3:56 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Stateside: Andrew Herscher's "Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit"

Herscher's new book "The Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit," is out on digitalculturebooks

In “The Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit,” Andrew Herscher re-imagines unused city spaces as areas of possibility.

The city’s surfeit of abandoned buildings is, for some, an image of blight.

But according to Herscher, a variety of individuals are using Detroit as a site of experimental craft and commerce.

"Unreal Estate" is the term Herscher gives to urban space that has lost economic value to the point where it can support other types of development.

When land is used by homes it becomes real-estate; but when these properties fail, the buildings they occupy become available to be appropriated in other ways.

Read more
3:52 pm
Mon December 10, 2012

Stateside: From 'Mythbusters' to 'TechShop,' a place to innovate in Detroit

TechShop member Tim Sefton works on a design for a sterling engine
Emily Fox Michigan Radio

If you want to get fit but don’t have equipment, you get a gym membership.

But what if you want to create something but don’t have a workshop or the tools to make it happen?

Well, there’s a place in Detroit called TechShop, and it functions a lot like a gym for carpenters, welders, designers, engineers and the like.

TechShop is a new facility that recently opened up in Allen Park near Detroit.

Members pay about $100  a month to access hundreds of thousands of dollars in tools and equipment. They can also take any of the 100 or so classes offered every month to teach members how to use the tools.

Read more
Politics & Government
6:55 am
Mon December 10, 2012

In this morning's Michigan news headlines. . .

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

State House and Senate likely to vote on "right to work" Tuesday

"It’s likely that the state House and Senate will take up their final votes on so-called “right to work” legislation tomorrow. But, first, protests and legal actions are expected today and tomorrow. Republican majorities in the Michigan House and Senate have already voted once to adopt a “right-to-work” law. Democrats and labor unions plan more protests over the bills that were placed on a very fast track last week. If enacted, Michigan would become the 24th state to adopt a “right-to-work” law," Rick Pluta reports.

President Obama to speak about "fiscal cliff" at suburban Detroit auto plant today

"President Obama will visit a Redford Township factory today - as part of his effort to galvanize support for his plan to avert the fiscal cliff.  The President's visit also comes at a high stakes time for the United Auto Workers, since state Republicans could vote to make Michigan a so-called "right to work" state this week," Tracy Samilton reports.

Detroit could get an emergency financial manager

"A committee overseeing Detroit's finances could recommend an emergency financial manager for the state's largest city. The committee meets today to begin a 30-to-40 day review. Detroit mayor, Dave Bing will ask City Council tomorrow to approve audits, including an audit of disability fraud. And he wants the council to approve another 400 to 500 job cuts, along with furloughs, as the city faces the prospect of running out of cash," Tracy Samilton reports.

Politics & Government
6:23 am
Mon December 10, 2012

Detroit edging closer to an emergency financial manager

(File photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A committee overseeing Detroit's finances begins a review today that could culminate in the appointment of an emergency financial manager for the state's largest city.

But the City's mayor says he and his staff aren't sitting on their hands in the meantime.

Dave Bing says he understands why Governor Snyder is frustrated with the slow pace of action and why he's talking more about the prospect of an emergency financial manager for Detroit.

“It's not a veiled threat, the reality is if we don't get some of these milestones implemented…he has no choice,” says Bing.

Arts & Culture
6:01 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Stateside: Detroit's Tashmoo Biergarten offers European take on beer drinking

Tashmoo in Detroit is an open-air beer garden

There is beer to be consumed outdoors in Detroit.

Michigan Radio's Ellen Kortesoja provided a sonic document of Detroit's Tashmoo Biergarten.

Listen to Kortesoja's piece in the podcast above.

Politics & Government
8:40 am
Thu December 6, 2012

Commentary: Detroit's dysfunction leading to emergency financial manager

Lessenberry commentary 12/6/12

I cannot remember any lame duck session of any legislature where lawmakers were trying to do as much in as short a time as they are in Lansing now. They are trying to grapple with vast changes to personal, meaning business, property tax in this state.

