Detroit

Politics
10:30 am
Mon May 16, 2011

Newt Gingrich compares Obama's policies to "Detroit and destruction"

Don't look now, but the 2012 presidential election is under way, and candidates are working to score political points early - so why not take a potshot at Detroit while you're at it?

Yesterday, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich said President Obama's policies are "going to lead us down the path to Detroit and destruction" on NBC's Meet the Press.

Here's the clip:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Gingrich said Obama's policies are increasing dependence on entitlements. He called Obama the "food stamp president" in a recent speech in Georgia, his home state.

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Education
4:39 pm
Thu May 12, 2011

Mosaic Youth Theatre recreates 1966 student walkout in Detroit

"Northern Lights 1966" looks at the student-led walkout that took place in Detroit 45 years ago.
user hotblack morguefile

The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit will perform a play this weekend to commemorate the anniversary of a student walkout at Detroit Public Schools.

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Offbeat
4:26 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Comics writer Geoff Johns debuts new series

Comics writer Geoff Johns
CNN

I was going to put the superhero The Flash's catchphrase here, but apparently he doesn't have one.

Geoff Johns' catchphrase might be "I earned it."

Johns, hailing from Detroit, MI, received his degree in Media Arts and Film from Michigan State University before moving to Hollywood, where he worked with film director Richard Donner on movies like Conspiracy Theory and Lethal Weapon 4.

All of this happened before he decided to be a full-time comics writer.

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Economy
3:22 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Report claims nearly half Detroit workforce is not prepared for workforce

Nearly half of the Detroit workforce lack the basic skills needed by employers
sideshowmom Morgue File

A recent report  describing the adult workforce in Detroit says that 47% are unable to read.

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Commentary
1:00 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Fast train to somewhere

We’ve had so much bad news for so long it’s sometimes hard to absorb when something goes right. But it did this week, when the federal government awarded Michigan $200 million dollars to improve railroad service between Detroit and Chicago.

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Education
5:25 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Fire strikes a Detroit K-8 academy

Update 5:25 p.m.

The fire at the Paul Robeson Academy has caused extensive damage. Students from the school are being relocated and will resume classes Friday.

From the Detroit News:

District officials said 16 available classrooms at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School are being readied to accommodate 435 students from Paul Robeson Academy, heavily damaged by the blaze...DPS Emergency Manager Robert Bobb said district employees are locating books, desks and supplies to prepare the classrooms at Marshall — just a few blocks from Robeson — so Robeson's first- through eighth-grade students can resume their studies with minimal disruption. Teachers, support staff and all employees will be sent over to Marshall from Robeson to make the transition work, Bobb said.

8:31 a.m.

There’s a fire this morning at Paul Robeson Academy in Detroit. Some 660 students attend the K-8 school.

The cause of the fire is still unknown. It began around 4 a.m.  and firefighters are on the scene.

The Detroit Public Schools calls Robeson Academy one of its premier learning institutions. Students who enroll at Robeson must carry at least a 2.5 grade point average.

Here's some video from Fox News in Detroit:

Fire Rips through Robeson Academy on Detroit's West Side: MyFoxDETROIT.com

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Education
3:07 pm
Tue May 10, 2011

Dan Rather's report on Detroit schools airs tonight

Dan Rather's special on Detroit Public Schools airs tonight at 8 p.m. on HDNet, a cable and satellite channel.
screen grab from HDNet clip

Detroit public schools face many challenges, and Dan Rather wants you to know how bad it is.

HDNet, a cable and satellite television channel aimed at "men's interests", will air "Dan Rather Reports: A National Disgrace" tonight at 8 p.m. (and again at 11 p.m.).

Here's a clip from the program:

HDNet says the program is "full of heartbreaking images: children sitting in class for days without a teacher; a principal addressing graduating seniors with stories of the violence they’ve seen; and abandoned schools left to rot in an increasingly empty city."

