Kevyn Orr

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr held his first public meeting yesterday evening. We found out what Orr had to say and what city residents thought about his message.

And, after months and months of hearing about record-low water levels in the Great Lakes, new predictions now show levels could climb some 2 feet over the summer. We spoke with Al Steinman, the Director of the Annis Water Resources Institute at Grand Valley State University to get the details.

Also, the CEO of AutoBike, Inc. joined us today to talk about how bicycle businesses have benefited from the growing interest in cycling.

First on the show, that huge pile of petroleum coke lying alongside the Detroit River is triggering a growing sense of alarm. 

You may recall, we spoke with New York Times journalist Ian Austen here on Stateside about the origins of this mountain of "pet coke" that's growing in Southwest Detroit. It's a byproduct of tar sands oil refining used in energy production. When mixed with coal, it can be used as a low-cost fuel.

The piles are being brought-in by trucks  from the Marathon Petroleum Refinery in southwest Detroit, and the pet coke is being stored by a company called Detroit Bulk Storage for the OWNER of the pet coke: Koch Carbon.

US Congressmen John Conyers and Gary Peters and others have been voicing concern about the health and environmental risks of storing these piles of pet coke.

Nick Shroke is a professor of law at Wayne State University in Detroit and the executive director of the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center, and he joined us today to discuss the issue.

Lead in text: 
Deadline Detroit's Jeff Wattrick witnessed the scene outside last night's public meeting with emergency manager Kevyn Orr. Other politicians and cities seem to handle large crowds and dissent without much problem. Detroit politicians, Wattrick argues, "stage manage these things like Soviet bureaucrats."
Politics & Government
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Wayne State University hosts Detroit's first public budget meeting

Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s Emergency Manager, told the public Monday night that the city is “technically insolvent” and suffers from an “addiction to debt.” “Orr says Detroit’s chances of avoiding a Chapter Nine municipal bankruptcy are still ‘fifty-fifty,’” reports Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek. Mlive.com reports that 100 people were shut out of the meeting after it exceeded the auditorium’s capacity. 

Evidence does not link bullet to I-96 shooter

Ballistics tests have shown that a bullet recently recovered from an I-96 driver did not come from weapons taken from Raulie Casteel’s home.  According to the Associated Press, “Casteel faces terrorism and other charges in two dozen random shootings in a four-county area last October.”

Potential DNA testing for suspects

Michigan lawmakers are considering a law that requires DNA sample collection from anyone arrested on suspicion of a felony. Currently, DNA samples are taken from people arrested on suspicion of murder, rape, and other violent felonies. According to the Associated Press, “civil liberties advocates say collecting DNA before someone is convicted violates the presumption of innocence.”

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr didn’t share much new information at his first public meeting Monday night—but he did set the stage for an upcoming meeting with the city’s creditors.

At his first public meeting—required by the emergency manager law that empowers him--Orr told a story we already know: Detroit hasn’t been paying contractors, making pension payments, and has only survived by borrowing billions.

mich.gov / Michigan Government

Tonight, Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr will hold a public informational meeting. It's scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the Wayne State University Law School Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will be there and will give us an update later tonight.

According to Kirk Pinho at Crain’s Detroit Business:

The meeting is required under Public Act 436 of 2012, the state's emergency manager law, within 30 days of Orr submitting his financial and operational plan to the state Department of Treasury, although it does not need approval from the electorate or the treasury department.

Orr submitted his plan on May 13.

The plan largely reaffirmed what was already known about Detroit's financial problems, including that the city has a budget deficit of $380 million and over $15 billion in debt and liabilities.

The Wayne State Law School is located at 471 W. Palmer St.

Sarah Cwiek/Michigan Radio

Next week Kevyn Orr will be meeting with creditors to start negotiations in attempts to keep the city from going bankrupt.

According to Matt Helms of the Detroit Free Press, the negotiations will includes over 150 representatives from the city’s major creditors including national banks who hold the city’s bonds, insurers, union representatives, and pensioners.

Detroit Institute of Arts
Maia C/Flickr

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

This week, it seems the topic is the fact that the proverbial "Day of Reckoning" is at hand when it comes to the City of Detroit. Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is trying to work out settlements with the city's creditors, and the treasures at the Detroit Institute of Arts could be at risk.

He joined us in the studio today to discuss the issue.

Listen to the full interview above.

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Budget awaits Governor Snyder's signature

State lawmakers passed a budget that would increase funding to local governments and schools.

"Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville calls it the best budget he’s ever helped pass.  But the budget does not include Snyder’s request to expand Medicaid or increase road funding by more than a billion dollars," Michigan Radio's Jake Neher reports.

