Detroit

Commentary
10:56 am
Fri November 4, 2011

State of Detroit: Will the city need an emergency manager?

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing made headlines and provoked cries of outrage yesterday with his pronouncement that the city might have to seek an emergency manager -- and, furthermore, that he might be willing to accept the job. Which is to say, that he wants it.

That outraged City Council president Charles Pugh, who posted this on Facebook, using many capital letters:

“The city of Detroit DOES NOT need an emergency manager. I don’t care WHAT Dave Bing says.”

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News Roundup
9:33 am
Thu November 3, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit Mayor Bing says city might need emergency manager

In an interview with the Detroit News, Mayor Bing said the city is facing a coming budget crises, and if it comes down to the city being run by an emergency manager, he'd consider the job.

More from the Detroit News:

Mayor Dave Bing on Wednesday said Detroit is quickly running out of cash and may require the intervention of an emergency manager, a role he is seriously considering if the governor asks.

The mayor, in an interview Wednesday, said he is troubled by a confidential Ernst & Young financial report that shows the city could run out of money by February and the fact that employee unions have not been willing to come to the table to renegotiate their contracts.

Bing said he's "got to have a heart-to-heart" talk with himself because he's already overworked and rarely sees his family, but "tough decisions need to be made."

"I'm giving that serious thought," said Bing, who is more than two years into his first term. "With an emergency manager it gives you, I think, authority and leverage to do some of the things that need to be done.

 Michigan recovery second fastest, but outlook pessimistic  The state is on a path to recovery, but it's not necessarily a rosy path.  The Detroit News reports: 

Michigan's economy is recovering from the recession at the second-fastest pace in the U.S., lifted by reviving carmakers and local manufacturers, according to a new index of state growth.

The home of Motown was topped only by North Dakota, where an oil boom is raising incomes at the nation's quickest rate... [according to] the new Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States Index...

"In a slow recovery like you have today, it doesn't take all that much growth to stand out," said Mark Vitner, an economist who works for Wells Fargo & Co. in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Michigan Radio's Rina Miller took a look at Michigan's seemingly mixed economic messages. She spoke with Bob Tomarelli, an analyst with IHS who said:

"So while they are getting a nice short-term burst that’s adding to payrolls and creating some jobs, or at least bringing some jobs back, it is not expected to keep up at that pace, and in the long run is actually expected to decline."

Anti-bullying measure passes Senate

The Michigan Senate passed an anti-bullying measure yesterday. More from Laura Weber of the Michigan Public Radio Network:

All school districts in Michigan may soon be required to adopt anti-bullying policies to help protect students from ridicule, humiliation and physical threats.

An anti-bullying bill approved by the state Senate would not, however, protect students from bullying done by teachers, school employees or parents.

The measure also does not protect students from cyber-bullying on home computers, nor does it list the traits or characteristics that are protected from bullying— such as gender, race or sexual orientation.

Changing Gears
9:06 am
Wed November 2, 2011

Empty Series: The economic and social cost of emptiness (Part 1)

It's been estimated that 27 percent of the buildings in Detroit are vacant. Some experts say that figure has been improving of late.
Tim Beckett Flickr

This week, Changing Gears kicks off a look at Empty across our region. During November, we’ll be looking at empty buildings, empty property — and how we can fill things up again.

In the first part of our series, I explore the economic and social cost of emptiness.

Things may be better in some neighborhoods, but problems still abound.

The numbers

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Detroit
3:47 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

Judge dismisses Tamara Greene lawsuit

Federal district court judge Gerald Rosen has dismissed a case brought by the family of Tamara Greene against the city of Detroit and former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Greene was killed in a shooting in Detroit back in 2003. Her family sued the city and Kilpatrick for sabotaging Tamara Greene's murder investigation.

There had been rumors that Greene danced at a party at the mayor's residence in 2002. It was never proven that the party happened.

More from the Detroit Free Press:

Schapka, the city lawyer on the case, had urged Rosen to dismiss the lawsuit, saying years of litigation, dozens of sworn depositions, 10,000 pages of Detroit police and fire documents and more than 11 million pages of police computer files dating from Greene’s death failed to substantiate the party rumor or prove that Kilpatrick or others obstructed Greene’s murder probe.

