Detroit

Doug Coombe

Eighteen-year-old sculptor Austen Brantley makes some pretty impressive art. But don't take our word for it, check out these photos of Austen's work, at the Michigan Radio Picture Project.

Professionals in the art world agree. "It's just amazing to see the amount of talent that he has at 18 years old. He’s right up there with some of his peers that are in their 30s and 40s," says Garnette Archer, owner of Jo’s Gallery in Detroit.

User: kshawphoto / Flickr

As Detroit slid into poverty and eventual bankruptcy, one of the oft-repeated complaints was that Detroiters didn't have a place to shop for fresh, wholesome food. It says they had to turn to "party stores" with an emphasis on snack foods, beer and soft drinks.

But Auday Arabo says that “food desert” is a myth. He's the president and CEO of Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers, which represents more than 4,000 stores in Michigan, Ohio and nearby states.

To find out where the stores are, Arabo says they actually put all the data together and made a map.

"Once we showed people what the stores looked like on the inside, it really changed a lot of hearts and minds," says Arabo.

Arabo says instead of “food desert,” it’s more of a “food access” issue, because lack of public transportation and crime are the two major challenges in Detroit.

However, Arabo says the grocers in Detroit have always been there, especially independent stores, even though they don’t market as much as the big chains do.

* Listen to the story above.

www.detroitmi.gov/detroitdashboard / City of Detroit

The City of Detroit's website has launched a new performance measurement feature. 

The Detroit Dashboard tracks the progress and outcome of improvements across the city.

The data is gathered from various city departments such as the Lighting Authority or EMS. Each colored section of the infographic on the side of the page is a clickable link to a department's website or information page. 

BELT MAGAZINE & RUST BELT CHIC PRESS / beltmag.com

“Detroit is a city of stories. In this way, we are rich. We begin with abundance.”

That’s from the introduction of the book A Detroit Anthology, a collection of essays and poems from Detroiters. Anna Clark is the editor of the book.

Clark said this is a book for people who have some familiarity and connection with the city, and the stories in it come from people who can tell them in the first person.

Excellent Schools Detroit tries to help parents navigate the educational landscape in Detroit. Dan Varner heads up the group, and says the amount of choice is simply overwhelming. Dustin Dwyer sat down with Varner to learn more about what he thinks can help and how Varner got to where he is.

Reem Nasr

Last year, more than 10,000 people came out of prison in Michigan. Of those, about a third live in metro Detroit.

And as the city attempts a comeback, more jobs will open up and need to be filled.

One of the programs that's trying to give Detroit's parolees a fighting chance at employment is Green Works.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss what races and issues to follow before next week's primary election, how Detroit's emergency manager has shifted responsibilities of the city's water department to Mayor Mike Duggan after controversies for water shut offs, and recent developments with the new international bridge from Detroit to Windsor, ON.

Maegan Tintari / Flickr

The only time Kristy Tillman could fit in an interview was on her lunch break. That's because of the insane number of reporters emailing her.   

“We never expected the press to get so big! We’re just like, oh man. So we decided we’re going to probably limit the time on that today, so we can get real work done.”

All those reporters want to talk with her about the website she and friend threw online this past Thursday.

It's called Turn on Detroit's Water

Orchestra Hall in Detroit sat vacant for almost 20 years before renovation started in the 1970s. An iconic building saved from ruin.
screen grab / http://detroiturbex.com/

DEE-twah

The French word for "strait" (détroit) was how it all started in 1701.

A French explorer founded Fort Pontchartrain on the "straits" - the water between Lake Huron and Lake Erie - on July 24, 1701.

It didn't become incorporated as a city until 1806, and the city grew from there.

This population graph shows the timing of the rise and decline of the city:

Olympia Entertainment

Downtown Detroit could undergo a major transformation under a development plan unveiled today.

The organization that owns the Detroit Red Wings says it wants to transform the northern part of downtown Detroit into a sports/entertainment/retail and residential destination.

Civil rights groups are asking to meet with Detroit officials about a controversial water shut-off campaign.

