Investigative

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The unemployment rate in Detroit is nearly double the statewide rate. Detroit residents need jobs. But too few people have marketable skills. What does it take to go from out-of-work to trained and employed?

For 30 years a group in Detroit has been training people to go to work as machinists, in IT, and beginning this year, in health care.

Fatima Mixon shows her Focus: HOPE certificate. She got a job because of the training program.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

If you live in Detroit, getting a job is just the first hurdle. Sometimes you have to be incredibly resourceful just to get to work.

After finishing her training at Focus: HOPE to become a machinist, Fatima Mixon did not find a job in the city of Detroit.

But she did get a job in Warren, Michigan. She was put on the midnight to 8:00 a.m. shift. Shift work is the worst for people who need to take the bus to work. The buses don’t run overnight.

While central business districts in Detroit are seeing the beginnings of resurgence, the neighborhoods are lagging behind. People who live in the city need jobs. To get them, many need new skills. In the second of a series of reports for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, we're following a student who is trying to get the training she needs to help her family.

In the first report, I introduced you to Fatima Mixon. She’s been studying at Focus: HOPE to become a machinist. A few weeks after I first met her at the school, I visited Mixon and her family at home.

The unemployment rate in Detroit is nearly double the statewide rate. Detroit residents need jobs. But too few people have marketable skills. What does it take to go from out-of-work to trained and employed?

For 30 years a group in Detroit has been training people to go to work as machinists, in IT, and beginning this year, in health care.

“When folks come out of here with that Focus: HOPE stamp of approval, you can be certain that you’re getting somebody who should work out pretty doggone well in your workplace,” said William Jones, CEO of Focus: HOPE.

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Some lawyers say the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association should lower the annual fee for Personal Injury Protection in the coming year.

According to the MCCA, "all auto insurance companies operating in Michigan are required to pay the assessment to the MCCA to cover the cost of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits guaranteed under Michigan’s no-fault insurance law. PIP coverage is mandatory and provides for the payment of unlimited, lifetime medical auto insurance benefits.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit is seeing more private investment and new businesses in its downtown areas, but some residents in the neighborhoods don’t see how they’re benefiting from that.

On a recent weeknight, I visited ten of Detroit’s popular night spots ranging from the trendy to the tourist spot to the traditional. All but one had something in common, the vast majority of the patrons were white.

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The child poverty rate is a critical indicator of our nation’s economic and social health. Child poverty costs the U.S. some $500 billion annually in health and crime costs, as well as in lost productivity and wages.

However, a new report called Measuring Access to Opportunity from the Annie E. Casey Foundation questions the accuracy of the official poverty measure – a measure the nation has been using for the past half-century.

The Michigan Department of Education has called it the most serious federal criminal case involving a Michigan charter school since the state gave the green light to charter schools in 1994.

Traverse City optometrist Steven Ingersoll will go on trial tomorrow on seven criminal charges of bank fraud and tax evasion.

Education reporter Chastity Pratt Dawsey wrote an article for Bridge Magazine that explored the charges.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit businesses sometimes have a hard time finding qualified workers. Even a bakery determined to hire its neighbors has had a tough time.

“At one school I was hiring from,  I had to get rid of most of the people that I hired from that school because they didn’t know the poundage or how to read recipes or anything like that,”  Tony Johnson said. He’s the Human Resources manager for Avalon International Breads.

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It would be foolish to do, but Michigan business owners could put up a “Straights Only” sign in the window. It would be legal. In fact, it’s legal for just about any business to turn away  gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens.

Under the leadership of Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, the Legislature has rejected the advice of business leaders and others who think LGBT people ought to be treated like every other citizen.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It’s been more than three months since parts of the Detroit area were flooded by torrential rains. People are still cleaning up the mess. Organizations from around the nation are helping, but it’s a huge job.

In Berkley, AmeriCorps volunteers are in Duane Van Geison’s basement, cutting up waterlogged wood frames and cleaning up a mess. It smells like rotting wood and mildew.

Upstairs, Van Geison is huddled by a space heater, trying to keep warm. He’s 74 years old and disabled. He's no longer able to walk downstairs.

