Detroit

Ian Freimuth / Flickr

If you grew up in Michigan, your history books showed you images of slavery: black men and women picking cotton in the South.

Michigan, we learned, was a very important part of the Underground Railroad, helping African-Americans across the border to freedom in Canada.

But what we weren’t taught was this: Slavery helped build Detroit.

Some of the best-known names used for roads, counties, cities and schools around Southeast Michigan belong to old families who owned slaves.

Bill McGraw dug into "Detroit's Big Bad Secret" for Deadline Detroit.

You may have seen a flash mob on YouTube, or even experienced the phenomenon in real life: A group of people converge on a public space, seemingly out of the blue, for a recreation of, say Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Or Verdi’s Requiem – it could be anything. Now in Detroit, a group of Catholics has created a variation on that. The Mass Mob is a crowd sourced effort to revive urban churches … which have a lot of empty pews these days.

Abir Ali

When you invite the public to carve messages into a giant table you've spent four months crafting by hand, the result is that a LOT of people take you up on it, and the end product looks something like this:

Professional and personal partners Abir Ali and Andre Sandifer are furniture makers based in Detroit. They built a 30-foot table, made from walnut trees from the Midwest. They took inspiration from the biblical story of the Last Supper, and they were especially moved by the story's themes of trust and forgiveness.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It’s another post season disappointment for the Detroit Tigers.

The fall air seemed to chill the Tigers' bats Sunday and a late rally in the ninth inning just wasn’t enough.

Baltimore’s Nelson Cruz sliced a two-run homer for his latest big postseason hit, and the Baltimore Orioles swept aside Detroit's Cy Young Award winners to hold off the Tigers 2-1 Sunday.

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss Detroit’s water shutoffs, Detroit Public School’s emergency manager and updates from the campaign trail.

Casey Rocheteau
User: Write a House / facebook

The Write A House program is a creative way to fill some of Detroit's empty houses with writers, journalists, and poets.

Take a vacant house, renovate it and then award it to a writer whose work has been judged worthy. The writer promises to live in the house for at least 75% of the time, to pay taxes and insurance, and to become a part of Detroit's literary scene. Do that for two years and the house is yours.

The first winner of a house is poet Casey Rocheteau. She'll be leaving Brooklyn to start her new life in her new house north of Hamtramck. She says she feels honored to be selected to live in the house. 

"Honestly, I love the house, and I'm very ,very excited, because one of the things about Brooklyn is it's really hard to find a yard of any sort," says Rocheteau.

Write A House will be taking another round of applications early next year.

* Listen to our conversation with Casey Rocheteau above.

User rlsycle
flickr.com

Back in June, Idyll Farms Detroit and the Brightmoor community teamed up to clean-up the weeds and trash that had overrun the Brightmoor neighbors. 

Their method of choice: goats.

At the time, Detroit Animal Control enforced a Detroit ordinance against farm animals within city limits, demanding Idyll Farms remove the goats immediately.

Practically speaking, did Detroit make the right call?

Michigan State Police

DETROIT – The U.S. Small Business Administration says it's making low-interest disaster loans available to home and business owners in Detroit-area counties that suffered massive flooding last month.

The Friday announcement followed President Barack Obama issuing a federal disaster declaration the day before. That action makes available funding to those affected in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

Yesterday Detroit’s City Council made a decision so sane, sensible and rational it may have left some flabbergasted.

The council voted unanimously to transfer power for all day-to-day decisions back to the city’s elected leadership.

But at the same time, emergency manager Kevyn Orr will remain on the job for issues having to do with Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy case. That trial is still going on in federal court in Detroit, proceedings that may continue three more weeks.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

 

Here are some easy-a** ways to make money in Detroit. 

That was the headline on a recent Jalopnik blog by Aaron Foley. He says he wants to offer up his ideas for all Detroiters who want to make money, but don't want to spend too much. 

Some of these ideas and Foley's own explanation:

  • A gay bar inside of a firehouse – "No brainer! There are so many empty firehouses."
  • A vegan Coney Island – "Not what I would personally want, but ...what better place to experience different food styles in Detroit than the Coney Island?"
  • An agency that teaches new Detroiters not to be offensive – "Sometimes folks just don't know how to talk to a black or Latino person without sounding dense."

* Listen to our conversation with Aaron Foley above.

 

User: memories_by_mike / Flickr

As an article in the New York Times put it this week, “Alaskans stay in Alaska. People in the Midwest and the Pacific Northwest: sit tight.” That’s the message from climate change researchers, who are predicting what places in the U.S. will be hit hardest by climate change.

It looks like the Midwest will be all right, relatively speaking.

Matthew Kahn is a professor at the UCLA Institute of Environment. He says that in 80 or 90 years, Detroit could be seeing a huge trend of people moving in – because of climate change.

"If rainfall really stops falling in the Southwest, and we don't come up with ways to allocate water efficiently, you're going to see millions of households and thousands of firms looking across the United States for better, less risky places to live. And the Midwest might compete very well there, just as it has in the past," says Kahn. 

*Listen to our conversation with Matthew Kahn above.

Water faucet.
jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry sat down to discuss what's going on this week in Michigan politics. They covered the high price of water in Flint and Detroit, GM’s decision to move its Cadillac headquarters to New York, and the debates for Michigan governor and the U.S. Senate race.


Vacant lot in Detroit.
University of Michigan School of Natural Resources & Environment / Flickr

DETROIT - Plans call for allowing some Detroit residents to buy vacant lots next to their properties for $100.

The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press report City Council on Tuesday approved the transfer of about 10,000 parcels of vacant city land to the Detroit Land Bank following an agreement with state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr.

Council had earlier rejected a proposed transfer of more than four times that number of parcels, saying the plans were too broad. With Tuesday's action, the Detroit Land Bank can begin selling lots to residents. The effort is known as the side lot program.

The city wants to sell vacant lots to get them back onto tax rolls. Hundreds of city residents are already taking care of vacant lots near their homes for planting and gardening.

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:

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.

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.  

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