Detroit

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Several Detroit businesses are paying their employees to move to the city as part of a new incentive program called "Live Downtown."

Employees can get $20,000 dollars toward the purchase of a new home. Those who rent will get up to $3,500 for two years. Even employees who already live in the city can get money to make home improvements.

Here's a list of the 5 companies behind the new "Live Downtown" program:

Photo courtesy of Stephen Zacks

Flint is in the spotlight on today's Artpod.

We talk a lot about Detroit’s path to revival, but drive an hour northwest to Flint and you’ll find a city whose struggles are similar if not worse than Detroit's.  Now a coalition of artists, city officials and residents is trying to re-write Flint's story through art.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

NBA Hall of Famer and Michigan native Earvin “Magic” Johnson is joining a venture capital firm committed to helping early stage tech firms.

Detroit Venture Partners was founded in part by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert. It plans to invest in 12 to 15 companies a year, at up to $3 million per company.

Johnson says right now, talented young people are leaving Michigan and Detroit because they don’t see a future for themselves.

chandlerparkonline.com

With temperatures stuck in the 90s, patrons of Detroit’s only water park say they’re livid about plans to shut it down.

Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano says closing the Family Aquatic Center at Chandler Park would save a million dollars the county needs to balance the budget.

Nanga Chungag is 12 years old. She takes swimming lessons at the park and says closing it would be terrible for her, and her city:

user: NonOther / flickr.com

Many students attending summer school in Detroit will have the day off today.

From the Associated Press:

Detroit's school district says it's closing more than 70 schools in the afternoon that don't have air conditioning as a heat wave continues.

The Detroit Public Schools made the announcement Wednesday morning.

The district says power outages also forced the closure of three schools Wednesday. And heat and mechanical problems closed two others.

A DPS spokesmen said more than half of the school district's summer population of 38,000 will be affected. The district has also opened 13 cooling centers.

wikimedia commons

A large excavator fell over during the demolition of the Ford Auditorium in Detroit.

A minor injury to the operator was reported by the Associated Press.

You can see photos at the Detroit Free Press. And Jeff Wattrick at MLive received photos from his former co-workers  who were gawking out their window at the Renaissance Center.

Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

Artists in Seattle and Philadelphia have been painting large murals on abandoned buildings in an effort to revitalize neighborhoods. Philadelphia for example, has around 2,000 murals to help brighten the city.

Everyone has heard of Motown Records, but few probably remember its Los Angeles offshoot, MoWest. It didn't last long — only two years — but during its life span, MoWest allowed Motown to try out new styles and genres and create one of the most eclectic rosters in the label's long history. Most of MoWest's releases have been out of print the past 40 years, but a new anthology called Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love: Motown's MoWest Story 1971-1973 finally highlights the label's life and legacy.

Detroit is in danger of losing millions of dollars in federal Head Start money. Head Start provides early childhood education for low-income kids.

The city department that runs Head Start has been in trouble with the federal government for failing to fix problems uncovered in audits – including accounting errors and misspent funds.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is reportedly looking to Wayne County to take over the program. Wayne County Commissioner Ilona Varga says chronic under-enrollment is another problem the feds are trying to fix:

screen grab from YouTube video

This past Monday, Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported on the growing controversy surrounding Detroit's light rail project. Reports indicated that private backers might pull out of the project. (Kresge Foundation President Rip Rapson told Cwiek  the foundation is committed to the project.)

Dani Davis

A unique business accelerator opens today in Detroit. 

A lot of business accelerators, generally speaking, focus on internet startups and biotech companies. But with the new Creative Ventures Acceleration Program in Detroit, the spotlight is on creative industries:

"The industrial design world, the interior design world, fashion design, music production, video production and architecture."

Bob Jagendorf / Flickr

The Obama administration today unveiled a federal program aimed at helping cities like Detroit revitalize parts of their urban core.

The Strong Cities, Strong Communities program will target Detroit, Fresno, Memphis, Cleveland, New Orleans, and Chester, Pa.

