Detroit

Politics
12:57 pm
Wed July 6, 2011

Ex-Detroit mayor's book covers affair, legal saga

From the website kwamekilpatrickbook.com. Kilpatrick says he's ready to "talk about everything."
kwamekilpatrickbook.com

DETROIT (AP) - Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick takes responsibility in his upcoming book for an affair with an aide and lies told during a civil trial that sent him from leading one of America's largest cities to a prison cell. But he also blames others for his downfall.

The former politician bills "Surrendered! The Rise, Fall and Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick" as his side of the tale. He claims in the book that when it was clear criminal charges tied to a sex scandal would not go away, his political allies and adversaries, some Detroit business leaders and an aggressive media formed an unspoken alliance. He says they worked to "get rid" of him.

The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of the book. Its release date is Aug. 1.

Arts/Culture
10:32 am
Mon July 4, 2011

Detroit artists win big

2011 Kresge artist fellows
Kresge Foundation

Twelve fellowships have been awarded to Detroit area visual artists. Each Kresge Artist Fellowship is worth $25,000 and has a “no strings attached” policy. 

Visual artist Liz Cohen was one of the winners.

“Oh I mean it’s an honor, it’s a great organization and a great grant and an opportunity to become closer to a lot of the other artists in the city.”

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Auto/Economy
4:30 pm
Fri July 1, 2011

New microlending website helps Detroit's small biz owners

Kiva Detroit helps connect small business owners in the city with potential lenders
user penywise morgueFile

Several Detroit non-profits want to help potential small business owners get some much needed capital.

They’ve launched a microlending website called Kiva Detroit, an extension of the California-based Kiva.org. Small business owners post their idea online and anyone can give a loan for as little as $25. The site went live this Wednesday.

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Politics
12:52 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Detroit City Council approves budget, Bing says layoffs "a reality"

The Detroit City Council has approved a budget deal that promises to avert drastic cuts to police and fire, recreation and bus service.

The council voted to restore $25 million of the $50 million it cut from Mayor Dave Bing’s budget.

Bing says the vote is good news. But he says tough things are still in the city’s future.

Layoffs will be a reality, there’s no way around that, and with those layoffs there’s obviously going to be some service problems. So we’ve got to get better at servicing the citizens that are here, as well as the businesses that are here.

Two council members voted against the deal. They say they’re not convinced the mayor’s revenue projections will hold. And they say if they don’t, the budget will have to be revisited.

The new fiscal year starts tomorrow.

Politics
10:40 am
Thu June 30, 2011

Detroit City Council to vote on budget deal today

The Spirit of Detroit sculpture outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.
user farlane Flickr

The Detroit City Council is set to vote this hour on a budget deal that splits the difference between Mayor Dave Bing’s proposal and the council’s steeper cuts.

After breaking off negotiations with the city council earlier this week, Mayor Bing presented a compromise budget today. And it appears the votes are there to pass it.

The two sides have been at odds over how much money to cut from next year’s budget. The city council has been more hawkish – approving $50 million in cuts on top of what Bing proposed.

The newest plan would restore half that. Officials with the Bing administration say that should be enough to avert police and fire layoffs, parks closures, and bus service cuts.

Auto/Economy
4:01 pm
Wed June 29, 2011

Dozens of cities could contest 2010 census

Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Detroit is among a group of dozens of cities that could challenge 2010 census numbers according to the Associated Press.

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Crisis In The Housing Market
1:39 pm
Wed June 29, 2011

Experts: Housing price rise isn't a trend, especially in metropolitan areas

Originally published on Tue June 28, 2011 11:54 am

Realtors are hoping an uptick in home prices reported on Tuesday is the beginning of a turnaround, but industry experts say it's too soon to tell if the improvement is anything other than a seasonal blip.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index reported that prices in April rose in 13 of the 20 cities tracked. Washington, D.C., saw the biggest price increases, followed by San Francisco, Atlanta and Seattle.

The index, which covers metro areas that include about 50 percent of U.S. households, rose 0.7 percent, the first increase since July 2010.

