Detroit

Governor Snyder hopes the State House will make progress toward approving the ‘Grand Bargain’ this week.

Critics complain it’s not fair for the rest of the state to pay for Detroit’s financial missteps. Supporters say restoring Detroit to financial health is important to all of Michigan.Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan RadioEdit | Remove

Tammy Coxen

The City of Detroit might be going through bankruptcy, but the commerce of Detroit is growing in some areas. A new business that will open this summer is the latest in a fast-growing trend.

Tucked away in the Eastern Market on Riopelle Street is a nondescript building. Go through the squeaky, jail-like door and you'll see one of Michigan’s newest whiskey, gin, and vodka distillers, the Detroit City Distillery.

Right now, though, it’s mostly a dusty construction site. There are no whiskey barrels here- yet. They’re stored at a licensed facility. There’s no copper pot still- yet. It’s being manufactured in Germany right now.

But they do have a classic wooden bar. Michael Forsyth and his partners found it in a vacant storefront in downtown Detroit and bought it.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Workers removed some of the plywood covering up a house in the Osborn neighborhood on Sunday to allow potential buyers to check out one of the houses the city will put up for auction.

Saturday, people visited available houses in the Boston-Edison neighborhood.

Detroit owns 16,000 properties. Some of them are houses in good enough condition to sell.

Bidding starts at $1,000, but the buyers have to bring the property up to code and either live in it or rent it to someone.

Michigan Radio

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr was in Lansing today.  He told a state House committee Detroit’s bankruptcy settlement and recovery plan cannot succeed without an infusion of money from taxpayers.

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New polling out just this morning sheds some light on how folks who live outside of Detroit feel about this possible settlement, in which money would go from Lansing to Detroit.

As part of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, Michigan Radio's Lester Graham and Sarah Cwiek have been poring over the results of our Epic MRA poll. They joined us to discuss how people feel about the state giving money to help Detroit's recovery. 

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A new poll shows Michigan voters outside of Detroit approve using state money to support the so-called “Grand Bargain” to bolster City of Detroit retirees’ pensions and protect the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection.

The poll was commissioned by Michigan Radio and its partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

(See DJC partner Bridge Magazine's coverage of the poll here.)

It found almost half of voters outside the city of Detroit support the state government contributing $350 million to help solve some of the sticky issues of the bankruptcy. Forty-nine percent favor the contribution, 34 percent oppose it.

buildingdetroit.org

A new experiment meant to fill some of Detroit's vacant city-owned homes appears to be paying off.

City officials plan to announce an expansion of the online auction today.

The Detroit Land Bank Authority started putting one house up for auction on a website each day last week. Bids started at $1,000, and all five drew high bids between $30,000 and $42,000.

So far, 6,000 people have signed up to bid.

Jennifer Guerra from the State of Opportunity team talks to one young man who says advice from his mom and hope for his brothers made a difference in his decision to leave gang life behind.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

Even before Detroit got itself an emergency manager and became the biggest city in American history to declare bankruptcy, the headlines and images coming out of the Motor City have been pretty grim. 

And, as travelers abroad are discovering, that has led to all kinds of encounters with "the locals" when they discover you're from Detroit. 

So, do you tell them that you're from Detroit, or do you hide it?

That's the question posed by Detroit Free Press travel writer Ellen Creager. 

DIA Archives

The Detroit Institute of Arts is planning a unique exhibition that highlights the year Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo spent in the city.

Between April 1932 and March 1933, Rivera created the famed Detroit Industry murals on the walls of a courtyard at the Detroit museum.

Here’a video of the murals being made at the DIA:

Sherri Welch reports for Crain’s Detroit Business that other museums and private collectors will help the DIA with the exhibition:

"When Rivera was here, he was regarded as one of the most important artists in the world of western art at that time," [DIA Director Graham] Beal said.

Edsel Ford paid for the murals, which wound up costing just less than $21,000 at the time, according to the DIA.

Rivera, seen as one of the greatest muralists of his time, was a very important influence on the artists who became abstract expressionists, Beal said.

And Kahlo's development as an artist took place when she was here in Detroit. Renowned as not only a portrait artist but as a symbol of feminist strength, Kahlo's works range in style from folk art to surrealist.

In its press release, the DIA says most of the works Kahlo created in Detroit will be shown for the first time in the city.

The show is scheduled to run from March 15, 2015, to July 12, 2015.

In all, 80 artworks will be featured in the exhibition, including Rivera's preparatory drawings for the Detroit Industry murals.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Catholics trying to support Detroit's oldest churches are encouraging people to fill the empty pews.

The latest effort comes Sunday at the 11 a.m. Mass at St. Charles Borromeo church on Detroit's east side. The group has a Facebook page called the Detroit Catholic Mass Mob.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Kevyn Orr has wrapped up his two days of meeting with lawmakers in Lansing. His goal was to win support for some $350 million as the state's share in the so-called grand bargain. 

We shift our focus to money not from the state capitol, but the nation's capitol. 

Republicans, even some Democrats, are dead-set against the idea of a federal bailout for Detroit. GOP Senator David Vitter of Louisiana tried and failed last fall to get a law passed to prevent federal money from ever going to the city. 

