Detroit

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.

Changing Gears
2:27 pm
Thu April 28, 2011

Thunderdrome comes to Detroit this Saturday

This year's Thunderdrome will be held in Detroit's Dorais Park at high noon.
screen grab from YouTube video

The Thunderdrome comes to Detroit this Saturday!

It's not the post-apocalyptic competition featured in the Mel Gibson movie.

Instead of "two men enter, one man leaves" ...

It's more like "around 100 men and/or women enter, around 100 men and/or women leave... perhaps with some scrapes and bruises."

A write up on this wild, anarchic race is featured on the Changing Gears website by WBEZ's Robin Amer.

Robin writes about how the organizers unearthed an abandoned velodrome in Detroit's Dorais Park:

It was literally unearthed by one of the city’s vigilante lawn-mower gangs — people who mow the lawns at city parks because the city cannot afford to do so. The velodrome, on the city’s east side, was repaired by racing enthusiasts who cut down trees growing in its center and invested thousands of dollars of their own money and over 4,000 lbs of concrete fixing its surface. And now, it has come back to life as home to a variety of competitions.

When asked who the sanctioning body for this race is, organizer Andy Didorosi replied:

We are. We're the only sanctioning body in the world for zany two-wheeled party racing on abandoned Velodromes. :) Sanctioning bodies are silly.

Here's a video of last year's race. I like how the victor, instead of doing a lap with a checkered flag, does a lap with a torn-off portion of a Pabst Blue Ribbon box.

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Arts/Culture
2:59 pm
Wed April 27, 2011

The fate of ABC's "Detroit 1-8-7"

Detroit 1-8-7: The star's chairs are captured in this photo. The kicker? The photo was taken in Atlanta, GA while the crew was on a shoot there. The magic of Hollywood.
user downeym Flickr

There's been a lot of speculation over whether the television program Detroit 1-8-7 will stick around.

Melissa Burden wrote about the speculation in today's Detroit News:

A local actors union said it has confirmed with producers of "Detroit 1-8-7" that the show is leaving the Motor City for good, even if it's picked up for a second season.

An administrator for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists Detroit chapter posted Tuesday on the group's Facebook page that the cop drama is leaving Michigan.

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Education
5:00 am
Wed April 27, 2011

Detroit area students to create "educational bill of rights"

The Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit will host a youth forum on Wed., April 27 from 5:30 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

More than 100 students are expected to attend a youth forum in Detroit on Apr. 26 to share their ideas for what makes a good school. The forum is  put on by the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit and starts at 5:30 p.m.

Rick Sperling is the group’s founder. He says lawmakers, school board members, and teachers have all voiced their opinions about school reform, but he says student voices have been missing from the conversation:

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What's Working
7:40 am
Mon April 25, 2011

Trying to improve Detroit's grocery stores

The Green Grocers Project is trying to improve the way food is sold in Detroit
Pneedham Flickr

All this year, Michigan Radio has been taking a weekly look at things that are working to improve the state. Today: we take a look at food and Detroit. The city has been called a “food desert,” because of its lack of grocery stores. One group has been trying to change that. Sarah Fleming is the program manager of the Green Grocer Project. It was launched a year ago by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and we asked her how it's going.

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Arts/Culture
1:20 pm
Sun April 24, 2011

Drawing Detroit

Ben Bunk created a post card-sized book of his drawings

An artist in Detroit is expanding his project that highlights different city neighborhoods.  Several years ago Ben Bunk moved to Detroit for an artist residency at the 555 Gallery. 

He would ride his bike on a seven mile commute from the Eastern Market area to a studio near the abandoned Michigan Central Station. His bike rides inspired doodles which eventually lead to a series of black and white drawings of neighborhood buildings.

Bunk says it’s fun to draw Detroit, and describes his drawing style as relatively simple.

“It’s realistic in the sense that it has perspective that’s correct, and all the windows are there but the lines are crooked. I would say it’s kind of childish and it’s funny. The buildings are kind of crooked and they talk to each other in how they’re bent.”

Bunk won a mini-grant from a local event known as SOUP and used the money to self-publish a post-card sized book of his drawings. Bunk is now working on professionally publishing a second edition.

