Detroit

Detroit
11:09 am
Tue November 22, 2011

A historical look at Detroit's financial troubles

Ifmuth Flickr

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
user: mimem flickr.com

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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Detroit
11:53 am
Fri November 18, 2011

Mayor Bing: 1,000 job cuts amid budget crisis

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says 1,000 job cuts are planned by early next year to help deal with the city's budget crisis.

The mayor's office said in a statement Friday that layoff notices will be delivered the week of Dec. 5. He says the cuts represent 9 percent of the city's about 11,000 employees and will save about $12 million.

On Wednesday, Bing said the city faces a $45 million cash shortfall by the end of its fiscal year in June.

Bing said the positions will be eliminated by Feb. 25. He said additional 2,000 positions have been eliminated since he took office in 2009.

Bing also ordered an immediate hiring freeze for all civil service positions except the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Culture of Class
10:17 am
Thu November 17, 2011

Detroit residents consider Marathon buyout offers (part 2)

Linda Chernowas says she has health problems related to living in her polluted industrial neighborhood. But she says Marathon's offer isn't enough for her to get a comparable house elsewhere.
Sarah Hulett/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s only oil refinery is in the middle of a $2 billion dollar expansion project. Marathon Petroleum is expanding its refinery in southwest Detroit to process more heavy crude oil from Canada.

That expansion project is moving the footprint of Marathon’s refinery closer to people’s homes, especially the Oakwood Heights neighborhood in Southwest Detroit. A couple weeks ago, the company made a big announcement. Marathon is offering to buy about 350 homes in Oakwood Heights. The company is offering a minimum of $40,000 dollars plus half of what the home appraises for. There’s also money to help people relocate.

“We think it’s a very generous program. We think the neighborhood is going to be very happy with it.”

Tracy Case is with Marathon. He says the company is planning to demolish the homes it buys and create about a hundred acres of green space next to its refinery.

“You know, I think if you asked anybody in industry, or if you asked anybody that lives next to industry, they’d say yeah, that’s a good thing to have, to have the green space.”

He says the program is voluntary and no one will be forced to move.

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Detroit
7:39 am
Thu November 17, 2011

Mayor Bing: City government is broken

Bernt Rostad Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing addressed his city’s dire financial straits last night in a televised speech in which he said, “simply put, our city is in a financial crisis and city government is broken.”

“To avoid running out of money by spring, Bing says the city needs to do a whole range of things almost at once. They include increased health care and pension contributions for everyone, including retirees; and 10-percent wage cuts rather than furlough days for current employees. Bing says that needs to include the city’s public safety officers. Those departments eat up about 60% of Detroit’s budget. He adds the city needs to privatize some services—including public lighting, and to some extent its dysfunctional bus system,” Sarah Cwiek reports.

Cwiek was at the mayor’s address and says, “many think it’s only a matter of time before Detroit gets an emergency manager—and some, including Detroit City Council members, think the lack of specifics and deadlines in Bing’s speech made that even more likely.”

This morning, The Detroit Free Press had headlines that included an editorial titled, "Not good enough, Mr. Mayor," and a column by Stephen Henderson, "Numbers don't add up anywhere near city's needs."

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Politics
6:14 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing: I don't want emergency manager

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is addressing residents tonight about the city's financial troubles. And he answered one looming question right off the bat:

“Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I don’t want an emergency manager making decisions for my city,” Bing said.

He said his administration has eliminated 2,000 positions since he took office, but more needs to be done to keep the city out of receivership.

“I refuse to sugar-coat the situation or kick the can down the road, expecting someone else to fix our problems,” the mayor said.

Bing also said he won't allow the city's police and fire departments to be gutted. "I will not allow criminals free reign over our city," Bing said - but in the next breath added that officers and firefighters need to accept the same 10 percent pay cut other city employees have had to swallow.

Here's a link to the report the mayor's office commissioned that shows the city could run out of cash by spring.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will have more details on Bing's speech tomorrow on Morning Edition.

Read more
Politics
12:10 pm
Wed November 16, 2011

Mayor to speak about Detroit's bleak finances

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will talk about the city's finances tonight at 6 p.m.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is planning to discuss the city's fiscal crisis and problems with its transportation and lighting systems.

The address to residents is scheduled for Wednesday evening at the Northwest Activities Center.

Bing recently said Detroit's continued financial struggles may require the intervention of an emergency financial manager and he would consider filling that role if asked by the governor. He's said the city faces a $150 million "cash shortage" by the end of the first quarter of 2012.

The mayor said in April that Detroit faced a possible state takeover if the city couldn't make improvements to its finances. A state law passed in March gives state-appointed financial managers more power when fixing the finances of municipalities and school districts.

