Politics & Government
8:35 am
Fri January 18, 2013

Commentary: Why Detroit failed

Lessenberry commentary for 1/18/13

This week, people in the Detroit area have been giddy with excitement over what seems to be even a better North American International Auto Show than usual. But in a week the auto show will be over, and sooner or later, we’ll be painfully reminded that Detroit is still teetering on the edge of insolvency.

Lately, the city council has been making some rational or semi-rational moves aimed at staving off the loss of political control. And indeed, the Governor seems to have slowed what once looked like a quick march to the appointment of an emergency manager.

Still, it is hard to see how a state takeover of the city can eventually be avoided, given what my students would call Detroit’s “ginormous” problems balancing its budget and the ticking time bomb of 12 billion in unfunded liabilities.

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Politics & Government
2:55 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

Detroit attempts to increase revenue with income tax amnesty plan

Mayor Bing announced Detroit's plan for an income tax amnesty program.
Kate Davidson Michigan Radio

On Tuesday, the city of Detroit will begin an income tax amnesty program in an attempt to recoup lost revenue.

The program will allow individuals and companies to pay off outstanding debts without penalty if done so before February 16.

Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press has more:

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4:25 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Stateside: Remembering Hudson's in Detroit

Hudson's circa 1915.
Burton Historical Collection

Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry discussed Hudson's place in Detroit.

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Thirty years ago Hudson’s closed its store in downtown Detroit.  

Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry spoke with Cyndy about the store’s significance to Detroit and its citizens.

“They talked about closing it as early as the 1970’s. It was a symbol. The people who were saddest were people who ceased to come to the store,” said Lessenberry.

Lessenberry noted the difficulty of retaining a downtown shopping district.

“People started moving away from downtown shopping…Large industrial cities all over the nations have had trouble keeping their downtowns viable."

For more of Lessenberry’s interview, listen to the above audio.

There are two ways you can podcast "Stateside with Cynthia Canty"

10:06 am
Wed January 16, 2013

GM predicts modest profit growth in 2013

GM Headquarters in downtown Detroit.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - General Motors says it expects only a modest increase in pretax profits this year, as it rolls out many new cars and trucks worldwide.

The company also expects global auto sales to grow modestly this year, driven by the U.S. and China.

The company told investors at a Deutsche Bank industry conference in Detroit that its pretax profit margin in North America should rise from 8 to 10 percent in the next three or four years. Profit margin is a measure of how much the company earned after costs of doing business.

GM posted nearly $4 billion in net income during the first nine months of last year, including almost $1.5 billion in the third quarter. The company will announce fourth-quarter and full-year earnings in a few weeks.

3:50 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Stateside: Investigating Michigan's homicide rate

Mayor Dayne Walling addressed ways to reduce homicides in Flint.

Today we addressed Michigan's homicides.

Though the national homicide rate has declined over the past decades, many Michigan cities are struggling to follow the trend.

Dayne Walling, Mayor of Flint and Gregg Barak, Professor of Criminology at Eastern Michigan University and author of "Violence and Nonviolence: Pathways to Understanding" spoke with Cyndy about the state’s homicides.

“Homicide rates across the country are down to about 4.8 per 100,000…Here in Michigan, the state as a whole is at 6.2. In Detroit, it’s eight times higher…I’m not that surprised in terms of Detroit. Its rate today is no higher than it was when we were identified as the murder capital of the world,” said Barak.

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4:33 pm
Mon January 14, 2013

Stateside: Reducing human trafficking at this year's North American International Auto Show

Theresa Flores is working to prevent human trafficking at this year's North American International Auto Show.

Theresa Flores is working to reduce human trafficking.

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Though largely unrecognized and difficult to pin a number to, human trafficking occurs in Michigan. Theresa Flores says the practice increases during events like the North American International Auto Show.

Flores heads Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution (S.O.A.P), a group actively working to rescue young girls and boys from trafficking.

S.O.A.P. is making a visit to the Auto Show in an attempt to reduce the prostitution that can plague large events like this.

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3:06 pm
Sat January 12, 2013

Renovations to Cobo Center may steal the spotlight at the auto show

North American International Auto Show (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The North American International Auto Show in Detroit kicks off on Monday with preview days for the international press.

The show opens to the public next Saturday.   One of the highlights this year may not even be a car.

Auto show vice chairman Bob Schuman is pretty confident that everyone who goes to the show will be talking about the new Corvette, Chevy's top of the line sports car.   But they may also be talking about the ongoing Cobo renovation. Cobo has a new atrium that opens up the convention center to a view of the river and the Windsor skyline.

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11:03 am
Fri January 11, 2013

Feds to inject $25 million into Detroit light rail project

M-1 Rail Detroit

You can say one thing about the backers of the M-1 light rail project in Detroit, they're persistent.

The on-again, off-again federal funding of the project is now on-again, according to reports from the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.