They are working on major changes to Blue Cross-- a new regional transportation system for Metropolitan Detroit.

Some vast war over right-to-work legislation is increasingly likely. And now it seems that the lawmakers will be asked to pass some new version of an emergency manager law.

Read more
Politics & Government
6:30 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Michigan's Emergency Financial Manager law survives legal challenge

Ingham County Ciruit Court Judge Rosemarie Aquilina listens as attorney Herbert Sanders makes his argument that Michigan's Emergency Financial Manager law should be off the books
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s controversial Emergency Financial Manager law has survived a legal challenge.

But the judge’s decision may have opened a new door to legal challenges.

Michigan’s old Emergency Financial Manager law (Public Act 72) was repealed when state lawmakers passed a new law in 2011 giving the managers even broader powers.  However that new tougher law was rejected by voters last month.

Read more
5:23 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Stateside: What would a Detroit bankruptcy bring?

A Chapter 9 Bankruptcy could present possible restructuring options for Detroit
John F. Martin Creative Commons

As the prospect of a Chapter 9 Bankruptcy looms over Detroit, many are wondering what will become of the city.

We spoke with contributor Micki Maynard and the Detroit News' Daniel Howes about restructuring the city and those who run it.

“It would be very difficult for the image of the city. It would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the country. It would probably last three years and be very unforgiving to the employees and residents,” said Howes.

Howes insisted that taxpayers would mostly likely have to fund the restructuring of the city.

Read more
Politics & Government
2:30 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Report: Detroit facing appointment of an emergency financial manager

wikimedia commons

Update 2:30 p.m.

Darren Nichols and Leonard Fleming of the Detroit News also report state officials are warning city leaders about the potential appointment of an emergency financial manager.

Dillon, a top administration source said, has spoken to Mayor Dave Bing personally about the movement toward an emergency financial manager. Other city leaders have been approached and will continue to be contacted throughout the day, the source said.

The News reports a spokesman has confirmed the meetings took place this morning: 

"The Treasurer has heard growing concerns, from his discussions with members of the Financial Advisory Board and others in the city, about the city's near-term ability to meet its financial obligations and its long-term viability," his spokesman Terry Stanton said in a released statement.

"While we continue to work collaboratively with the city to move it forward, the EFM option cannot be taken off the table. As the Treasurer has noted many times, delaying reforms and tough decisions only promises to make eventual solutions more difficult and painful."

1:58 p.m.

Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press quotes anonymous sources reporting that State Treasurer Andy Dillon is apparently issuing an ultimatum to Detroit's Mayor and City Council - "implement reforms immediately or risk appointment of a manager."

Helms reports his sources say Dillon has been discussing who would be named to the position and the roles of Mayor Bing and the City Council under such an arrangement:

A ranking city official who spoke only on condition of anonymity said he spoke with Dillon by phone this morning and was told that the Bing administration’s inability to fix Detroit’s immediate cash crisis and enact major financial reform gave the state no choice but to bring in an outside manager.

The conversations appeared to give the city only one way out: through approving a series of reforms Bing’s administration said it will negotiate with the council ahead of its next meeting Dec. 11.

Bing has promised more negotiations to fix the city's troubled finances.

Neither Bing nor state officials would comment for Helms' report.

Michigan Radio is working to confirm these reports and will have more later.

Politics & Government
11:13 am
Wed December 5, 2012

Detroit to open 13 police 'mini-stations'

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says 13 police mini-stations will open throughout the city.

Six of them have opened today, and the rest will be in place by March.

The announcement comes on the day police confirmed the shooting deaths of four people in a home on the east side of Detroit, and a week after the city acknowledged that the number of homicides this year has already has eclipsed the total for 2011.

Each of the mini-stations will be staffed with a permanent officer, a police reservist and a community volunteer.