Senate voting to protect DIA

The Michigan Senate is expected to vote today on a measure to protect the Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit's emergency manager Kevyn Orr has warned the Institute's assets could be at risk if the city goes bankrupt. If this bill passes, the same protections would apply to collections in other museums across Michigan.

Michigan gas prices amongst highest in nation

Gasoline prices in Michigan are the second highest in the United States right now. It could be several weeks before there's any relief at the pump.

"Analyst Patrick deHaan of GasBuddy dot com says there are fewer gasoline refineries in the Midwest than other parts of the country, and gasoline commodity traders are also driving up the prices," Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports.

Stephen Boyle

Earlier this morning, Detroit’s city council voted unanimously to override Mayor Dave Bing’s veto of budget cuts proposed by the council.

Last week, the mayor rejected changes the city council wanted implemented in the city’s $1-billion budget for fiscal year 2013-14, including cuts to his own office. The Detroit News reported:

“The council wanted deeper cuts to Bing's staff and quicker implementation of a new health care cost-sharing formula.

Bing however did not turn down deeper cuts the council recommended for its own department and the consolidation of its divisions.”

The council's override of Bing's veto was unanimous (8-0). Charles Pugh, the president of the council, said this was proof that the council was “standing united.”

But with Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr at the helm of the city’s finances, how much does a united city council matter when it comes to Detroit’s budget?

DIA

The Detroit News' Christine Ferretti writes this morning that other Detroit cultural institutions are on high alert after the news came that assets at the Detroit Institute of Arts are being counted as potential assets of the city that can be sold to pay off debts.

A state-appointed review team found the small city of Hamtramck is once again in a state of financial emergency. Will the city succumb to state control again?

And nearby in Detroit, one prominent observer has growing doubts about the effectiveness of the city's emergency manager.

And, a new film documentary explores the different ways Michigan families have transformed deep loss into opportunities to grow.

Also, Tom Ivacko joined us to discuss how local leaders would like citizen to get involved with government.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Over these past couple of months, have Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr's loyalties been more with the city he's running? Or with the state who hired him?

Detroiter Karen Dumas was the chief of communications for the City of Detroit.

These days, she heads up her own PR/Communications firm, Images & Ideas, and she has been watching what's been happening at City Hall.

Her recent column in Bridge Magazine shows that when it comes to Emergency Manager Orr, Karen Dumas has growing doubts.

She joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Before I went on vacation two weeks ago, I thought I could no longer be shocked by anything that might happen in Detroit.

Earlier this spring, the state took over the control of the city, after decades of decline, neglect, crime and financial mismanagement. Nevertheless, I was stunned to come home to the news that Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr might consider selling off the priceless collections of the Detroit Institute of Arts to pay down the city’s massive long-term unfunded liabilities.

Many people didn’t realize the city owned the museum and its collection, which has been run and financed by the private Founders’ Society for years. But technically the city does.

The Detroit City Council has approved a more than $1 billion budget for the city’s upcoming fiscal year.

That budget is nearly the same as the one Mayor Dave Bing proposed last month.

DIA

Detroit's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, wants to account for assets held in the Detroit Institute of Arts, which has sparked fears that part of the collection could be sold in the future.

We've posted information here, and Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will have an update for us later today.

Update 11:34 a.m.

The DIA just put out this statement on their Facebook page:

"The DIA strongly believes that the museum and the City hold the museum’s art collection in trust for the public. The DIA manages and cares for that collection according to exacting standards required by the public trust, our profession and the Operating Agreement with the City. According to those standards, the City cannot sell art to generate funds for any purpose other than to enhance the collection. We remain confident that the City and the emergency financial manager will continue to support the museum in its compliance with those standards, and together we will continue to preserve and protect the cultural heritage of Detroit."

9:19 a.m.

Detroit is in a big financial hole, and the man in charge of righting the ship wants to know what can be sold.

Mark Stryker and John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press report that Detroit's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, is considering whether the DIA's art collection should be counted as assets that can be sold to pay debts:

Liquidating DIA art to pay down debt likely would be a monstrously complicated, controversial and contentious process never before tested on such as large scale and with no certain outcome. The DIA is unusual among major civic museums in that the city retains ownership of the building and collection while daily operations, including fund-raising, are overseen by a nonprofit institution.

Stryker and Gallagher report on the many hurdles facing such a sale, including ...

  • restrictions on selling off city assets in municipal bankruptcy law,
  • museum ethics and operating rules that forbid selling art,
  • opposition from patrons who donated art,
  • and major a public outcry against such a sale:

“There would be hue and cry the likes of which you’ve never heard,” said Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, D.C. “The museum should be a rallying point for the rebirth of Detroit and not a source of funds.”

Orr spokesman Bill Nowling said there's no plan yet to sell any asset of the city, but he said all the city's assets must be accounted for.