And in keeping with federal government style, officials have given the program an acronym, SC2.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan unveiled the program with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing this morning.

From a HUD press release:

"On behalf of the Obama Administration, it is an honor to announce the SC2 initiative in Detroit, one of America's most unique and vibrant cities," said U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. "This will be a new type of federal partnership for Detroit - one that will allow the city to build on its progress and further strengthen its foundation for economic growth and resiliency in a global economy."

Officials say the program seeks to cut through federal red tape by providing communities with technical assistance to ensure federal and local dollars are spent wisely.

Improving Detroit, one neighborhood at a time

Jul 11, 2011

Five years ago, the Skillman Foundation began a project called “The Good Neighborhoods Initiative.’ The goal was to improve life for kids in six Detroit neighborhoods. Skillman asked the University of Michigan School of Social Work for help, so the school created the “Technical Assistance Center.”  That group serves as a resource for the neighborhoods as they enact change.

Professor Larry Gant is leading the U of M team. He spoke with us for our weekly series on Michigan Radio, "What's Working."

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Increasing rates of prescription drug deaths in Michigan

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise across the nation, and Michigan is no exception.

Detroit Free Press medical writer Patricia Anstett has a piece highlighting the problems in the state. From the article:

In Michigan, more residents now die from prescription drug abuse than from heroin and cocaine combined, a federal registry shows. In 2009, the latest year data are available, 457 Michiganders died of overdoses from one or more prescription drugs, up from 409 deaths the year before.

"We're seeing an alarming trend that continues to increase," said Larry Scott, manager of the prevention section of Michigan's Bureau of Substance Abuse and Addiction.

One in four people seeking emergency care for prescription drug abuse were younger than 25.

Michigan legislature working on proposal to cap welfare benefits

Under a proposal being considered in the Michigan legislature, there would be a four-year life limit on welfare benefits in Michigan.

From the Saginaw News:

The state Senate this week is expected to consider its version of bill sponsored by state Rep. Kenneth B. Horn that could end some poor Michigan families’ welfare benefits as soon as October.

Horn, R-Frankenmuth, wrote the proposed legislation that creates a 48-month, retroactive limit on direct cash assistance. People who have been receiving assistance since 2007 would be the first affected.

House bills 4409 and 4410 are expected to go before the Michigan Senate on Wednesday. The bill's sponsor expects them to pass.

HUD secretary to make announcement this morning on reviving urban centers

Shaun Donovan, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, is expected to unveil an economic plan in Detroit this morning.

From the Associated Press:

Donovan is scheduled to announce the initiative Monday morning in Detroit alongside Mayor Dave Bing and other government leaders at a loft development near downtown. He also is to speak at noon to the Detroit Economic Club at the Westin Book Cadillac hotel.

The department says Donovan is to discuss a new Obama administration approach to strengthening cities that involves working with them. He also plans to outline challenges facing those cities as well steps the administration already is taking at the local and national levels.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Officials on loan from the federal government are soon expected to help Detroit and a handful of other cities coordinate their redevelopment efforts.

The nation’s housing chief is expected to announce an initiative to place federal officials inside city halls, including Detroit’s.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit home prices posted sharp declines during the first 6 months of 2011, according to a new report.  And the decline is expected to continue during the next 6 months.  Clear Capital reports Detroit’s home sale prices were down 19.8% during the first half of the year compared to the first six months of 2010. 

user benlmoyer / wikimedia commons

10,000 buildings by the end of his first term in 2013

That's how many buildings Detroit Mayor Bing wants to bring down.

This Friday, the city says one of the 10,000 will be a big one - Ford Auditorium, former home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

From MLive:

Ford Auditorium's date with the wrecking ball has been set for Friday afternoon, according to a release from the city of Detroit.

Earlier this week, workers removed the pipe organ from the 55-year-old structure with a then-undetermined demolition date. Mayor Dave Bing will make some brief remarks at 11 a.m. before demolition begins.

