Detroit

Economy
6:00 am
Tue September 6, 2011

Cash incentives have "absorbed" a lot of housing stock in midtown Detroit

Detroit skyline
user Bernt Rostad Flickr

Three Detroit businesses earlier this year began to offer up to $25,000 to encourage their employees to buy a place to live in Midtown Detroit. But the "Live Midtown" incentives have created a new kind of housing crisis in the city: a housing shortage. 

Austin Black is a realtor with City Living Detroit in midtown. He says in 2007 - 2008, the area was flush with unsold units. But he says now many of his clients have become frustrated looking for housing in the area.

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Education
4:00 pm
Mon September 5, 2011

U.S. Sec of Education Duncan to visit Detroit on Thursday

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will make an appearance in Detroit this week, just days after a visit from President Obama. It's part of a three-day “Education and the Economy” tour Secretary Duncan is taking through the Midwest.

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Presidential Visit
6:43 am
Mon September 5, 2011

Obama travels to Detroit today

The U.S. Army Flickr

President Obama travels to Detroit today to attend Detroit's annual Labor Day parade. He'll address thousands of labor union members about his ideas to create jobs and help grow the economy, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

Obama's speech at a rally sponsored by the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO may serve as a dry run for the jobs speech he'll deliver before a joint session of Congress Thursday night...In the speech to Congress, Obama is expected to outline a mix of tax credits and public works spending and press lawmakers to act quickly on the proposals.

Michigan Radio's Detroit reporter Sarah Cwiek will be at the President's speech. As she notes:

The President is looking to shore up support among organized labor, a key part of his base...

Speaking in the shadow of General Motors headquarters, it's likely the President will tout his administration's role in reviving the American auto industry. Publicly, Michigan's union leaders have generally praised Mr. Obama for rescuing U.S. automakers.

But, there are signs the President's support among union members has eroded, especially as unemployment remains high, and collective bargaining rights for public employees are under attack in many states.

This will be the President's second visit to Michigan in the past month. Mr. Obama toured an advanced battery plant in Holland in August.

Arts/Culture
3:00 pm
Sun September 4, 2011

"Arc of Justice" chosen for statewide reading program

User ppdigital MorgueFile

High school students from Detroit to Marquette will be participating in this year’s Great Michigan Read, a free, statewide book club put on by the Michigan Humanities Council.

This year’s book is "Arc of Justice" by Kevin Boyle. It’s a true story about an African American physician in the 1920s that moves to an all-white neighborhood in Detroit and defends his family’s right to live there.

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Politics
6:28 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

Detroit plans clean up, development for former Uniroyal site

by nailhed for Panoramio/Google

Detroit officials have announced a $20 million effort to clean up one of the city’s most notorious pieces of vacant land.

They say it's only phase 1 of a plan to clean up the site on Detroit’s east riverfront that once housed a Uniroyal tire factory, and other heavy industry that contaminated the land.

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Detroit
1:32 pm
Fri September 2, 2011

Ex-NFL star Bettis: Detroit project back on track

DETROIT (AP) - A plan by former NFL star Jerome Bettis to build high-end condos and retail on a 43-acre industrial site along Detroit's riverfront is moving forward with the start of soil cleanup.

Bettis and Mayor Dave Bing announced Friday that companies that once operated on the site are removing contaminated soil, which stalled redevelopment plans.

The $20 million first-phase cleanup of a third of the site is expected to take 18 months. Negotiations continue for the remaining cleanup of ammonia, iron, and coal byproducts.

Bettis says he and his partner are the site's developers. He says his project is seven years in the making and is expected to help revitalize Detroit's riverfront.

Bettis starred at Detroit's Mackenzie High School, and played professionally for the Rams and the Steelers.

Crime
10:55 am
Fri September 2, 2011

Court overturns conviction in 2000 Detroit slaying

DETROIT (AP) - Ten years later, a federal appeals court has overturned a murder conviction in Wayne County because jurors weren't told that the gunman had a history of mental illness.

The court on Friday says Reginald Walker's trial lawyer was ineffective. The court ordered Walker's release from a life sentence unless he's brought to trial again within six months.

There is no dispute that Walker fatally shot a man inside a Detroit liquor store in 2000 and then walked out. The victim was a complete stranger.

The 57-year-old Walker has a history of mental illness, but his defense was based on self-defense. The appeals court says the 2001 trial strategy was greatly contradicted by "every piece" of evidence. The court's decision was 2-1.

Crime
2:10 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

"Operation Hot Wheels" uncovers vehicle theft ring

Arrests have been made in Detroit and San Diego after a vehicle theft ring was uncovered.