The ACLU and the NAACP want to meet with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to find a “fair, humane, and meaningful review process,” which would include adequate notice and a hearing to determine whether individual water customers can’t or won’t pay their bills.

Detroit Historical Society

Detroit turns 313 years old next week. The Detroit Historical Society is celebrating with a week's worth of programming beginning tomorrow. 

July 24th marks the day when the French explorer Antoine Cadillac landed on what would later become the city of Detroit.

Each day the group will host a different event- including storytelling, a classic car show, and film screenings.

Bob Sadler is with the Detroit Historical Society. He said celebrating the city is especially important now.

"And based on Detroit’s history of being a hard-working, very creative and entrepreneurial town, I have every reason to believe that we’re reinventing ourselves again," said Sadler. 

Some of the events include: Arsenal of Democracy, Detroit is America’s Motor City, The Streets of Old Detroit, and one of the newer exhibits, the Gallery of Innovation. 

The Detroit Historical Museum is in Midtown Detroit. All of the week's events are free.

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Sean_Marshall / Flickr

I know what you’re thinking.

This building that once housed Wayne County’s administrative office is perhaps "one of the nation’s finest surviving examples of Roman Baroque Revival architecture, with a blend of Beaux-Arts and some elements of the Neoclassical style."

I was thinking the exact same thing.

Well, I was really thinking it’s a beautiful building in downtown Detroit and I hope it gets some attention.

Melanie Kruvelis

The World Cup is over. And even if you weren't rooting for Germany or Argentina, the game was really something to watch. (Germany won, for all the non-sports fans out there.)

In addition to the game itself, the fans are just as fun to watch.

They paint flags on their faces, and scream, and cry a lot. 

Those fans exist outside of Brazil, too. There's an intense support section for the Detroit City Football Club. The minor league soccer team is called Le Rouge, and is in its third season.

Before the game, a lot of fans and supporters go to a bar and rally the troops.

Then the "Northern Guard" march to the stadium. There are smoke bombs, drums, gas masks, megaphones, and a lot of rouge and gold. 

Throughout the entire game, there's chanting -- some of which could never air on public radio.

According to Alex Wright, one of the DCFC co-owners, about 2/3 of the team play for their college team during the school year. The home games at Cass Tech High School began selling out this season, and Friday's game sold out by record numbers. 

Wright said that he and the other co-owners wanted to create the team because they're committed to the city. Wright doesn't believe that soccer is going to save Detroit, but it's just a reason to feel good about what's going on in the city. 

DCFC's season is over now, but fans like "Big Vytau" plan to come back next year -- and probably for a few years after that.

*Listen to the full interview above

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit is going to hold a little get-together to persuade former residents to come back home.

Mayor Mike Duggan wants former Detroiters to visit the city for a homecoming. The idea is to attract people who wrote off their relationship with the city. The "Detroit Homecoming" is aimed to bring them back for a visit, a little flirtation. After all, Detroit should be getting through its messy bankruptcy by then. It will be a little brighter, with thousands of  new LED streetlights. The parks are being mowed.

mich.gov / Michigan Government

In Detroit, the number of women dying from pregnancy-related causes is three times the national average.

Data from the state Department of Community Health show a maternal death rate that is even higher than countries like Libya and Vietnam.

High poverty and limited access to health care are the main culprits. Women living in poverty are less likely to receive consistent medical care before and during pregnancy, which can lead to complications during childbirth.

State of Michigan

Three years ago, only a half-dozen cities and school districts in Michigan were being run by state-appointed emergency managers.

Today, 17 are in some phase of receivership.

That proves not only cities and schools in Michigan are facing tough times, but that Governor Snyder is making vigorous use of Public Act 436, the state's emergency manager law.

Bridge magazine writer Chastity Pratt Dawsey examines the effectiveness of the law and how it measures up to similar laws in other states in a report for the magazine's latest issue. She joined us today.

We also had Lou Schimmel on the show. He's served as emergency financial manager or emergency manager for Ecorse, Hamtramck and Pontiac. Right now he's on the transition advisory board for Pontiac. Our two guests explores a number of questions:

First off, why does the appointment of an emergency manager result in such emotional responses from residents?

