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Investigative

The Baltia 747 at Willow Run Airport in 2014.
user Friscocali / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

It’s not the kind of aircraft you typically associate with Willow Run Airport.

Instead of the two seater plane or small charter jets, a Boeing 747 was parked there until last year.

It belonged to Baltia Airlines – the world’s oldest start-up airline – and it’s never taken a single passenger anywhere. The company once labeled itself as "America's newest airline."

By Bill McGraw is a reporter for Bridge Magazine, a Detroit Journalism Cooperative partner

Though their sprawling region had long wrestled with segregation, and racial violence has dominated national headlines this summer, about half of all metro Detroit residents say local race relations today are generally good, according to an exclusive new poll by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

Ali Lapetina / Detroit Journalism Cooperative

Attitudes about race have been improving in southeast Michigan, but there are still wide gaps on some issues between white people and black people. Those are some of the findings in a new survey commissioned by the Detroit Journalism Cooperative. 

The survey included people from mostly black communities, mixed communities, and mostly white communities in the Detroit metropolitan area.

When asked to rank the importance of race relations, black and white people ranked that issue below issues such as education and crime.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

 A Washington Post-ABC News poll shows the majority of Americans think race relations are getting worse. Concern about race relations spiked shortly after the reports of white police officers killing black men. Since the poll, two black men have targeted and killed police.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Racial tensions are growing as the perceptions and evidence of racial inequality are growing.

Many of Detroit's residents see billionaires buying up downtown buildings where new retailers open shop, selling items most of Detroit's impoverished citizens cannot afford. There's a marked divide between that prosperity in downtown and the poverty in the neighborhoods.

That divide is stark in the Cass Corridor. New residents, often white, are moving in. Rents are rising. New restaurants and boutique shops are popping up. The old residents, often black, are being pushed out.

The Atlantic posted a piece on July 8th which gets to the heart of what Michigan Radio and the Detroit Journalism Cooperative have been reporting on this year: Have things changed since the Kerner Commission's report of 1968 was published?

That presidential commission report outlined the grievances of black America and remedies to ease racial tensions.

The Atlantic explores the issue and contrasts it with the current presidential election year.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Politicians and media reports indicate Detroit is in the middle of an economic resurgence. That’s true for the central business districts. That’s not the case for many residents in the poorest neighborhoods.

“Some people just don’t have the hope. And, especially living in an environment like this, it’s kind of hard. It’s kind of hard. It’s very stressful,” said Alita Burton.

St. Louis Public Radio

  

More in this series from Michigan Radio and its Detroit Journalism Cooperative partners can be found at www.detroitjournalism.org

The news has been full of stories in recent years about police killing unarmed African-Americans. Those reports have been disturbing.

Brian Widdis / Bridge

Bill McGraw reports for Bridge, a Michigan Radio partner in the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

The Black Lives Matter movement was peaking a year ago, when protesters took to the streets of Baltimore over the death of a black man in police custody. On the same day, an angry crowd gathered on Evergreen Road on Detroit’s west side.

The situation on Evergreen quickly grew tense. An agent from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who was on a task force with Detroit police had shot and killed a 20-­year-old black Detroiter, Terrance Kellom, a parole absconder who was wanted for armed robbery.

“Huge crowd. We were surrounded,” Assistant Chief Steven Dolunt recalled in late March. “They were calling for the chief. I called him. I said, ‘You need to get here right away. Now.’’’

The chief of police is James Craig. The crowd knew him because in nearly three years at the top of the Detroit Police Department, he has become such a familiar figure on city streets and media outlets that some people, both friends and foes, call him “Hollywood.”

Craig’s style is low­-key and controlled, more Woodward Avenue than Sunset Strip, but he doesn’t mind the nickname. He says his visibility is part of a deliberate strategy to communicate with Detroiters.

Michigan Radio

Because of Flint’s water crisis, regulators are asking water systems to answer a couple of seemingly basic questions: Where are Michigan’s lead water pipes? How many are left in the ground?

We’ve found the answers are hard to come by.

Lead leaches into drinking water from old lead service lines or lead solder, and from some plumbing in people’s home. A service line is the pipe that takes drinking water from the water main under the road into your home.

Nowadays, those lines are usually made of copper, sometimes plastic. But back before the 1950s, lead was pretty common.

 Michigan Radio reporters Rebecca Williams and Lindsey Smith participated in an IJNR panel titled "Environmental Justice in the News: Lessons Learned from the Flint Crisis." 

You can see some highlights from the earlier live stream below or by following IJNR on Twitter.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

America struggles with race and those struggles are intensifying. As the white majority has been shrinking, racial tensions have been rising. You can see it in anti-immigration movements. It’s in the feeling among some white people that they’re being oppressed.

Meanwhile, a new generation of black protest organizations has been taking to the streets as black Americans feel a greater threat from white-dominated politics and police.

