Kevyn Orr

www.mich.gov

The Ford Foundation has pledged $127,000 to hire the firm Public Consulting Group to help manage Detroit's federal grant money.

The city has lost money in the past because of poor oversight of its grants, like a $400,000 lapsed grant to the Detroit Police Department for an armored personnel carrier.

user aMichiganMom / Flickr

Tuesday saw a flood of court filings from Detroit's creditors.

Midnight was the deadline for creditors to file objections to Detroit's request for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy protection.

About 100 unions, pensioners, and individuals filed objections with the court.

DETROIT (AP) - Detroit Emergency manager Kevyn Orr is working on a plan to train up to 100 new firefighters, as well as moving fire stations and supplying them with new equipment.

Plan developer Edward J. Plawecki Jr. tells Detroit Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley that his work is a response to a severe shortage of personnel and equipment. Detroit now has 796 firefighters, 40 operating fire stations and 20 ambulances.

The newspaper says union leaders have been meeting regularly with Plawecki on the drafting of the plan, which will be released in mid-September.

mich.gov / Michigan Government

There's been an apology from Detroit's Emergency Manager for those now-infamous comments made in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. That's where Kevyn Orr described Detroit in these words: "For a long time the city was dumb, lazy, happy and rich."

Speaking to WXYZ-TV reporters, Orr offered up a mea culpa:

"In my wildest dreams I never would have thought that would have been interpreted as an insult. I also perhaps was not as in tune as I should have been to the fact that I said that a week before an election. Not a particularly smart thing to do. I was being dumb in that sense." 

What effect will those words and the apology have on Orr's ability to work with Detroit leaders and citizens? And was there a point to what he was trying to say to the Wall Street Journal?

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Billions and billions of federal dollars, hundreds of different policies, all rest in the U.S. Farm Bill. With very little bipartisanship in Washington these days, it's not too surprising that it's taken so long for Congress to make a deal on the legislation. But, time is running out. Why can’t the 2013 Farm Bill just get done and what does it means for the Michigan and U.S. economies?

And, we took a temperature-check. Just how do local officials think the state Legislature is doing?

Also, the Dearborn Planning Commission approved changes in rules governing the way residents may use their garages, but some people in the Arab community feel the changes are a direct slap at them.

First on the show, there's been an apology from Detroit's emergency manager for those now-infamous comments made in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. That's where Kevyn Orr described Detroit in these words: "For a long time the city was dumb, lazy, happy and rich."

Orr offered up a mea culpa in an interview with WXYZ-TV.

What effect will those words and the apology have on Orr's ability to work with Detroit leaders and citizens?

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes joined us today.

Detroit Free Press video / Detroit Free Press

Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr is looking to hire a group to oversee Detroit's federal grant money.

This comes at the same time that federal officials are searching for ways to offer more aid to Detroit.

Orr went to Washington D.C. earlier this month to visit with Michigan Senator Carl Levin  and some economists to get ideas about which grants programs would be best for the city.

Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief David Shepardson reported on this in today's Detroit News, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Today we took a closer look at recommendations for statewide standards for evaluating Michigan teachers. How should the job performance of teachers be evaluated?

And, we met a West Michigan man who swims across the Great Lakes and Lake St Clair, raising money for charity.

Also, we spoke with the lead vocalist of The Ragbirds, a band from Ann Arbor that is about to kick off their fall tour with a newborn baby.

First on the show, Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr is looking to hire a group to oversee Detroit's federal grant money.

This comes at the same time that federal officials are searching for ways to offer more aid to Detroit.

Orr visited went to Washington D.C. earlier this month to meet with Michigan Senator Carl Levin and some economists to get ideas about which grants programs would be best for the city.

Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief David Shepardson reported on this in today's Detroit News, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

user aMichiganMom / Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he’s prepared to defend the Detroit Institute of Arts collection in federal bankruptcy court. Schuette recently released an opinion that the artwork cannot be sold to satisfy the city’s creditors because it is held in a public trust.


Schuette spokesperson Joy Yearout says he’ll take that position in front of Judge Steven Rhodes if the city puts the collection on the table.

