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Investigative

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.

DetroitMI.gov

“Six months from now, you are going to be able to judge for yourself whether the leadership of this city has a sound plan and is achieving it.”

Those were the words of Mayor Mike Duggan when he was sworn in.

His six-month challenge is coming to an end. All this week, The Detroit Journalism Cooperative will look at the changes in Detroit over the past six months and how the city is functioning under bankruptcy.

Michigan Radio’s Detroit reporter, Sarah Cwiek, and investigative reporter Lester Graham spoke with Cynthia Canty on Stateside about Duggan's efforts.

Though emergency manager Kevyn Orr is still running the show, Duggan has shown potential.

“He’s showing some real leadership skills for a guy who has been elected to serve a city with no power,” Graham says.

During Duggan’s campaign, he talked a lot about being involved in the bankruptcy progress and being aggressive with Kevyn Orr. They signed a power-sharing agreement after the election. While Orr continues to manage the bankruptcy, Duggan is focusing on the day-to-day operations of the city.

So far, Duggan has been focusing on blight, public lighting, and putting city buses on the roads. Cwiek says Duggan is building a good reputation with most of the city.

When judging Duggan’s efforts, he has no control over the bankruptcy, police department, or school district.

Duggan has said that he wants to bring in more residents, and he has made a bit of progress. His effort to rehabilitate vacant homes and sell them on online auctions helps a little. But crime and schools remain a key issue for potential residents.

“He really does have a knack for actually interacting with and talking to people,” Cwiek said. “I think while there may remain a few people in the communities who are a little suspicious of him, I think he’s managed to build a pretty good rapport with his constituents.”

Graham says as a white mayor in a city that is 80% African American, Duggan knows that he has to be seen as one of the people to make connections.

“He doesn’t dress like our past mayors; he’s a little more casual about his dress,” Graham said. “He drives himself around, he stops in the neighborhoods, he talks with people because he wants to be seen as a regular guy. And he’s not running around, like in the past, with five bodyguards and an entourage.”

The Detroit Journalism Cooperative will be looking at Duggan’s efforts on blight, mass transit, and lighting. Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett will have a report on crime and Sarah Cwiek will look at the city's schools. Those reports will air on Morning Edition and All Things Considered on Michigan Radio.

*Listen to full story above.

–Bre’Anna Tinsley, Michigan Radio Newsroom. 

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.

User: Goodiez / flickr

 

Why is it that one product will resonate with a group of consumers, while a similar one just can't quite catch on?

It's the sort of dilemma you can imagine Don Draper and Peggy Olson trying to figure out in an episode of "Mad Men."

Turns out, it was a dilemma for a major tobacco company: trying to figure out why Detroit smokers were so loyal to the competition – in this case, Kool cigarettes in the 1970s.

Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist who looked into this bit of tobacco history for Motor City Muckraker.

*Listen to the full interview above.

Dwight Burdette, David Wise, Detroit Historical Society / wikimedia commons, Flickr, Detroit Historical Society

Update 5:30 p.m.

Voting for our first M I Curious question has closed and we have a winner!

Jeff Duncan of Sterling Heights asked us to look into the following question:

What was it that initially drew people of Arab descent to Michigan?

We'll begin working on this story this week and will have a report, or series of reports, by the end of this month. In the meantime, if you have some insights into the story, drop a note below.

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.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Impressions of Republican Gov. Rick Snyder are more negative than positive among voters, even when you factor out the heavily Democratic city of Detroit, according to a poll released yesterday.

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

The poll is unique because it does not include voters from the city of Detroit.

Among the data was a question asking how voters would rate the job Rick Snyder has done as Michigan’s governor. Since Snyder is a Republican and voters in Detroit are overwhelmingly Democratic, you might expect Snyder to do really well outside the city. But 52% of voters rated Gov. Snyder as having done a

Logo design by Harrison Lott

We're launching an innovative journalism project here at Michigan Radio that will allow the public to drive the stories we investigate. 

Ask yourself, "what am I curious about?" and then share that question with us.

Our MI Curious project will launch in the coming weeks with a website that will ask:

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

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.

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.

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.

Ann Arbor Public Schools

A newly released report is breaking new ground in the study of inequality among our children.

The report is from the Annie E. Casey Foundation for Kids Count. It's titled "Race for Results: building a path to opportunity for all children."

For the first time, it creates an index that looks at conditions for children by race.

Our next guest believes it contains troubling findings for Michigan children and the need for a major call to action.

Jane Zehnder-Merrell is project director of Kids Count in Michigan with the Michigan League for Public Policy, and she joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

On the one-year anniversary of his appointment, Detroit’s emergency manager spoke about the latest developments in the city's bankruptcy in a speech at the University of Michigan.

One thing in the works is getting a $120 million loan from Barclays of London. A state board approved the loan today. The Detroit City Council also approved the deal, despite concerns that the money might be used to pay big-money bankruptcy consultants. But, emergency manager Kevyn Orr says, ‘not so.’