Two federal magistrates waded through 626,638 text messages retrieved from city-issued pagers during the period surrounding the party and Greene’s death, but only 36 had any relevance to the lawsuit and none shed any light on the killing or the murder investigation, the city said.

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What's Working
6:30 am
Mon October 31, 2011

Aging gracefully with the creative arts

Every week on What’s Working, we take a look at people and organizations that are changing lives in Michigan for the better.

The Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation in Detroit has been around for 75 years. People who work at the foundation describe it as a center for creative aging, an opportunity for seniors to learn new ways to creatively express themselves as they grow older.

Christina Shockely, host of Michigan Radio's Morning Edition, spoke with Rachel Jacobsen, the community development coordinator at the foundation.

Jacobsen said that proactive aging allows seniors "to exercise the more creative parts of their minds and bodies in ways that help them age well and also, hopefully, continue to develop into old age."

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Crime
4:09 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Trying to discourage arson this Halloween weekend in Flint and Detroit

Flint firefighters at work
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Officials in Detroit and Flint will turn to volunteers this weekend to help discourage Halloween-related arson fires.   

Dozens of volunteers are expected to patrol their neighborhoods and man police mini-stations during the weekend.   

Tanya Meeks is the Flint Police Department’s community liaison officer.  She says having extra eyes on the street help.    

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Occupy Movement
4:43 am
Fri October 28, 2011

Protesters briefly shut down Ambassador Bridge

Traffic on the Ambassador Bridge was backed up briefly coming into Detroit Thursday evening. That’s because protesters targeting bridge owner Matty Moroun blocked traffic.

The demonstrators included a State Representative, members of the ongoing Occupy Detroit movement, union members and southwest Detroit residents. They’re all angry at Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun—who they say has illegally seized land, ignored court orders, and bought political influence in Lansing and elsewhere.

Detroit resident Maya Williamson said the neighborhood is noisy and polluted because bridge traffic is forced onto residential streets—and she’s tired of it.

“The noise, and the traffic through the school area and through the neighborhoods…it’s horrendous. There’s gotta be a stop put to it, you know. You can’t just trample over citizens for money,"said Williamson.

No protesters were arrested. They left after about an hour, chanting “We’ll be back.”

News Roundup
9:36 am
Wed October 26, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit school cited for overcrowding

Last week, the Detroit News reported on overcrowding in DPS classrooms. They reported on 55 kindergartners in a class at Nolan Elementary School, and that a science course in a DPS high school had 72 students. Now there's news of one school being cited by the city's fire department.

From the Detroit News:

A Detroit public school was cited Tuesday by the Detroit Fire Marshal's Office for overcrowding after a parent complained to fire officials that too many children were in her son's kindergarten class.

Lt. Gerod Funderburg of the Detroit Fire Department said the fire marshal's office issued a citation at Nolan Elementary School, 1150 Lantz.

"They went out today and issued a ticket for overcrowding," Funderburg said.

Detroit home prices on the rebound?

Home prices have been sliding in Detroit prior to the Great Recession, but there are some good signs in Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

Low inventories of homes on the market and increased demand have hoisted metro Detroit home prices by 6.1% since the beginning of the year, according to research by IHS Global Insight.

So are home prices finally on the rebound after five years in decline -- or is this a temporary lull before another big drop during the fall?

Most industry experts don't expect a huge drop, but IHS has forecast another 5% to 10% home price decline nationwide before recovery begins.

An analyst told the Free Press that because Detroit entered the housing slump before the rest of the country, it might recover ahead of the rest of the country as well - especially as the region adds more jobs.

Smashed pumpkins on the morning commute

From the Associated Press:

It was no treat driving on a Detroit-area freeway after a truck dumped a load of pumpkins during the morning commute.

Hundreds of pumpkins were scattered Wednesday across several lanes of traffic on eastbound Interstate 696 in Farmington Hills.

