Offbeat

Offbeat

Devastation

Mar 23, 2011
Hilary / Flickr

Detroit expected to get grim news from the U.S. Census bureau. But the results are, in fact, far worse than expected. They paint a picture of urban devastation unlike any in our nation’s history, a snapshot of the depopulation of a major American city.

Consider this: Since the Republican National Convention in 1980, Detroit has lost half a million people. In the thirty years before that, it lost even more -- another seven hundred thousand.

For years, the term “white flight” had been synonymous with what was happening.  Today, it’s mostly about black flight. The black population of Detroit declined by more than one hundred and eighty-five thousand people during the last decade.

What that indicates is that the middle class of both races has given up on the city, in large part because the schools are perceived as being so bad. There have been a number of stories in recent months speculating that, for the first time, the census would find that the percentage of Detroiters who are white was increasing.

Optimists believed that the city was attracting a new generation of young urban pioneers, who were returning to Detroit from the suburbs, living in lofts and creating an artistic and urbane lifetstyle.

The census shows that this was a complete fantasy. Sure, there may be a few kids doing those things. There are also a few people who vote for the Socialist Workers’ party. But both groups are statistically insignificant. Nearly half of what white population remained in Detroit in 2000 vanished over the next decade.

There are now only about fifty-five thousand people in Detroit who identify themselves as white. Sixty years ago, when the city celebrated its 250th anniversary, that figure was one point six million.

That means that more than ninety-five percent of the white population has disappeared.  That’s not to say that Detroit’s troubles are solely due to the fact that the whites left. In fact, one-quarter of the black population left over the last decade as well.

Detroit police officers are being told to exercise caution when it comes to social media.

Police have to follow the Department's Code of Conduct policy, which forbids officers to share transcripts, records or photos tied to an ongoing investigation, but the current police doesn't explicitly discuss sharing those items on social media.

That will soon change  after a Detroit police officer posted a crime-scene photo to his personal Facebook account last month.

Michigan residents can once again buy flavored malt beverages like Four Loko. The caffeine infused alcoholic drink was banned by many states and by the Food and Drug Administration last year. Caffeine can make it difficult for consumers to realize just how much alcohol they’ve consumed.

User cccpstorm / Flickr

On Wednesday, Fresh Air interviewed Dr. Gregg Bloche about the dangers that rising health care costs pose to patients and to doctor's adherence to the Hippocratic Oath.

From NPR's website:

In most medical schools, students recite the Hippocratic Oath together to mark the start of their professional careers. The soon-to-be physicians swear to uphold the ethical standards of the medical profession and promise to stand for their patients without compromise.

Though the oath has been rewritten over the centuries, the essence of it has remained the same: "In each house I go, I go only for the good of my patients."

But the principles of the oath, says Dr. Gregg Bloche, are under an "unprecedented threat." In The Hippocratic Myth, Bloche details how doctors are under constant pressure to compromise or ration their care in order to please lawmakers, lawyers and insurance companies.

Filmaker John Kerfoot plays off the Pure Michigan brand with his "Not So Pure Michigan" video parodies.

His latest video parody...  St. Patrick's Day in Detroit:

The Detroit News reports that crowds are gathering at the pubs in Detroit:

For a day at least, it appears everybody at a Metro Detroit pub is Irish.

More than 150 people were at the Old Shillelagh bar in Detroit this morning, eating breakfast and drinking beer to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

"I'm not Irish, but I celebrate every year if I can," said Katie Rohroff, 22, of Southgate. "We'll be here most of the day, and then I'll have to take a nap."

A fake Twitter account has been made for Michigan Budget Director John Nixon. The FakeJohnNixon account started last week and has already posted almost 150 tweets. The Associated Press reports:

The fake account notes that Nixon is Michigan's highest-paid state employee and is consuming Michigan's economy "one big gargantuan bite at a time." It adds, "Just call me Budget Crunch."

A spokesman for Nixon says the budget director "has a great sense of humor" and realizes the tweets aren't to be taken seriously.

There's also a FakeRickSnyder Twitter account on Gov. Rick Snyder with fewer posts.

In case you missed it...

Mar 11, 2011
user cpstorm / Flickr

Michigan Radio broadcasts hundreds of stories, interviews, and commentaries every week.

One person can't possibly hear them all.

Here, you'll find a few stories we think you might like to hear:

Oh You Shouldn't Have... no really - This American Life

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids smashed the former world record for rubber chicken chucking set last April in a town near Boston. They got 265 people to toss rubber chickens at once. Last night Grand Rapids tossed an impressive 925.

The world record title marked the beginning of LaughFest. An event that'll take over much of Grand Rapids over the next 9 days. Those little yellow smiley faces representing the festival dot billboards, bar windows, churches; people even wear them as lapel pins.

user jamiesrabbits / Flickr

On the public radio program Here & Now, host Robin Young was interviewing Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef and owner of the New York City restaurant “Prune.” She wrote a memoir called “Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef,” (which chef Anthony Bourdain called “simply the best memoir by a chef - ever.”).

