Detroit

Commentary
11:42 am
Thu May 10, 2012

Commentary: Where's the outrage?

To badly paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, history will little note nor long remember Bob Dole’s presidential campaign sixteen years ago. Dole was the Republican nominee against President Bill Clinton that year.

This was before the sex scandals came to light, and Clinton breezed to reelection. Bob Dole, an authentic war hero with a hilariously caustic sense of humor, ran a bumbling race that didn’t reflect that he was actually a quite capable man. 

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Developing: Detroit Police
1:15 pm
Wed May 9, 2012

Detroit police station evacuated

Update 1:55 p.m.

The Detroit News reports that three police officers have been temporarily quarantined, including the officer who handled the letter and two who were in the immediate vicinity.

The News quotes Inspector Don Johnson of the Homeland Security Unit of the Detroit Police Department:

"The officer who was exposed doesn't appear to be in any pain or distress at this time. At this point, we are treating it more as a hazmat situation rather than a bomb situation."

1:15 p.m.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security are responding to a situation at a Detroit Police Station.

The police station at the corner of Schaefer and Grand River was evacuated and a Hazmat team dispatched after a suspicious powder fell out of a mailed envelope.  The envelope had no return address.

Hazmat crews are still analyzing the substance.

Commentary
11:12 am
Wed May 9, 2012

Commentary: Slight increase in manufacturing jobs in Detroit

There’s a phenomenon that happens sometimes after a major stock market crash which is known by the ghastly name, “Dead Cat Bounce.”  We saw a lot of that back in the fall of 2008.

The Dow Jones averages would plunge 500 one day. The next day, they’d recover, say, 50 points, before falling even further later in the week. What was that brief rally all about? Well, it wasn’t about any real improvement in the market.

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Politics
8:38 am
Tue May 8, 2012

In this morning's news...

Romney in Michigan today

Mitt Romney is making his first visit to Michigan today since he narrowly won the Republican Presidential primary here last February. He's going to deliver a policy address at Lansing Community College. More from the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta:

Romney’s expected to focus on the economy in his speech, and suggest President Obama’s policies have slowed the pace of the nation’s, and Michigan’s, economic recovery.

The appearance certainly suggests the Romney campaign considers Michigan an attainable prize. Michigan has not gone for the Republican presidential nominee since 1988.

Yesterday, Romney gave a speech in Ohio in which he took credit for the revival of the auto industry.

Rethinking Detroit's neighborhoods

The Detroit Works project is the name of Mayor Bing's revitalization plan. The Detroit Free Press reports the team is getting closer to putting forward a set of recommendations for the city. The recommendations could include urban farms, gardens, and reforestation in parts of a city with a little more than 20 square miles of vacant land:

The team is expected to produce a final report by late summer, offering options for residents and civic leaders to consider rather than strict recommendations about what should happen where.

"There is room for a broad spectrum of interventions to be played out," said Toni Griffin, a City College of New York professor of urban planning who co-chairs the Detroit Works technical team developing the list of options.

Karla Henderson, Bing's group executive for planning and facilities, said the mayor and his aides are looking forward to receiving the report from the planning team.

Michigan voters head to the polls today

Voters will head to the polls today to decide a variety of issues for their communities. Many communities will decide whether or not to tax themselves more to pay for school improvements, or, as Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported, to help pay for a "sludge dryer":

Not everything on the ballots involves schools. The issue in Delhi Township, near Lansing, is sludge. Or more accurately, what to do with it. The township is asking voters to approve a surcharge on their water bills to pay for a sludge dryer.   Supporters say the dryer would turn human waste into bio-fuel. Opponents say it’s just a waste of money.

Arts & Culture
2:20 pm
Mon May 7, 2012

DIA millage request a step closer in Oakland County

Part of the Diego Rivera mural "Detroit Industry" at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
DIA

The Detroit Institute of Arts is looking for new revenue streams.

The DIA is owned by the struggling city of Detroit and hopes to get a millage proposal in front of voters in Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland counties this August.

Wayne and Macomb county commissioners voted to create county arts authorities. The county arts authorities would be responsible for drafting the millage request that would go before voters.

Now, Oakland County has taken a step toward creating a county arts authority.

More from the Detroit News:

A committee of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners agreed Monday to send a millage request from the Detroit Institute of Arts to a vote by the full commission.

The general government committee's 6-4 approval means the measure will go before the full 25-member commission at its next meeting May 17. At that point, it will be voting on whether to create a five-member county arts authority responsible for crafting language that would appear on the August ballot.

Macomb and Wayne counties have each approved an arts authority.

If the renowned arts museum cannot raise the revenue, the museum could go into what the executive vice president of the DIA called a "controlled shutdown."

