Detroit

Detroit
10:44 am
Tue December 13, 2011

Bank announces $1.1M in grants for nonprofits

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit nonprofits are getting $1.1 million in grants to help improve neighborhoods, encourage small businesses and train workers.

The funding was announced Tuesday by Chase, the U.S. consumer and commercial banking brand of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Chase says the two largest grants are $245,000 to Southwest Solutions and $230,000 to Vanguard Community Development Corp.

Those grants aim to help Detroit neighborhoods and improve foreclosure counseling efforts.

News Roundup
9:13 am
Fri December 9, 2011

In this morning's news...

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In wake of petition drive, emergency manager law being revamped

Lawmakers say they're trying to avoid "chaos" by retooling the state's emergency manager law (Public Act 4). A petition drive could put the question of whether or not to keep the EM law in front of voters next November. If petition drive organizers are successful, the law could be suspended until that vote takes place.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

State Treasurer Andy Dillon told the Free Press he has encouraged legislative leaders to rewrite the law. The alternative, he said, is "a pretty confused situation" if the law is suspended. State Rep. Fred Durhal, D-Detroit, said passing a new law to counter a voter repeal effort would be "a slap in the face to the Legislature and to the people." If the law is suspended, Gov. Rick Snyder said he believes Michigan would revert to a weaker emergency manager law from 1990, but there's no guarantee the courts will see it his way.

Detroit Mayor Bing reports progress with unions

Detroit could be the next city in line for a takeover by a state-appointed emergency manager. Detroit leaders say they're working on the city's financial problems to avoid a takeover. In a radio interview this morning, Mayor Bing said progress is being made with the city's unions.

From the Detroit News:

In an interview with WWJ-AM (950), Bing said he's asking the city's unions for reduced wages and reform to pension, health care and work rules because "that's where we can get the most flexibility and savings." "Yes, we're making progress," Bing told WWJ's Vickie Thomas around 7:30 a.m. "I think the unions understand at this point that they've got to be part of the solution." The expected number of citywide layoffs — about 1,000 — hasn't changed since Bing gave a televised address to the city last month. He doesn't know which departments the city will hit first, but public safety will be last on the chopping block.

Protesters tell Congressman to extend unemployment benefits

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported on about three dozen picketers outside of Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers Lansing office:

They were there to draw attention to a deadline looming at the end of the month. 66,000 Michiganders may lose their unemployment benefits in January if an extension is not passed.   

Protester Ronnie Rosner says this is a bad time to let unemployment benefits to expire.  

“When the price of food…gas   and other necessities are going up …when people can not afford to buy goods and services…our whole economy suffers," says Rosner.   

Congressman Rogers’ office issued a written statement …expressing support for extending unemployment benefits.   But he says… as important…is the need for policies promoting economic growth.

News Roundup
9:14 am
Thu December 8, 2011

In this morning's news...

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Legislators to challenge Michigan redistricting in court

The Michigan Legislative Black Caucus is expected to announce a lawsuit today challenging some of the new political boundaries drawn up and approved by the state Legislature and Governor.

From the Associated Press:

A press conference has been scheduled for Thursday at a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People office in Detroit.

The lawsuit's primary emphasis will be state House districts, according to Democratic Rep. Thomas Stallworth III of Detroit.

Democrats are upset that maps approved by the Republican-led Legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder would force incumbent state lawmakers from Detroit to run against each other in 2012.

It was not clear late Wednesday how or if the suit might address districts representing Michigan in the U.S. House.

Proposal to limit abortion coverage moving forward

Laura Weber reports a Senate panel cleared a proposal to restrict access to health care coverage for abortion procedures.

It would require individuals or employers to pay higher premiums to include abortion coverage in their health care plans.

Critics say women do not plan an abortion, so the proposal effectively strips their coverage.

Weber reports "there is no plan in the Senate to approve the abortion insurance proposal before lawmakers begin a winter break next week."

Detroit Police union leaders step down as negotiations heat up

Just as leaders from the city of Detroit are demanding more concessions from city union workers, two leaders from the Detroit Police Officers Association have announced they're retiring.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The Detroit Police Officers Association is planning to replace its leadership after the top two officials stepped down abruptly Tuesday, shocking colleagues as Mayor Dave Bing steps up his demand that police accept 10% wage cuts.