Photo of a can of Stroh's beer taken in 2008.
Kyle Freeman / Flickr

Many of us are more than a little curious about the lives of the rich and famous. 

In the mid-1800s, Bernard Stroh came to the U.S. and began selling beer in Detroit.

The business grew and prospered, but around 150 years later, the family company was bought and broken up.

Kerry A. Dolan of Forbes chronicles the rise and fall of the family in her piece, How to blow $9 billion: The fallen Stroh family.

From Dolan's story:

The Stroh family owned it all, a fortune that FORBES then calculated was worth at least $700 million. Just by matching the S&P 500, the family would currently be worth about $9 billion.

Yet today the Strohs, as a family business or even a collective financial entity, have ceased to exist. The company has been sold for parts. The trust funds have doled out their last pennies to shareholders. While there was enough cash flowing for enough years that the fifth generation Strohs still seem pretty comfortable, the family looks destined to go shirtsleeves-to-shirtsleeves in six.

Frances Stroh, a fifth generation family member, is working on a memoir about the family.

h/t Lester Graham

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

This Week in Michigan Politics, Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss Michigan's ruling on how juvenile lifers will not get a chance at parole, pay raises for city leaders in bankrupt Detroit, and what role Michigan could play in housing undocumented minors crossing the Mexico border.

Fans of the band Insane Clown Posse, known as Juggalos and identified by their grease facepaint, have been accused by the F.B.I. of gang activity.
Jen Sadler / flickr

DETROIT - A judge has dismissed a lawsuit aimed at scrubbing an FBI report that describes fans of the rap-metal duo Insane Clown Posse as a loosely organized gang.

Detroit federal Judge Robert Cleland says the government isn't responsible for acts by local police agencies that use the 2011 report.

Fans of Insane Clown Posse are known as Juggalos. The FBI report labels the Juggalos as a "loosely organized hybrid gang," although that description isn't part of the most recent national report on gangs.

Juggalos say their reputations have suffered because they have jewelry or tattoos with the group's symbol, a man running with a hatchet.

The lawsuit was dismissed last week. The Insane Clown Posse is Joseph Bruce, known as Violent J, and Joseph Utsler, known as Shaggy 2 Dope.

User apoxapox / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit and Flint areas are getting nearly $9 million to help train new primary care providers.

Most of the money announced Monday goes to the Detroit Wayne County Health Authority for training in family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology. Flint's Hamilton Community Health Network is getting $900,000 for family medicine training.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says the money is part of $83.4 million in Affordable Care Act funding to support primary care residency programs nationwide. Overall, it will help train more than 550 doctors during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Deadline approaches for bankruptcy plan vote

Jul 6, 2014
Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - The most anticipated vote in Detroit this summer isn't for a city office.

Instead, ballots due by Friday from city retirees could determine how quickly Detroit exits its historic bankruptcy and how much of the financial weight pensioners will bear.

Non-uniformed retirees are being asked to take a 4.5 percent pension cut and no cost-of-living allowances. Police and fire retirees are faced with reduced cost-of-living payments.

One of the photos archived on Dickson's blog. This graffiti, in Dickson's word, "does a pretty solid job depicting the city’s main roads."
James David Dickson / Down I-94: a blog about Detroit

"Say Nice Things About Detroit."

That cheery slogan was first launched in the '70s by Emily Gail. She had a shop in downtown Detroit when it was the murder capital of the country, and she grabbed a lot of attention with that slogan.

Now it’s been revived, as Detroit has been under the spotlight of bankruptcy and the "Grand Bargain."

James David Dickson, a commentary editor at the Detroit News, believes the chirpy slogan isn't helping anyone in Detroit or the city itself. His opinion piece "Why I refused to say nice things about Detroit" was on the Detroit News blog.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Longtime Detroit Congressman John Conyers has sent letters to President Barack Obama and other officials requesting immediate action and relief regarding water shutoffs in the bankrupt city.

The Democrat seeks to stop the shutoffs for nonpayment. Conyers said in a statement Friday that actions represent "an overzealous and misguided approach to cost-cutting."