Politics & Government
9:04 am
Wed December 5, 2012

Commentary: Hope among the ruins in Detroit

Lessenberry commentary for 12/5/12

Nobody can deny that Detroit is in bad shape, especially in terms of city government. Communication between the mayor and the city council has virtually broken down, unless you call searing insults and denunciations communication.

Mayor Dave Bing seems more and more isolated and removed. Many of the city council members seem to be either in a parallel and irrational universe, or determined to drive the city off its own fiscal cliff, into either bankruptcy or some kind of state takeover.

The city has lots of other problems, from public safety to its failing schools, many of which I’ve talked about before, and will probably discuss again. If you’ve been listening to or reading me, you know that nobody could confuse me with Pollyanna.

But there are some very good things happening in Detroit. The downtown is far nicer and more vibrant than 20 years ago. So is the theater district, and Ford Field and especially Comerica Park are first-rate, world-class sports palaces.

Much of this is due to Mike Ilitch, a billionaire who made his money selling cheap pizza, not cars. Ilitch started the revival by renovating the magnificently flamboyant Fox Theater a quarter-century ago. He went on to push through Comerica Park.

And now he has a new project he wants to see finished while he is still alive. The 83-year-old billionaire wants a new, $650 million multipurpose arena that would house his Detroit Red Wings, but also be available for other things as well.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:40 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

December not so dire for Detroit

Detroit city officials are sending some mixed signals when it comes to the city’s crumbling finances.

On the one hand, officials said Tuesday that the city won’t run out of cash this month. They had previously said that would happen without state help, in the form of releasing at least $30 million in Detroit bond money the state is withholding.

On the other hand, Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis says the city faces an even bigger than expected cash shortfall by the middle of next year.

Read more
Politics & Government
2:17 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Detroit City Council to meet tomorrow to discuss cash crisis

Detroit City Council Facebook

The City of Detroit is facing its own fiscal cliff, and the Detroit City Council wants to talk some more about it.

Council is expected to meet tomorrow with Detroit Mayor Bing to discuss Detroit's financial situation.

Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press reports:

Members of Bing's administration and representatives of the city's Budget and Finance Department are expected to be at the meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The city is facing a shortfall and could run out of cash by the end of the month if they don't meet certain benchmarks put in place by the state.

The city has to meet these benchmarks under its "financial stability agreement" with the state.

The state has refused to release $30 million in bonds because the city council will not approve a $300,000 law contract with the firm Miller Canfield.

The firm is supposed to advise Mayor Bing on legal matters.

Helms reports, council members are skeptical of the contract.

The council rejected the $300,000 contract, saying Miller Canfield has too many conflicts of interest because it helped write the state's now-dead emergency manager law, Public Act 4, as well as the city's financial stability agreement with the state. Council members have told Bing they want him to hire a different law firm.

Approval of that contract was one of several benchmarks the state and Bing administration agreed would be met in order for the state to release $30 million in bond sale proceeds now held in escrow. The state told Detroit it won't get additional revenues from the $137 million in bonds until it shows progress in meeting financial reforms.

The contract is not expected to be voted on during tomorrow's meeting.

Council President Charles Pugh says council members want an "honest, realistic discussion" on the city's current financial condition and what the next steps are.

Arts & Culture
10:07 am
Mon December 3, 2012

The past and present of Detroit's Packard Plant

The location of the Packard Plant in Detroit.

In the roaring 1920s, workers at the sprawling Packard Plant churned out luxury cars for Americans willing to spend.

Today, the plant is the poster child for urban blight. This shell of America's industrial past is a haven for urban explorers, graffiti artists, metal scrappers, vandals... the list goes on.

This morning, the Detroit Free Press released a special report, The Packard Plant: Why It Has to Go.

As one resident who lives next to the plant puts it...

"Because right now, the building as it is, it represents the future. And it's nothing. So we need somebody to turn our nothing into something."

Check out this stunning video on the Packard Plant from the Freep.