From the Associated Press:

More than a dozen people have been arrested in the theft and transporting of luxury rental cars and sport utility vehicles from the United States to Canada for shipment and sale in the Middle East.

The U.S. attorney's office in Detroit says nine people were arrested in Michigan and four others in San Diego following a two-year investigation dubbed "Operation Hot Wheels."

An indictment unsealed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Detroit says members of an organization rented vehicles from national chains in Michigan and Ohio and drove them into Canada.

Police reports later were filed claiming the vehicles were carjacked or stolen in Detroit.

Five vehicles were found in containers at a Montreal port awaiting shipment to Iraq.

One man still was being sought by authorities.

Politics
1:32 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Court refuses to hear Kilpatrick's book case

We hear this from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

The Michigan Court of Appeals has refused to hear the case of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is trying to shield book sale earnings from being seized as part of his restitution to the city.

Wayne County Judge David Groner established an escrow account to capture any profits from Kilpatrick's memoir, "Surrendered! The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick."

The set-aside money will go toward paying the city of Detroit's $860,000 restitution tab. And as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported, the money will also go toward a bill of a little more than $15,000 from the state of Michigan to pay for Kilpatrick's prison time.

Housing
1:00 pm
Tue August 30, 2011

Home prices up slightly nationally, but still down in Detroit

A graph showing the annual percent change in home prices from 1998 through the middle of 2011. See the bubble bursting?
S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices

Data released today by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices show that through June, home prices nationally were back to their early 2003 levels.

But home prices in Detroit were at pre-2000 levels. The Detroit market was down 6.6 percent when compared to the previous year.

That put's Detroit in a bad category along with some "sunbelt" cities, according to S&P/Case-Shiller:

At the other extreme, those which set new lows in 2011 include the four Sunbelt cities – Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix and Tampa – as well as the weakest of all, Detroit. These shifts suggest that we are back to regional housing markets, rather than a national housing market where everything rose and fell together.

The Detroit Free Press quoted a statement from Patrick Newport, a U.S. economist with IHS Global Insight:

"Detroit, where prices have dropped nearly 50% since peaking in late 2005, remains, by far, the weakest market,” he said. “Detroit avoided a big run-up in housing prices during the boom years, but was hit hard by the recession."

Politics
6:47 pm
Mon August 29, 2011

Charges dismissed against Detroit mother involved in police standoff over daughter

Maryanne Godboldo
Justice for Maryanne Godboldo website www.justice4maryanne.com

A Judge has dismissed all criminal charges against a Detroit mother accused of firing at police when they came to remove her 13-year-old daughter.

District Court Judge Ronald Giles ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude Godboldo fired at police…during a ten-hour standoff in March.

Giles also ruled the order to remove the child was invalid.

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Politics
1:01 am
Fri August 26, 2011

Is Gov. Snyder's new political action committee tied to bridge campaign?

The view of downtown Detroit and the Ambassador Bridge from the approximate crossing location of the proposed new international bridge.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

UPDATE:   9:00am

A Governor's office spokeswoman denies that the purpose of the One Tough Nerd PAC is tied to the bridge fight.

ORIGINAL Post: 1:00am

Governor Snyder is apparently adding another weapon in his fight for a new international bridge in Detroit.  The new weapon is money for political campaign donations.  

Rich Robinson is the director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. Robinson says Governor Snyder probably formed his new political action committee, One Tough Nerd, at least in part to battle for a new international bridge connecting Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. 

The owners of Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge have spent millions of dollars to kill support for the bridge. Robinson says that includes about $600,000 in political campaign donations. Robinson says if he wants the bridge, the governor is going to have to use PAC money.

"Unfortunately, policy is kind of the semi-controlled game of bribery…that’s just the game’s that’s there.”

The governor predicts the legislature will give its approval for a new international bridge project this fall.

 

 

Arts/Culture
2:49 pm
Thu August 25, 2011

"Pillar of Motown" Esther Gordy Edwards dies at 91

Esther Gordy Edwards Donating Motown Collection with Eastern Michigan University President Harold E. Sponberg and Larry Head of the Alumni Department
Eastern Michigan University Archives

Update 2:49 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett spoke with Motown Museum CEO Audley Smith.

Smith said Edwards was instrumental in starting Motown. From Hulett's report:

Edwards served as the label’s vice president, its corporate secretary, and its director of international operations.

But Motown Museum CEO Audley Smith says even before that, she established a "savings club" for her family’s entrepreneurial pursuits.

"And that fund was where Berry Gordy got the first $800 to start his record company," said Smith.

Smith also said that Edwards was a mother figure to many of the Motown artists who became stars.

