Detroit

Politics
10:37 am
Tue June 14, 2011

Michigan Secretary of State wants $976,000 from ex-mayor

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan's secretary of state is seeking $976,000 from imprisoned ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick for using re-election campaign funds to pay legal fees associated with a criminal case that saw him jailed in 2008.

A spokesman for Ruth Johnson says a civil complaint has been filed with her department. An administrative hearing is expected.

Kilpatrick was jailed after pleading guilty to misconduct and no contest to assault. The charges stemmed from a text-messaging sex scandal involving a former top aide.

The Bureau of Elections writes in the complaint that the charges arose from personal misconduct and that campaign funds shouldn't have been used for legal fees.

The Associated Press left messages Monday afternoon seeking comment from Kilpatrick lawyer James Thomas.

Politics
3:48 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Detroit Mayor Bing says council's cuts could lead more people to leave city

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing delivering his budget address last April.
City of Detroit

The city of Detroit faces a projected $155 million budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year, so cuts are needed.

Mayor Bing's budget original budget proposal had $200 million in cuts.

Detroit city council presented a budget that went further, adding $50 million more in cuts.

Bing vetoed the council's budget, saying their cuts go too far. Here's a video of Bing, with a dramatic pause, signing the veto order:

The city council then voted 8-1 to override Bing's veto.

So that's where the city stands now.

Mayor Bing hopes council will reduce the amount of cuts by June 30th (the city's next fiscal year starts July 1).

If council doesn't compromise, Bing says drastic cuts will have to be made.

From the Associated Press:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says $50 million in city council-approved cuts to his $3.1 billion budget proposal will force him to close two recreation centers, two swimming pools, restrooms at city parks and the beach at Belle Isle... [and] some fire stations also could close and events at downtown's Hart Plaza could be shut down.

An article in the Detroit Free Press added some more cuts to this list:

If council doesn't withdrawal the reductions by the June 30 deadline, Bing said, he'd have no choice but to shut down the People Mover, eliminate 24-hour bus services, end sponsored events at Hart Plaza, close Belle Isle beach, shutter two recreation centers and cut police who patrol the streets, among other things, on July 1.

The cuts also would dampen chances of light rail along Woodward and hamper the police department's compliance with federal requirements to end brutality and civil rights violations.

Council Pro Tem Gary Brown is quoted as saying he won't entertain any last minute deals:

"Where is the sense of urgency?" Brown said, pointing to an accumulated deficit that he says could exceed $200 million this year. "We are in a crisis. All I hear is whining and crying about what the City Council is doing, instead of working to fix the problem."a

Mayor Bing said the "unprecedented" cuts and could lead to more people leaving the city of Detroit.

*correction - an earlier post incorrectly stated the override vote as 8-9. The vote was 8-1.

News Roundup
8:49 am
Fri June 10, 2011

In this morning's news...

Power outages in Detroit, casinos in Lansing, and efforts to ban the bit bull.
user brother o'mara Flickr

Parts of Detroit without power this morning

Power outages are affecting many of Detroit's main buildings today. Workers at Detroit's city hall were told not to report to work this morning. From the Detroit News:

Numerous municipal buildings throughout the city's downtown area remained without power this morning after the city's antiquated public power system failed because of high demand for air-conditioning following a stretch of 90-degree weather earlier this week.

One of the city's five power lines at the Misterky Power Plant failed Wednesday and two others went down on Thursday, leaving the Coleman A. Young Municipal Building, the Detroit Public Library, Wayne State University, the Detroit Institute of Arts, several federal buildings and Detroit Public Schools without electrical service, officials said.

The city hoped to have the problem fixed this afternoon.