1:43 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Stateside: Regional transit authority faces big roadblocks

The Regional Transit Authority must pass in the Michigan House of Representatives to be put in place.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The Michigan Senate recently passed a bill to create an authority for Detroit and surrounding counties to operate its own transit system.

However, the bill faces significant hurdles in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry and Daniel Howes of the Detroit News addressed the various obstacles the bill must overcome.

The bill is decades in the making and has wide support throughout Michigan, but Howes says the reason it has not yet passed is due to a history of control issues.

Read more
Politics & Government
9:32 am
Thu November 29, 2012

Detroit's bond rating goes one more step toward the basement

"Spirit of Detroit" outside the municipal building.

In Moody's world, you can be triple A when you're at your best, or C when you're at your worst.

Detroit is dropping further into the Moody's bond rating basement with the recent worry over the city's financial position. The city might not be able to make a December payroll if they don't meet a state-set benchmark.

The Bloomberg Businessweek headline is "Detroit Bonds Cut Deeper Into Junk as Cash Crunch Nears":

Detroit had its bond ratings cut deeper into noninvestment-grade territory by Moody’s Investors Service, citing a cash crisis that may mean bankruptcy or default in the next 12 to 24 months.

“These downgrades reflect the city’s ongoing precariously narrow cash position and a weakened state oversight framework,” Moody’s analysts Genevieve Nolan and Henrietta Chang said in a statement from the New York-based credit-scoring company. The downgrades affect $8.2 billion in Detroit debt, according to David Jacobson, a Moody's spokesman.

The city's Moody's credit rating went from B3 to Caa1.

Politics & Government
7:13 pm
Wed November 28, 2012

State lawmaker says "dissolving Detroit" should be an option

Michigan Senator Rick Jones
Rick Jones

Detroit is at a political impasse that could lead to a financial collapse next month.

Now, one state legislator is saying Lansing should consider “all its options”—including possibly dissolving the city as a municipality.

The idea of dissolving Detroit—and effectively merging it with Wayne County—has popped up occasionally in some business and political circles recently.

But mid-Michigan senator Rick Jones is the first official to publicly discuss that as an option.

Jones says Detroit’s local leaders just aren’t dealing with the city's fiscal problems—and having the state’s biggest city file for municipal bankruptcy would be “horrible.”

“I think everything is on the table,” Jones said. “ I would be willing to consider dissolving the city, if that’s what it took.

“One of the options could be actually dissolving the city of Detroit, and putting all of their functions back into Wayne County. That is possible.”

Still, Jones acknowledges this merger scenario is “unlikely.” He says the prevailing discussion in Lansing is about bankruptcy versus some kind of state intervention.

Lawmakers in Lansing are also considering passing a revised version of the emergency manager law voters overturned in November.

Detroit faces the possibility of running out of cash in mid-December.

Newsmaker Interviews
3:00 pm
Wed November 28, 2012

A conversation with Rep. Fred Durhal on his candidacy for Detroit mayor

More candidates are entering the Detroit mayoral race. State Representative Fred Durhal Jr. announced his plans to run this week.

In the best of times, running a city the size of Detroit is incredibly challenging. The city will face some considerable challenges for some time to come. So we asked Rep. Durhal Jr. why he wants the job.

Others possible candidates for Detroit mayor include State Rep. Lisa Howze, Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon. Current Mayor Dave Bing has not yet announced whether he plans to run for reelection.

Politics & Government
7:57 am
Wed November 28, 2012

The week in Michigan politics

cncphotos flickr

The week in Michigan politics for 11/28/12

This week Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry talked about what legislation is likely to pass before the end of the year, the cash crisis in Detroit, and mass transit in southeast Michigan.

2:45 pm
Tue November 27, 2012

Michigan Senate passes legislation to create regional transit authority

The state Senate has passed legislation to create a regional transit authority for southeast Michigan. The bill passed 24-to-14 with bipartisan support.

It now goes to the state House.