The water department, responsible for about $6 billion of Detroit's $18 billion in debt, is a major issue in bankruptcy.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Businessman Dan Gilbert's real estate arm says it's bought the home of The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press.

Bedrock Real Estate Services made the announcement Friday about its purchase of the Detroit Media Partnership building. The News says the purchase price wasn't disclosed.

The 400,000-square-foot building was built in 1917 and designed by famed architect Albert Kahn.

Detroit Media Partnership President Joyce Jenereaux says she's "thrilled that Bedrock will be the new owner of our building."

It’s been almost six months since Mike Duggan took over as mayor of Detroit. He took over a city however, run by someone else: state-appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

But, that doesn’t mean Duggan has been denied all the rites of passage of the job including the schlep to Lansing to ask the state Legislature for something. Every mayor has to do it. And Duggan had to go to Lansing with a really big ‘ask.’ We’re talking about the $195 million dollar rescue package for his city (that’s right, ‘rescue,’ ‘settlement.’ Just don’t call it a ‘bailout.’)

Getting the Republican-led state House and Senate to go along with sending almost $200 million dollars to a Democratically-controlled city was not an easy task.

There are over 43,000 pictures in the interactive from The New York Times.
Screen shot of NYT interactive

I timed myself and it took me a minute and 21 seconds to scroll through the images of Detroit's blight. Initially, I didn't even read any of the analysis that The New York Times provided, I just scrolled. 

The Times has done several interactive pieces on blight in Detroit. There's been a wealth of data since the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force Plan was published.

This one really makes you realize how vast the city's housing problem actually is.

Their analysis breaks blight up geographically with different anecdotes and facts. Here are two examples:

7 Mile Road:

While most of the properties on the foreclosure list were residential, about 5 percent were sites of former businesses, of which a majority were vacant lots or unoccupied structures. Many were formerly gas stations, auto body shops and car washes. 

Lenox Street:

Ronald Ford Jr. says he has struggled to find work as a laborer and to pay his bills, let alone the $7,000 in property taxes that he now owes. His family bought the house in 1969, and his mother made the final mortgage payment years ago. But he said they stopped paying the taxes after she grew ill and moved into a nursing facility.  

-- Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

The city of Detroit says it’s sold $1 million dollars worth of vacant homes that will be fixed up and occupied. Nearly 70 auctioned properties have been sold.

These are purchase commitments from bidders, not cash in hand, but reaching the million-dollar mark gives Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Land Bank some bragging rights.

Of the 16,000 properties the city owns, 2,000 are salvageable. At an open house of properties to be auctioned last month, Mayor Duggan said the city would start putting up two houses a day for auction.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week the Detroit Journalism Cooperative is looking at how the city of Detroit is functioning under bankruptcy. Until recently, almost half the streetlights of Detroit were dark. Thousands of new streetlights are replacing the old broken ones.

I caught up with one of several crews installing streetlights in neighborhoods around Detroit. James England is the foreman.

Bob Jagendorf / Flickr

    

As the city of Detroit swiftly works its way through bankruptcy court there are some bright spots on the horizon. The state of Michigan, foundations and corporations are contributing millions of dollars to shore up city pensions and protect art held by the Detroit Institute of Arts. Mayor Mike Duggan is making strides to alleviate blight across the city. However, even in a best case scenario, what issues and challenges will the city continue to face even after the bankruptcy proceedings conclude?

Jennifer White, host of All Things Considered, speaks with Michigan State University Economist Eric Scorsone about the challenges facing the city of Detroit and the key systemic issues that the city must address.

Scorsone emphasizes that although there has been some recovery in the city, the challenges of the high unemployment rate, the big differences in the Detroit labor market when it comes to earnings of city residents compared to non-residents, upgrading the skill levels of city residents and the creation of jobs are issues that no one individual will be able to resolve alone, and will require cooperation from many agencies and non-profit organizations.

According to Scorsone, blight removal is an important step, but it is not necessarily the final solution. There needs to be major changes when it comes to land designated for certain uses such as housing, and stabilizing certain neighborhoods is imperative to the city’s future health. 

Listen to the full interview above.

--Omar Saadeh

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