But are the tides changing? 

The Obama Administration and Michigan officials are now in talks to give Detroit $100 million federal dollars for blight remediation, and just last week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew visited Detroit. 

Detroit Free Press Washington, D.C. reporter Todd Spangler joined us.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Detroit News Staff / Walter P. Reuther Library

In the 1920's, Belle Isle was a secret port for smuggling alcohol into the U.S. from Canada. The island was teeming with mobsters on little motor boats who brought liquor over by the jug-full. 

Now that Belle Isle is a state park, alcohol is back to being outlawed, and the place is being patrolled by state police and the Department of Natural Resources.

Many Detroiters have complained that the police are unfairly targeting drivers on the island.

According to Joe Guillen of the Detroit Free Press, since becoming a state park earlier this year there have been about 500 arrests. Among those who were pulled over were Detroit's city clerk, and even the city's mayor Mike Duggan. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Clean air advocates in Michigan are cheering a U.S. Supreme Court decision that will allow stricter regulation of coal-fired power plants.

The high court decided this week to overturn a lower court ruling and allow the Environmental Protection Agency to slap new limits on pollution from power plants.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - A committee representing Detroit retirees has agreed to endorse the city's plan to cut pensions in bankruptcy. The committee is supporting deals struck last week that would cut the pensions of general retirees by 4.5 percent and eliminate cost-of-living payments. Police officers and firefighters would see a cut only in their annual inflation allowance. Detroit also wants to recover certain generous annuity payments made since 2003.

I flew to Florida early last month, and while in the air re-read from cover to cover the one indispensable book that explains as nothing else what really happened to Detroit.

Eighteen years ago, University of Pennsylvania historian Thomas Sugrue published a volume mind-blowing in its brilliance of analysis and depth of research.

The title, “The Origins of the Urban Crisis,” is somewhat misleading.

This really is the book on how Detroit was destroyed - and destroyed itself - over the last 70 years.

Screen shot from a "One Day" film.
onedayindetroit.org

On Saturday, hundreds of folks with cameras in hand will descend upon Detroit.

Their mission is to document stories that most affect the future of the city. The stories they capture will become part of a TV series on the future of the American city.

It's called “One Day in Detroit: Your Day, Your City, Your Future.”

Detroit is one of 11 cities across America to be a part of this "One Day" event.

The co-founder and executive producer of One Day on Earth, Brandon Litman, joined us today. And we also welcomed Stephen McGee, the local producer of “One Day in Detroit.”

*Listen to the audio above.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There‘s one kind of pollution that researchers believe robs kids of their future like no other.

Scientists have found evidence it diminishes their intelligence, causes behavioral problems, even increases the likelihood they’ll end up in prison.

This toxin’s damage is known.

We even know how to protect children from being exposed to it.

Yet tens of thousands of Michigan children are poisoned by lead every day.

Jessica Jeffries showed me the work that was done on her upper-floor apartment of a two-story house in Detroit.

Twitter

The 1964 World's Fair opened its door to an eager public 50 years ago this day at the Flushing Meadows Corona Park, in New York City.

And it is no exaggeration to say that cars ruled that World's Fair. Detroit's Big Three worked very hard to grab the world's attention.

We talk about what those messages were and how the Detroit Three weren't just selling cars, they were pushing a lifestyle and a political system.

Joseph Tirella, author of Tomorrow-Land: The 1964-65 World's Fair and the Transformation of America, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

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DETROIT (AP) - A judge has ordered the city of Detroit and the suburbs to further explore the creation of a regional water department.

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes granted Wayne County's request Thursday to have the parties sit down with a mediator.

Detroit's water department provides water to Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has expressed interest in spinning off the department as a regional agency.

But some suburban leaders are concerned about future financial burdens on their residents.

The judge says the bankruptcy case is a "unique opportunity" to keep negotiating. Otherwise, Rhodes says the opportunity "will be lost forever."

Flickr user afagen / Flickr

As we get together with our families to celebrate the holidays, we often think about those who are no longer with us. For many, a trip to a cemetery to visit loved ones is easy, but for others, it’s impossible.

For families with relatives buried in the Beth Olem cemetery in Detroit, they can’t go pay their respects.

The cemetery is hidden within GM’s Poletown plant, and is only open to the public two days every year: the Sunday before Passover and Rosh Hashanah.

People are able to visit the cemetery if they go on a private tour offered by the Michigan Jewish Historical Society. We heard from some of the visitors today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Studies by environmental scientists find that 48217 is the most polluted zip code in the entire state of Michigan.

It's the zip for the Boynton neighborhood in southwest Detroit, perched next to the Marathon Refinery, which refines tar sands oil that comes from Canada.

The byproduct of that tar sands refining? Those huge piles of pet coke that appeared along the banks of the Detroit River last year before being removed.

For many people who call the Boynton neighborhood home, life is about belching smoke stacks, terrible odors, worries about what chemicals they're being exposed to, and declining property values.