Annmarie Erickson, executive vice president of the DIA, says the  museum is operating at "bare-bone levels." She says if they can’t secure more money, the museum will go into what she calls a “controlled shutdown”:

"We will lose hours, we will probably lose most of our programming, we will certainly lose visitor amenities. Special exhibits like the very popular "Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus" - we would no longer be able to afford those."

Erickson said the revenue raised by the millage would be temporary. It would give the museum more time to raise private funds to build its endowment.

History
8:19 pm
Sun May 6, 2012

Detroit Drunken Historical Society

DDHS website

A new group of history lovers has been meeting to talk about Detroit’s history. The Detroit Drunken Historical Society started three months ago and the group meets at a different Detroit bar each month.

At the group's meetings, a speaker usually gives an informal presentation. Recent topics included Native American Chief Pontiac and Detroit Catholic priest and politician Gabriel Richard

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Politics
3:08 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Unnamed air carrier shows interest in Detroit's City Airport

A runway map of Detroit's City Airport
faa.gov

Detroit's Coleman A. Young International Airport, also called City Airport, might soon be seeing passengers for the first time since 2000.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Jason Watt, general manager of the Coleman A. Young International Airport, told the City Council on Thursday that the city has a letter of intent from a carrier interested in re-establishing scheduled passenger travel. He would not publicly identify the company.

The facility is still open for private pilots and cargo carriers, the Free Press reports, but prior to Thursday's anonymous show if interest, the airport's future wasn't looking particularly bright as city officials work to scale down Detroit's budget.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Politics
12:26 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Detroit unions weigh strike option as layoffs loom

wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - Some Detroit municipal union leaders say striking is one of several options being discussed during ramped-up strategy sessions before new contract talks with the city begin.

American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Council 25 spokesman Ed McNeil says no strike vote has been taken "at this point."

McNeil said "people are looking at the system itself and are pretty disgusted with the city."

Union strategy sessions have become more agitated since Mayor Dave Bing and Gov. Rick Snyder approved a consent agreement that avoided appointment of an emergency manager in Detroit but now calls for steeper benefit cuts and more work rules concessions.

Detroit has an accumulated budget deficit of $265 million. Bing wants to cut more than 2,500 jobs and shave $250 million in annual expenses.

Politics
10:53 am
Wed May 2, 2012

Detroit Council member Kwame Kenyatta won't seek re-election

Detroit Council member Kwame Kenyatta
Detroit City Council

Councilman Kenyatta says his time on city council will end after his current term ends in 18 months.

He told the Detroit News he wanted to announce his departure early to give constituents plenty of time to come up with a new representative on council.

Kenyatta was first elected to Detroit City Council in 2005, and had also served as a Wayne County Commissioner, and as vice president of the Detroit Board of Education.

Kenyatta told the News his reasons for leaving were "the recent consent agreement with the state, a perceived lawlessness in the city and the feeling that he's accomplished all that he can as a council member."

"At this point in time, my contribution has come to its limit and end," Kenyatta said. "I think politics in the city of Detroit is no longer people oriented, people based. I'm also frustrated by a sense of lawlessness in the streets, a lack of direction.

"We need people without a political agenda to be committed to getting us back on track. I think that's where the remainder of time on this earth should be spent."

Kenyatta was one of four Detroit City Council members who voted against the consent agreement with the state, saying the agreement is equivalent to "the overseer returning to take control of the plantation."

Kenyatta told the News he would devote his time to motivational speaking and trying to repair "some of the social ills of the city," once he's out of office.

Asked if there was a book in his future about his time in Detroit politics, Kenyatta laughed and said, "Oh, I'm already working on that."

People
2:59 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Ex-Detroit, Wayne County finance chief Marshall dies

DETROIT (AP) - Ex-Detroit and Wayne County financial chief Bella Marshall has died. She was 62.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano says that Marshall died Tuesday morning at her home but didn't give the cause.

Marshall served as Detroit's finance director under longtime Mayor Coleman Young. She later served as Wayne County's chief financial officer and chief operating officer.

Marshall was married to the late casino promoter Don Barden but was in the midst of a contentious divorce when he died in May 2011.

Barden made millions with cable TV franchises in Detroit and the suburbs and later owned casinos in Indiana, Las Vegas, Colorado and Mississippi.

He and Marshall had feuded in recent years over Barden's ability to manage his assets.

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Commentary
11:51 am
Tue May 1, 2012

Commentary: More companies betting on Detroit

There’s an old Russian saying that, even, if you covered the world with asphalt, eventually a crack would form.