News Roundup
9:19 am
Wed April 20, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

Lawsuits challenging emergency manager law start

Detroit's General Retirement System and the Police and Fire Retirement System have filed a lawsuit challenging the new emergency financial manager law.

From the Associated Press:

The City of Detroit's two pension boards have filed a lawsuit seeking to block the state's new emergency financial manager law, calling it unconstitutional.

The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press report the lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Detroit and names Gov. Rick Snyder and Treasurer Andy Dillon. The lawsuit claims that emergency financial managers could remove pension board members for no reason.

Snyder's office says the governor believes in the constitutionality of the law, otherwise he wouldn't have signed it.

Benton Harbor's Emergency Financial Manager, Joe Harris, was the first EFM to use broad new powers granted to him by the state.

Cleaning the lead out of Detroit homes

The federal government and private foundations will help fund a project to help get rid of environmental hazards in Detroit homes. From the Detroit Free Press:

The federal government will kick in $1 million to help make 100 homes in a targeted area of Detroit lead-free and safe from other hazards -- such as mold and radon -- and to train workers in environmental remediation techniques.

Deputy Secretary Ron Sims of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will present the funds to Mayor Dave Bing today.

The Freep reports that a study showed "60% of children in public schools in the city who scored below grade level on standardized state tests had lead poisoning."

Foundations, nonprofit partners, and state agencies are also expected to invest in the project.

Snyder to announce new leader for the Michigan Department of Corrections

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to make the announcement this morning. From the Detroit News:

Snyder selected Jackson County Sheriff Dan Heyns to run the department, which takes the largest share of general fund dollars in the state's budget, according to two people familiar with the decision.

Snyder will make the announcement publically later this morning at a news conference in the governor's press auditorium, across from the Capitol in Lansing.

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Politics
1:32 pm
Fri April 15, 2011

Making sense of redistricting

Michigan State Capitol
user cncphotos / flickr

The 2010 Census figures, released last month, announced that Michigan was the only state in the nation to lose population in the last decade. Now it is up to the states to redraw their congressional districts based on the findings of the Census.

Redistricting can play a big role in the political makeup of both state and federal representation. In Michigan, citizens are waiting to see how the Republican-dominated Legislature will handle the task of reshaping the state’s congressional districts.

The main objective of redistricting is to create congressional districts with roughly equal populations in each district, says John Chamberlin, Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

“It takes account of the fact that people move around the state or people move out of the state. In 2010, if you looked at the populations in state House districts, for instance, there are disparities. So redistricting resets the clock back to roughly equal populations.”

Each state handles the task of redistricting differently. In Michigan, redistricting is treated as legislation, with the Legislature creating a bill for passage by the governor. Because the Republican Party controls the Michigan state Senate, House, and governorship, the task of redistricting will fall solely to the Republicans.

Due to the fact that Michigan lost population since the last redistricting took place, the state will lose one member in the U.S. House of Representatives. Through redistricting, the Michigan Legislature must determine where to combine districts in order to eliminate the district of one U.S. Representative, explains Chamberlin.

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News Roundup
7:53 am
Fri April 15, 2011

In this morning's news...

user brother o'mara Flickr

New emergency financial manager powers to be used in Detroit?

The controversial new law that gives state-appointed emergency financial managers more power could first be used in the Detroit Public School system.

Detroit Public School Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb said he intends to use the law.

From the Detroit Free Press:

"I fully intend to use the authority that was granted," Bobb said, referring to a new law that gives emergency managers the authority to modify -- or terminate -- collective bargaining agreements. It was the first time Bobb had publicly indicated he intends to use the expanded authority.

This statement came after all teachers in the Detroit Public School system were sent a layoff notices yesterday. As Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported, sending layoff notices to all the teachers is unprecedented, but final decisions on whose job will actually be cut have yet to be made.

Teachers, in the meantime, say they're prepared to fight Bobb's proposals - from the Freep:

"If he tries to modify the contract and back-door us on the issue of seniority, we are aptly prepared," said DFT President Keith Johnson, who also will receive a layoff notice. "We have already prepared our legal counter."

House fails to reject partner benefits

There weren't enough votes in the State House to reverse the Civil Service Commission's decision to allow health benefits for the live-in partners of state employees.

The benefits are scheduled to take effect this October.

Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta reported that Republicans say the decision "undermines 'traditional families' and violates the intent of a voter-approved amendment that bans same-sex marriage and civil unions in Michigan."

Attorney General Schuette is looking into that last claim, and House Speaker Jase Bolger says he'll continue to look for other ways to block the benefits.

Flags at half staff today for Navy medic from Niles

Benjamin D. Rast was killed in Afghanistan. Flags around the state will be at half staff today.

From the Associated Press:

Gov. Rick Snyder has ordered U.S. flags to be lowered to half-staff in honor of a 23-year-old Navy medic from southwest Michigan who was killed while on patrol in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

The order is in effect for today.

The military says 23-year-old Benjamin D. Rast of Niles died April 6. He was assigned as a hospitalman to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division.

There will be a visitation today at Brandywine High School in Niles and a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the school.

Detroit
2:48 pm
Tue April 12, 2011

Locked out of Mayor Bing's budget presentation

Some people got locked out of today's Detroit City Council meeting, where Detroit Mayor Dave Bing was laying out a 5-year budget plan that called for cutting employee pension and health care costs.

Council security told citizens and several reporters that they couldn't come in because the hearing room was "filled to capacity."

That escalated into a dispute between security guards and the people who demanded their right to enter under the state's Open Meetings Act.

Detroit resident and volunteer organizer Felicia Sanders wanted to hear Bing's presentation.

"If you get up and you're willing to attend a meeting to fight and speak out for your city, you should be allowed to participate in the meeting."

Sanders and others questioned why the City Council didn't hold the hearing in a much larger public auditorium just across the hall.

Detroit
11:12 am
Tue April 12, 2011

Detroit mayor warns a state takeover is "inevitable" without union concessions

Detroit mayor Dave Bing dleivers his budget proposal to the city council
(courtesy City of Detroit)

Detroit’s mayor says the city’s unions will have to give big contract concessions or the city of Detroit may end up in the hands of a state appointed Emergency Financial Manager. Mayor Dave Bing outlined his budget plan to the city council this morning.

Bing says pension and health care costs threaten to force the city into insolvency.  

“If we are unable or unwilling to make these changes, an Emergency Financial Manager will be appointed by the state to make them for us.  It’s that simple.”  

The city is facing a $155 million budget deficit. The mayor says that could grow to over a billion dollars in five years, unless deep cuts are made now. 

Michigan’s new Emergency Financial Manager law gives the state appointed administrator broad powers to throw out union contracts and make budget decisions.

Commentary
10:59 am
Tue April 12, 2011

Truth in Advertising

Were you aware that there’s a legal difference between print media and broadcast media in this country?

Print media, and the internet, are essentially completely free to print and say whatever they want to, although of course they can be sued if they commit libel or violate privacy laws. Broadcast media are different, however. The government, through the Federal Communications Commission, has the right to regulate them.

Stations can have their licenses revoked or not renewed if they violate FCC policy. Thirty years ago, stations could be in big trouble if they failed to provide news, or public service programming.

Those restrictions have now been largely relaxed. But stations can still risk their licenses if they broadcast hate speech, or programming that is either clearly racist or obscene.

The reason, by the way, that the government can regulate the broadcast media is that the airwaves are public property, like the national parks. And while you could theoretically have an infinite number of print publications or web sites, there’s only so much space on the spectrum for radio and TV transmissions.

Being granted a place on the dial is a privilege that carries certain responsibilities. However, the question is what those responsibilities should be.  Increasingly, I wonder whether stations should be allowed to broadcast advertising that is plainly false.

You might say that deception this is the very nature of most advertising, and to a point you’d be right. Nobody really believes that if you start drinking a certain brand of soda that beautiful young things will suddenly frolic on the beach with you.

We expect ads to stretch the truth. But every so often, they do more than that. As witness a last-ditch, highly expensive propaganda campaign being waged by Matty Moroun, the billionaire who owns the Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River. He is desperate to prevent the building of a competing bridge, something Governor Snyder wants. Most commercial interests in both the United States and Canada also say the bridge is badly needed. But, Moroun fears his profits might be affected, and is currently waging a hugely expensive ad campaign to try and sway legislators.

