Detroit

The Michigan House of Representatives.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The $195 million state contribution to the Detroit bankruptcy settlement cleared its first major hurdle today, as the state House approved the payment by a wide margin.

Applause erupted as the final bill in the Detroit package was approved by a lopsided majority. 

There were plenty of complaints about parts of the bills – such as years of post-bankruptcy state oversight, and the big withdrawal from the state’s “rainy day” savings.

The package also includes financial oversight requirements that could last for many years.

Detroit Skyline
Shawn Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

Let's start with the good news from today's census numbers.

Michigan is growing overall, up to about 9.9 million people.

That's two straight years of growth for the state, a welcome uptick after seven years of declining population.

And some of that growth is in areas you might expect: Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and their suburbs.

Detroit itself, however, is still shrinking. It's down 10,000 people from the previous year, with just under 689,000 people now.

Detroit Skyline
Shawn Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

For a lot of people, Jamie Dimon will forever be linked to the mortgage crisis that hit Detroit as hard as any city.

But there was no mention of that at yesterday's announcement, of course. Instead, there was a plated lunch - chicken and salad, with cupcakes - an uplifting video, and a standing ovation led by Michigan's governor, Rick Snyder.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers are debating a $200 million aid package for Detroit as the city moves through bankruptcy. Until now, state lawmakers haven’t been willing to help it with anything that could be called a “bailout.”

While Governor Rick Snyder supports the current deal, many of his fellow Republicans appear to be balking, especially after a threat of political retribution from the Koch Brothers political network.

Detroit officials have been doing lots of talking in Lansing for the past week, lobbying hard for the state aid package.

"The Jit" in action.
Detroit OG's / YouTube

It's called The Detroit Jit. It’s a dance style that started as a street dance in Detroit in the 1970s by three brothers who were known as The Jitterbugs.

And now the Jit and The Jitterbugs are the subject of a documentary that will be screened Friday at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Haleem Rasul is the founder of the dance group HardCore Detroit, and the producer of the film "The Jitterbugs: Pioneers of The Jit.”

Here's the trailer:

We welcomed Haleem Rasul to the program today, and one of the founders of The Jitterbugs, Tracy McGhee.

*Listen to the interview above.

Mike Duggan

There could be a first vote tomorrow in the Legislature on an almost $200 million deal to aid the city of Detroit. Mayor Mike Duggan was one of those who testified prior to the historic vote. Duggan says, overall, he supports the plan.

“I want you to be comfortable we’re not going to be coming back in two years, four years, six years – that we’re going to solve this once and when we do solve it once, you’re going to be proud of how progress is made,” Duggan told the House Committee on Detroit’s Restructuring and Michigan’s Future.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Mediators in Detroit's federal bankruptcy case say that building trade unions have agreed to contribute to a fund to cover retirees' benefits.

Some legislative Republicans have made union contributions to the pensions a condition for state aid, designed to protect the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection from sale to cover the costs.

A state House committee is to vote Tuesday spending $195 million to help Detroit emerge from bankruptcy.

Andrew Kopietz

Writer's residencies are common, but Write A House offers a residency that might only be possible in a city like Detroit. The group renovates vacant houses and gives them away, for free, and forever. 

The unique program has opened up its application process, and in a few months, a panel of judges will select one fiction, nonfiction, or poetry writer to live in the inaugural house. 

Write A House Vice President Sarah Cox told Michigan Radio reporter Kate Wells that they want to draw more literary talent to 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.

user: {megan} / Flickr

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.

user rob zand / Flickr

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.

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