More and better jobs?

Oct 30, 2014

Incumbent Republican Governor Rick Snyder has been vague about what he would do in the next four years in office, saying only, "We're on the road to recovery." He also says he'll pursue "more and better jobs." Political observers expect Snyder will continue on the path he's established, working to stimulate businesses while keeping a tight rein on state spending.

In an ad, Snyder says, "Our unemployment rate is the lowest in six years with nearly 300,000 new private-sector jobs." 

Politicians like to take credit for improving the economy, and challengers like to blame sitting officials for damaging it. In the race for governor in Michigan there have been plenty of both those kinds of accusations. Lester Graham with Michigan Watch examines how much politicians can really affect the economy.

Outside a Michigan WORKS! employment office, I asked a few unemployed people if they thought any state politician could make a difference in creating jobs.

Davina Carey has been out of work since June. “Hopefully," she said, laughing. "I mean, I don’t know.”

The Truth Squad at Bridge magazine has had a busy summer looking at ads in the race for governor. The close race between Republican Rick Snyder and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer has meant many ads on TV and online. Some are just not true. Others are slightly misleading. We went over a couple of them with the Truth Squad’s editor.

The Truth Squad at Bridge magazine is handing out "fouls" to Democrats and Republicans. Political groups are airing ads on behalf of the candidates running for governor in Michigan.

First let’s look at an ad put together by the Democratic Governors Association. In it a school teacher, Kim Stanley, ties together three separate issues.

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The pieces are falling into place for Detroit to eventually emerge from bankruptcy with a lot less of its budget-servicing debt. But the city of Detroit’s budget could still be a house of cards. Many of its revenue sources are not stable.

Bankruptcy does not mean Detroit escapes all of its money problems.

It’s heavily dependent on a city income tax. If another economic dip is around the corner, that source of revenue would shrink.

Casino taxes are stagnant.

The Truth Squad at Bridge Magazine reviewed a couple of TV ads put on the air by Republican Terri Lynn Land’s campaign for U.S. Senate. But, there’s a pretty substantial gap between the "truth" and the
"whole truth."

These two TV ads from the Land campaign attack the Democratic candidate, Congressman Gary Peters.

A Republican group is attacking Democratic congressional candidates, using online sites that resemble news websites. One of those 20 websites is called the “South Michigan Update.”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Testing students to assess their progress in school could get a lot more political before the year is out.

Legislators and the Michigan Department of Education clashed this year over a test to assess Common Core state standards. If the past is any clue, lawmakers with the help of the governor could simply take away the Department of Education’s authority and give it to a state agency more friendly to their point of view, such as Treasury. Gov. John Engler made exactly that kind of move several times during his time in office.

Bridge Magazine’s Truth Squad is reviewing the ads and claims in the race for governor between incumbent Rick Snyder and challenger Mark Schauer.

Democrat Mark Schauer is airing his first campaign TV ad and the Truth Squad has a couple of issues with it. First, there’s this statement:

“Rick Snyder’s economy might work for the wealthy, but it’s not working for the rest of Michigan.”

Now, that’s pretty standard political positioning, but Ron French with the Truth Squad says it’s unlikely, if not impossible, that only the wealthy are benefiting from the improvements in the Michigan economy since Rick Snyder took office.

“For one example, the unemployment rate has dropped from 11 percent to 7.5 percent. The Truth Squad questions whether it’s only the wealthy who have gotten jobs during that time,” French said.

Logo design by Harrison Lott

It's time for our third voting round for M I Curious! This time, we've got questions about pirates on the Great Lakes, why people park their cars backwards, and an historic Detroit housing project.

These past couple months, we've asked you the following question on Facebook, Twitter, and on our website:

"What do you wonder about Michigan or its people that you want Michigan Radio to investigate?"

People chimed in with what they're curious to know more about.

Right now, we're looking into the status of the pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac. And we're digging into the history of the "Michigan left turn" for Stateside.

Now, it's time for you to vote on which question you would like us to investigate next. 

Voting will be open for one week. After that, we'll investigate the question with the most votes.

The resulting story could be a radio piece, a multimedia online post, or an interview segment with Cynthia Canty – or it could be a combination of all three.