Group wants American Indian casino in Lansing  After failing to get enough signatures to put the issue on the August ballot, the Associated Press reports that a group is still moving ahead with a plan to bring an American Indian casino to Lansing: 

 Ted O'Dell, chairman of Lansing Jobs Coalition, tells the Lansing State Journal for a story Friday that he'll ask City Council members to approve his request before trying a ballot issue. He wants to gather enough signatures to get it on the city's November ballot. O'Dell's group did not submit the number of signatures needed to put the issue on the August ballot. In April, a group aiming to build casinos in Lansing and six other Michigan cities launched a process that could put the measure before state voters this fall. "Michigan is Yours" needs more than 300,000 signatures from registered voters across the state. The effort failed to make the 2010 state ballot.

 Pit Bull ban tabled

A bill to ban pit bulls in the state won't see any action in the state legislature. From the Detroit Free Press:

A legislative attempt to eventually ban pit bull ownership in Michigan has been leashed.

State Rep. Tim Bledsoe, D-Grosse Pointe, introduced the legislation to make it illegal to own a pit bull after a 10-year phaseout.

But the chairman of the Regulatory Reform Committee in the state House, Rep. Hugh Crawford, R-Novi, said he's not planning to move on the bill, effectively shelving it.

Politics
10:42 am
Thu June 9, 2011

Snyder to sign Detroit tax and population bills

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is preparing to sign bills that will allow the city of Detroit to continue its income tax and utility user tax provisions.

Snyder is scheduled to sign the bills Thursday.

The main bill would allow Detroit to continue a 2.5 percent city income tax rate on resident individuals, higher than allowed in other Michigan cities.

Changes in state law are necessary to continue the tax rates because of Detroit's declining population.

Census statistics show that Detroit's population fell to 713,777 last year. The decline puts Detroit in danger of losing allowances in state law reserved for cities with a population above 750,000.

The bills to be signed by Snyder would lower the population threshold to 600,000 so Detroit still qualifies for the tax provisions.

Politics
7:56 am
Thu June 9, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Detroit City Council corruption caught on video tape

The videos have been viewed in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, but never broadcast publically. The Detroit News has posted video from 2008 of a city council aide accepting cash from a company seeking to win a sludge hauling contract.

From the Detroit News:

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Economy
1:01 am
Thu June 9, 2011

Home sale prices may be stabilizing (but not in Detroit)

But at what price?
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There's positive news about the nation's home prices, but that's not  the case in Detroit.  Data released by Clear Capital today suggests home sale prices nationally may be stabilizing.  Home prices lost ground through the winter months, and the latest data shows prices dropped by 2.3% in May.  

But the good news is prices being paid for repossessed homes nationally actually increased last month.   Foreclosed homes have been dragging down home sale prices, but that might be changing. 

Read more
Politics
12:32 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

State lawmakers: Detroit can keep taxing at current rates

State lawmakers have passed bills allowing the city to keep taxing at certain rates. The legislation awaits Governor Snyder's approval.
Bob Jagendorf Flickr

Because of the recent U.S. Census showing significant population loss in Detroit (the city went from 951,270 people in 2000, to 713,777 in 2010), Detroit was at risk for losing tax revenue.

Current state law says a city must have a population of at least 750,000 people in order to tax at certain rates.

State legislators have been working to change that number to help Detroit. A law lowering the threshold to 600,000 passed the State House last week, now it's passed the State Senate.

From the Associated Press:

Michigan lawmakers are approving measures that would allow the city of Detroit to continue its 2.5 percent city income tax on resident individuals and a separate utility users' tax.

Bills allowing continuation of the taxes were approved Tuesday by the Senate on 21-17 and 20-18 votes. The House already has approved the measures so they should soon be sent to Gov. Rick Snyder.

State Senator Bert Johnson (D - Detroit) told MPRN's Laura Weber that 600,000 is a safe and low-enough number, "You know, I think Detroit’s days of really hemorrhaging people are probably behind us," said Johnson. "We'll lose a few more along the way, but not in the significant numbers that we've seen over the past decade."