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News Roundup
10:35 am
Mon June 27, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Unions in Detroit fight call for concessions

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has said an emergency manager takeover of Detroit is inevitable if unions in the city don't agree to concessions in their contracts. Union leaders say they won't agree to deep concessions.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Labor unions are resolved to call Mayor Dave Bing's bluff of an imminent state takeover of Detroit's finances if employees don't agree to deep concessions, setting the stage for a risky and potentially decisive showdown.

Despite Bing's warning that an emergency manager could wipe out employee contracts unilaterally and cut wages and benefits severely without worker approval, leaders of the city's largest unions told the Free Press they won't open their contracts to save the city $121 million annually in health care and pension costs.

Jesse Jackson calling for repeal of emergency manager law

Calling Michigan's emergency manager law "fundamentally unconstitutional" the Rev. Jesse Jackson is advocating for its repeal.

Jackson spoke at Pontiac City Hall yesterday, a city under the control of an emergency  manager, Michael Stampfler.

From the Oakland Press.

“Pontiac is just a piece of a bigger puzzle,” he told a crowd of more than 100 people at City Hall during a press conference held Sunday.

“My friend, this is not just black and white. This is about wrong and right.”

The Press reports that the group Michigan Forward is attempting to get enough signatures to put a referendum against the emergency manager law on November's ballot.

Bumper apple crop expected in Michigan

Despite the wild spring weather, apple growers are expected to have a good crop this year.

From the Holland Sentinel

The Michigan Apple Committee is estimating the state’s apple crop this year will be about 28 percent more than average.

“We have a 25 million bushel estimate,” Executive Director of the Michigan Apple Committee Denise Donohue said.

And West Michigan growers are echoing the same estimate.

Education
5:17 pm
Thu June 23, 2011

A conversation with Former State School Superintendent Tom Watkins (audio)

flickr / iboy_daniel

Governor Rick Snyder outlined a plan to try to turn around the lowest performing schools in the state.

The Education Achievement System would start in the 2012-2013 school year with the lowest performing schools in the Detroit Public School System and would eventually spread out to underperforming schools across the state.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer White spoke with Tom Watkins, Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction about the potential pitfalls and benefits of the EAS plan. Watkins  is currently a business and educational consultant in the US and China.

You can hear the interview here:

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Arts/Culture
11:27 am
Thu June 23, 2011

Your Story: Detroit and its "wise people"

Detroit resident Mohammed Farad at his high school graduation.

Changing Gears is wrapping up its first week as part of the Public Insight Network. Through PIN, everyone can sign up to become a source for our coverage. It’s kind of like a citizen news wire.

To put your personal experiences in the spotlight, we’re introducing a new daily feature called Your Story. We’re letting you tell how Midwest’s economic transformation is changing your life.

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Auto/Economy
4:45 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

What’s the worst thing about Detroit? Your answers

Kira Plotivrnkov

All week, we’ve been covering Detroit’s attempts to improve its image. We heard about plenty of things to celebrate, but Detroit also has plenty of real problems, ranging from its struggling education system to a huge loss of residents over the last decade.

Along with the city’s positive aspects, we also asked you to tell us: what’s the worst thing about Detroit? Here is a sample of your answers.

Hate. From racism to road rage, it is not a friendly place.- Carly Van Thomme, Guadalajara, Mexico

The legacy of Kwame Kilpatrick and Henry Ford. Drive, drive, drive everywhere. -Karen Dunnan, Grand Rapids, MI

That we do not promote the diversity of the people in Detroit and surrounding suburbs as we should. It’s the people that make any city. -Gordon Alexander, Detroit, MI

Suffocating overt and covert racism that serves as a shorthand for much more complex and difficult problems. -Brian Bowe, Saugatauk, MI

The lack of public transportation and urban living necessities to keep people in the city. -Dan Baker, Lancaster, PA

Excessively numbered and large freeways that ruin the continuity of neighborhoods and contribute to a sense of isolation in many cases. – Elizabeth Luther, Detroit, MI

Unfortunately, crime. -Joel Arnold, Flint

How empty it feels.  There is nothing worse than coming home to find the lights off and the family dispersed. -Jeffrey Jablansky, New Rochelle, NY

Lack of city-dwelling yuppies, you need them for economic purposes.- Matt B., Boston, MA

People who have never been there trashing the place. -Todd Doros, Durham, NC

You can still answer our questions here.

