Detroit

Auto
5:47 pm
Thu January 5, 2012

Deal inked to keep auto show in Detroit through 2017

Detroit will hang on to the North American International Auto Show for at least another five years.

The deal signed today by auto show and Cobo Center officials should reverse years of suggestions that show sponsors might take their business elsewhere.

"It is our way of saying: 'Detroit, we are with you,'" said Bill Perkins, chairman of the 2012 show. 

A regional authority took control of Cobo away from the city two years ago. The move paved the way a $278 million renovation of the aging facility. Perkins says those renovations will put the facility on par with other top global venues, "helping us to maintain our position on the world auto stage as the show at which to introduce new and exciting vehicles."

The renovation is under way that will add space to Cobo and open views to the Detroit River. The facility is also getting new loading docks and other amenities. The auto dealers who put on the show had warned the city could lose the auto show if renovations were not made.

The show opens to the public January 14.

Politics
5:42 pm
Thu January 5, 2012

Detroit Mayor Bing says city won't run out of money this April

Detroit Mayor Bing says with changes, the financial crisis in the city is not as bad as previously forecasted.
Kate Davidson Michigan Radio

Update 5:39 pm:

The mayor’s plan includes $360 million in savings over the next year and a half. But some city council members  say they’re skeptical.

"There’s not much here that we haven’t already heard before," Councilman Ken Cockrel said. He and others say the savings appear overly optimistic. 

Mayor Bing disagrees.

"Add up the numbers," he said. "The numbers don’t lie."

The mayor plans to present his proposal to a state review team next week. That review team could recommend an emergency manager take over the city finances. Meanwhile, his administration continues to negotiate with city unions. Bing says the unions have until the end of the month to agree to concessions, or steeper cuts and layoffs are inevitable.

1:01 pm:

The Associated Press reports that Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has declared the city's financial crisis is easing, and the city is "no longer at risk of running out of cash by April as previously expected."

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett is following this story and will have more for us later.

More from the Associated Press:

Mayor Dave Bing on Thursday released a financial and operational restructuring plan update. It highlights cost savings from 1,000 imminent layoffs, overdue payments from the Detroit Public Schools district and a corporate tax increase that Bing says will mitigate a cash shortfall.

Bing planned to present the update Thursday afternoon to the Detroit City Council, which has scheduled discussion time for the plan.

A review team is looking into Detroit's finances - a step in a process that could lead to Michigan taking over the city's government. Its recommendations will be forwarded to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Last November, Mayor Bing cited a financial audit that showed the city might run out of money this April.

Auto/Economy
5:30 pm
Thu January 5, 2012

Chrysler "embracing its Detroit heritage," announces more jobs in Motor City

Chrysler's headquarters is in Auburn Hills, but the new jobs will be in Detroit, according to the company.
user fiatontheweb creative commons

Chrysler has announced that it will add 1,250 more jobs in the city of Detroit. The company says it is "embracing its Detroit heritage and weaving it into the fiber of its future plans."

More from a company press release:

Chrysler Group LLC is strengthening its ties with the City of Detroit by adding a third crew and 1,100 new jobs at its Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit (JNAP), expanding the Jeep Grand Cherokee lineup to include a diesel version for North America in the city and reaffirming plans to add 150 jobs by reopening its Conner Avenue Assembly Plant, also located in the Motor City for production of the ultimate American sports car – the SRT Viper.

“Our future, like the history of our brands, is interwoven with the City of Detroit,” said Chrysler Group Chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne. “Detroit long has been home to renowned innovators and craftsmen. So it is in the Motor City, home of our industrial heritage and a resilient people, that we are entrusting the manufacture not only of the ultimate American sports car, the SRT Viper, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee – the most awarded SUV ever – but also a diesel version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee for North American markets.

Education
1:01 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Another Michigan school district in a 'financial emergency' - "It is what it is"

Update 2:00 p.m.

An emergency manager may soon take charge of the Highland Park School District. A state review panel today  recommended the governor appoint someone to fix the school district’s "financial emergency."  

The financial review team has been looking at the Highland Park School District’s books since November.   

The panel’s report to the governor finds the school district is $11 million in the red. That works out to about $10 thousand for every student enrolled.  The school district’s deficit has grown by $3 million in just the last year. The school district’s debt has grown, as its student population has fallen. Nearly 3,200 students attended Highland Park schools in 2006.   This year, fewer than a thousand students are enrolled.   

“It is what it is.," laments Edith Hightower, Highland Park’s School Superintendent,  "I don’t disagree with any of the statements that were documented [in the report]."    

Emergency managers are already running the Detroit public schools,  as well as the cities of Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor. Financial review teams are also looking at Detroit and Inkster.       