Many of the pumpkins were pulverized as drivers passed through. Video from a traffic camera showed motorists slowly making their way through the pre-Halloween mess.

WWJ-AM reports snow plows later were used to clear what remained of the pumpkins from the roadway.

Michigan State Police Sgt. James Kemp tells the Detroit Free Press that one motorist had a smashed  windshield, but no injuries were reported.

Kemp says police stopped the truck and the driver could be cited for having an unstable load.

Environment
11:08 am
Thu October 20, 2011

Macomb County officials avert drinking water monitoring system shutdown – for now

It looks like a system that monitors drinking water for at least three million people in southeast Michigan will stay online for another year.

The monitoring system gives early alerts if chemical spills are detected—so it keeps contaminants out of the drinking water system.

The system was in danger of shutting down when federal and state dollars ran out. But officials from Macomb and St. Clair counties have each come up with enough money to keep the system going for another year.

But policymakers are still searching for a long-term solution.

Macomb County Commission Chair Kathy Vosburg says a long-term fix will likely mean a small consumer fee.

“Consumers are very willing to pay for that, it comes out to be something like 50 cents to a dollar per household per year.”

But implementing that would take cooperation from the many different cities that send out water bills--and the city of Detroit, which owns and operates the whole drinking water system.

Education
8:55 am
Thu October 20, 2011

Detroit Schools exceeds target student enrollment

Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit Public Schools district has exceeded targeted fall enrollment by 137 students.

The district says in a release that 65,971 Kindergarten through 12th graders have enrolled.

Enrollment figures are based on the number of full-time students in the district at the end of the state's 10-day counting period. They do not include 3,000 students in pre-Kindergarten programs and about 4,000 in district-authorized charter schools.

Detroit officials expect the enrollment number to increase during a remaining 20-day period allowed for counting students absent, but excused on Count Day.

Detroit had been losing students at a rapid pace, plummeting from 104,000 in 2007.

The district ended last school year with about 74,000 students. Officials say the drop over the summer has been the smallest "real-number and percentage" decline since 2006.

Politics
4:38 pm
Wed October 19, 2011

First vote on new international bridge could come Thursday

The Ambassador Bridge
user cseeman flickr

State lawmakers today were supposed to move forward with a proposal to build a new international bridge in Detroit.  Instead, the meeting broke up without a vote.

A meeting of the Senate Economic Development Committee was abruptly adjourned after a new version of the legislation was handed to the committee’s Republican chairman. Senator Mike Kowall said he needed time to review the new legislation, but he expressed annoyance that months of hearings were capped by the last-minute development.

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Changing Gears
7:00 am
Wed October 19, 2011

Can health care be a magic bullet for the Midwest? (Part 3)

The Cleveland Clinic helps set Cleveland apart as a medical city.
Cleveland Clinic

Detroit is the latest metro area vying to become a medical destination. The hope is that its hospital systems can draw patients from outside its region, helping the local economy.

In short, Detroit wants to be more like Cleveland.

But Cleveland could be tough to copy.

Cosgrove comes to Cleveland

In 1975, a young cardiologist arrived in Cleveland.

“I came here in a rented truck with a Vega on the back end because it was too sick to pull,” Toby Cosgrove says.

Jump ahead 36 years and that newbie with a beater of a car is now CEO of the Cleveland Clinic.

Cosgrove presides over a medical empire vastly larger than when he came to town hoping to get better at heart surgery.

“We were about 140-150 doctors. We’ve grown a bit since that time. We’re now about 3,000,” he says.

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Transportation
1:22 pm
Tue October 18, 2011

Details of the $46.7 million in federal transit money coming to Michigan

Detroit's Department of Transportation will get $6 million to replace buses.
Matt Picio Flickr

We reported last week about the federal money coming to the state, and Sarah Hulett reported on more details released yesterday.

In case you missed it, here's how the $46.7 million from Federal Transit Administration’s Alternatives Analysis, Bus Livability, and State of Good Repair grant program is broken up in Michigan:

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Medicare Fraud
2:53 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Medicare yanks licenses in Detroit and other cities, gives them right back

A review conducted by the Associated press found that regulators working to eliminate Medicare fraud (estimated at between $60-90 billion a year) often suspend Medicare provider licenses only to reinstate them in short order following appeals hearings.