Here's a look inside the Auditorium from WXYZ:

alicegop / flickr

Beginning tomorrow, people who spend their evenings in downtown Detroit will have to pay for the privilege of parking on city streets.

The city is stepping up its enforcement at meters and in illegal parking zones – extending the hours meter readers prowl the streets until 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Parking enforcement has been ending at 6:30.

James Canty manages Detroit’s parking department. He says the hope is that people who’ve racked up expensive fines for outstanding tickets will settle them:

kwamekilpatrickbook.com

DETROIT (AP) - Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick takes responsibility in his upcoming book for an affair with an aide and lies told during a civil trial that sent him from leading one of America's largest cities to a prison cell. But he also blames others for his downfall.

The former politician bills "Surrendered! The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick" as his side of the tale. He claims in the book that when it was clear criminal charges tied to a sex scandal would not go away, his political allies and adversaries, some Detroit business leaders and an aggressive media formed an unspoken alliance. He says they worked to "get rid" of him.

The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of the book. Its release date is Aug. 1.

Kresge Foundation

Twelve fellowships have been awarded to Detroit area visual artists. Each Kresge Artist Fellowship is worth $25,000 and has a “no strings attached” policy. 

Visual artist Liz Cohen was one of the winners.

“Oh I mean it’s an honor, it’s a great organization and a great grant and an opportunity to become closer to a lot of the other artists in the city.”

user penywise / morgueFile

Several Detroit non-profits want to help potential small business owners get some much needed capital.

They’ve launched a microlending website called Kiva Detroit, an extension of the California-based Kiva.org. Small business owners post their idea online and anyone can give a loan for as little as $25. The site went live this Wednesday.

The Detroit City Council has approved a budget deal that promises to avert drastic cuts to police and fire, recreation and bus service.

The council voted to restore $25 million of the $50 million it cut from Mayor Dave Bing’s budget.

Bing says the vote is good news. But he says tough things are still in the city’s future.

Layoffs will be a reality, there’s no way around that, and with those layoffs there’s obviously going to be some service problems. So we’ve got to get better at servicing the citizens that are here, as well as the businesses that are here.

Two council members voted against the deal. They say they’re not convinced the mayor’s revenue projections will hold. And they say if they don’t, the budget will have to be revisited.

The new fiscal year starts tomorrow.

user farlane / Flickr

The Detroit City Council is set to vote this hour on a budget deal that splits the difference between Mayor Dave Bing’s proposal and the council’s steeper cuts.

After breaking off negotiations with the city council earlier this week, Mayor Bing presented a compromise budget today. And it appears the votes are there to pass it.

The two sides have been at odds over how much money to cut from next year’s budget. The city council has been more hawkish – approving $50 million in cuts on top of what Bing proposed.

The newest plan would restore half that. Officials with the Bing administration say that should be enough to avert police and fire layoffs, parks closures, and bus service cuts.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Detroit is among a group of dozens of cities that could challenge 2010 census numbers according to the Associated Press.

Realtors are hoping an uptick in home prices reported on Tuesday is the beginning of a turnaround, but industry experts say it's too soon to tell if the improvement is anything other than a seasonal blip.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index reported that prices in April rose in 13 of the 20 cities tracked. Washington, D.C., saw the biggest price increases, followed by San Francisco, Atlanta and Seattle.

The index, which covers metro areas that include about 50 percent of U.S. households, rose 0.7 percent, the first increase since July 2010.

user brother o'mara / Flickr

Unions in Detroit fight call for concessions

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has said an emergency manager takeover of Detroit is inevitable if unions in the city don't agree to concessions in their contracts. Union leaders say they won't agree to deep concessions.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Labor unions are resolved to call Mayor Dave Bing's bluff of an imminent state takeover of Detroit's finances if employees don't agree to deep concessions, setting the stage for a risky and potentially decisive showdown.