Union President Marty Bandemer and Vice President Cheryl Smith plan to retire officially at the end of the year after ending discussions with the Bing administration over concessions that police officers strongly oppose.

Education
11:16 am
Wed December 7, 2011

Detroit schools report progress on math, reading

Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Public Schools district says its students are making improvements on math and reading testing.

The state's largest district on Wednesday released details of its students' performance on National Assessment of Educational Progress testing. Detroit says it was one of six urban districts nationwide to show improvements in 2011.

The district says scores for its students trended up in all grade levels and both subjects. Still, for example, 66 percent of fourth graders scored at a below basic level for math and 71 percent of eighth graders were at a below basic level.

The district's emergency manager Roy Roberts says he's pleased with the progress.

In 2009, Detroit students ranked the lowest in the nation of participants on the National Assessment of Educational Progress math test.

Commentary
10:30 am
Wed December 7, 2011

Can Detroit avoid an emergency manager?

So, does Detroit really need an Emergency Manager? Can the city’s elected leaders somehow get the job done? This much we know: The governor has ordered a preliminary review of  the city’s finances. There have been major signs of trouble for years.

Now, the city is running a large budget deficit, and the mayor says that as it now stands, the city will run out of cash by April.

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detroit
5:44 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Detroit councilman urges colleagues to set austerity example

Detroit City Council President Pro Tem wants to slash the council's budget by a third, and get rid of perks like free cars.

A Detroit City Council member is pushing his colleagues to cut the council’s budget by 30 percent. The move comes the same day the state initiated a financial review process that could end in the appointment of an emergency manager for the city.

The Detroit City Council’s budget is more than $13 million, and includes perks like city-issued cars and cell phones for council members.

Gary Brown is the Council President Pro Tem. He says like other city employees, he only pays ten percent of his health care costs. Brown’s proposal calls for upping that employee contribution to 30 percent. He says that’s a change the entire city workforce needs to accept.

"And the message, if we don’t show leadership on this issue, is that we’re asking our employees to do something we’re not willing to do," Brown said.

Brown made a similar proposal last month that went nowhere. This time he’s introduced a resolution that will get an up-or-down vote next week.

Politics
5:06 pm
Fri December 2, 2011

State officials launching preliminary review of Detroit's finances

The state of Michigan will conduct a preliminary review of Detroit's finances.
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State Treasurer Andy Dillon announced today the state's intention to launch a preliminary review of Detroit's finances. The review will commence next Tuesday, according to Dillon's office. This post is being updated with information as it comes in.

Update 5:06 p.m.

MPRN's Laura Weber reports that State Treasurer Andy Dillon said he does not see bankruptcy as an option for Detroit.

“I don’t see that in the near-term, no, because if you look at the revenues coming into the general fund, it’s a fixable issue for the city,” said Dillon. “Now the longer-term debt may present an issue that we’ll have to figure out how to tackle down the road.”

Dillon said this is the first step in a review of Detroit’s finances and does not guarantee the city will be taken over by the state, but he said because Detroit is running out of money quickly, a review is time sensitive.

3:15 pm

Mayor Dave Bing released this statement on the state's preliminary financial review a few moments ago:

"While unfortunate, this decision by Governor Snyder is not unexpected.  We believe we have the right plan to address the City's fiscal crisis and we will continue to work with City Council, our unions and other stakeholders to achieve the necessary cuts and concessions, including pension, healthcare and work rule reform. I'm confident with yesterday's demonstration of solidarity and shared commitment that we will continue to make progress.  We are committed to full cooperation with the Governor's fiscal team, who has had full access to the City's financial information and plan for months."

Update 2:49 p.m.

You can see a list of reasons why Michigan State Treasurer Andy Dillon feels a preliminary review of Detroit's finances is in order. Dillon released a "Detroit Informational Memorandum."

In it, Dillion cites that Detroit has run deficits exceeding $100 million dating back to 2005.

Annual debt service requirements in Detroit for 2010 exceeded $539 million, according to the memo.

2:15 p.m.

A day after Detroit Mayor Bing stood with other city leaders to try to head off an impending state review of the city's finances, the Governor's office announces the review:

From MPRN's Rick Pluta:

State Treasurer Andy Dillon says the state will send in teams to review the finances of Detroit and Inkster. It is the first step in the process to name emergency managers to run the cities.  But Dillon says his hope is that early intervention will help avoid that. Detroit city leaders including Mayor Dave Bing have spoken out against a state review.