“If and when the issue of how the DIA’s charitable trusts are treated in bankruptcy comes up in court before Judge Rhodes, the attorney general will be prepared to defend the position that they should be protected,” Yearout said.

Detroiters are voting today in one of the strangest and yet most important primary elections the city’s ever had. Those they send to the November runoff will be fighting for jobs which at first will have no power. That’s because everything is now in the hands of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Rhodes.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

DIA is being appraised

Christie's Appraisals, a New York-based International auction house, says it has agreed to appraise some city-owned pieces in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Emergency manager Kevyn Orr has said the art valuations are a necessary part of the debt restructuring and don't "portent a sale of any asset."

Board meeting to discuss Michigan's Medical Marijuana Act

A state panel will meet this afternoon to consider whether new health conditions should be covered under Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act. A previous board already voted to allow patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease to use medical pot, but those conditions were never officially added to the list of acceptable ailments. Some advocates question whether the new board risks the same fate because it doesn’t include proper representation from the medical community. The state says it’s working to fix the make-up of the panel, Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher reports.

Raising awareness of petroleum coke in Detroit

A round table discussion is scheduled in Detroit this morning to raise awareness of petroleum coke piled and stored along the Detroit River. U.S. Representative Gary Peters is expected to discuss his plans to ensure that such storage minimizes risk of dust and water contamination. The Bloomfield Township Democrat has introduced legislation calling for a federal study of health and environmental effects of open air storage of the material, known as pet coke, the Associated Press reports.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr announced today that the city will start figuring out how much its assets are worth.

This comes as the bankrupt city is wrangling with creditors about how much of Detroit’s $11.5 billion unsecured debt will actually be repaid.

Orr also says he’s hiring Christie’s auction house to appraise the city-owned portion of the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection.

It’s tough news to those still holding out hope that the museum will emerge unscathed from the bankruptcy process.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

 Some Detroit retirees say emergency manager Kevyn Orr owes them an apology for controversial comments he made to the Wall Street Journal.

A handful of them marched in downtown Detroit Monday to demand that apology.

Orr said a lot of things during the interview, but his statement that "For a long time the city was dumb, lazy, happy and rich," struck a particular nerve.

State of Michigan / Michigan.gov

A federal bankruptcy judge ordered a committee to represent retiree interests in Detroit’s bankruptcy, as lawyers representing the city and creditors went head-to-head in court for the second time Friday.

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has proposed cutting retirees’ pensions in his effort to restructure about $11 billion of the city’s debt.

Patricia Drury / Flickr

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr proposed a new health care plan to the city’s 47 unions Friday morning, according to Reuters.

The plan will save the city $12 million a year by raising deductibles and trimming the number of plans available, but it will keep premiums the same.

Currently, there are 20 health care plans available to employees. Orr wants to reduce that number. Under his plan, single city workers will see their annual deductibles increase nearly fourfold -- from $200 to $750 -- and out-of-pocket expenses will be capped at $1,500. Married employees will see annual deductibles increase to $1,500, and out-of-pocket expense will be capped at $4,500.

Co-pays for doctor visits and prescription drugs will stay the same. The city will also continue to offer vision and dental plans. Preventive measures will still be free.

Orr said in a statement:

“We think this is the best plan we could propose given Detroit's financial crisis, but I look forward to hearing from union leadership on their ideas to lower healthcare costs. . . . The City’s plan holds the line on premium costs for employees while allowing Detroit to save enough money to put another 100 police officers or firefighters on the streets.”

The proposal is part of Detroit’s financial restructuring efforts to eliminate more than $18 billion in debt.

-Michelle Nelson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit has an emergency manager—but more than a dozen people are still vying to be the city’s next mayor.

And most of them were on hand for a debate just a week before the city’s primary election last night.

A dozen candidates took to the stage—in groups—to share why they wanted to be mayor of the bankrupt city. There were so many candidates that there few opportunities for substantive debate.

Former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan is considered one of the frontrunners—even though he’s not on the ballot. He’s waging a write-in campaign.

Duggan faced questions about “cronyism” dating back to his days as part of former Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara’s political machine.

He also responded to persistent questions about why he’s running for mayor—when he’s lived in Detroit for barely a year.