News Roundup
7:50 am
Tue June 7, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Emergency Manager tosses union contract

Michael Stampfler, the emergency manager of Pontiac, has flexed new muscles given to him by state legislators and Governor Snyder. Under the state's new emergency manager law, emergency managers can eliminate union contracts and strip local officials of their power.

From the Associated Press:

Pontiac has gotten approval to cancel union contract protections for 11 police dispatchers as it shuts down its police department.

The Detroit Free Press reports Monday's action will make them the first Michigan public employees to have a contract tossed under the law signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in March granting expanded powers to state-appointed emergency financial managers.

It's the final move toward eliminating the Pontiac Police Department, which was proposed last year by emergency financial manager Michael Stampfler. Services will be handled by the Oakland County sheriff's department to save the cash-strapped city $2 million annually.

Detroit Mayor Bing prepares for layoffs after override of his budget veto

The Detroit City Council voted to override Mayor Bing's veto of the council's budget. Bing thought the council's cuts went too far. The mayor says steep cuts are coming to the city of Detroit.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing sharply criticized the City Council's override of his budget veto Monday, saying the $50 million in cuts the council restored will close recreation centers, eliminate hundreds of police officers and firefighters and end bus service on Sundays.

"We will have to eliminate a lot of services," said a visibly frustrated Bing, who already cut the budget by $200 million. "People have been complaining for years and years about inadequate services. Another $50 million in cuts is just irresponsible."

A memorial service for Jack Kevorkian

Assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian died last Friday. Now friends and supporters will hold a public memorial service this Friday in Troy.

From the Associated Press:

The ceremony is being held at 9:30 a.m. at White Chapel Memorial Cemetery in Troy, said attorney Mayer Morganroth.

"We weren't going to do anything, but we started getting calls from all across the country and from foreign countries, too," Morganroth told the Detroit Free Press in a story posted Monday on the newspaper's website. "There is just so much interest from people who wanted to do something to remember Jack."

Politics
2:40 pm
Mon June 6, 2011

Detroit City Council votes to override mayoral veto

User sagitariuss Flickr

The Detroit City Council voted today to override Mayor Dave Bing's budget and restore $50 million in cuts.

From The Detroit News:

The Detroit City Council voted this afternoon to override Mayor Dave Bing's budget for the second straight year.

The mayor, who worked in closed-door meetings during last week's Mackinac Policy Conference to reach a last-minute deal, was unable to deliver one. The council voted 8-1 to override Bing's veto, with only Councilman James Tate in opposition.

The council's spending plan included $50 million more in cuts to the proposal Bing delivered in April.

Mayor Bing has scheduled a news conference for 3:30 p.m. today to address the council's vote.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Weather
12:31 pm
Thu June 2, 2011

Detroit opens cooling centers

DETROIT (AP) - Two air-conditioned Detroit recreation buildings are open as cooling centers when outside temperatures and humidity are high.

The city says the Joseph Walker Williams Center on Rosa Parks Boulevard is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, while the Coleman A. Young Center on Robert Bradby Drive is open
1-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays.

Young children and the elderly are at risk when temperatures rise above 90 degrees. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, heavy sweating, confusion and flushed skin are signs of heat-related illness.

The city says the most vulnerable should stay indoors, if possible, or in a public place with air conditioning.

Politics
5:07 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

In wake of Detroit's population loss, lawmakers work to prevent revenue loss

Lawmakers are working on legislation that will allow Detroit to keep taxing residents at current rates. Under current law, the city would have to lower rates because of a decline in population.
Patricia Drury Flickr

Update 5:07 p.m.

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber reports that most Republicans voted against the change, but Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger was not among them.

He voted for the measure, which passed by a narrow margin:

"I think for a healthy Michigan we have to have a healthy Detroit, so House Republicans put up enough votes for passage and we advance this bill forward today," said Bolger. "But at the same time, we are certainly concerned about containing their expenses and not looking for additional revenue."

Weber reported that changes to the population requirement now goes to the State Senate, where Democrats hope to have them approved in the next week.