In a letter to Mayor Bing and City Council President Charles Pugh, State Treasurer Andy Dillon cited the mayor and city council's ongoing inability to work cooperatively to financially manage the city; Detroit's recurring operating deficits; and the likelihood that the city will run out of cash in the spring.

News Roundup
8:29 am
Fri December 2, 2011

In this morning's news...

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"Detroit needs to be run by Detroiters"

That's what Mayor Bing tweeted last night prior to his press conference with members of city council and other Detroit leaders. It was a show of unity against the threat of an impending state review of city finances.

The tweet continued, "We know what needs to be done and we are ready to do it."

Mayor Bing and leaders were reacting to what Mayor Bing said was Governor Snyder's intent to launch a 30-day review of the city's finances this week (Snyder said those claims are inaccurate).

Bing is proposing layoffs and steep cuts to the city's budget. He and members of the city council have been battling over the cuts.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported on the press conference last night:

Bing says it would be helpful if the state offered feedback on some of the city’s proposals, and was more clear about its expectations.

“I would appreciate if the state would come back and say what they don’t like about our plan, or what they do like, or can they enhance it,” Bing says. “I think they’ve got to be a party to this.”

Bing also repeated calls for the state to pay Detroit $220 million it owes from a 1998 revenue sharing agreement. Governor Snyder and Republicans in the state legislature have been cool to the idea.

Conyers asks U.S. Attorney General for review of Michigan's EM law

The threat of an emergency manager in Detroit led to a call for a review of Michigan's emergency manager law from U.S. Congressman John Conyers (D-Detroit). Conyers is asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review the law.

The emergency manager law allows a state-appointed official to strip local officials of their power and to dissolve union contracts.

Jonathan Oosting of MLive.com reported on the request from Conyers:

Conyers asked Holder to consider two separate constitutional issues: Whether the law violates the Contract Clause by allowing EM's to terminate collective bargaining rights and whether is violates Article 4, Section 4 that provides for a republican form of government.

"The Supreme Court has previously held that this clause guarantees the people the right to a democratically elected form of government," he wrote. "It goes without saying that appointing an unelected manager in place of an elected mayor, city council and other public officials would be totally anithetical to the concept of democracy."

Faculty at CMU close to a new contract

After a long battle over a new contract that included a strike on the first day of classes, Central Michigan University says it has has a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract with the CMU Faculty Association. The Associated Press reports "the deal with the CMU Faculty Association was reached after a 14-hour negotiating session facilitated by a county judge. Details of the tentative agreement weren't released pending ratification."

News Roundup
8:38 am
Thu December 1, 2011

In this morning's news...

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Several dozen Catholic parishes in Detroit might close

After a "year-long, parish-based pastoral and strategic planning process," the Archdiocese of Detroit revealed a plan for a smaller footprint in Detroit.

From an Archdiocese of Detroit statement:

  • Within five years, nine parishes are proposed to close.
  • In addition to the above, 60 parishes are proposed to merge down to 21, resulting in 39 fewer parishes.

The Detroit Free Press reports Detroit was one of the first archdioceses to close churches back in 1989. From the Freep:

In the last 10 years alone, about 40 parishes have closed or merged because of the priest shortage and changing demographics in Detroit and its inner-ring suburbs, reducing the number of parishes diocese-wide from 310 to 270.

Detroit unions to offer up their cost-saving ideas

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has been calling for concessions from Detroit's unions along with layoffs to fix the city's budget problems.

Today, unions in the city are expected to go before city council with their ideas.

From the Detroit News:

The city's 48 employee unions thus far have resisted Mayor Dave Bing's call for givebacks to help the city stave off a possible state takeover. Several deadlines imposed by Bing have come and gone...

A coalition of union leaders met Wednesday morning to hammer out ideas for the council to consider. Leaders will present options for cheaper health care and suggest alternatives to Bing's proposed 10 percent wage cut, according to a union leader familiar with the plan.

Governor Snyder heads to Delta College to deliver special message

Governor Rick Snyder says he wants to help workers get the skills employers need in today's job market. Rick Pluta reports Snyder is looking for ways to bring down Michigan’s persistently high unemployment rate. Pluta says the Governor "will deliver his fifth special message of the year today where he is expected to outline a strategy to better match the skills workers have to positions that are available right now."