During the interview Young asked Hamilton about her time in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Young says, "like a lot of Americans, you thought, 'Ann Arbor, Michigan… cheese cubes.'"

You can hear Young's comment in the audio here. It's at the 6 minute mark.

That comment sparked one listener to write in. Phillip wrote:

I do hope that someone from your Michigan network of stations will  contact the host of Here and Now about her  comment yesterday  regarding Ann Arbor; specifically, in an interview with the chef/ author of Prune, the host
remarked something to the effect that "When  most of us think of Ann Arbor, we think of cheese cubes..."  Give me a  break!

Well, we did share that comment with the producers at Here & Now and host Robin Young wrote back:

Dear Phillip

OY YI YI!!!!

The cheese cube kerfuffle!!

We're going to address on a letters segment on air, but I've been writing the (many!) people who've written.

Just to clarify.. what I said was, "YOU" (meaning the author) thought Michigan meant cheese cubes. This is what she writes in the book! Then I went on to say, but you found otherwise.

I buy from Zingermans!! I don't think Ann Arbor means cheese cubes!

SO sorry for leaving that impression,

Best
Robin Young
Here and Now

Rosh Sillars / Flickr

This morning, Chrysler's twitter feed featured something that grabbed people's attention, and not in a good way.

The tweet featured an expletive. A bad one. From the Detroit Free Press:

"The official Twitter account of Chrysler brand vehicles dropped the F-bomb this morning in an off-color update from an employee at the automaker’s social media agency."

"The post read: 'I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to (expletive) drive.'"

"While the tweet has since been deleted, the original post was retweeted by several people on the popular social network, including Twitter user @tverma29, making it impossible to erase from the Web."

CNET suggested that it might have been Eminem causing the mischief, but it turns out that the offending tweeter worked for Chrysler's social media agency of record. From WXYZ:

"The company says that an investigation determined that an employee of their 'social media agency of record, New Media Strategies' posted the tweet Wednesday morning. That employee, who was not identified, has been terminated.

Which is a shame, because it really seemed like Eminem.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio News

Neighbors and business owners in a growing Grand Rapids neighborhood are standing up against a so-called urban terrorist. Since Christmas Day a number of businesses and a new condo development have been vandalized and struck by arson in East Hills. Dozens of residents have received letters threatening violence if they don’t move out. The letters say old neighbors have been priced out as new developments came in.

Kathryn Caliendo has been volunteering for the East Hill Council of Neighbors for 20 years.

“I don’t like the buzzwords anarchy, or gentrification and I don’t like the word terrorist. This is not political discourse. This is criminal activity. And that’s what I want it to be treated as.”

Mike Perini / Michigan Radio

Our afternoon host Mike Perini sent along these Paczki photos in honor of Fat Tuesday.

He took them at Zingerman's Bakery and at Copernicus European Delicatessen in Ann Arbor.

Mike says feel free to enjoy these "zero calorie" photos!

Tomorrow, some lent recipes to counter those Fat Tuesday calories.

Flickr user Bkonrad

A yearly display of a sunken crucifix in Lake Michigan is scheduled to take place in Petoskey on Saturday.

The monument to people who have died in water-related accidents is submerged 21 feet down in Little Traverse Bay. The cross is 11 feet long and the figure of Jesus measures 5 feet, 5 inches.

It was put in place in 1962 and moved to its current location in 1984. A once-a-year winter viewing is held when the ice is firm enough.

Visitors can park Saturday at Sunset Park, then walk to where a large hole has been cut in the ice. Viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Coordinators say the showing will be canceled if the ice becomes unstable, but conditions look favorable.

On the city's website it says organizers believe it's, "the only freshwater shrine in the world dedicated to divers."

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

‘Food deserts’ are a growing problem in Michigan cities. Two Michigan State University professors believe they have an idea that might help.

'Food deserts’ are created when local supermarkets close and there’s no place where people can walk to buy fruits, vegetables and other fresh food.

MSU professors Phil Howard and Kirk Goldsberry wanted to see how bad the problem is in Lansing. Goldsberry says he was surprised that large sections of the capitol city are ‘food deserts’. He says, in many cases, if you want fresh food, you must drive to Lansing’s suburbs.  

“The suburbanization of groceries has placed our best markets in commercially zoned in non-residential, automobile oriented areas.  Essentially geographically separating our best produce sections from our most densely populated neighborhoods.”  

The MSU professors have created an interactive map showing Lansing’s ‘urban food deserts’. They hope to create similar ‘food desert’ maps for Flint, Grand Rapids and other US cities.

Goldsberry says communities need to encourage more urban gardens and farmers markets to fill the gap in urban ‘food deserts’.

User cccpstorm / Flickr

It's Friday. Time to take a look at a few radio pieces worth a second listen... or a first listen if you missed them.

Tough Lives

This past week, we caught several stories about growing up or living in a tough environment.

Andre Dubus III: "Townie" - The Diane Rehm Show

Diane Rehm talked to Andre Dubus III, best-selling author, about his recent memoir Townie.