Last week, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette did something many found startling, especially those politically liberal. Schuette announced that in Detroit's bankruptcy filing he intended to intervene on behalf of those who have pensions coming.

AG's office

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the state constitution protects Detroit pension benefits from being reduced or eliminated by the city’s bankruptcy.

Schuette says he will be in court Monday asking to join the case on behalf of pensioners.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes took control of lawsuits challenging the bankruptcy filing because it puts city pension benefits in jeopardy. But he has not ruled on the substance of the question, which is whether the benefits are shielded by protections in the Michigan Constitution.

Bernt Rostad / creative commons

Eventually, Detroit’s bankruptcy filing will be over. Eventually, Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr will no longer be in charge of Detroit’s finances.

When those things happen, Detroit will go back to being run by its city government, by a mayor, and a city council.

Daniel Howes, columnist at The Detroit News, focused on this future in his column yesterday in the News. He joined us today to discuss whether Detroit can shed its bad governance habits in light of the bankruptcy.

Listen to the full interview above.

Union leaders say Detroit is in bankruptcy court because “that was the strategy all along.”

They accuse Governor Snyder and Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr of “sham” negotiations, saying they were never able to actually sit down and bargain with Orr before he filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy last week.

“We were disheartened by the fact that we were told negotiations were going to take place, that never took place,” says Al Garrett, President of AFSCME Council 25.”Instead, they ran to a bankruptcy court.”

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Detroit bankruptcy is topic of national conversation

Snyder, Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing appeared on Sunday morning talk shows yesterday to talk about filing bankruptcy for Detroit. Snyder said he will push to protect the retired city workers whose pensions are on the table. He said the bankruptcy filing included protections for retirees and urged them to remain calm. Orr said on "Fox News Sunday" that there are going to have to be "concessions." Bing on ABC's "This Week" said now that bankruptcy has been filed, leaders have to take a step back before making a decision on a federal bailout.

Flint school district faces more budget cuts

The Flint School Board will take up a Deficit Elimination Plan tomorrow night. The district is wrestling with a nearly 16 million dollar deficit. The Flint school district has made deep budget cuts but more cuts are likely if the district follows the plan to eliminate its deficit by June 2016. The Flint School Board has until July 31st to send its deficit elimination plan to the state.  

Lansing may end its relationship with St. Petersburg, Russia

The Lansing city council will be meeting tonight to discuss its sister city relationship with St. Petersburg, Russia. St. Petersburg recently passed an anti-gay ordinance and police there arrested people at an LGBT rally. Members say they want to send a message to St. Petersburg officials by canceling Lansing’s two decade sister cities relationship with the city.

The Detroit bankruptcy filing is Michigan’s biggest news story of the year, with effects that will ripple out in all kinds of ways; many that are unpredictable.  It would be naïve to suggest that politics will not be a big part of how this plays out – if it hasn’t already.

So let’s run the bases on this, starting with Governor Rick Snyder. Snyder approved the bankruptcy filing, the largest in U.S. history, and it is now part of his legacy and his resume (whether he likes it or not) as he prepares to seek reelection next year. Every painful and controversial decision by a federal bankruptcy judge will be laid upon Rick Snyder by Democrats. Snyder may not own Detroit, but he sure owns its problems.

This is an awkward place for any leader to be, although not an unusual one. This is a governor being controlled by events, not controlling them. A couple years ago Snyder relentlessly, positively insisted that bankruptcy for Detroit was not an option; almost unthinkable. Now, he says there was really no other choice.   “This is a difficult situation – but the answer is, by not doing this path, where would we be? And, so, this is an opportunity to say ‘let’s get that fresh start’ and show the rest of the country why Detroit can be an exciting place that can grow into the future,” Snyder said yesterday evening, about two hours after the Chapter 9 filing.

JasonParis / Flickr

Detroit's bankruptcy filing has raised a lot of questions, especially for people who live in the city. It's unlikely the day-to-day lives of Detroiters will change very much under a bankruptcy.

Lyke Thompson is the director of Wayne State University's Center for Urban Studies. He says Detroit's city services are already pretty bad, and that there will be few immediate differences for city residents, but things could get worse before they improve.