Politics
9:18 am
Wed November 30, 2011

In this morning's news...

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Detroit Mayor Bing says city can avert financial crisis on its own

Layoffs are coming in Detroit after an audit revealed the city could run out of money by April. Mayor Bing says he believes the city can make cuts and avoid a potential takeover from a state-appointed emergency manager.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing held fast Tuesday to his assertion that his administration can manage the city through its fiscal crisis for the next 18 months with a plan that calls for union concessions and at least 1,000 employee layoffs.

In a wide-ranging interview, the mayor said he received a list of layoff recommendations from his department heads Tuesday and expects to identify workers who will be laid off by Dec. 5. Layoff notices would follow immediately and job eliminations would be effective 90 to 120 days after notices are sent.

Herman Cain speaks at Hillsdale College

After yesterday's revelation that Republican presidential candidate hopeful Herman Cain was "reassessing" his campaign, the candidate did not mention his problems during last night's speech at Hillsdale College. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported:

Cain did not talk about the allegations of sexual harassment made by numerous women against him nor the allegation made this week that he’s been involved in a 13 year affair with a Georgia woman.    

The allegations anger supporters like Gary Shilling.  But Shilling says his anger is not directed at Cain.   

"He’s being crucified…by the press," said Shilling after listening to Cain's speech.  

Republicans unveil plan to keep heat on

With dramatic cuts in federal funding for home heating assistance coming, Republican leaders in the state House of Representatives say they want to keep the heat on this winter for low-income residents.

From the Associated Press:

Lawmakers said they want to put $62 million into the state's emergency relief fund to help keep the heat on. The money would come from federal funds that Republicans say could be used for the heating program.

"It's a budgetary and statutory fix that protects families, prioritizes spending and keeps costs down for Michigan's ratepayers," said House Speaker James Bolger of Marshall.

The plan also would formalize the end of a utility charge. An appeals court in July struck down the financing system used by Michigan's Low Income and Energy Efficiency Fund.

Author Interviews
10:34 am
Mon November 28, 2011

Arc of Justice: A conversation with author Kevin Boyle

Every year the Michigan Humanities Council invites Michiganders to participate in a statewide initiative, the Great Michigan Read. This year’s selection, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, explores a crucial moment in the northern Civil Rights movement—the events leading to the trial of African American physician Ossian Sweet and his family.

On September 9th, 1925 Dr. Sweet and his wife Gladys moved into their new home, crossing the color line into an all-white neighborhood on the east side of Detroit.

Two days later, a crowd of whites gathered in the street to drive the family away. Dr. Sweet and 10 others chose to stay, armed and barricaded inside the house, to defend against the mob. Tensions reached their limit and someone fired into the crowd. Two whites were shot and killed, and the 11 people inside the Sweet home were charged with first degree murder.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke with Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice.

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Detroit
12:03 pm
Fri November 25, 2011

Business leaders react to Detroit mayor's corporate tax proposal

Detroit Regional Chamber President Sandy Baruah
Detroit Regional Chamber

Business leaders in Detroit say they have a little more clarity now on Mayor Dave Bing’s proposal to boost the city’s corporate tax rate.

Bing wants to nearly double the tax – to one-point-nine percent – on C-Corporations. Those are companies that are incorporated. They tend to be larger businesses.

Sandy Baruah is the president of the Detroit Regional Chamber. He says C-Corps also tend to be the businesses that have been doing a lot of recent hiring in Detroit.

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Detroit
11:09 am
Tue November 22, 2011

A historical look at Detroit's financial troubles

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Detroit’s financial troubles have been in the news quite a bit recently with Mayor Dave Bing announcing a plan to lay off 1000 city workers and the looming possibility of the state assigning an emergency manager to take over the city’s finances. Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry took a look back at Detroit's history of financial problems.

Economy
6:46 am
Tue November 22, 2011

Occupy Detroiters leave park ahead of deadline

Most participants in the Occupy Detroit movement have ended their stay in a downtown park as a permit for their
presence neared an end.

Last week, the Detroit City Council gave Occupy Detroit protesters a one-week extension until Monday night to remain at Grand Circus Park.

About 150 people were taking part in the protest that began Oct. 14. WJRT-TV reported Monday night that most participants were gone hours ahead of the deadline.