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Coleman A. Young was Mayor of Detroit from 1974 to 1994. He was Detroit's first black Mayor.

Even though it's been more than 20 years since he was Mayor and over 16 years since he died, there's a common narrative that Young was the cause of Detroit's financial ruin.

But is that really true?

Larry Gabriel from Bridge Magazine and Stephen Henderson from the Detroit Free Press joined Stateside to answer this question.

Henderson said you cannot get a bigger reaction from someone by saying any name other than Coleman Young.

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Blight is one of the biggest challenges facing Detroit.

Should we tear down and start fresh? Or selectively look at the properties and see what can be preserved?

According to a report from the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, 78,506 building in the city are decayed or at risk of decaying.

That’s 30% of the cities structures.

It will cost $850 million to demolish the blighted homes and commercial buildings. Clearing industrial sites could cost a billion dollars more.

Wikipedia

A 71 year-old ice cream man was arrested Tuesday at his Dearborn home on an immigration violation.

Mahmoud Bazzi is accused of the torture killings of two Irish soldiers in 1980. The soldiers were part of the UN peacekeeping mission in southern Lebanon. A third Irish soldier was shot but survived.

Bazzi moved to the United States shortly after the killings and settled in Dearborn.

Jim Schaefer has been covering this story for the Detroit Free Press. He said Bazzi entered the United States about 21 years ago on someone else’s passport. The government intends to deport Bazzi on this violation. Bazzi attempted to apply for citizenship last year.

Schaffer joined Stateside to recount the events in Lebanon that day.

*Listen to the full story above. 

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The M I Curious project is headed up by Michigan Radio’s Mark Brush.

“This is our chance to kind of pull back the curtain on news production and actually go out into the public and find out what the public is curious about,” Brush said.

We are inviting you into the editorial process of developing, producing and airing a story.

You can go to micurious.michiganradio.org and post your question for us.

Three questions will be chosen for a vote by listeners each month. If your question is selected, you can participate in producing the story with us.

This month’s question comes from Jeff Duncan. His question:

What brought people of Arabic/ Middle Eastern decent to Michigan?

Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek investigated and answered that question.

Cwiek said southeast Michigan has drawn so many Arabs because of two reasons. One the auto industry, specifically Henry Ford.

“There is apparently a legend that in the local Yemenite community that Henry Ford once met a Yemenite sailor and told him about these jobs in an auto factory that paid $5 a day,” Cwiek said.

The sailor passed on the word to others in Yemen and around the Arab world.

Cwiek said that though the first immigrants from the Arab world came in the nineteenth century, the explosion of Arab culture really started in the twentieth century.

“The programs we offer are the ones that (veterans) desire,” says Garland Williams, the University of  Phoenix’s vice president for military affairs.
Carlos A. Moreno / CIR

Update 10:30 p.m.

The showed has already aired on Michigan Radio. If you missed it, you can catch it again here.

Original post- 11:30 a.m.

Who’s really benefiting from the GI Bill? Why does the U.S. Coast Guard have some explaining to do? How much arsenic in our water is actually safe? There’s always more to the story.

“Reveal,” the radio show dedicated to investigative reporting, is back. Brought to you by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, the third pilot episode examines the value of a degree from a for-profit colleges reaping millions of dollars from GI Bill funds, explores the Coast Guard’s shaky safety record, exposes the backroom deals over arsenic in our water and delves into the secrecy around lethal injection drugs.

Catch Reveal tonight on Michigan Radio at 7 p.m.!

Here’s a rundown of the stories you’ll hear:

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.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week the Detroit Journalism Cooperative is looking at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy. Mayor Mike Duggan suggested he’d get a lot done in six months. We’re nearly there and took a look at progress with mass transportation in Detroit.

One out of every three Detroit households doesn’t have a car. They rely on the bus system. But it’s broken.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week Michigan Radio and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative are looking at how the city is functioning under bankruptcy. One of the biggest problems facing Detroit is the huge number of abandoned houses, buildings, and vacant lots. Here's a look at what’s changed in the six months since Mayor Mike Duggan took office.

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