1:23 p.m.

State law stipulates that a city must have a population of at least 750,000 people in order to tax at certain rates.

In the last census, Detroit's population fell below that threshold and now stands at 713,777 according to official U.S. Census statistics (that number is being challenged).

The city could stand to lose $100 million if it had to lower it's income tax rate.

Losing this much revenue in Detroit would hurt, so lawmakers in Lansing are working to pass legislation that will allow the city to keep taxing at current rates.

The Michigan State House approved a measure today that would allow the city to continue levying taxes on income and utilities by lowering the population threshold to 600,000.

The Michigan Public Radio Network's Laura Weber reported on this last night. Weber spoke with State Senator Bert Johnson (D - Detroit) about the bill. From Weber's report:

He says he thinks that 600,000 is a safe and low-enough number.

“You know, I think Detroit’s days of really hemorrhaging people are probably behind us. We’ll lose a few more along the way, but not in the significant numbers that we’ve seen over the past decade,” Johnson said.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said the city would likely face a financial emergency without changes to the law.

Environment
4:33 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

Feral cat population probably not as large as reported

Feral cats are a problem in the Detroit area, but there might not be as many as 657,000
Gracey Morgue File

A Detroit newspaper reported there were 657,000 feral cats in the Detroit area. But that number might not be correct.

Kevin Hatman is with the Michigan Humane Society. He says he’s not sure how accurate that number is. But he says there is a large population of wild cats in the Detroit area:

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Environment
9:32 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Feral cats seen as problematic in Detroit area

One estimate puts the feral cat population in the Detroit area at 657,000.
user anyjazz65 Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Officials say a large population of feral cats in the Detroit area is straining animal control and animal welfare groups.

The Detroit Free Press reports Wednesday that one estimate cited by the Petsmart Charities says there are about 657,000 feral cats in the area.

Officials say free-roaming cats often harbor illnesses that spread between cats and sometimes to humans.

People are working to address the problem in the Detroit area. Southfield has agreed to be the pilot community for a $100,000 county program to catch, sterilize and release feral cats. And a Warren animal welfare group is teaching people how to round up cats.

Politics
5:23 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

House prepares to lower population requirements for Detroit's special taxes

A measure that would let Detroit continue to levy taxes on utility bills and income is likely to pass in the state House this week. 

The bill is necessary for Detroit to keep the income and utilities taxes because the law says to keep those taxes a city must have a population of at least 750-thousand. Detroit’s population slumped below that in the past decade. Now lawmakers from Detroit are calling for a change to reduce the population requirement to 600-thousand.

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Politics
5:04 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Bills would address Detroit's dwindling population

user pablocosta creative commons

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The city of Detroit could continue charging a higher income tax rate than other Michigan cities under terms of legislation pending in the state House.

The bills that could come up for votes Wednesday also would affect utility user tax rates in Michigan's largest city.

Detroit likely needs changes in state law to keep some of its current tax rates because it is losing population. Census statistics show that the Motor City's population fell from 951,270 in 2000 to 713,777 last year.

Current state law allows higher personal income tax rates in cities with at least 750,000 people, affecting only Detroit. The law would have to change now that Detroit's population has dipped
below that 750,000 mark.

Detroit now charges an income tax rate of 2.5 percent for residents.

Economy
2:55 pm
Tue May 31, 2011

Detroit home prices continue slide

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Detroit’s home prices may soon take another tumble.  Standard & Poor’s Price-Shiller index says home prices in the nation’s 20 largest cities are falling once again.    Home prices in Detroit aren’t falling as fast as other cities in the survey, but then again Detroit’s home prices are already the lowest among the nation’s 20 largest cities.  

  Home prices in Detroit haven’t been this low since 1995.  