Tomorrow, check back to read peoples’ vision for the Detroit of 2020.

Arts/Culture
4:15 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Describe Detroit in One Sentence: Your Answers

People submitted photos with their thoughts on whether Detroit's image is improving.
Brian Stoeckel

When we asked, “Is Detroit cool again?” we wanted to know whether Detroit’s image is changing.

Our inspiration is Mayor Dave Bing’s Transform Detroit, a event that is showing examples of Detroit’s revitalization to about 50 reporters. Despite the positive picture the city is trying to present, we know not everyone believes the city is on its way back.

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Education
3:00 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Eastern Michigan University to oversee lowest performing schools in Michigan

Eastern Michigan University has been picked to oversee the lowest performing schools in the state.

The “Education Achievement System” will assist the lowest 5 percent of performing schools in Michigan. The new statewide school district will start in Detroit and eventually expand across the state. 

Jeoff Larcom is with EMU. He says Governor Snyder chose EMU because of its strong education program and proximity to Detroit.

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Politics
12:51 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Bing Campaigns to Brighten Detroit's Image

People all over the country are submitting thoughts and photos of Detroit's image and challenges.
Submitted by Howard Duffy

About 50 reporters arrived in Detroit on Monday for a three day conference Mayor Dave Bing is calling "Transform Detroit." Bing said this morning, via Twitter, that Transform Detroit "is a media briefing that connects reporters with community leaders and positive happenings throughout the city."

He also tweeted that he hoped he would get some reporters to tell "GOOD stories" after the conference.
The city is trying to put its best foot forward.

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Education
4:01 pm
Mon June 20, 2011

Michigan takes drastic approach to fix failing schools

Governor Snyder wants to reform Michigan public schools, starting in Detroit.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

Michigan will try a drastic new approach to fix its failing public schools.

The state will put what it designates as “persistently low-performing schools” in a special, statewide school district.

The effort will start in Detroit. The city’s public school system has gained national notoriety for its rock-bottom test scores, and is already run by a state-appointed emergency manager.

That manager will jumpstart the effort to put some Detroit schools in what the state is calling an “Educational Achievement System” starting in the fall of 2012.

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Politics
4:45 pm
Fri June 17, 2011

Redistricting in Michigan: new political maps from the Michigan Legislature

The 15 Michigan U.S. House districts as they exist today.

Update: 4:45 p.m.

The Michigan Senate Republicans weigh in to defend their redistricting plan for the Michigan legislature. Amber McCann is the press secretary. She says:

"We're seeing the population density that was once more concentrated in southeast Michigan is moving broader across the state. I think Michigan has been thought of traditionally as a one-city state. I think we're seeing that is no longer the case."

McCann says the Legislature's GOP leaders would like to have the new district maps adopted and sent to Gov. Rick Snyder before July 1st. That's the beginning of the Legislature's summer break. State Rep. Barb Byrum (D-67th) says that time frame is too fast.

Update 3:37 p.m.

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-12th) held a news conference today at 3:00 p.m. He said the proposed changes are unfair and hopes they will be challenged in court:

There are so many problems with these maps, they’re so unfair, outrageous that I trust it will be challenged in court.

He said:

Voters should be able to choose their members of Congress and what this map does is allow incumbent Republicans to choose their voters, and so I think it’s exactly backwards.

 

Update 2:47 p.m.

Two U.S. Representatives from Michigan, Sander Levin (D-12th) and Gary Peters (D-9th), say the Michigan House Republicans gerrymandered their districts.

Michigan House Republicans released their proposed map for Michigan's Congressional districts this afternoon. Because the state lost population, Michigan had to lose one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Republicans are in control of the redistricting process and they chose to eliminate a district by moving Rep. Sander Levin into the district now held by Rep. Gary Peters.

Levin and Peters released a joint statement regarding the proposed map and are holding a press conference at 3 p.m.