Dan Rather spoke with Paul W. Smith on WJR this morning. He told Smith that he hopes people learn that the nation's public education system needs to be changed:

"What I hope the takeaway will be is that we all, not just people in Detroit, we all should be ashamed of what's happening to our schools and we can change it. But we can't change it on the present course where all decisions are top down instead of being bottom up."

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Auto/Economy
2:12 pm
Mon May 9, 2011

Stabenow and Peters push for investments in advanced auto technologies

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow and Congressman Gary Peters say the government should do more to help the auto industry mass-produce fuel-efficient technologies.

The two Democrats were at Bosch auto supplier headquarters in suburban Detroit today to urge Congressional support for the Advanced Vehicle Technology Act.

The bill would authorize $300 million a year for private sector fuel-efficiency research.

Peters says "this is just the right thing to do" with Michigan gas prices at record highs:

 "You’re going to hear a lot of ideas about drilling and other types of ideas, but really the best idea is to push the technology," said Peters. "Push innovation. And that’s what we do here in the Detroit area better than anybody else in the world, and that’s innovate with vehicles and automobiles."

Peters says the legislation has support from both environmental and business groups.

The bill passed the U.S. House with bipartisan support last year, but it couldn’t get through the Senate.

Commentary
10:37 am
Mon May 9, 2011

Hope and Despair in Detroit

Two years ago, a band of young idealists crisscrossed Detroit, collecting signatures. They had a goal: To make the city a better place to live, with a decent, responsive, functioning government.

They thought the place to start was revising the city charter to  elect a council that would be responsible and responsive. For years, all nine council members have been elected at large, which meant they are in charge of everything and nothing.

They easily could and did ignore constituents they found annoying. Not that this mattered much; as it now stands, Detroit council members have the power to approve the budget and major city projects, but they are powerless to do small everyday things.

They cannot, for example, even ask the lighting department to replace a burned out bulb in a street light.

Worse, the system is set up to produce the worst possible results. Voters are supposed to select nine names from a primary ballot that may include two hundred names. Nobody can possibly know enough to do that, so they pick familiar-sounding ones.

In recent years, this had led to the election of a former school board member famous for being corrupt and the bizarre wife of a congressman who set new standards for bad behavior. Both are in jail now. In recent years, the council has also included an ex-congresswoman who lost her job after holding a fundraiser in a strip club and a once-famous singer who often did not appear to realize where she was or why she was there.

Well, the idealists made things happen. They got voters to approve writing a new charter, and this November, it will be on the ballot. If voters approve, Detroit in the future will have only two at large councilpersons. The other seven will represent manageable-sized districts of just over one hundred thousand residents each.

Other things the new charter would do include creating an inspector general who would investigate waste, abuse, fraud and corruption in city government, and enact mandatory disclosure rules on contractors and lobbyists making political contributions.

That’s the good news. Now for the bad.

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Offbeat
3:00 pm
Sat May 7, 2011

Group uses loft parties to try to lure more residents to Detroit

MOVE Detroit hopes to get 1,100 new residents to move to Detroit by the end of 2011.
Bernt Rosad creative commons

There’s another effort underway to get more people to move to the city of Detroit.

This latest one is called 11-11-11, as in: 1,100 new Detroit residents by November 11, 2011.

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Politics
11:49 am
Fri May 6, 2011

Report: Detroit Public Library administrators accused of nepotism

The Detroit Public Library is being charged with mismanagement and nepotism.
user taubach Flickr

The Detroit Public Library is facing accusations of "nepotism, cronyism and mismanagement" according to a report published in the Detroit News.

The accusations are becoming public at a time when the Detroit library system faces an $11 million deficit and is  considering closing most of its branches. Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported that "one proposal would leave only five of 23 branches open."

The News says top executives at the Library have family members on the payroll and contracts worth thousands of dollars have been awarded to relatives.

From the Detroit News:

Hiring relatives is so common at the library that about one in six staffers have relatives among the 376 employees, according to an internal review obtained by The Detroit News.