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Auto/Economy
10:14 am
Wed May 25, 2011

General Motors to add 2,500 jobs at Detroit-area factory

General Motors' headquarters in downtown Detroit. GM's North American president, Mark Reuss says the company "is dedicated to helping rebuild this city."
user paul (dex) Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - General Motors Co. will add 2,500 jobs at a Detroit-area factory that now makes electric cars, investing $69 million so the plant can make two new Chevrolet sedans.

The factory, which straddles the border between Detroit and the small enclave of Hamtramck, now makes the Chevrolet Volt and its European counterpart, the Opel Ampera.

But GM announced on Wednesday that it will upgrade the factory so that it can run around the clock making the new Malibu midsize car and a revamped version of the aging Impala large sedan.

About 1,200 of the jobs will be new hires, since GM still has to recall about 1,300 laid-off workers in the U.S.

But in Michigan, which has among the highest unemployment rates in the nation, 1,200 new jobs is big news.

GM announced on May 10 that it would create or keep about 4,000 jobs by investing $2 billion in 17 factories in eight states.

The Detroit-Hamtramck announcement adds to previous expansion announcements in Bowling Green, Ky.; Toledo, Ohio; and Flint and Bay City, Mich.

"Filling this plant with new work is very satisfying because GM is dedicated to helping rebuild this city," Mark Reuss, the company's North American president, said in a statement.

GM said last week it would shut the plant down for four weeks starting in June, reconfiguring it to increase Volt and Ampera production from 16,000 cars per year to 60,000 next year in order to meet strong demand.

The shutdown also will let GM add equipment to build the 2013 Malibu midsize sedan at the plant starting next year. The car also will be built in Kansas City, Kansas.

In addition, GM said it will build a long-overdue new version of the Impala at the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.

GM will stop producing two other big cars at the factory, the Cadillac DTS and Buick Lucerne, later this year.

Politics
5:12 pm
Tue May 24, 2011

Bing vows to veto city council budget

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he'll veto the city council's budget bill. The council budget cuts spending by $50 million dollars more than the mayor wants.

 Detroit City Council voted 8-1 in favor of their plan. But Mayor Bing says adoption of his $3.1 billion dollar budget is crucial if Detroit is to avoid having Governor Rick Snyder step in and appoint an emergency manager to steer the city out of a $155 million dollar deficit.

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Crime
7:49 pm
Mon May 23, 2011

Flint tops FBI's most violent cities list

Flint mayor Dayne Walling (right) at a news conference, flanked by public safety chief Alvern Lock
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Flint mayor Dayne Walling is not disputing new FBI data that shows his city had the highest violent crime rate in the nation in 2010.  Flint set a record for homicides last year.   The city’s arson rate also soared topping the FBI’s list in that category too.

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Crime
5:24 pm
Mon May 23, 2011

FBI report shows drop in violent crime, Flint and Detroit still top list

The FBI released a preliminary Uniform Crime Report today that lists reported crimes in cities with more than 100,000 people.

Comparing this year's report with last year's - crime is down.

In the Midwest, violent crimes fell by 5.9%. From the FBI's report:

Preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation reported a decrease of 5.5 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention in 2010 when compared to figures reported for 2009. The violent crime category includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

Each city's law enforcement agency submits the number of reported crimes to the FBI. Each year, the agency compiles that data and releases it to the public.

When looking at the cities with the highest number of reported violent crimes per capita, Flint and Detroit are at the top. St. Louis, Missouri and New Haven, Connecticut follow the two Michigan cities.

The Detroit News reports:

Detroit enjoyed declines in murder, robbery and aggravated assault but bigger declines in large cities elsewhere pushed it second only to Flint in the overall violent crime rate. However, the FBI estimates Detroit's population at 899,447, while the 2010 Census put the city's population at 713,717. If the latter figure is used, Detroit's per capita rate exceeds Flint's, with 2,378 violent crimes per 100,000 residents. Flint's 2010 rate was 2,210.

The FBI cautions against making judgments about a city's law enforcement agency based on these statistics, "since crime is a sociological phenomenon influenced by a variety of factors."

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