The Freep reports U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is expected to visit Detroit next week with $25 million for the light rail project along 3.3 miles of Woodward Avenue.

The rail line is proposed between downtown Detroit and New Center.

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Politics & Government
11:17 am
Thu January 10, 2013

Commentary: Saving Detroit--a blueprint

Lessenberry commentary for 1/10/13

Two inspiring things happened yesterday in a place where the word “hope” is too often preceded by the words “little” or “no.” Mayor Dave Bing’s Detroit Works Project finally released its “future city” report on how to build a Detroit that works.

That might not have meant much in itself. There have been all sorts of bright and brilliant visionary plans that today are gathering dust on some library shelf.

But the release of the book-length Detroit Future City Plan was accompanied by the announcement that the Kresge Foundation was pledging a $150 million to help it stay on track to reality. While that sounds like a lot, it is, of course, a drop in the bucket, an amount that by itself might not even cover the soaring current budget deficit. But it is a sign of belief in the future.

The plan, called the Detroit Strategic Framework, envisions a Detroit 17 years from now that seems more like some idealized version of Seattle or Vancouver.

By then, the planners see the population has having stabilized at between six and eight hundred thousand people, a city transformed by federal, state, local and just good old sweat equity efforts into a variety of green spaces and mixed-use neighborhoods.

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2:30 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Video: Highland Park firefighter lights up YouTube with helmet cam footage

HPZ1442 YouTube

Scott Ziegler has a more interesting job than the rest of us, and he knows it.

The Highland Park firefighter recently posted a montage of footage that he took using a camera mounted to his helmet. 

The YouTube video, "2012 a year on my lid"  has become an Internet sensation with nearly 1,000,000 views.

It highlights some of the more harrowing moments of fighting fire in the Detroit area.

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Politics & Government
4:07 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Bing and City Council fire Detroit city attorney

Mayor Dave Bing, with the support of six city council members, has ousted Detroit’s top city lawyer, Krystal Crittendon.

Crittendon, a controversial figure at City Hall, had been criticized by Bing for her opposition to Detroit’s consent agreement with the state.

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Arts & Culture
9:58 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

Funeral for 1st black auxiliary bishop in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) - Cardinal Adam Maida and Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron joined hundreds of mourners at the funeral Mass for retired auxiliary Bishop Moses B. Anderson, the first black bishop to serve in the post.

The 84-year-old died last Tuesday of cardiac arrest. His funeral was Monday at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Anderson was eulogized as someone who overcame the dual prejudices of race and religion in his southern birthplace.

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5:46 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

Stateside: Detroit's deficit reaches nearly $327 million, raising question of financial manager

As the city's financial situation worsens, Detroit moves closer to having an emergency financial manager

According to an independent annual audit, Detroit's deficit recently reached almost $327 million.

Detroit Free Press editorial writer Nancy Kaffer addressed the city’s dire financial status.

Kaffer said Detroit is closer to having an emergency financial manager, but was unsure as to how soon it would happen.

“There is a relatively dysfunctional relationship between the Mayor and the Council... you really have to have everybody on board together to get some of the dramatic changes they’re looking for,” said Kaffer.

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Politics & Government
8:36 am
Mon January 7, 2013

Commentary: Benny Napoleon on crime and Detroit

Lessenberry essay for 1/7/13

Benny Napoleon knows law enforcement. He joined the Detroit police force almost by accident when he was an 18-year-old shoe salesman looking for something to do with his life.

That was back in 1975. Twenty-three years later, he became police chief, and violent crime dropped by 30 percent over the next three years. He retired when Kwame Kilpatrick became mayor, and taught and practiced law.

Two years ago, he was elected Wayne County Sheriff. And now he is thinking seriously about running for mayor of Detroit. My guess is that he may well be the favorite, whether or not Dave Bing runs again.

Napoleon is a lifelong Detroiter with a charismatic personality and an infectious grin. But he’s deadly serious about saving Detroit. He knows there are astronomical budget problems, and billions of long term liabilities that the city is probably never going to be able to pay.

Nor does he claim to have the economic answers, certainly not yet.  But the city’s biggest problem, he believes, is violent crime, especially the soaring homicide rate. “The reason for that,” he told me this weekend is the “especially violent narcotics trade in Detroit, and the gang activity,” and an extremely aggressive young male culture.

Napoleon strongly believes there could be no better use of what limited resources the city has than to crack down on violent crime. He once headed the city’s gang squad. He’s never been shot, though bullets have whizzed past him; he’s never shot anyone, though several times, he’s had to come close.

Detroit’s population has fallen by 300,000 people since he was police chief. “If you ask people why they left, the overwhelming majority will tell you it’s because of violent crime,” he said.

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Arts & Culture
8:20 am
Fri January 4, 2013

Detroit retired Bishop Moses Anderson dead at 84

Retired auxiliary Bishop Moses B. Anderson
Archdiocese of Detroit

DETROIT (AP) - Retired auxiliary Bishop Moses B. Anderson has died. The first black bishop to serve in the Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit was 84.