LinkedIn

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr named former Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig as Detroit's new Chief of Police.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett attended the press conference, where Orr announced that Craig will begin July 1, 2013:

The new police chief of Michigan's largest city says he's committed to reducing violence and making the Detroit Police Department a premier police agency.

This announcement followed the plan that Orr outlined in his 45-day report on Detroit's economic status. 

State of Michigan

After 45 days in office, a report from Detroit’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr was released this morning, taking an in-depth look at the city’s financial situation.

What’s clear from the 41-page report — Detroit is broke and its finances are in worse shape than previously thought. The city has almost $9.5 billion bonds and other debt, almost $6 billion in unfunded retiree health care, and will end its budget year with a shortfall of more than $160 million.

What do these numbers really mean for the city? And why is there such a disparity between what we’ve heard from city leaders and the report?

Detroit’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr joined us in the studio today, to answer these questions and more.

Listen to the full interview above.

State officials announced over the weekend that they'll lend money to Pontiac schools to avert a pay-less payday.

But, there's no resolution in Buena Vista Township where that school system abruptly shut down after running out of money. On today's show: a temperature check on school funding across Michigan - just how many districts are close to the financial edge?

And Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr joined us today. He released a report on the city's disastrous finances. The State's Emergency Manager law requires this report to be issued  45 days after Orr's appointment.

We also talk about what Marquette, Michigan is doing right. "Placemaking" is leading to efforts to create more livable, vibrant and creative communities. We wanted to find out where "placemaking" is working and how cities across Michigan could benefit. Arnold Weinfeld, the director of Strategic Initiatives at the Michigan Municipal League, joined us to talk about this effort.

I had dinner recently with Elaine Stritch, the Broadway legend who in later years, won new television audiences with her work on everything from The Cosby Show to 30 Rock.

She is 88 now and after living in New York and London since World War II, moved back to her hometown recently, back to greater Detroit. And I was curious about why. Yes, she has some family here, but as Stritch candidly said, she has enough money that she could live anywhere. She told me, it was the sun.

Detroit sunshine is like that of nowhere else in the world, she said, inviting, bright and warm even on chilly days. “In New York, well, the sun is a cold and distant thing,” she said.

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Detroit is worse off than we thought

"Detroit's state-appointed emergency manager is painting a bleak financial picture. Kevyn Orr's first report says Detroit's net cash position was negative $162 million as of April 26 and that the projected budget deficit is expected to reach $386 million in less than two months. That's more than the city's estimate" reports the Associated Press.

Pontiac schools might be saved; no such luck for Buena Vista

The state is expected to release a payment as soon as today that will keep the Pontiac school district from declaring bankruptcy according to a letter sent to the district last week by the state Department of Education.

"There is still no plan to get 400 kids in the Buena Vista district back to school. Buena Vista closed its doors abruptly after losing a monthly payment because the district owes the state money. " Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta reports.

A new bill would reward teacher performance

"Michigan teachers' performance in the classroom would play a bigger role in the amount they get in their paychecks under a proposal being debated in the state House. Supporters argue that rewarding teachers who perform better and moving away from a system that rewards seniority will improve teachers and benefit students" reports the Associated Press.

The Detroit City Council wants a clearer view of what emergency manager Kevyn Orr is doing.

Some Council members said Tuesday they want to see all city contracts that Orr approves.

Those contracts are public record. Orr spokesman Bill Nowling says they’re working out “how to post them in an efficient manner,” though there’s no timeline for when that will be up and running.

Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr says that shouldn’t take too long because “it ain’t rocket science.”

Detroiters can expect increased fees and reduced services—and the city’s deficit will still keep growing.

At least that’s the scenario Mayor Dave Bing outlines in his proposed budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.

This proposal actually cuts much less from the budget—about $36 million—than the prior year. It focuses on more or less stabilizing “essential city services,” like public safety and transportation.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Wildlife officials recommend wolf hunt for Upper Peninsula

State wildlife officials are recommending today that a hunt on the formerly endangered gray wolf be allowed to take place this fall.

"The Michigan Natural Resources Commission will receive a recommendation to kill 47 wolves as part of a hunt focused in three parts of the Upper Peninsula," Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports.
 

Detroit City Council reviewing Jones Day contract

The Detroit City Council is reviewing a contract with Jones Day, emergency manager Kevyn Orr's former law firm.

"The Jones Day firm is already working with the city on some long-term restructuring. Some Council members suggest there are conflicts of interest because Jones Day also represents several Detroit creditors," according to Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek.

New Regional Transit Authority meets for first time

Transit advocates celebrated the first meeting of metro Detroit's Regional Transit Authority, which will coordinate the region's transit agencies.

"Advocates want the board to develop a master transit plan, and push a region-wide vote to fund transit operations," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The Detroit City Council is reviewing a $3 million-plus contract with emergency manager’s Kevyn Orr’s former law firm.