The state Education Department is also conducting a preliminary review of the financial status of the Muskegon Heights School District. 

1:04 p.m.

HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. (AP) - A review team is recommending an emergency manager for Highland Park Schools after determining the district is in a financial emergency.

Michigan's Treasury Department says in a release Wednesday that a final report by the 10-member independent review team has been given to Gov. Rick Snyder. Snyder has 10 days to review the report and make a decision if the district is in a financial emergency.

Highland Park is a small city partially surrounded by Detroit. The school district's budget deficit stands at $11.3 million. The Treasury Department says expenditures outpaced revenues by nearly $4 million in the last fiscal year. The district also has had an operating deficit in five of the past six years.

Enrollment has dropped from 3,179 students to 969 over the past five years.

Detroit
12:16 pm
Wed January 4, 2012

Al Jazeera's coverage of the Detroit financial crisis

A screenshot of Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera

The financial crisis unfolding in Detroit is getting national and international attention.

It's nothing new. The decline of the country's biggest manufacturing city has been news for more than four decades.

But news of the city running potentially running out of money by April is renewing more stories of Detroit's decline.

Here's how Al Jazeera covered the Detroit financial crisis in a two-and-half-minute television story last month.

Their story starts with an automated message from Mayor Dave Bing's office telling the caller that "as a result of mandatory furlough days, this office is closed":

Emergency Manager Law
7:08 am
Wed January 4, 2012

Bid to end Mich. emergency manager law continues

A coalition seeking to overturn Michigan's law granting expanded powers to emergency managers appointed to run financially struggling cities and schools is continuing its petition drive.

Stand Up for Democracy says it plans to gather more voter signatures at southeastern Michigan churches the next two Sundays.

The group needs to collect roughly 161,300 valid signatures to temporarily suspend the law and make the November ballot. Group leaders wouldn't say this week exactly when they plan to turn in the signatures.

Supporters of the new law say it's needed to help fix financially troubled schools and cities. Emergency managers are operating in Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Flint, Pontiac and the Detroit public schools system.

The city of Detroit is under a state financial review that could result in an emergency manager.

Detroit Financial Review
6:37 am
Tue January 3, 2012

Hundreds rally against possible Detroit takeover

Hundreds of people gathered at a Detroit church to voice their opposition to the possibility that the state could
take over the city's government.

Michigan Democratic Congressman John Conyers was among those at Monday's gathering at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. He told the crowd he would use his relationship with the White House to fight any attempt to appoint an emergency manager.

Last week, Gov. Rick Snyder announced members of a review team that will dig deeply into Detroit's finances.

The team's appointment comes after a preliminary review found that there was "probable financial stress" in Michigan's largest city.

Ultimately, Detroit could be appointed an emergency manager, which state and city officials have said they want to avoid.

Auditors say Detroit may run out of money as early as April.

Arts/Culture
9:32 pm
Sun January 1, 2012

More art pops up in Detroit's vacant spaces

One mural by artist Marianne Burrows features a pheasant, a common sight in Detroit's vacant lots.
via Facebook

In Detroit, massive population loss has forced people to envision new ways of using space.

Urban gardens have gotten a lot of attention. But there’s also a movement afoot to use art in a similar way.

One group of people has done just that this year with a vacant lot in an industrial corner just north of Detroit’s Midtown area. It’s called the Lincoln Street Art Park.

Read more
Religion
2:16 pm
Sat December 31, 2011

Detroit church builds homes to build community

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

A church on Detroit's west side has become a community developer by building 90 homes over four years and injecting pride and optimism in the neighborhood.

The last batch of new tenants moved in this month. The Rev. Oscar King III says stable housing is crucial if Detroit wants to recover. The homes are near his Northwest Unity Baptist Church.

The Detroit Free Press says there were more than 800 applicants for the homes, mostly two-story colonials. The renters include professionals, low-income families and even the homeless. Jack Bostic Jr. says homes are more important than a church having a fancy place to worship. He says his neighborhood looks like any suburb.

Janet Norfleet says her children pick up trash on their block, a habit that others are following.

Politics
2:51 pm
Tue December 27, 2011

Governor names review team to examine Detroit's finances

Kate Sumbler Flickr

Update 4:17 pm:

Mayor Dave Bing released this statement in response to the review team's appointment: “We will continue to fully cooperate with the state review process and the newly appointed financial review team. At the same time, my staff and I have worked through the holiday break with union leadership on my plan that seeks savings of $102 million for this fiscal year and $258 million in fiscal year 2012-13. We will continue to negotiate until we reach agreement to resolve the city’s financial crisis.”

2:50 pm:

Read more
crime
4:23 pm
Mon December 26, 2011

Detroit police: 3 of 4 murder victims linked to escort service

Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Detroit police say three of four women recently found dead in car trunks had promoted themselves as escorts through a website.