"This nepotism and cronyism has led to the downfall of the city," said Reginald Amos, a retired Detroit Fire Department deputy chief and resident who said the family hires remind him of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's administration. "It's the friends-and-family plan. It's not about serving the people. It's self-serving."

The Detroit Public Library's human resource director, Trinee Moore - one of the officials accused of nepotism, told the News that there are safeguards in place to prevent preferential treatment and that the Detroit Public Library is no different than other businesses where family members are referred for employment.

So how do you know when the line is being crossed? Is nepotism just a fact of life in politics and business?

NPR's Steve Inskeep discussed these questions with a writer for Harvard Business Online

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Economy
1:16 pm
Thu May 5, 2011

Michigan mortgage lender ends federal investigation into discrimination claims

A major home mortgage lender has reached a deal to end a federal investigation into alleged racial discrimination. The settlement will mean millions of dollars for housing programs in Wayne County.  

Citizens Bank is the largest bank holding company headquartered in Michigan and one of the 50 largest in the country. 

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Commentary
11:10 am
Thu May 5, 2011

Managing the Mess

When the news broke yesterday that retired General Motors vice president Roy Roberts would be the new Detroit Public Schools czar, the first thing I thought of was Henry Ford.

This is not because I have attention deficit disorder. No, I thought of something brilliant Hank the First once observed about his own career.  Ford said if he had asked about transportation needs in the 1890's, nobody would have said they needed an automobile.

They would have said they wanted a faster horse. For years, various people have been trying in various ways to beat life into a dying horse called the Detroit Public Schools.

They’ve tried appointed boards and elected boards; emergency managers, all sorts of superintendents and infusions of cash.

Nothing has worked very well. Sometimes they identify a particular problem, but the overall health of the system has remained poor. Now if you are not from Detroit, you may not think this matters much to you. Except that it does.

We as a state will all suffer, economically and otherwise, if kids can’t get a functional education in our largest city. Plus, the seeds of many of the problems that have ruined Detroit’s schools are present and growing in other school systems, urban, suburban and rural school systems across the state.

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Economy
9:47 am
Thu May 5, 2011

No progress for Midwest's housing market

Photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Things continue to look bad for the Midwest housing market. Seven of the lowest performing major markets in the nation are from the Midwest and Detroit leads the pack. Sean McSweeney is with Clear Capital, a national real estate valuation company. McSweeney says while Detroit faces many challenges, there are still reasons Detroit home owners should be hopeful. 

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Politics
6:51 am
Tue May 3, 2011

Napolitano announces $4 million for Michigan to improve border security

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
The National Guard Flickr

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has announced that Michigan will get a $4 million grant to improve security along the Canadian border with better communications systems, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The grant to the Detroit-based project is part of a $25.5 million package of border security funding measures announced Monday.

Napolitano says the programs are designed to improve emergency response capabilities along the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders.

Wayne County is leading the Michigan project, which covers points of entry from Detroit and Port Huron in the south to Sault Ste. Marie in the north. Participants include Wayne, Monroe, Macomb and Chippewa counties, Detroit and several Canadian units of government.

In a statement released yesterday on the Homeland Security website, Secretary Napolitano said:

“The projects funded through the Border Interoperability Demonstration Project strengthen the security of our northern and southern borders, and our nation’s overall preparedness and emergency response capabilities. These BIDP grants provide our state, local, and tribal partners with resources to explore innovative, effective, and adaptable solutions for improving emergency communications.”

Detroit
6:45 am
Tue May 3, 2011

Detroit City Council continues hearings on budget

Budget hearings continue today in Detroit. The Detroit City Council’s budget, finance and audit standing committee will discuss the city's Finance Department budget later this afternoon, the Associated Press reports. From the AP:

The Detroit City Council is continuing hearings on Mayor Dave Bing's proposed 2011-12 budget…

Bing presented his proposed $3.1 billion budget to the council last month. He says the city faces a $155 million deficit that could swell in several years unless there are more cuts, and payments to two city pensions and health care expenses are reduced.