Jones Day would assist the city through its restructuring. Some Council members suggest there are conflicts of interest because Jones Day also represents several Detroit creditors.

This was the week in  which Detroit got an emergency manager and the state got a right-to-work law.  That is to say, the law took effect this week. I’d say that makes for a pretty  newsworthy few days. Some things this week were entirely  predictable.  Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton showed up to protest the  Emergency Manager. Crowds of demonstrators appeared at Detroit’s city hall  crowds which swelled when TV cameras showed up.

The first major lawsuit  was filed against the emergency manager law, and the Detroit Tigers sent an  exciting new spring phenom, closer Bruce Rondon, down to the minor  leagues. That story is worth mentioning, by the way, because a  newspaper computer analysis shows that more people read it today than read any  of the stories about the state or city‘s drama.

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Kevyn Orr leaves salaries for Mayor Bing and City Council intact

The state's new emergency manager law, which goes into effect Thursday, eliminates salaries and benefits for elected municipal officials when an emergency manager is installed.

But as Michigan Radio’s Sarah Hulett reports, an order signed by Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr will leave the salaries of Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council members intact.

"Salaries range from more than $70,000 for council members to close to $160,000 for Mayor Dave Bing."

State Attorney General Bill Schuette calls for a grand jury investigation into meningitis outbreak

Michigan's attorney general is seeking a criminal investigation into the deaths of 17 residents from contaminated steroids supplied by a Massachusetts pharmaceutical company.

As Rick Pluta explains,

"The grand jury would have the power to compel witnesses to appear and testify, including people from the four Michigan clinics that administered the injections. And it could ask a Massachusetts court to order employees of the pharmacy that made the drug to cooperate."

Wolf hunt in Michigan may be put on hold

A group opposing the hunting of gray wolves is expected to deliver tens of thousands of petition signatures to the Secretary of State's office.

If enough of the signatures are certified, a statewide vote on the proposed wolf hunt will be placed on the ballot in 2014.

Matthileo / Flickr

In this week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss Michigan’s affirmative action case being taken up in the U.S. Supreme Court, how Attorney General Bill Schuette wants an in-depth investigation into the meningitis outbreak, and what Kevyn Orr has done in his first week as emergency manager for Detroit.

State of Michigan

Kevyn Orr referred to his new job as Detroit's emergency manager as an olympic-sized task.

Starting today at 7:30 a.m., he reported for duty at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Building for his first day on the job.

So, how'd he do?

Cynthia Canty spoke with Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek who has been following the emergency manager appointment for Detroit.

Listen to the full audio above.

State of Michigan

DETROIT (AP) - Bankruptcy attorney and turnaround specialist Kevyn Orr has arrived at Detroit City Hall for his first day on the job as emergency manager.

Orr has said he expects to sit down with Mayor Dave Bing Monday and meet with some City Council members.

He was appointed earlier this month by Gov. Rick Snyder and takes over the finances of the largest city in the country to come under state oversight.

Orr also plans to look at the city's financial data to help develop his plan of action in tackling Detroit's fiscal crisis. The city has a $327 million budget deficit and more than $14 billion in debt.

Some, including a group led by prominent Detroit pastors, have said they will protest Orr's appointment and Michigan's emergency manager law.

steve carmody

DETROIT (AP) - A number businesses plan to donate $8 million to help Detroit get 23 EMS units and 100 police cars to boost public safety and reduce response times.

Mayor Dave Bing announced the effort Monday along with racing team owner Roger Penske, who leads Penske Automotive Group.

“As local business leaders, we appreciate this opportunity to work with the mayor, and police and fire departments, to help improve safety in the neighborhoods, and our downtown," said Penske.

“We can work together to provide and drive positive momentum in our city.”

Other donors involved include Quicken Loans Inc., General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler Group LLC and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Mayor Bing calls this an “unprecedented collaboration” with the city’s business community.

The money will actually go Detroit’s Downtown Development Partnership, which will lease the vehicles for the city and pay for maintenance.

But mayor Dave Bing says this isn’t about downtown.

“This is about the neighborhoods," Bing said. "So we can go out into our neighborhoods to let people know that we support them, and we have not forgotten about them.”

Violent crime in Detroit spiked last year. The city recorded 387 criminal homicides. And department cutbacks have slowed response times.

Detroiters should see the new police cars on patrol by early summer, but the EMS vehicles will take a little bit longer to arrive.

The announcement came on the same day bankruptcy attorney and turnaround specialist Kevyn Orr arrived at Detroit City Hall for his first day on the job as emergency manager. Orr takes over the finances of the largest city in the country to come under state oversight.

Bing said the timing of the announcement was a coincidence.

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