And in that crack, grass would grow. I was reminded of that yesterday by an Italian businessman my age, a man who is betting on green shoots coming through a town caked with many layers of asphalt. His name is Sergio Marchionne, and he is the CEO of a company called Fiat. Three years ago, he did something many at the time thought stupid. He took over a dying bankrupt company.

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Business
1:31 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Chrysler adds to business presence in downtown Detroit

The Dime Building/"Chrysler House"
wikimedia commons

Chrysler will start renting office space in a downtown Detroit skyscraper later this year.

Chrysler’s CEO and other business leaders have already re-christened the building “Chrysler House.”

Chrysler will move only about 70 employees into the former Dime building in the heart of downtown Detroit. But CEO Sergio Marchionne says it reflects Chrysler’s commitment to “put down roots” in the city and the region.

Marchionne says the resurgent Chrysler sees its own fortunes tied to Detroit’s.

“The people of Detroit and this region have contributed to making our country great again with their talent, their commitment, and their sweat," Marchionne said. "Detroit is the place that we feel at home. That’s why we’re proud to say that from now on, this building is going to be known as Chrysler House.”

Marchionne also noted Chrysler’s plans to “substantially expand” its industrial presence in the city. The automaker plans to re-open one Detroit assembly plant, and up production at two others by next year.

The move is also another win for the city’s central business district, which has announced some major new tenants in the past few months.

Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert has been one of the key figures pushing to revitalize downtown with his Detroit 2.0 initiative.

“Together we are creating an urban core in downtown Detroit, that will be a spark of the entire region, that will have jobs, growth, and excitement,” Gilbert said.

Marchionne says Chrysler employees will move in once the space is refurbished, likely sometime this summer.

The Detroit Free Press also reports that Chrysler has now committed $3.3 million to help build a light rail project in downtown Detroit. The M-1 rail project will jumpstart with funds from private backers. It's still awaiting approval from city, state, and federal officials.

Arts
5:00 pm
Fri April 27, 2012

Empty Detroit police station? How about an art gallery?

An architectural rendering of the updated precinct
555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios

A non-profit arts organization is setting up shop inside a vacant police precinct in southwest Detroit.

The old 3rd Precinct is now owned by the 555 Nonprofit Gallery and Studios. The organization is run by volunteers and, according to it's website, provides "affordable studios and workspace, gallery space, exhibition programs, arts education programs, and an artist in residency program."

From the AP:

The 7,000-square-foot ex-precinct has been stripped to raw concrete. Its 21 jail cells remain intact.

555 wants to put in a gallery space, build seven private studio spaces and an Education and Programming Studio.

As for the jail cells, 555 says they're "ready to be used for creativity."

555 plans to hold a fundraiser in their new space this evening featuring "food and drink, live aerial performance and music."

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Arts/Culture
8:00 am
Fri April 27, 2012

Detroit's Roaming Table mixes civic engagement and urban planning

The Roaming Table is part of Detroit Works' civic engagement efforts

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson last week debunked the conventional wisdom that Detroit has 40 square miles of vacant land. In her report she found that in all likelihood the number is probably closer to half that.

Which, if you think about it, is still a lot of empty land. 

Which is where the Detroit Works Project comes in -- that's the name of Mayor Dave Bing's revitalization plan for the city. The Detroit Works team has to figure out what to do with all that empty land. To help them find some answers, they're turning to Detroit's residents for help.

They're also enlisting the help of ... a table.

A table, you say?

Yes. But this is no ordinary table, dear reader. The purpose of this particular table is to "disrupt people’s everyday lives," according to Theresa Skora, who helped design it.

"It’s meant to fold up and be put into a car and be taken around," says Skora. Which is why they call it the Roaming Table.  And believe it or not this table – with its nifty green logo and stacks of glossy pamphlets – is key to the city's revitalization plan aka Detroit Works.

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Auto/Economy
1:01 am
Fri April 27, 2012

Job prospects improving in most of Michigan

Job applicant Daniel Zanetti talks with a recruiter at the Michigan Works job fair at the Lansing Center
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Unemployment rates declined in most of Michigan during the past month.

State officials reported Thursday the Detroit Metro region saw the sharpest decline, down about six tenths of a percent from February to March.   Unemployment ticked up slightly in Ann Arbor.

In Lansing, unemployment held steady at 7.2%.

Daniel Zanetti was at a job fair in Lansing Thursday.    The recent college graduate is hopefully he can soon find a job in his field.

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Auto/Economy
1:01 am
Thu April 26, 2012

Most Michigan cities see declining home foreclosure filings

(file photo)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Most Michigan cities saw their home foreclosure rates tumble during the first quarter of the year. One analyst says that might signal a trend for the rest of 2012. 