Race relations have changed since the civil rights movements of the 1960s and they seem to be changing again.

LBJ Presidential Library

News media around the world are talking about Detroit’s resurgence.

Politicians in the city and the state, such as Gov. Rick Snyder, hype its revitalization.

“New investments have helped fuel a rapid dramatic transformation of Detroit and today it’s America’s comeback city,” he said in a video.

But that’s only part of the story of Detroit.

In the city’s neighborhoods, many people are still struggling.

However, there was a plan released in the 1960s to help end racial discrimination in Detroit and the nation.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint area business leaders are turning to social media as a way to counter negative publicity about the city’s drinking water crisis.

The Flint/Genesee Chamber of Commerce has launched a #ChooseFlint campaign, where it encourages people to share images of Flint on Facebook and other social media.

Heather Kale is with the Chamber. She hopes #ChooseFlint will persuade people to visit Flint.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

A special report looking at the progress, struggles, and failures in Detroit during the city’s first year out of bankruptcy:

Clockwise top left: Lee Anne Walters with her son Garrett, the Flint River, Marc Edwards, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha - Flint EMs Darnell Earley, Jerry Ambrose, Ed Kurtz, and Mike Brown. Center - water at the Flint Treatment Plant.
Steve Carmody, Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

What would you do if your tap water turned brown? If it gave your children a rash every time they took a bath? Or worse, what if it made them sick? Listen to our special documentary below, and hear the wild story about how the water in Flint became Not Safe To Drink.

Lee Anne Walters with her son Garrett outside of her home in Flint.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Up until October, the Walters family lived in a yellow two-story home on the south side of Flint. A couple of red maple trees shade the tiny front yard.

Walters heads to the back of the house, in a small room off of the kitchen, where the family keeps its stockpile of bottled water.

“This is our water stash. Once a week we go and we fill 40 gallons of water, so we have water to drink with, to cook with, and to bathe Gavin and Garrett in,” says Lee Anne Walters.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

As Detroit approaches the one-year anniversary of emerging from the nation’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy, Michigan Radio is examining one of the lessons learned.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

By Mike Wilkinson
Bridge Magazine

When state-appointed emergency financial manager Kevyn Orr first pleaded with a federal bankruptcy court to help Detroit in July 2013, he made his case with sobering statistics: the city’s high levels of poverty, blight, and abandonment, its declining population and tax revenues, and its insane crime rate.

Courtesy: Michigan Department of Transportation

When the Gordie Howe International Bridge from Canada to the U.S. is complete, it’s expected that thousands of trucks a day will travel through the Detroit neighborhood of Delray. Residents there want the government to keep additional pollution to a minimum.

This story was updated to include a link to the 2015  Event Price Structure.

After two weeks and several requests via email, telephone, and in person, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has finally revealed information which should have been easily available to anyone.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

  

Alarms are going off. People are checking gauges, trying to determine what's wrong.

We’re in a large simulator of a nuclear reactor control room at the DTE Energy Fermi 2 power plant on Lake Erie near Monroe. Employees are being trained to deal with just about any foreseeable problem a nuclear power plant might face. 

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

 

For many years Detroit residents and businesses didn’t see a lot of services from the city. After an emergency manager and bankruptcy, one of the first city officials some people saw was an inspector or police officer citing them for a building or business violation. Some business owners say it got ridiculous.

Last fall Arab-American gas station owners asked to meet with the Detroit Police Department about getting multiple citations for the same offenses. They complained that police officers would issue tickets for things such as an expired business license. The gas station owners would apply for the license and pay the fee. Before City Hall would issue the license, the police would stop by and issue another ticket.

Bridge Magazine

If Mike Duggan wants to remove a major barrier keeping people from moving to Detroit, he may have to deal with an even bigger barrier: Michigan’s guaranteed lifetime benefits for catastrophic auto accident injury.

Several bills wending through the Legislature's attempt to alter a popular state benefit: no-fault auto insurance. Among those proposals, the one sparking the most chatter doesn’t even address no-fault insurance for most of the state. Duggan’s plan, called “D-Insurance,” would create first-ever coverage caps that could drastically lower rates in Detroit.

Read the story here.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

 

People in Detroit pay some of the highest auto insurance rates in the nation. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan believes that’s part of the reason people move out of the city. He’s put together a plan to provide cheaper auto insurance for city residents. Some critics think it would be a bad deal for Detroiters.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit has one of the busiest fire departments in the nation. One problem in the city causes fires to be worse than they should be: broken fire hydrants. It’s a problem city hall doesn’t want to talk about.

House Foreclosure
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Thousands of Detroit and Wayne County homeowners face tax foreclosures.  Some of those families still have time to save their homes, but they might be paying more in taxes than they should have had to pay.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan planned to have a lot more buses on the streets by this point. There’s been progress in some areas: more buses, better maintenance. But the bus system is still not reaching its goals.

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.

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