Here's their statement:

“Voters in Michigan have never before faced such a shamelessly partisan redrawing of congressional boundaries. Instead of drawing fair lines that follow community and county borders in a logical way, the Republican legislature has drafted a map so skewed that it exploits every trick in the book to gerrymander districts in ways that benefit Republican incumbents. The Legislature and Gov. Snyder should reject this gerrymandered map and draw congressional boundaries in a way that puts Michigan voters’ interests squarely ahead of flagrant partisan advantage."

Update 1:52 p.m.

Republicans in the Michigan Legislature have released their proposed maps for new Michigan House and Senate districts, and new districts for the U.S. House of Representatives.

You can scroll through before and after maps in the images above.

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta points out that approval of these maps is like approval of a bill. Both the Michigan House and Senate will have to approve them, and then Gov. Snyder will have to sign off on them.

The maps also have to adhere to state and federal laws and preserve two of Michigan's majority-minority districts for the U.S. House of Representatives.

Because of the loss in population in Michigan, the state will lose one seat in the U.S. House of Representatives - going from 15 representatives to 14.

As expected, the proposed districts would move U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak), into the district now held by U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township) meaning if they both wanted to keep their seat in the U.S. House, the would have to run against each other in the Democratic primary.

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News Roundup
7:51 am
Fri June 17, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Fallout from accusations in Detroit

After a former staffer filed a whistleblower lawsuit accusing Mayor Dave Bing of seeking to dissolve Detroit city council and the Detroit public school board by becoming the emergency manager of both, Mayor Dave Bing's office has been working to control the damage.

He has denied the allegations.

The Detroit News reports Bing might make changes to his staff:

Mayor Dave Bing is moving to fortify his staff and is in serious talks to bring a former lieutenant, a longtime government veteran and ex-television anchor to an administration suddenly rocked by scandal.

Bing is in discussions with former group executive Kirk Lewis to return to a top position, former Coleman A. Young chief of staff Charlie Williams to serve as a high-level executive and former WDIV-TV (Channel 4) anchor Emery King to provide communications consulting, three sources said.

The Mayor's communications chief, Karen Dumas, has told the Detroit Free Press that she'll resign from her post is she's asked to. Dumas was accused in the lawsuit, filed by Rocelle Collins and her husband, of creating a hostile work environment and causing Collins emotional distress. Dumas was quoted in the Detroit Free Press: 

"I understand that I am an at-will employee," Dumas, 48, told the Free Press on Thursday. "If it is determined now or in the immediate future, or whenever, that my presence isn't needed, then I will gracefully go."

The Detroit News reports that Collins says the city of Detroit was involved in writing the controversial emergency manager legislation. The author of the legislation, Representative Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville) says he did not have any conversations with Bing or other city officials while writing the bill.

University of Michigan regents adopt budget cuts and tuition increases

The University of Michigan's board of regents voted to increase in-state tuition by 6.7% and out-of-state tuition by 4.9%. U of M, like many schools across the state, is working to deal with a sharp cut in their budgets from the state. In addition to tuition hikes, U of M will cut its budget.

From the Detroit News

The $1.59 billion fiscal year budget was approved by a 6-2 vote. Denise Ilitch also was named chairwoman of the board, replacing Julia Darrow.

The university will absorb a $47.5 million cut in state funding, the largest in its 194-year history.

"A $47.5 million reduction is a big blow," Provost Phil Hanlon said. "It requires a lot of tough choices across campus."

To manage the drop in state aid, all university schools, colleges and administrative units will undergo a 1.5 percent budget cut.

In addition, low-enrollment classes will be eliminated, and some university centers and institutes will be closed or downsized.

Employees will be asked to pay more toward their health care, and operational staff will be reduced through layoffs.

A school for pregnant teens and teen moms stays open After weeks of outcry at the planned closing of the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, students, staff, and supporters celebrated as they learned their school would not close. Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported on the announcement: 

Preparations were under way at Catherine Ferguson Academy in the morning for a big rally to protest the school’s closure. Students were milling around in the hallways. Some were making signs. Across town, protestors were getting on a bus to join the demonstration.

But on the 14thfloor of the Fisher building, something else was happening.

"Good morning, everyone," Roy Roberts told reporters at a news conference he called. "I want to change your storyline."

Roberts announced that Catherine Ferguson Academy – along with two other schools – would be taken over by a charter operator, instead of closing.