State of Michigan / Michigan.gov

Two Detroit pension funds have sued the city’s emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, and Governor Rick Snyder in an attempt to block the Motor City from filing for bankruptcy.

The General Retirement System and the Police and Fire Retirement System of the City of Detroit filed the lawsuit yesterday, Bloomberg’s Margaret Cronin Fisk reported. The state’s constitution offers protection of public retirees’ rights, and the petitioners of the lawsuit are claiming that a Detroit bankruptcy would violate those rights.

Orr’s office refused to comment on the lawsuit.

Orr hasn’t commented on which pension funds would be cut, and to what degree, but he has vowed to make “significant cuts” to pension payments.

Detroit Free Press video / Detroit Free Press

Those were Kevyn Orr's words in his latest quarterly report.

The Detroit Free Press' John Gallagher drew "8 key points" from the report, one of them being:

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for our weekly check-in with Daniel Howes, Columnist at the Detroit News.

Today he took a look at Kevyn Orr and the meetings he had this week with Detroit’s creditors and bond holders. As he wrote in his column:

As Orr’s week of meeting with creditors and pension funds unspools and Detroit slouches closer to a history chapter nine bankruptcy filing, the gulf separating the financial imperatives of the city’s creditors and political realities of its predicament is unmistakable and probably unbridgeable.

Daniel Howes joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Michigan's home foreclosure rate is falling and our state is certainly no longer number one in foreclosures in the country. We found out why on today's show.

And, Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry joined us to take a look at how your state lawmakers are spending their summer recess.

And, a Michigan videographer is heading to Greenland to document the effects of pollution on glaciers for a project called “Dark Snow.”

Also, we spoke with the father of a 12-year-old Ohio State fan who found a creative way to use the rivalry between OSU and U of M to help him beat brain cancer.

And, Scott DeRue, who teaches at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, joined us to talk about his recent climb to the summit of Mount Everest.

First on the show, it’s Thursday which means it’s the time we turn to Daniel Howes – Columnist at the Detroit News.

Today he took a look at Kevyn Orr and the meetings he had this week with Detroit’s creditors and bond holders.

I have nothing against the Theater of the Absurd. I was taught French years ago by an odd method based on the comedies of Eugene Ionesco, the master of irrational dialogue. But absurdity doesn’t work very well as a guide to life, unless, say, you are an infant, or have only months to live.

Two plus two is, after all four. If you want your children to be successful in life, they generally need to know reading, writing and arithmetic. However, we seem to have a set of leaders, both left and right, who have made careers out of denying reality.

Let’s take education, first of all. The non-partisan, respected Education Trust, Midwest released a report yesterday showing that Michigan students are performing below the national average in every category. That’s worse than thirty-five other states.

During World War II, a plane crashed behind Nazi lines. Thirty nurses and medics, five of them from Michigan, survived. Their incredible story is finally being told.

And, we celebrated the 80th anniversary of the drive-in movie theater. Did you know Michigan once had more than 100 drive-ins? Today just a hand full are in operation. Also, Kevyn Orr canceled the bus tour he was supposed to take the Detroit's creditors on today. We spoke with Nancy Kaffer about why this happened. First on the show, this has certainly been a wet and muggy summer. Michigan farmers endured a hot and dry summer in 2012, so we wondered what the soggy summer of 2013 is doing to crops and to farmers. Is it better than the scorcher of 2012? 

Ken DeCock is a third-generation farmer in Macomb Township where his family owns Boyka's Farm Market. He joined us today to give us the farmer's-eye view of our weather.

Detroit’s emergency manager has canceled a planned bus tour for city bondholders today.

The bus tour was meant to hammer home that Detroit is in dire shape and simply cannot afford to pay off all its debts.

The Wall Street creditors are in town to talk with Kevyn Orr. They’re trying to work out a deal outside bankruptcy court.

Nancy Kaffer, Columnist at the Detroit Free Press joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Matthileo / Flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss the proposal to consolidate school districts into county-wide systems, the canceled bus tour for Detroit creditors, and the new changes on the Detroit City Council.

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