Despite Bing's warning that an emergency manager could wipe out employee contracts unilaterally and cut wages and benefits severely without worker approval, leaders of the city's largest unions told the Free Press they won't open their contracts to save the city $121 million annually in health care and pension costs.

Jesse Jackson calling for repeal of emergency manager law

Calling Michigan's emergency manager law "fundamentally unconstitutional" the Rev. Jesse Jackson is advocating for its repeal.

Jackson spoke at Pontiac City Hall yesterday, a city under the control of an emergency  manager, Michael Stampfler.

From the Oakland Press.

“Pontiac is just a piece of a bigger puzzle,” he told a crowd of more than 100 people at City Hall during a press conference held Sunday.

“My friend, this is not just black and white. This is about wrong and right.”

The Press reports that the group Michigan Forward is attempting to get enough signatures to put a referendum against the emergency manager law on November's ballot.

Bumper apple crop expected in Michigan

Despite the wild spring weather, apple growers are expected to have a good crop this year.

From the Holland Sentinel

The Michigan Apple Committee is estimating the state’s apple crop this year will be about 28 percent more than average.

“We have a 25 million bushel estimate,” Executive Director of the Michigan Apple Committee Denise Donohue said.

And West Michigan growers are echoing the same estimate.

flickr / iboy_daniel

Governor Rick Snyder outlined a plan to try to turn around the lowest performing schools in the state.

The Education Achievement System would start in the 2012-2013 school year with the lowest performing schools in the Detroit Public School System and would eventually spread out to underperforming schools across the state.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Tom Watkins, Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction about the potential pitfalls and benefits of the EAS plan. Watkins  is currently a business and educational consultant in the US and China.

You can hear the interview here:

Changing Gears is wrapping up its first week as part of the Public Insight Network. Through PIN, everyone can sign up to become a source for our coverage. It’s kind of like a citizen news wire.

To put your personal experiences in the spotlight, we’re introducing a new daily feature called Your Story. We’re letting you tell how Midwest’s economic transformation is changing your life.

Kira Plotivrnkov

All week, we’ve been covering Detroit’s attempts to improve its image. We heard about plenty of things to celebrate, but Detroit also has plenty of real problems, ranging from its struggling education system to a huge loss of residents over the last decade.

Along with the city’s positive aspects, we also asked you to tell us: what’s the worst thing about Detroit? Here is a sample of your answers.

Hate. From racism to road rage, it is not a friendly place.- Carly Van Thomme, Guadalajara, Mexico

The legacy of Kwame Kilpatrick and Henry Ford. Drive, drive, drive everywhere. -Karen Dunnan, Grand Rapids, MI

That we do not promote the diversity of the people in Detroit and surrounding suburbs as we should. It’s the people that make any city. -Gordon Alexander, Detroit, MI

Suffocating overt and covert racism that serves as a shorthand for much more complex and difficult problems. -Brian Bowe, Saugatauk, MI

The lack of public transportation and urban living necessities to keep people in the city. -Dan Baker, Lancaster, PA

Excessively numbered and large freeways that ruin the continuity of neighborhoods and contribute to a sense of isolation in many cases. – Elizabeth Luther, Detroit, MI

Unfortunately, crime. -Joel Arnold, Flint

How empty it feels.  There is nothing worse than coming home to find the lights off and the family dispersed. -Jeffrey Jablansky, New Rochelle, NY

Lack of city-dwelling yuppies, you need them for economic purposes.- Matt B., Boston, MA

People who have never been there trashing the place. -Todd Doros, Durham, NC

You can still answer our questions here.

Tomorrow, check back to read peoples’ vision for the Detroit of 2020.

Cyclists will descend on Detroit for the 11th Annual Tour de Troit on Saturday.
Brian Stoeckel

When we asked, “Is Detroit cool again?” we wanted to know whether Detroit’s image is changing.

Our inspiration is Mayor Dave Bing’s Transform Detroit, a event that is showing examples of Detroit’s revitalization to about 50 reporters. Despite the positive picture the city is trying to present, we know not everyone believes the city is on its way back.

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