Back at the school, staff and alumni and students celebrated with hugs and screams.

Politics
2:44 pm
Wed June 15, 2011

Lawsuit alleges Detroit Mayor Bing planned to take over council and schools

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing was named in a whistleblower lawsuit today. Bing dismissed the lawsuit as frivolous.
Dave Hogg Flickr

A former executive assistant to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has filed a lawsuit that alleges the mayor had plans to dissolve the Detroit City Council and the Detroit School Board by becoming the emergency manager for both.

The plaintiffs in the case are Rochelle Collins, the former executive assistant, and her husband, Oreese Collins.

Rochelle Collins and her husband are suing the city of Detroit, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, and Bing's chief communications officer, Karen Dumas, on four counts:

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News Roundup
9:16 am
Wed June 15, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Drama in Detroit

It seems to be a case of "he said, she said."

Rochelle Collins, a former executive assistant to the mayor, says she was wrongfully terminated and is seeking a settlement from the city, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Free Press reports that the city says Collins was not terminated, and now the Mayor's office is speaking out.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Mayor Dave Bing’s office launched an unusual preemptive strike today against a potential lawsuit by a former aide, saying her demand for reinstatement to a high-level position and $750,000 amounted to extortion to avoid the release of “salacious details” designed to embarrass the administration.

“We will not be intimidated by such tactics and will vigorously defend any attempt to raid the treasury of the City of Detroit and get a lottery-style payoff,” attorney Sharon McPhail, who is representing the city, told the Free Press.

Saginaw officials could pass "dangerous dogs" ordinance

On the heels of a debate in the State Legislature about pit bulls comes a city ordinance aimed at breeds deemed "dangerous."

Justin Engel reports in the Saginaw News that city officials say their proposed "dangerous dogs" ordinance could have prevented the mauling of a twelve year old boy.

From the Saginaw News:

The Saginaw ordinance, which the council could approve at its June 20 meeting, addresses both pit bull breeds and tethering.

The proposal requires owners of pit bulls — along with Rottweilers, German shepherds, presa canarios and bull mastiffs — to register their animals with the city for a one-time $20 payment or face fines up to $400.

The measure also forbids tethering dogs to objects outdoors “for extended periods” or face additional fines.

Black Bear wandering in Washtenaw County

From the Associated Press:

WEBSTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Authorities say they've confirmed that a black bear cub is wandering in Washtenaw County.

AnnArbor.com reported Tuesday that the sheriff's department confirmed the bear sighting in Webster Township near Dexter, about 9 miles northwest of Ann Arbor.

The confirmation comes after three bear sightings Saturday, including two at Hudson Mills Metropark and one at a home near the park.

Authorities are asking anyone that spots the bear to call 911. Since a cub was seen, authorities say a mother bear may also be in the area.

Backpack bomb scare

The backpack was left outside the IRS building in Detroit.

From the Detroit Free Press:

A backpack that set off a bomb scare outside the IRS building on Michigan Avenue in Detroit has been detonated by the Detroit Police Bomb Squad.

The backpack was found at about 4:30 a.m. at the corner of Third and Michigan, said Detroit Police Inspector Don Johnson. A power source spotted after an X-ray of the bag, prompted authorities to detonate the bag at the scene, versus remove it and detonate it elsewhere, he said.

Johnson, who would not elaborate on what the power source was, said investigators will review surveillance video to determine whether the bag was left accidentally or intentionally.

Politics
7:56 am
Wed June 15, 2011

Mayor Bing's plans for reshaping Detroit delayed

Mayor Bing's plans to reshape Detroit are delayed.
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's plans for reshaping the city as it deals with a shrinking population have been delayed.

The Detroit News reports Wednesday that Bing had been expected to deliver details of a plan this year but that has been pushed back to 2012.

Bing spokesman Dan Lijana says short-term solutions could be released in a "matter of weeks" along with detailed analyses of neighborhoods and the economy. The look at the city's neighborhoods was first expected in April but also was pushed back.

Lijana says the Detroit Works Project is trying to respond to residents who want immediate help.

Bing is working to strengthen the most viable neighborhoods and deal with some nearly vacant parts of the city.

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