More from the Associated Press:

The review also found government officials don't attend the hearings.

Federal prosecutors say the speedy reinstatements are a missed chance to stop taxpayer dollars from going to bogus companies that in many cases wind up under indictment. Prosecutors say some providers have collected tens of thousands of dollars even after conviction.

Officials revoked the licenses of 3,702 medical equipment companies in fraud hot spots in South Florida, Los Angeles, Baton Rouge, La., Houston, Brooklyn, N.Y., and Detroit between 2006 and 2009. About 37 percent were reinstated.

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Arts/Culture
4:43 pm
Mon October 10, 2011

Mobile video booth lets anyone be an arts critic

Art studio
Dani Davis

A new form of “grass roots” arts journalism could soon be in store for Detroit.

Jennifer Conlin lives in Michigan and is one of the finalists in the Community Arts Journalism Challenge, a national competition to get more people engaged with the arts.

Her idea is called iCritic Detroit, and it would allow arts patrons to record their own reviews of an exhibit or event by hopping into a mobile video booth.

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Transportation
2:50 pm
Sun October 9, 2011

16-mile bike lane project connects neighborhoods

A bike lane in the "Big Apple."
user K_Gradinger Flickr

A series of bicycle lanes stretching 16 miles and connecting three neighborhoods in southwest Detroit has been completed. The Greenlink is part of the city's urban master plan for non-motorized transportation and allows bike riders safe access to the three historic neighborhoods.
    

A $500,000 Michigan Department of Transportation grant funded 80 percent of the project. Other grants and fundraisers paid for the other 20 percent.
    

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Politics
9:52 pm
Thu October 6, 2011

'Occupy Wall Street' campaign on the move in Michigan

'Occupy Ann Arbor' organizer Whitney Miller addresses a growing crowd on the University of Michigan Diag
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The “Occupy Wall Street” campaign is starting to pop up in towns and cities across Michigan.  

Last night the campaign came to Ann Arbor.  

A crowd of about a hundred gathered on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor to talk and listen. Many in the crowd have been inspired by the anti-corporate protest that’s been taking place on Wall Street for the past several weeks.  Others were just curious.  

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Detroit
4:30 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

New attack on proposed new Detroit-Windsor bridge

A view of downtown Detroit and the Ambassador Bridge from about a mile downstream, near the proposed site of the new international bridge.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are once again attacking Governor Snyder’s  push to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.  

The company says experts it hired say the proposed bridge would not attract the billions in federal money promised by the governor and would end up costing Michigan taxpayers money.  

Matt Moroun is the vice chair of the Ambassador Bridge company.   He says "building a new bridge to Canada will not garner any more federal funds for highways in Michigan…then what Michigan gets ordinarily from the feds every year.”  

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Politics
4:27 pm
Mon October 3, 2011

Detroit braces for impact of welfare cap

People looking for help with rent, utilities and other monthly bills crowded a resource fair Union Grace Baptist Church in Detroit over the weekend.

Many of them faced their first month without cash assistance from the state. A four-year welfare benefit cap kicks in this month.

One such person is Tamika Thomas. She says she’s been getting assistance on-and-off for four years, using it to pay the bills while she goes to school.

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Weekend Edition Sunday
11:25 am
Sun October 2, 2011

'The Gift Of Detroit': Tilling urban terrain

Greg Willerer (right) has a business that provides produce to 27 families through his community supported agriculture co-op in Detroit.
Jon Kalish

Originally published on Sun October 2, 2011 4:58 am

Detroit is a surprisingly green landscape during the spring and summer months. The site of many houses that are crumbling, boarded up or missing altogether is tempered by community gardens and even some urban farms.

There are some serious urban gardeners in this country, but few can match the agricultural output of Paul Weertz.

"I farm about 10 acres in the city, and alfalfa's my thing. I bale about a thousand bales a year," he says.

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