The archdiocese says Anderson died Tuesday of cardiac arrest.

Anderson was born in Selma, Ala., and attended Edmundite College of St. Michael's in Winooski, Vt., and St. Edmund Seminary in Burlington, Vt. He was ordained a priest in 1958.

In 1983, Detroit Cardinal Edmund Szoka ordained Anderson an auxiliary bishop.

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4:28 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Detroit's murder rate continues to climb

Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Homicides are trending up in Detroit for the second year in a row.

The city recorded a total of 411 homicides in 2012, up about 9% from the previous year. That total includes killings deemed “justifiable” by police.

Detroit mayor Dave Bing says police can only do so much combat pervasive gun violence and a lack of “respect for life.”

Bing says he’s not sure adding even “1000 more police officers” to Detroit’s ranks would help.

“There are things happening in homes, and families, in the communities, and the neighborhoods, that whether a cop is there or not, it’s not gonna stop the crime.”

Detroit’s interim police chief, Chester Logan, agrees that the lack of police presence isn’t the root problem.

“America has a problem with guns, but the epicenter seems to be here in Detroit,” said Logan, adding that taking a stand against gun violence should be “the new civil rights issue.”

More than 85% percent of Detroit’s homicides were committed with guns. There were also 1263 reported non-fatal shootings in 2012.

Both Bing and Logan note that the city’s police ranks have thinned considerably in recent years, due largely to attrition. The department had about 2700 sworn officers in 2011.

Logan declined to release current manpower numbers, saying only: “We certainly don’t want to frighten anybody, but it’s sufficient.”

Police say the uptick in homicides belies a decline in some other major crimes, including a nearly 13% drop in burglaries, and a slight decrease in aggravated assaults.

According to department  numbers, “overall city-wide crime is down 2.63% in the aggregate compared to 2011.”

Bing also vowed to hold “regular press briefings” on public safety issues in the coming year.

“Future briefings will focus on a comprehensive analysis of homicide trends in the city, case closure rates, and crime reduction strategies in the Detroit Police Department,” the mayor said.

4:22 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Stateside: At-risk, LGBTQ kids find safety through vogue dance

Dancers practicing their vogue moves at the Ruth Ellis Center.
Kyle Norris

Michigan Radio's Kyle Norris takes us to the Ruth Ellis Center, where LGBTQ children dance their "vogue" best.

Matthew Dawson is the kid wearing sunglasses inside, in the middle of the day. He’s in a room full of about twenty kids who flip, dip, and cat-walk in a dance style known as “vogue.” (For a quick reference, think Madonna’s “Vogue” video from 1990.)

He says this style of dancing is a powerful way for him to express himself. “One of the emotions I say I put into my vogue is anger. I feel like I put it into vogue so I won’t have to put it into other things that are not very constructive.”

Matthew Dawson says as an LGBTQ young person, if he danced like this in the outside world—or on the street—he would not be safe.  And these vogue dancers find safety in their dance community.

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Politics & Government
10:34 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Commentary: Murder in Detroit

Lessenberry essay for 1/2/13

Well, we’ve gotten past the so-called fiscal cliff, at least for now, and averted what might have been a disaster for our economy.

Soon, once everyone is back to work, you can expect to see a whole lot of attention paid to the economic disaster that is Detroit.

The state is reviewing the city’s finances, and the governor may soon name an emergency financial manager.

You’ll be hearing a lot about that as things move along. But there is another horrendous crisis destroying Detroit that we don’t talk much about. Black people are killing black people at a horrendous rate, and nobody seems sufficiently concerned. 

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Politics & Government
4:09 pm
Mon December 31, 2012

500 layoffs looming for Detroit employees

Police, firefighters, even bus services are struggling to provide basic services.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Nobody thought fixing Detroit’s debt woes was gonna be easy.

But these days, it might be especially painful for city workers and their families.

Some 2,000 pink slips have already gone out in the last few years. And now, another 500 cuts are scheduled for February.

It’s already worrying union leaders like Leamon Wilson. The president of the AFSCME Local 312 told the Detroit News that more cuts could cripple the city’s bus service. “You can’t deliver the service…It was already functioning at a bare minimum. I don’t see how anything is going to be functioning.”

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Arts & Culture
10:00 am
Fri December 28, 2012

Detroit Library to catalog Coleman A. Young's papers

1989: Coleman Young stands atop the Riverfront Apartments
Wayne State University/(Free Press photo by Tony Spina)

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Public Library is preparing to organize and catalog the papers of late-Mayor Coleman A. Young.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the project will begin next month and take about two years to complete.

An $87,400 Council on Library and Information Resources grant will pay for the work. Young's communications with Detroit residents, departments, local, state and federal officials is held in 1,175 boxes.

Part-time archivists on the project plan to report interesting findings on online blogs.

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