Home foreclosure filings dropped between 20% and 30% in Detroit, Kalamazoo, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids during the first three months of the year. That's compared to the first quarter of 2011, according to Realty Trac. 

Lansing was the only Michigan city on Realty Trac’s list to see an increase in home foreclosure filings between January and March. Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac.

He says Lansing’s foreclosure rate increase was tied to a big increase in final bank repossessions. "It seems like it’s more of a clearing out of the foreclosure pipeline rather than a lot a new foreclosures coming online and starting the process," says Bloomquist. 

Bloomquist expects other Michigan housing markets will see spikes in foreclosure filings as the year goes on, but he predicts the general trend will be fewer foreclosures in Michigan.

Politics
9:32 am
Wed April 25, 2012

Detroit City Council member: I've received death threats after consent deal vote

Detroit City Council member Saunteel Jenkins.

People in public life are in the spotlight, and are often the target of people's vitriol when they make unpopular decisions.

It's no different in Detroit.

Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins told WWJ she's received death threats after her vote to approve a consent agreement with the state earlier this month.

From WWJ:

“I’ve received some threats, yes,” said Jenkins. ”It’s especially unnerving when in addition to threats, people are picketing at your private home.”

Jenkins said it’s all over her “yes” vote supporting the consent agreement. While things haven’t escalated to violence, Jenkins has had to ask for police protection at least once...

Jenkins said when she ran for a seat on City Council, she had no idea how difficult it would be.

“I had no idea, but I keep saying, you can’t complain when you get what you asked for. I asked for this, but I had no idea. I knew it would be rough, but I didn’t know it would be this rough,” she said.

Jenkins told WWJ that other council members have also received threats - she didn't identify their names.

Business
11:51 am
Tue April 24, 2012

Marathon Oil offers more money in Detroit neighborhood buyout plan

The Marathon Oil refinery in southwest Detroit is expanding its facility.
Marathon Oil Company

The Marathon Oil refinery in southwest Detroit is in the process of expanding its facility to process heavier crude oil from Canada.

The expansion brings the company's new refining equipment closer to Detroit's Oakwood Heights neighborhood.

Marathon has been offering to buy homes in this neighborhood to create a buffer zone between the refinery and other residential areas.

Some homeowners in Oakwood Heights have signed on with the buyouts, others have stayed put.

The Detroit News' Jim Lynch reports Marathon has upped the amount it's willing to pay:

This month, Marathon officials said 86 percent of the owners have chosen to enroll in the buyout program — meaning they are willing to have their home appraised and see a monetary offer from the company.

Marathon is sweetening the pot, too, as it initially set a minimum appraisal price of $40,000 per home but already has bumped that figure up to $50,000.

The buyout plan is expected to head off lawsuits from those who live in this area. So far, the program has avoided legal entanglements, but it has generated plenty of hard feelings.

Oakwood Heights is an area surrounded by heavy industry. In addition to the refinery, there's the city's sewage treatment plant, a salt mine, a steel factory, and other industries.

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Commentary
11:23 am
Tue April 24, 2012

Commentary: What do huge spending cuts mean for Detroit?

Detroit, as you probably know, is trying desperately to avoid emergency manager status, bankruptcy, or both.

Governor Rick Snyder isn’t the most popular figure in Motown these days, but he is on the same page with city leaders on that, which is why he helped craft the so-called consent agreement.

The mechanics of it are still being worked out. But yesterday, Mayor Dave Bing proposed a new city budget that was almost frightening in terms of its austerity, and depressing when you think of the services this once-great city used to provide.

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Politics
3:01 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

Gov. Snyder: More urgency needed to fix Detroit's problems

Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder said he wants to see a stronger sense of urgency for action in Detroit.

He outlined his vision for the city in a speech to business leaders today.

Snyder’s vision includes Detroit being a manufacturing center that exports goods across the world; and a welcoming place for immigrants.

He said the city also needs to reverse the trend of young families fleeing the city.

“If we’re going to succeed, we have to have neighborhoods where people want to raise a family. They want to live there. They want their kids going to school. And they want an environment to say, ‘When you grow up, you can have a house in this neighborhood,’ because you can have your grandkids nearby. That has to be part of the vision,” said Snyder.

Snyder said the two groups that left Detroit in the greatest numbers over the past decade were adults aged 25 to 29, and children between five and nine.

The governor said progress is being made, but he wants to see a greater sense of urgency.

“But I’m not seeing it across the board yet about approaching problems. But why do we need that sense of urgency? One is it’s the best way to do things, is to just go after it. But one thing we need to recognize is that every day we don’t take action to move Detroit forward, we are moving backward,” said Snyder.

The governor said municipal bankruptcy is still not out of the question for Detroit.

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