Bing met Monday with union leadership where he detailed needed concessions to help cut into the deficit.

The council is expected to make recommendations or changes to Bing's proposal. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

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Changing Gears
5:53 pm
Mon May 2, 2011

Detroit census challenge

Hard to Count: The Barbara in Southwest Detroit
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

Imagine trying to prove that thousands of people exist, when you have no idea who they are.

That’s the dilemma facing officials who think their communities were undercounted in the 2010 Census.  But for Midwest cities preparing to challenge those numbers: How do you find people the Census Bureau missed?  We went looking for answers in Detroit.

When Detroit’s numbers came out in March, Mayor Dave Bing quickly summoned the press.  The tone was crisis — as if a natural disaster had struck.  And in a way, it had.  Detroit had lost a quarter of its people over the last ten years.

As cameras whirred, the mayor explained that Detroit’s population now stood at 713,777. 

"Personally I don’t believe the number is accurate,” he said.  “And I don’t believe it will stand up as we go through with our challenge."

Cleveland, Akron and Cincinnati are also considering challenges. 

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Crime
12:36 pm
Mon May 2, 2011

Former Detroit Public School executive pleads guilty in scandal

Of the nine people indicted in the Detroit Public School scandal last fall, the Detroit Free Press reports there have been seven guilty pleas.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Stephen Hill, the former executive director of the Detroit Public School's Risk Management Department could be facing prison time for his role in a scheme that stripped millions from the Detroit Public School system.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Hill was one of 9 people indicted last fall in the scandal. Officials charged him with taking kickbacks "in the form of a new Mustang GT convertible in 2005 and a new Dodge Durango SUV in 2006...[and] using DPS funds to pay for his $40,000 retirement party when he temporarily left the district in September 2005."

Here's more from the Free Press:

Stephen Hill, a former Detroit Public Schools executive, is facing up to 9 years in prison after pleading guilty today to his role in a scheme that looted more than $3 million from the cash-strapped district.

Hill, who admitted that he accepted roughly $150,000 in kickbacks from a vendor that overbilled district for inadequate work, pleaded guilty to extortion and conspiring to commit program before U.S. District Court Judge Paul Borman.

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Education
9:16 am
Fri April 29, 2011

"A National Disgrace" Dan Rather's report on the Detroit Public Schools

A DPS student talks about her frustration with the leadership of the Detroit Public School system.
screen grab from HDNet clip

Dan Rather will air a special two-hour program on the Detroit Public School system titled "A National Disgrace."

It will air on HDNet Tuesday, May 10 at 8:00 p.m. eastern as part of their "Dan Rather Reports" program, and will be re-broadcast at 11:00 p.m. on the same night.

This from HDNet's press release:

The special takes its title from a controversial comment by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and presents an unflinching look at corruption, mismanagement and failure. Tens of millions of dollars have been stolen from the district. And a school board bickers over trivialities, while their students score at the bottom on national tests.

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Politics
5:06 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Mayor Bing says Detroit is at a tipping point, could need emergency manager

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing was in Lansing today asking the Governor and state representatives for help.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says the city is at a tipping point and could be assigned an emergency manager if the state doesn’t let it extend income and utility taxes.

Bing met privately with Governor Rick Snyder and lawmakers today.

He  says if the state does not allow Detroit to extend taxes, the city will lose about $100 million in revenue:

"Then I think we’re looking at an emergency financial manager," said Bing, "and I don’t think the state wants to go in that route, nor do we. So we need the support from the Legislature up here to make sure they make the necessary changes to give us the support that we need."

Bing needs legislation for the tax extension because of Detroit’s massive population loss. That drop disqualified the city from laws written for the state’s largest city.

Bing also wants Detroit’s 48 unions to make large concessions to help close a $200 million deficit.

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