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

In the spring of 1973, Ray Robinson left his wife and three young children in Bogue Chitto, Alabama to support the occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

He never came home.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Detroit's municipal bankruptcy has made the world aware of what Michigan already knew. Detroit is broke. No matter how it turns out, bankruptcy is not going to change things very quickly. Detroit will still be broke. That’s going to force the city to get creative.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: the state of Michigan is not going to bail out Detroit.

And the state of Michigan is not going fully restore revenue sharing from the sales tax with cities such as Detroit.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

About 2,500 people showed up to apply for new city of Detroit jobs during a two-day job fair at Cobo Hall on Friday and Saturday.

On average, more than seven people applied for each job available.

Michael Hall is Detroit’s Director of Human Resources and Labor Relations.

“You know, we had 350 jobs that we listed. Anything from a GED to a CPA we’re looking for. So, we’ve had great candidates come through and some of those people will be called back for future interviews,” Hall said.

Wikimedia Commons

If the pollsters are right, here’s something you probably don’t know:

It’s perfectly legal to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.

A Gallup poll reported nearly nine out of ten people think LGBT people are already protected.

They are not.

Actually, Arizona and Michigan are not that different right now.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The plan to guide Detroit out of bankruptcy includes up to $150 million a year for ten years to repair neglected infrastructure.  The city could go a long way in paying for that if it can find a way to collect money already owed to it.

The Compuware World Headquarters building at Campus Martius is a gleaming example of a downtown revival.

But last week, just down the block, the façade of revival was peeled back for a moment. An old water pipe broke.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week the City of Detroit’s Emergency Manager is to file a disclosure statement with the federal court overseeing the city’s bankruptcy ahead of the March 1 deadline.

The plan of adjustment restructuring Detroit’s debt includes a ten year blueprint for the city as part of the 2012 consent agreement with the State of Michigan. The restructuring consultant Conway MacKenzie has been working on that ten year plan.

Bill Nowling is the spokesperson for Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. He says that blueprint will be part of the filing this week.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

To successfully emerge from bankruptcy, Detroit has to find ways to cut spending and increase revenue. But that’s not going to be easy when so many Detroit residents are struggling just to get by.

No matter how well bankruptcy goes for Detroit, the city is going nowhere if most of its residents are broke and without jobs.

No jobs mean no income taxes for the city.

Aaron Olson

You might be asked to sign a petition next year to cut Michigan legislators’ pay and make their job part-time. The state constitution will have to be amended to accomplish that.

There could be some unintended consequences in doing that.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The documentary looks at religious views, transgender struggles, discriminatory laws, and anti gay-rights groups' concerns. You can listen to the full documentary below:

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse wanted to jointly adopt their children.

In the years that they’ve lived together, Rowse has adopted two children, and DeBoer adopted one, splitting the responsibilities of parenthood together. But a state ban on same-sex joint adoptions prohibited them from officially adopting their children together.

So in January 2012, DeBoer and Rowse filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that preventing such adoptions violated rights of their children.

But U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman told the couple to take their complaint further — challenge the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

user: sylvar / Flickr

Part of the LGBT community is confusing to a lot of straight people and, really, some gay and lesbian people. The "T" in LGBT. Transgender people.

This piece includes the stories of two transgender women. Because their gender can cause confusion, Renee Knipe and Joanna Smith have struggled with things many people don't think about.

Knipe has been barred from using women's restrooms. Joanna Smith, who was once John Smith, is a father. 

courtesy photo

This week I’m bringing you segments from my documentary, Voices from the Fields," a story of migrant workers in Michigan.

The Senate passed an immigration bill this summer that allowed for a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented farm workers in the United States.

Some say if those people get legal status, they’ll have a chance to find better work. That’s exactly what happened to Gerardo Zamora. He would still be in the fields if it wasn’t for a little known immigration bill passed recently.

Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

This week I’m bringing you segments from my documentary, Voices from the Fields," a story of migrant workers in Michigan.

More than half of the roughly 2 million farm workers in the U.S. are undocumented.

Of those 2 million, 94,000 migrant workers and their families live and work in Michigan. And they have a lot at stake when it comes to U.S. immigration policy.

Back in June, the U.S. Senate passed an immigration bill that would provide a path to citizenship for farm workers, but now the immigration debate lies in the hands of the U.S. House – which has its own ideas, and they’re very different from the Senate’s.

For one thing, the House plan does not include a path to citizenship for undocumented workers. Instead, it would expand the guest worker program

courtesy photo

From urban farming in Detroit, the Traverse City Cherry Festival, to farmers markets in hundreds of Michigan cities, this state prides itself on its agriculture.

And we should.

We are the most agriculturally diverse state, behind only California. And after manufacturing, agriculture is the state’s largest industry.

But when you see that Michigan seal on apples and blueberries and cherries in the grocery store, do you ever wonder who are the faces and voices behind these products?

In this documentary, we’ll hear from these farm workers that bring these fruits and vegetables to our tables.

We’ll hear about the struggle for fair wages, good housing and how the immigration debate can affect the lives of the 94,000 migrant workers and their families in Michigan.

Below is the full audio of the documentary

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