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Detroit
10:09 am
Tue April 12, 2011

Watch Mayor Bing's budget address to city council

Detroit Mayor David Bing presenting his budget to city council.
Detroit

Detroit Mayor David Bing is delivering his budget address to city council right now.

Bing says the budget he is presenting is a five year plan to eliminate the city's budget deficit.

He says the most important conversation the city has to have is with union employees about pensions and health care benefits.

By 2020, Bing says fringe benefits and pensions would consume half the city's general fund.

You can watch the speech here.

Detroit
6:32 am
Tue April 12, 2011

Mayor Bing to present budget to city council

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing at Governor Rick Snyder's January 1st inauguration
Corvair Owner Flickr

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing will present his budget for the city later this morning. The Associated Press reports the budget will propose a five-year plan to wipe out the city's $150 million budget deficit. From the AP:

Tuesday morning's presentation is the first step in the city's budget approval process heading into the new fiscal year that starts July 1.

It follows Gov. Rick Snyder's signature last month on a state law that gives more power to state-appointed financial managers, letting them toss out union contracts to help balance the books of distressed communities and struggling school districts.

Bing has fought often with city unions over concessions designed to cut into the deficit.

A union protest of Bing's proposed 2011-12 budget is planned Tuesday's afternoon outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center.

Politics
5:04 pm
Mon April 11, 2011

Conservative group putting pressure on GOP state lawmakers on new Detroit bridge

View of downtown Detroit from Windsor, Ontario
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A conservative group against a proposed second bridge span between Detroit and  Windsor, Ontario is running negative ads about the project in districts of Republicans who have not taken a stance against the bridge. They want voters to call and pressure the lawmakers to oppose Governor Rick Snyder’s bridge proposal.     

Scott Hagerstrom is with Americans for Prosperity-Michigan. He says the cost of a second bridge would fall to taxpayers, unless it is paid for completely by private money.

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Transportation
4:07 pm
Mon April 11, 2011

Bonds for Detroit light rail project approved by city council

An artist's depiction of the M1 light rail system.
M1 Rail

Detroit City Council has approved $125 million in bonds to help pay for a light rail system that will stretch from downtown Detroit to the New Center.

The total cost of the project is expected to be $528 million, according to Bill Shea at Detroit Crain's Business.

Council also approved a $25 million TIGER grant from the federal government (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery).

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Politics
3:07 pm
Mon April 11, 2011

Former Detroit City Council President wants to serve the rest of her federal prison sentence at home

The Spirit of Detroit stands outside the Coleman Young Municpal Building in Detroit
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Detroit Free Press reports former Detroit City Council president Monica Conyers is asking a federal judge to let her serve the remaining time on her prison term at home. 

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Detroit
11:06 am
Mon April 11, 2011

Former bodyguard releases Kwame Kilpatrick "tell-all" book

Walter Harris' book about his time within the Kwame Kilpatrick administration in Detroit.
amazon.com

Walter Harris, Jr. worked as a bodyguard for former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick for nine years.

Harris' whistle-blower lawsuit helped lead to the unraveling of  the Kilpatrick administration.

His book about his experiences, Badge of Honor: Blowing the Whistle, was released Saturday.

Harris was quoted in the Detroit News

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Culture
3:10 pm
Fri April 8, 2011

The restoration of an old jazz club in Detroit (video)

Jerry Balenger talks to a group from Grand Rapids about the restoration of Cliff Bell's jazz club in Detroit.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Cliff Bell’s is one of the oldest Jazz clubs in the city - a little history from Cliff Bell's website:

Through the 30's 40's and 50's Cliff Bell's and the Town Pump Tavern anchored two ends of what was Detroit's busiest night crawl with clubs, pubs and Burlesques dotting Park Avenue. During the 70's and 80's the Club operated under a series of other names. Many remember The Winery, La Cave, or AJ's on the Park.

In 1985 the famous club closed and remained empty until in late 2005.

Like a lot of places in Detroit, it was left empty for a long time. The plaster cracked, the ceiling leaked, but that all changed in 2005 when Paul Howard and Scott Lowell began the renovation of the shuttered club.

In this video, the owner of the building that houses Cliff Bell's talks about the restoration of the club.

This video was shot by Lindsey Smith, and produced by Juan Freitez.

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