Police Chief Ralph Godbee talked to reporters Monday, a day after the burned bodies of two women were discovered in a trunk on Detroit's east side. On Dec. 19, the bodies of two other women were also found in a car trunk.

Politics
10:35 am
Fri December 23, 2011

Opposition to Michigan's emergency managers ramps up

Snyder talks about Detroit on Facebook.

Yesterday, the president of the Michigan Chapter of the Rainbow Coalition David Bullock said they were prepared to use "all measures afforded to us as citizens to protect democracy," according to the Detroit Free Press.

Bullock was with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, elected officials, and others denouncing Michigan's emergency manager law as unconstitutional and likening EMs to dictators.

From the Free Press:

The Rev. Jesse Jackson joined a coalition of pastors, civil rights leaders and elected officials Thursday in Detroit to pledge strong opposition -- including civil disobedience, if necessary -- against the state's new emergency manager law.

Jackson and others likened emergency managers to dictators who wipe out the democratic process with unilateral authority to gut union contracts, sell cherished assets and slash essential services.

"We are prepared to go from education, mobilization, litigation, legislation, demonstration and civil disobedience," Jackson said during a news conference at Bethany Baptist Church on the city's west side. "We want a positive commitment to restoring democracy and economic justice for all citizens."

Later in the day, Governor Rick Snyder released a Facebook video explaining his views on Detroit's financial situation. In the video, Snyder said the state's role is to be a "supporting resource," and "my goal is to ever avoid having to appoint an emergency manger - that's a failure point."

Snyder said there were two critical issues that need to be addressed. From the video:

"One, there's a short term cash issue. We can't have the city run out of money, and hopefully the city can come up with a program to get through the crisis the mayor has talked about, about potentially running out of cash in April.

The second one issue is a very difficult one which is a long term structural solution. Because we can't continue this process. Detroit has been in a financial crisis in some fashion for decades...

The fundamental thing we need to do is  create an environment where Detoriters can have a good life, and that gets down to some basic services. And we need to make sure those basic services are being provided consistently for the long term because that's not happening today."

Commentary
8:09 am
Thu December 22, 2011

How a former Detroit mayor sees the city

  • Audio processing, please check back momentarily.

At lunchtime yesterday, I got a news alert that the state’s preliminary review team found Detroit’s finances a mess.

Read more
Economy
3:39 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

State auditors say Detroit in "probable financial stress"

The city of Detroit is one step closer to a state-appointed emergency manager.
user andrea_44 Flickr

Update 3:29 p.m.

The Associated Press has this report on reaction from Detroit Mayor Dave Bing:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the city already is working to address financial problems detailed by a new state review.

Bing says in a statement Wednesday that the city plans to "fully cooperate" with the state's financial review process. His comments came after the state announced it had found that "probable financial stress" exists in the city of Detroit...

Bing has said Detroit faces a $150 million budget deficit and a projected $45 million cash shortfall, but argues that progress is being made without state oversight. He is seeking concessions from city unions and says Wednesday the goal is to forge an agreement "soon."

12:34 p.m.

"The longer it takes to address Detroit's financial problems, the more painful the potential solutions become." - State Treasurer, Andy Dillon

Michigan State Treasurer said today that their preliminary review of Detroit's finances found the city to be in "probable financial stress."

More from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

Governor Rick Snyder will order an intensive review of Detroit’s finances now that a team from the state Treasury has determined the city is in “probable financial stress.”

It is the next step in a process that could wind up with the governor naming an emergency manager to run the city.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon said the administration still hopes Mayor Dave Bing and the city council can come up with its own plan that would avert a state takeover.

“It’s our number one hope that the city, the city council and labor can make its own deal that the state is not be part of, but, so that we’re ready for the event of maybe a cash shortfall in April, we thought it necessary to have the formal review process run in tandem with the progress that the city’s making,” said Dillon.

A report highlighted last month by Detroit Mayor Dave Bing found that without changes, Michigan’s largest city could run out of money sometime in April.

The Detroit Free Press reports on what the preliminary financial review found:

Dillon said in a report the city had violated the uniform budgeting and accounting act by not adjusting its budget on a timely basis and had not filed an adequate deficit elimination plan. He also cited a mounting debt problem, trouble making payments to pension plans and the possibility the city will be short of cash by April...

Dillon said in his report that “city officials are either incapable or unwilling to manage its own finances.” Also “as we have noted on numerous occasions, the longer it takes to address Detroit’s financial problems, the more painful the potential solutions become,” he said.

After the next review, an emergency manager could be appointed to run Detroit.