Renee Lewis recently reported on "Life in Michigan's Dirtiest Zip Code" for Al Jazeera America, and she joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

There have been two big developments this week in the high-stakes showdown over Detroit's pensioners, its art treasures and creditors who hope bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes will pressure the city to put those art treasures on the table.

There's a lot to try to sort out. So, as we do each Thursday, we spoke to Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

Listen to the full interview above.

For the past 35 years, "Hockeytown" in Detroit has meant the on Detroit's Riverfront.  But " The Joe's" days as the home of the Detroit Red Wings are numbered.

The Wings are headed north to the Cass Corridor area between downtown at Midtown.

A new $450-million, 18,000 seat arena is on the way for Wings owner Mike Ilitch,  perhaps as early as the 2016-2017 season.

And what's drawing fire from critics like my next guest is the fact that the stadium deal has the public covering nearly 60% of the sticker price the Ilitches will get all the revenues from the new stadium, and the whole deal was unveiled publicly the week after Detroit declared bankruptcy.

Bill Bradley is a columnist at Next City, where he covers economic development in cities. He dug into the new Wings arena in a piece for nextcity.org. It's title? "Red Wings Stadium Upset! Why Taxpayers are Losing--Again--in Detroit."

If you aren’t following every twist and turn in the saga of Detroit’s bankruptcy, you may think things are well on track.

Today, in fact, came the good news that the city has apparently reached a deal with its unsecured bondholders, who are evidently going to settle for almost 75 cents of every dollar owed them. 

But the biggest and toughest challenges are ahead.

And if you think the Detroit Institute of Arts is now safe, think again.

Here is how things stand:

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The city of Detroit has started posting legal notices on 79 abandoned homes in one city neighborhood, warning homeowners to clean up the property--or risk a lawsuit, and the city seizing the home.

The effort in the west side neighborhood near Marygrove College was announced Wednesday afternoon by Mayor Mike Duggan, in what he called a "bold experiment" to fight blight.

It will work like this: once a notice is posted, homeowners have 72 hours to contact the city and arrange to sign a consent agreement. It will stipulate that the homeowner clean up the property, and move someone into the house within 60 days.

If that doesn't happen, the city can sue to have the Detroit Land Bank Authority seize the house. The Land Bank will then re-sell properties it deems "salvageable" at auction.

“When you leave your house abandoned, it is a nuisance to the neighborhood," Duggan said. "And you cannot legally leave your property in a way that’s a nuisance.

"I'm going to give every single person when we sue them the choice—either sign the court order to get it fixed up and occupied, or we’re going to take title.”

Duggan said it will be "fascinating" to see how the program plays out in the Marygrove neighborhood effort plays out over the next 90 days--but that plans are already in the works to expand it to other neighborhoods.

Duggan said represents a shift away from the "mindless demolition" approach to blight eradication--though many homes that are simply unsalvageable will have to be demolished. “If we take down the houses that can’t be saved, and we sell what’s left…I think people will value that," Duggan said.

Lola Holton, a 39-year resident of the neighborhood, said she's ready to see "results."

"I'm very, very excited about having community back," Holton said. "That's what we need. We've lost that. 

"Not only the restoration and taking boards down, but putting families in these houses. To build community."

 

Paul Hitzelberger / United Photo Works

Yesterday was the deadline to file objections to the disclosure statement spelling out Detroit's plan to climb out of its bankruptcy hole.

And yes, objections poured in – long lists of objections to the disclosure statement.

Detroit News reporter Chad Livengood joined us today to tell us who's objecting, why, and what comes next.

Listen to the full interview above.

House Republicans have come up with an annual $500 million solution to fixing Michigan's horrible damaged roads. Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press joins us to discuss the proposition. 

A Clinton Township man was senselessly beaten and robbed on Detroit's east side after stopping to help a 10-year-old boy who stepped into oncoming traffic. Steve Utash is now in a medically induced coma. Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press joins us to try and understand this crime. 

A neighborhood church in Metro Detroit has closed its doors about 91 years. St. Henry's parish numbers have fallen so low that the church is closing. Stateside's Kyle Norris grew up attending the church, and she joins us today to share her story.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

A Clinton Township tree trimmer is still in a medically induced coma today. He was beaten by a mob on Detroit's east side after he stopped to help a child who had stepped into the path of his truck. 

Detroit Police say Steve Utash was not at fault, that he'd been obeying the speed limit. And after 10-year-old David Harris stepped out in front of his pickup truck, Utash did the right thing: He got out to help the boy. 

That's when he was attacked by the mob who beat him severely and robbed his truck. 

Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley joins us now to try to make sense of this seemingly senseless crime.

Listen to the full interview above.

Wikimedia Commons

As the city of Detroit seeks pathways back to economic health, small businesses are seen as a key. And there can be no conversation about small business owners in Detroit without involving the Arab-American community. 

Most of the grocery stores, convenience stores and gas stations in Detroit are owned by Arab-Americans.

And, historically, the relationship between these store owners and their largely African-American customers has been not without its tensions. 

Which is why a recent editorial in The Arab American News caught our eye, and we wanted to share its message with you. 

We're joined now by Osama Siblani, the publisher of The Arab American News.

Listen to the full interview above. 

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