"She felt that by sharing her love and her wisdom and her guidance and her time and her resources and her tough love, that she could make a difference in the lives of young people," said Smith.

Hulett reports that Edwards stayed in Detroit after her brother moved the Motown label to Los Angeles in the early 1970s. She started the Motown Museum in 1985, which sees 60,000 visitors a year.

1:05 p.m.

Esther Gordy Edwards, the elder sister of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr., died last night at the age of 91.

From the Associated Press.

The Motown Museum made the announcement Thursday. The museum, which Edwards founded, says she died Wednesday night in Detroit surrounded by family and friends. Edwards was a Motown executive for nearly three decades.

She served as senior vice president, corporate secretary and director of Motown International Operations, where she was charged with exposing the famed "Motown sound" to international
audiences.

Berry Gordy Jr. released a statement today saying his sister was "was the most educated in our family and was the go-to person for wisdom in business." Berry Gordy Jr. praised her for preserving Motown's history after he sold the company 1988:

Esther turned the so-called trash left behind after I sold the company in 1988 into a phenomenal world-class monument where Hitsville started—The Motown Museum.She preserved Motown memorabilia before it was memorabilia, collecting our history long before we knew we were making it. She nurtured and held it together through the years, protecting the Motown legacy for generations to come—which is only one of the reasons people all over the world will remember and celebrate Esther Gordy Edwards. Despite my sorrow, I will proudly continue to honor and celebrate her. She will always be my big sister and she will forever live in my heart.

Billboard Magazine writes that this is the second loss Motown has suffered this week "following the death Tuesday of legendary Ashford & Simpson songwriter, Nick Ashford."

The Detroit African American History project writes that Esther Gordy Edwards was born in Oconee, Georgia and moved to Detroit as a child. She's a graduate of Cass Technical High School and attended Howard University and the University of Michigan. She was married to former Michigan State Representative George Edwards.

Energy
10:56 am
Thu August 25, 2011

Fire at Marathon oil refinery in Detroit contained

The Marathon oil refinery in southwest Detroit had a small fire this morning.
user braun Flickr

There was a fire this morning at a Marathon oil refinery in southwest Detroit. The Associated Press reports the fire was contained by the company.

Authorities say a fire at Marathon's southwest Detroit oil refinery has been contained by the company's on-site crews.

Some evacuations of contractors were reported following the Thursday morning fire, but people were returning to work.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Marathon officials gave the Detroit Fire Department a "courtesy call" at 8 a.m. this morning:

Smears of dark smoke could be seen from Detroit’s east side.

No Detroit firefighters or equipment were dispatched.

Marathon officials declined to release details of the fire, but said contractors working in the area left the scene but are now returning. No injuries were reported.

Economy
4:09 pm
Wed August 24, 2011

Detroit might close six libraries

The Richard Branch of the Detroit Public Library system. It's one of six being proposed for closure.
Detroit Public Libraries

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported last February, "libraries face a tough paradox.  People tend to use them more when the economy is bad. But a bad economy also means they get fewer resources to work with."

Cwiek was reporting on the Detroit public library system which at the time was facing a $17 million budget shortfall.

This past spring, the city proposed closing 18 libraries, but then backed away from that proposal.

Staffing cuts were made, and now, according to the Detroit News, the city is proposing to close six of its 23 libraries because the "layoffs of about 40 staffers in spring hurt service and forced some branches to temporarily close on some days."

The News visited one library slated for closure and talked to people there:

Erin Carter...searches for jobs using computers at the Chase branch in northwest Detroit that is recommended for closure.

"There is so much stuff closing down," said Carter, 22. "I don't know where to go."

The small library at Seven Mile and Southfield Freeway was packed Tuesday afternoon and every computer was in use. Fifteen-year-old Brandon Thomas and his neighbor, 12-year-old Kalan Lewis, rode their bikes to the library for the first time Wednesday to pick up some books and look for the Civil War movie, "Glory."

"They shouldn't close it," Kalan said. "It's for kids. We need to be able to learn what we don't learn in school."

The libraries on the list for potential closure:

Presidential Visit
12:41 pm
Mon August 22, 2011

President Obama to visit Detroit on Labor Day

The U.S Army Flickr

President Obama will travel to Detroit on September 5th to speak at the city's annual Labor Day festivities, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The White House says Obama will speak at a Labor Day event sponsored by the Metro Detroit Central Labor Council... Obama has touted his administration's work to rescue General Motors and Chrysler, which are both headquartered in the Detroit area.

President Obama was in Michigan earlier this month, when he toured an advanced battery manufacturing plant in Holland.