Commentary
12:33 pm
Wed December 21, 2011

The Real Homeless: Victims of persecution seeking political asylum

We’re going to see a lot of stories about homeless people in Michigan this winter. Unemployment has come down a little, but is still high, and assistance for the poor is way down.

Shelter and rescue mission managers are bracing for the flood they feel is coming, after the state began cutting tens of thousands of people off cash assistance forever, most of them children.

Read more
2011
4:06 pm
Tue December 20, 2011

A look back: Detroit

user steveburt1947 / Flickr

Michigan Radio is giving 2011 a sendoff by taking a look back at some of the year's popular and important stories. As part of this retrospective series, here's a small collection of stories we covered about Detroit. You can also weigh in. Tell us your pick for the most important Detroit story this year (if you want to peruse all the stories we've covered in Detroit, you can find them organized under our Detroit tag):

Read more
Commentary
1:30 pm
Fri December 16, 2011

Michigan's Future: Asking Basic Questions

There are a number of important debates going on in Michigan about our economic crisis, and our future.

Three of the most intense are these: 

  1. Should Detroit have an Emergency Manager?
  2. Should the Emergency Manager law itself be repealed? 
  3. And what’s the future of public education in this state, and how should we pay for it?

Virtually everyone has opinions about these issues, and I have expressed mine, on Michigan Radio and elsewhere. But it occurs to me that we may all be missing something.

Read more
Commentary
11:23 am
Thu December 15, 2011

High-speed buses, instead of light rail, make sense for Detroit

There’s a sense of gloom throughout the mass transit community in Michigan today. Earlier this week, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that he was canceling the long-talked about light rail line to be built up Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

They’ve been discussing light rail in the Woodward corridor for more than forty years. Few remember now, but Detroit’s much ridiculed People Mover was originally intended as the embryo of such a system, to which it would later be connected. Recently, light rail was thought to be only a matter of time.

Read more
Transportation
11:48 am
Wed December 14, 2011

People Mover in Detroit will keep moving through June 2013

The People Mover in Detroit has come up with funds to remain open through June 2013.
Michael Kumm Flickr

The group that runs the People Mover (Detroit's downtown light-rail system)  announced today that it has secured enough funding to operate the system though June 2013.

Officials from the Detroit Transportation Corporation (DTC) say they "have a special reason to give thanks this season" because they've made up for a $3.4 million shortfall for the current fiscal year. The system will also get $6.2 million for following fiscal year.

The money is coming from an escrow account set up in 1989 for maintenance of the People Mover’s guideway system. Officials say the guideway structure is "sound and has been maintained in good condition."

The Detroit News reports the system has seen cuts from city government and the state:

The City Council cut the People Mover's annual subsidy in July by almost a quarter to $3.4 million. That triggered the state of Michigan to reduce its $3.6 million matching subsidy to $1 million — a big blow to the system's $15 million budget...

Officials increased the People Mover's fares to 75 cents from 50 cents last month — the first bump in the system's 24-year history. But the system has never come close to its break-even point, which would require 10 times more annual ridership.

The News reports that fares from 2.3 million riders in 2010 generated $900,000.

Transportation
10:19 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

Report: Light rail plan in Detroit has been scrapped in favor of a bus system

An artist's depiction of the M1 light rail system. The Detroit Free Press reports the plan has been scrapped.
M1 Rail

The on-again-off-again light rail plan in Detroit is now officially "off," according to the Detroit Free Press.

A light-rail system was planned between downtown Detroit and 8 Mile Rd.

The paper reports the $25 million pledged to the project from a federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant will go toward a bus system instead.

From the Free Press:

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told Detroit Mayor Dave Bing that doubts that Detroit could pay operating costs over the long term for the light-rail line because of its and the state’s financial problems swayed him against the plan. The decision came despite earlier public support that included LaHood’s 2010 visit to Detroit to award a $25-million grant to get the project moving.

LaHood, President Barack Obama’s top transportation official, met last week with Bing and Snyder, and the sides agreed that the better option is a system of rapid-transit buses operating in dedicated lanes on routes from downtown to and through the suburbs along Gratiot, Woodward and Michigan avenues and along M-59, the officials said.

Private and philanthropic investors had pledged $100 million toward the light rail project. Though some investors had shown signs of wavering.

The Free Press reports the decision to scrap the light-rail plan "outraged Megan Owens, director of the Detroit advocacy group Transportation Riders United." Advocates said the investments made in light-rail line would lead to redevelopment along Woodward Avenue:

 “We’re basically throwing away a $3-billion economic development investment,” Owens said. “I’m outraged Mayor Bing would let this happen on his watch.”

Critics of the project said the light-rail project would be a waste of money and could suffer the same fate as the People Mover in Detroit. That system has been struggling to remain economically viable.

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