Detroit

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

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week Michigan Radio and our media partners in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative are looking at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy and the leadership of Mayor Mike Duggan.

At the beginning of the year, Mayor Duggan said to watch what happens in six months. We’ll review the changes throughout this week, but we thought we’d start with a look at the mayor himself.

Inside the Arab American National Museum.
www.accesscommunity.org

Earlier this month there was the annual anti-Islam rally in Dearborn (although more cops than actual protestors showed up.) 

A few days before that, police investigated the burning of several Qurans outside a local Mosque. 

 And in February, an Arab-American man won more than $1 million dollars in a lawsuit over the religious and racial harassment he said he suffered at work.  

Yesterday, I talked about Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, who is in a tight race to win the Democratic primary in Michigan’s wildly gerrymandered 14th Congressional District, which stretches from the affluent Grosse Pointes, through the worst parts of Detroit, through Oakland County suburbs.

Most polls say the front runner is either Lawrence or former Congressman Hansen Clarke, who lost the primary here two years ago.

Clarke dropped out of sight after losing to Gary Peters, who is now moving on to run for the Senate. But, he resurfaced at the last moment this year to try to reclaim a congressional seat.

Surveys show a tight contest between Clarke and Lawrence, but virtually all the big endorsements have gone to a third candidate young enough to be their son.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

A group of organizations in Detroit announced that today they got official word they'll be sharing around $50 million in federal funds over the course of five years for early childhood education programs.

http://www.broadcenter.org/academy/network/profile/john-covington
The Broad Superintendents Academy

Let's do this MEAP style. Choose one of the following.

John Covington is:

A) an education visionary, brought in to turn around some of Detroit's worst schools using a model that lets kids learn at their own level, regardless of age or grade;

B) an overpaid, underperforming puppet of a state takeover of Detroit's schools;

C) It just depends on whom you ask. 

Right or wrong, the chancellor of the Education Achievement Authority is stepping down. 

Hired to fix Detroit's failing schools, amidst political turmoil 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit has announced settlements with its largest union and a group of unsecured bondholders.

Mediators said Friday the bankrupt city completed a series of tentative agreements with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25.

In a statement, AFSCME Council 25 President Al Garrett says the deals represent "the best path forward for city employees and retirees."

The Detroit Free Press reports that terms of the union agreements weren't released.

For months, we’ve been embroiled in Detroit’s bankruptcy and attempts to save what there is worth saving.

It is hard to pick up any national publication without finding stories about Detroit, few of them good. There are a spate of new book titles too, which mostly chronicle the city’s decline and fall.

Yet I’ve just been reading an utterly fascinating and inspiring new book about a time when Detroit really did save, or at least help save, the world.

The book, just published by Houghton Mifflin, is The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Ford Motor Company, and Their Epic Quest to Arm an America at War.

This is a book with characters larger and more bizarre than life. It tells the story of a Detroit-based triumph that the experts said was impossible. And every word in it is true.

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When you are a school district where more than 80% of your students live in poverty, every penny that helps those students is critical.

And that's why there has been a collective gasp of disbelief, even anger, with the news that Detroit Public Schools has lost $4 million in Head Start funding.

The reason DPS lost the money is because they missed the application deadline.

A school spokesperson blamed a technical problem in uploading the application.

Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley joined us on our show.

*Listen to our conversation with Rochelle above.

Green Alley Project

When you close your eyes and think of an alley, what do you see?

Trash? Junky cars? A place where danger lurks?

Or do you see a place where people might stroll? Perhaps car-free? Certainly cleaned up.

That's what Sue Mosey sees.

She's president of Midtown Detroit, Inc., a nonprofit community-development group that is working to transform gritty urban alleys in Midtown Detroit into something that is green, something you would want to walk through, and something that helps with urban revitalization.

Mosey said the alleys in Midtown Detroit were in very bad condition, some even collapsing. Mosey said the group worked with the Department of Public works to help with underground repairs.

“Since we are going to have to redo them anyway, we figured why not make them green and sustainable and beautiful,” Mosey said.

They repave, rebuild, and add lighting to the alleys, as well as other projects to make them more attractive and safe for the city.

“It’s an opportunity to reuse something that is usually seen more as a negative and create something unexpected and really positive and people really respond to that,” Mosey said. 

*Listen to full interview above. 

 Reid Bigland of Chrysler speaks at the media event announcing that U.S. automakers will contribute to the 'grand bargain.' Bigland is standing in front of one of the famous Diego River murals at the DIA.
Reem Nasr / Michigan Radio

It seems momentum behind Detroit's municipal bankruptcy reorganization continues to build. If the momentum continues, the city could emerge from bankruptcy this fall.