Offbeat
1:59 pm
Tue November 15, 2011

I94 in Detroit is one of the most congested roads in America

A four-mile section of I-94 in Detroit is among the most congested highways in the nation. That’s according to a new report from Texas A & M University.   

Bill Eisele is a research engineer with the Texas Transportation Institute. He says the organization identified 328 choke points in the nation’s urban roadway system. Eisele says the stretch of I-94 in Detroit is a good example of where heavy commuting use often collides with special events downtown.   

“So if Justin Verlander’s on the mound…we’re probably picking that up…that extra traffic downtown…we’re picking up any construction…work zones…all of those things…that occur throughout the year," says Eisele.  

Eisele says encouraging downtown workers to telecommute or shift their schedules is one way to reduce traffic congestion along I-94 in Detroit.  

Michigan had only one roadway on the list.

89 of the 328 congested roadways are in California.

Detroit
7:58 am
Tue November 15, 2011

Report: Detroit to run out of money by April

Detroit city skyline
Ifmuth Flickr

Detroit will run out of money in the first half of next year unless the city cuts its budget, the Detroit Free Press is reporting. From the Freep:

A closely guarded report on Detroit's finances paints an alarming picture of a city that will run out of cash by April unless officials make immediate, painful reductions that will cut deeply in to public services. The report, obtained by the Free Press, outlines some drastic scenarios that illustrate how steep those cuts must be for the city to stay afloat…

The problems are so severe and immediate, restructuring experts said, that the state may have no choice but to appoint an emergency manager with the authority to gut union contracts, sell assets, restructure the government and end nonessential services.

“The mayor plans to speak Wednesday at 6 p.m.,” about the city’s financial situation, the Associated Press reports. As the AP notes, “It's possible that Detroit's poor health could lead to the appointment of an emergency manager with sweeping authority to make changes.”

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Detroit
11:51 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Fire at the old Packard Plant in Detroit

Some of the remains of the old Packard Motor Car Company in Detroit. Firefighters say they respond to fires at the plant monthly.
Becky Stern Flickr

A fire has been burning since at least 6:45 a.m. this morning in the old Packard Plant in Detroit.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

The fire was still burning at about 11 a.m., one of numerous blazes that firefighters respond to monthly at the plant, he said.

"When they’re over there with 30 (firefighters), that leaves holes in the city," Varnas said. "That’s why we have to stop these fires."

Arson Capt. Patrick McNulty said firefighters are only allowed to spray the blaze from outside the ruins of the old plant.

"There's standing orders not to go in there," McNulty said. "Too dangerous for the firefighters."

Tourism
10:32 am
Mon November 14, 2011

Cruise ships to ply waters of the Great Lakes

Two cruise ships are getting ready to travel the Great Lakes starting next year. The Yorktown, a new vessel, is scheduled for 13 stops in Detroit. The Grand Mariner will have one stop.

Officials credit Detroit's new Public Dock and Terminal with generating at least some of the interest. The new terminal opened last July. The 14 planned stops are up from two stops by cruise ships this year.

*Correction - A previous version of this story stated that "roughly two-dozen cruise ships are getting ready to travel the Great Lakes starting next year." An official from the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority says just two ships will be making more than a dozen stops at the Public Dock and Terminal. The copy has been corrected above.

Religion
10:27 pm
Sat November 12, 2011

Thousands answer "The Call" in Detroit

A banner outside TheCall: Detroit at Ford Field.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

A 24-hour mass prayer session in Detroit wrapped up Saturday evening. The event drew thousands of people—and a handful of protesters--to Ford Field.

TheCall, a controversial, Kansas City-based Christian group, organized the prayer marathon, called "TheCall: Detroit."

They chose Detroit because, in their words, the city “has become a microcosm of our national crisis,” whose “desperation can produce a prayer that will change the nation.”

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Veterans
11:00 am
Sat November 12, 2011

In Detroit, a new community for homeless vets

A housing complex for homeless veterans officially opened its doors in Detroit on Veterans Day.

It will serve as a transitional housing program where veterans can stay for up to two years. It can house as many as 60 people at a time.

Sharon Dade is the director of social services for Volunteers of America, the non-profit group that owns and operates the Detroit shelter.

She says they’ll work with the Veteran’s Administration to serve every qualified person—whether they’ve just returned from conflict, or have struggled for years.

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Changing Gears
12:29 pm
Wed November 9, 2011

Empty Series: In Detroit, it's not squatting … it's blotting (Part 2)

Paula Besheers and her son Paul Browne tried in vain to buy the empty lot right next door.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

We’re looking at the challenges of the region’s empty places this month.

For many people, the most threatening emptiness isn’t a shuttered factory.  It’s the abandoned property next door.  But in Detroit, some residents are using that emptiness to quietly reshape their neighborhoods.

They’re annexing vacant lots around them, buying them when they can or just putting up a fence.

They’re not squatters … they’re blotters.

Read more

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