Your Story
10:43 am
Mon August 22, 2011

Preserving Jewish community in Detroit

Joshua Goldberg and some of the Backstage Pass MI cohort.
courtesy of Backstage Pass MI

Detroit’s shrinking population is well-documented, as are the many incentives offered to people to move back into the city center. These efforts are a mix of hyping what Detroit can become and offering economic incentives for those willing to give it a try. A group of Jewish organizations in Metro Detroit has been using the same formula to keep young Jewish people from leaving the area.

The Jewish population in Michigan is less than 1 percent, according to the U.S Census. The overwhelming majority of those 87,000 people live in Metro Detroit, in an area east of M5 and north of Interstate 696, according to Joshua Goldberg of the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit. But the area’s Jewish population has been falling steadily for at least the last few decades. Mirroring a trend in the state overall, in the Jewish community the young people are leading the march out of state.

Arthur Siegal wants to reverse this. The 50-year-old attorney and Wayne State graduate conceived of the Back Stage Pass MI program. The four-year program started last year selects promising Jewish high school students before their junior year and culminates in a Detroit internship placement after the student’s sophomore year of college. Along the way, the program takes its cohort of around 20 students a year to cultural and social events designed to show Detroit at its best.

“These young people are really wanted in this community, they are going to be sought after here,” says Siegal. “There are amazing opportunities for people who stay. Land is cheap, labor is cheap, and the opportunities to do your own thing and make your own mark are unparalleled. ”

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Arts/Culture
4:00 pm
Sun August 21, 2011

Detroit Institute of Arts uses restricted funds to cover operating costs

The famous Rivera Court inside the Detroit Institute of Arts
Photo Courtesy of the D.I.A.

The Detroit Institute of Arts is struggling to raise money in this tough economy. It doesn’t help that Detroit is still reeling from the recession, and a quarter of its tax base, which helps fund the museum, has fled the city over the past decade.

To help relieve a little pressure, DIA director Graham Beal asked permission to take money from funds dedicated solely to acquisitions, and temporarily use it to cover operating costs. In his monthly newsletter, Beal explained it like this:

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Detroit
3:41 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Detroit Water and Sewerage says customers can ignore erroneous shut-off notices

jordanmrcai Creative Commons

A computer glitch at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department led to some customers receiving shut-off notices.

DWSD officials say customers who received the notices "with an address that isn’t theirs" can disregard them.

In a news release, DWSD Public Affairs Manager Mary Sevakis said “We received numerous customer complaints about the notices, and we determined that they referred to one address and one account that had an overdue balance. Customers who received those notices had no connection to that account, and they don’t have to worry about their water being shut off."

The DWSD says shut-off notices have been stopped until the software problem is fixed.

Politics
1:07 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Kwame Kilpatrick is out of prison and talking with the media

Kwame Kilpatrick is talking. Kilpatrick's appearance on the Tom Joyner Morning Show.
screenshot from video on blackamericaweb.com

The New York Times Magazine published a Q & A with former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick online today.

Adam Goldman asked Kilpatrick about his time in jail, his relationship with Christine Beatty, lying under oath, and more.

Kilpatrick told Goldman that lying under other was "the only illegal thing I've ever done in my life" and that the federal government's bribery and racketeering charges are false:

All of it is absolutely untrue. I’ve never accepted a bribe. I’ve never got a kickback. I’ve never steered a contract. It’s all ridiculous. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Goldman asked Kilpatrick about suggestions that he was brought down by a conspiracy. Kilpatrick said he never called it a conspiracy, but that investigations are "always ongoing" in politics to undermine others:

As the leader of the Democrats in the Statehouse, I ran campaigns all over the state, and we did opposition research. We looked into people’s finances. There’s constantly investigations, private eyes. Right now there are people conspiring to make sure that Barack Obama doesn’t win next time.

Kilpatrick told Goldman that he thought he would win if he ran for Mayor again, but said "it wouldn’t be the best thing for the people there."

Goldman said he was "amazed" that Kilpatrick was brought down by text messages from 2002 and 2003 - a time when people weren't texting all that much. Kilpatrick suggested he texted so the FBI couldn't record his phone calls:

The F.B.I. investigated Mayor Coleman Young, and they had all of these tapes of his phone calls. So, my thing was: “Hey, I’m doing this new texting thing. They can’t listen to this.” But now they can print it out and read it for all eternity.

Kilpatrick also appeared on the Tom Joyner Morning Show saying he lost 50 pounds in prison from working out and avoiding the bad food.

On the show, Kilpatrick said that the pending federal corruption case against him grew out of the political climate surrounding him after he lied under oath about the text messaging scandal. After that case, Kilpatrick said "all kinds of rumors" started with many people labeling him as Detroit's "Hip Hop Mayor."

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