoxx is a hip hop artist who blends Mexican and indigenous music into some of his songs.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr -

DETROIT - Former Secretary of State and current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will give the keynote at the Detroit NAACP Fight for Freedom Fund Dinner.

The Detroit chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Monday announced Clinton as the main speaker at the May 1 event.

Clinton also gave the event's keynote in 2004. Her husband, former President Bill Clinton, also has delivered the keynote at the annual fundraiser.

Thomas Xu / Flickr -

Politicians and business leaders over the last decade have referenced the “brain drain” as a major problem for the state of Michigan. College students graduate from a state college or university and move elsewhere to pursue a job or begin their career.

Today's the day that will largely determine you school district's funding for the next year.
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

It may soon get a little easier for Detroit parents to figure out which schools are the right fit for their kids.

Navigating the maze of options – and enrollment deadlines, and application processes – from Detroit Public Schools, the Education Achievement Authority, and charter schools can feel overwhelming for some families.

Starting Friday, a new program called Enroll Detroit will offer parents a common application and enrollment system.

A DDOT bus in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A series of public meetings are scheduled over the next month as part of an effort to improve regional transit options in Southeastern Michigan. 

The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) plans to host four open house public meetings to showcase preferred options of reliable transportation in Southeast Michigan. 

The RTA's press release can be found here

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Police Department plans a program that will allow the public access to department data that includes complaints against officers and police runs to problem areas.

The Detroit News reports officers' names won't be made public, but the nature of complaints by precinct will be available.

Police Chief James Craig says: "If you want to build trust, you can't act like you're hiding something."

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.

Angela Flournoy
LaToya T. Duncan

Angela Flournoy’s new novel, The Turner House, is receiving praise across the literary spectrum, from The New York Times to Buzzfeed.

It was also a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction.

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.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

In his column for The Detroit News today, Daniel Howes argues that the “presidential circus” is misreading the auto comeback in Michigan.

He begins with a quote from Republican front-runner Donald Trump, claiming he’ll have Michigan’s support because “we’re going to get the auto industry back.”

What does that say about the national narrative and political beliefs about Michigan and the auto industry?

“That they’re not paying attention,” Howes answers flatly.

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.

Courtesy of Diana Nucera

The Next Idea

Take a moment to think about how much you rely on the Internet.

It’s pretty safe to say many of us find it hard to imagine not being able to get online to communicate, access information, or explore.

On the Detroit set of Paramount Pictures’ "Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon."
Robert Zuckerman / Michigan Film Office

Despite the abolishment of the state’s film incentives program, the Transformers franchise will make its way back to Detroit this summer.

Differing from previous Transformers installments filmed in Detroit, Paramount Pictures and the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office created a single agreement for this film, which will ensure the production meets standards for its expenditures and number of personnel hired in the state.

The Michigan Film & Digital Media Office said the deal with Paramount will give $21 million to the film project.

Mercedes Mejia

Rick Joseph is the Michigan Teacher of the Year for 2016. Joseph recently wrote a piece for Bridge Magazine that asks, “Who am I to judge Detroit teacher sickouts?”

As Michigan Teacher of the Year, Joseph tells us he considers his role “to be an ambassador for teachers, to be a servant leader, to be an advocate for education throughout the state.”

Jevona Watson, founder of the coffee shop Detroit Sip
Shawn Lee / Motor City Match

Starting a business on your own brings plenty of challenges, but it takes a special kind of courage and vision – and a little bit of help – to set up shop in a struggling neighborhood. Jevona Watson is opening a coffee shop, Detroit Sip, in Northwest Detroit, near the campus of the University of Detroit-Mercy, and has received a helping hand from the Motor City Match program.

Jack Lessenberry
Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry said the recent shooting in Kalamazoo won't prompt legislation on gun control any time soon, he explained the controversial "gag order" law and gave an update on Flint and Detroit

Joe Gruber

Katrina Watkins stood on her front porch in Detroit’s McDougall-Hunt neighborhood staring at the vacant, overgrown stretch of land across the street.

“I have been trying to get the city out here to cut this for years,” she said.