The city last month denied a request for a 45-day permit.

It wasn't immediately known if any of the protesters remained at the park late Monday. The Associated Press left a message for Detroit police seeking comment.

Politics
4:16 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Detroit city council unveils its cost-saving plans, calls for tax increase

Detroit is running out of money.

Last week, the mayor outlined some of his money saving ideas.

It's a plan that some on Detroit's city council said didn't go far enough.

Now, Detroit City Council is unveiling their plan.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the council's plan is a "is a last-ditch effort to avoid an emergency manager as the city faces the prospect of running out of cash by April..."

The Freep reports the council's plan would increase income taxes on Detroit residents from 2.5 percent to 3 percent, and nonresidents from 1.5 percent to 2 percent:

More from the Detroit Free Press:

As the city nears insolvency, Detroit City Council unveiled a rescue plan today that would increase income taxes by .5% on residents and nonresidents, lay off hundreds of firefighters and police officers and outsource ownership of the ailing busing system.

Other proposals include:

•Sharing health department services with a hospital or Wayne County.

•Cutting up to 2,300 workers.

•Eliminating subsidies to the Detroit Zoo, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, Eastern Market, the Detroit Institute of the Arts and Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Museum.

•Demanding the Detroit Public School System pay its $15 million electric bill due to the city.

 

Some Council members have also floated the idea of a possible consent agreement, that would allow them to bypass the Mayor and implement the deeper cuts.

That would essentially give the Council most of the powers of an emergency manager, without stripping power from elected officials. It would require state approval.

Politics
12:01 pm
Mon November 21, 2011

Detroit Water and Sewerage Department gets director

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is getting a new director.

The city of Detroit announced Monday that Sue McCormick has been approved for the post by the Board of Water Commissioners. She's most recently served as Public Services Administrator for Ann Arbor and previously worked for the Lansing Board of Water and Light.

The job has been vacant since mid-2010. McCormick will start work Jan. 1.

McCormick's appointment by Mayor Dave Bing followed a Nov. 4 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox, who is ensuring the department's compliance with Clean Water Act regulations. The ruling reorganized the department and gave the director's position expanded power.

The department supplies water to about 4 million people southeast Michigan.

Commentary
11:41 am
Mon November 21, 2011

Emergency Manager On Hold?

There’s been a lot of speculation lately about the possibility of Detroit getting an emergency manager, something almost everybody concerned says they are against, but fear is likely to happen anyway.

If it does, the manager will have near-autocratic powers, including the right to suspend, rewrite, or tear up contracts. Some think this is a painful necessity, while others think it will be the death of democracy. There’s a possibility, however, which most people aren’t considering, which is that everything may be put on hold.

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Detroit
6:33 am
Mon November 21, 2011

Detroit schools emergency boss reports on finances

Roy Roberts, Emergency Manager of Detroit Public Schools
Photo courtesy of Detroit Public Schools

The state-appointed emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools is releasing a half-year financial update on
the district Monday.

Roy Roberts has called a news conference for 11 a.m. to announce a six-month update and revised budget deficit projections.

In September, the district was facing a $327 million budget deficit. Its finances have been under state control since 2009.

Enrollment is about 66,000, down from 104,000 in 2007.

Detroit's schools have lost millions of dollars in state per-pupil funding as thousands of parents fled the district for city charters or suburban schools.

Commentary
12:05 pm
Fri November 18, 2011

Detroit: The reality

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing made his long-anticipated speech this week addressing the city’s financial crisis. Even before that people were speculating as to whether the city would end up needing an emergency manager.

That speculation has increased ever since the mayor spoke, but the fact is this. There really isn’t any doubt. The city is not going to be able to succeed in righting its own finances, not under the Bing plan, anyway.

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Politics
11:57 am
Fri November 18, 2011

Michigan State House Speaker: No additional money for cash-strapped Detroit

State House Speaker Jase Bolger
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Republican state House Speaker Jase Bolger said Detroit should not anticipate more money from Michigan taxpayers to help fix the city’s financial troubles. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said this week that Lansing should keep a promise made in the 1990s to boost revenue sharing payments if the city cut its income tax.

Bolger said that promise did not come from any Republicans currently serving in Lansing, where lawmakers have made tough choices to balance the state budget.

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