Today, General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler pledged to contribute a combined $26 million to a deal aimed at reducing cuts to Detroit pensioners while preserving the art collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts (part of the collection has been talked about as a city asset that could be sold to satisfy Detroit's creditors).

The money from the automakers will go into large pot of money – more than $800 million – collectively known as the "grand bargain."

So far, money for the grand bargain is coming from private philanthropists, foundations, the state of Michigan, and money raised by the DIA itself. The automakers' money will be counted toward the DIA's goal of $100 million.

blackenterprise.com

DETROIT (AP) - A family spokeswoman says Don Davis, a longtime Detroit musician, composer and recording executive, has died at 75.

Lisa Wilmore said Davis died Thursday in Michigan after a brief illness. She declined to say where he died.

Davis was a session musician during the 1960s at Motown Records in Detroit. He then went to work for Memphis, Tennessee-based Stax Records. He also started the independent Groovesville label.

He was a co-writer and co-producer of "Who's Making Love," a 1968 Stax hit for Johnnie Taylor.

Detroit Skyline
Shawn Wilson / Wikimedia Commons

In spite of its nickname, the Motor City has well-known transportation problems.

A large proportion of Detroiters don't own cars, and buses are notoriously late and overcrowded.

Now, residents have a new option.

It's a website based on a platform used at colleges, called detroit.ridepost.com.

Debra Rowe heads the Detroit Green Skills Alliance, which works on sustainability issues.

She convinced the person who created the platform to donate it, and says it will be useful for all kinds of people.

Catherine Ferguson Academy

It's kind of heartbreaking. 

The Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit is closing at the end of this month, due to low enrollment and financial trouble.

That's the announcement from the Wayne RESA, the intermediate school district that held the school's charter, and the whole thing feels like deja vu.

A beloved school repeatedly finds itself on brink of closure    

Jennifer Guerra

For a kid caught stealing a $30 bracelet from a store,  juvenile court would likely be the next stop.

But a "teen court" program in Detroit gives some teenagers a chance to avoid the juvenile justice system. It's one of about 1,000 programs across the country.

The teen court model still doles out consequences for kids who break the law, but the idea behind it is less about punishment and more about getting kids on the right path. Teenagers are involved in every aspect of the program. They are "lawyers" and "jury members," not just defendants.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

The Literary Map of Detroit is not your typical, predictable map of the Motor City. It looks at Detroit through the eyes of writers, poets and storytellers.

The map is actually a website, with locations that are mentioned in literary works by Detroit authors.

Frank Rashid, an English professor at Marygrove college and lifelong Detroiter, created the map.

Rashid created the map to challenge the belief that Detroit’s economic and social problems stem from one simple cause, such as a politician or Detroiters themselves, by providing works from writers that provide an inside look of the city and its history. The literature of Detroit, in combination with economic and historical studies, can help understand the where the issues originate.

Rashid said the map differs from the  superficial treatment of the city in some current literature. He hopes to inspire viewers to see and think about Detroit in a new way.

  Once the United Auto Workers boasted a formidable membership with more than one and half million members. Today: that number is drastically smaller, almost three-fourths smaller, with 390-thousand members.

Much has been written about whether or not the UAW is dead.

But, on today's Stateside, we asked, with such dwindling numbers does it really matter? And, to whom?

There is still ice on Lake Superior in the beginning of June. What is the cause?

A literary map of Detroit as seen through the eyes of writers, author’s and storytellers provides insight of Detroit’s history.

Also, want a free house? Well, if you're a writer, and ready to move to Detroit, you might just be in luck.

But, first on Stateside…

Michigan’s roads are crumbling and people want them fixed. Some estimates say it could cost almost 2 billion dollars a year to fix them.

State lawmakers are in the midst of considering raising revenue through higher taxes on gas and that has raised a lot of debate around what we already pay at the pump.

Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush set out to sort this out for all of us. 

*Listen to full show above. 

Stephen Harlan / Flickr

new report from the Blight Removal Task Force says that there's a lot of buildings that need to be eliminated in Detroit.

Yesterday, Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace interviewed Erica Gerson.

She's the chair of Detroit's Land Bank Authority. The organization deals with identified blight in the city and makes buildings usable again.

Listen to their conversation here:

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The $195 million Detroit rescue package moves to the Michigan Senate this week after easily clearing the state House by wide margins.

Gov. Rick Snyder is hoping for speedy action to get the deal wrapped up no later than early June.

“I would remind people our work is not done,” Snyder said. “I’d like to thank the House for their wonderful work, but we still have work to get done in the Senate. Hopefully, we can get that done in a prompt fashion, but this is a great opportunity to move Michigan ahead.”

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

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