Hearing someone talk about their memoir doesn't always make for radio magic, but I sat and listened to the entire interview with Dubus as he talked about his journey - going from a scrawny kid, to muscled brawler, to successful author.

From the Diane Rehm Show website:

In the 1970s, life along Massachusetts' Merrimack River was harsh and unforgiving. Jobs were scarce, neighborhoods were rife with drugs and violence, and hopelessness and despair prevailed. To survive amid such hardship, "House of Sand and Fog" author Andre Dubus III, built himself up from a scared, scrawny victim to a muscled street fighter who could defend his family and channel his anger at his absent father. Later on, Dubus found redemption through writing. He healed old wounds and forged a new life as one of America's bestselling authors.

In the interview, Dubus III talks about his rough and tumble childhood, touching on the difficulties facing single parents as well as issues surrounding bullying and empowerment, including Dubus's own vigilante-esque behavior in the face of would-be intimidators in his neighborhood.

Dubus III is charming and down-to-earth about topics which, one imagines, are very personal, and somewhat difficult to talk about. Not to be missed.

 

LisaW123 / Flickr

Freezing rain has closed portions of some southeast Michigan freeways and made driving conditions dangerous for commuters.

The Associated Press reports:

...portions of Interstate 94, Interstate 75 and the Lodge Freeway (M-10) were closed early Friday morning in Detroit, while portions of the Southfield Freeway (M-39) in Dearborn and Interstate 96 in Howell also have been shut down... Several accidents have been reported.

The National Weather Service in White Lake Township says freezing rain is expected to change to rain by noon. High temperatures in the low 40s are expected.

The Michigan State Police has confirmed to Michigan Radio that as of 6:57 a.m. parts of Northbound 23 were closed as were parts of Northbound I-475.

Glittersniffer Cosmetics is the brainchild of Lela Warren who lives in Dearborn Heights, Mich.

Warren sells brightly colored pigments called "giraffes in love" and "French kiss snow cone," which she markets as eye makeup. She has thousands of fans on facebook. Some of the women say the Glittersniffer cosmetics made them feel "beautiful" for the first time in their lives.

Safety concerns

What all those facebook fans didn’t know, was that Warren was using non-FDA approved soap dyes to achieve some of those vivid shades. Soap dyes can cause irritation and even blindness if applied to the eyes.

Photo courtesy of Dan Cojanu

For this week’s edition of our series “What’s Working,” Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley welcomes Dan Cojanu. He’s the Vice President and Program Director of the Canine Advocacy Program (CAP), based in Oakland County. Through the use of a Chocolate Labrador named Amos, the CAP provides support to child victims of abuse and neglect when they are required to testify or be present in court.

Cojanu begins by explaining how he began organizing the CAP. As he was preparing to retire from his job as the Supervisor for Victim’s Services in Oakland County in 2008, Cojanu decided that he wasn’t done with victim advocacy. Not only did he want to continue work with victims of crime, Cojanu says he also had a desire to work with dogs.

“I did a little research, and I wound up out in Seattle at the Courthouse Dogs Program. And once I was able to observe what these dogs bring to the court setting, to forensic interviews, I just got so excited that I had to bring this back to Michigan.”

When a child has to go before a court as a victim, Cojanu says the experience can be overwhelmingly stressful for his or her emotions.

“These children, when they come to court, the anxiety level, I don’t think it can be measured. They’re going to have to be in front of a bunch of adults who they don’t know, all strangers, and tell the most intimate details of a sexual assault or neglect or abuse or whatever. And it’s so frightening to these kids.”

When a trained service dog like Amos is introduced to the situation, though, Cojanu says the effects are phenomenal.

“You bring a dog into the picture and they have a whole new focus. They have a big cuddly Lab that they can do tricks with, take for walks. A lot of the kids will draw pictures of Amos, and it just brings that anxiety level so far down, that by the time they’re ready to go to court, they’re at least a little better prepared, certainly more relaxed. And it’s just phenomenal. And when they’re done, you know, Amos is there for a big hug.”

Occasionally, Amos has been allowed to sit beside children as they testify on the witness stand. That makes Amos the first dog ever permitted to sit beside someone as they testified in a Michigan courtroom.

Sami / Flickr

Say 'goodbye' to Spring. For now, at least. After unseasonably warm temperatures last week, winter weather has returned. As the Associated Press reports:

A winter storm that blew through the upper Midwest over the long Presidents Day weekend has dumped a hand bag of snow, sleet and ice on Michigan, canceling flights, closing schools and making driving treacherous for early morning commuters.

The National Weather service in White Lake Township says by Monday morning six to 10 inches of snow fell on southern Michigan since the storm began Sunday afternoon.

Officials were urging people to stay off the roads if possible, rather than risk driving on icy roads or through wind-driven snow.

Hundreds of flights were canceled at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. AAA Michigan spokeswoman Nancy Cain tells The Detroit News that by early Sunday evening, about 1,900 requests for assistance in spinouts and minor accidents had been taken.

Kalamazoo Public Schools and Flint Public Schools are closed today. The U-M Dearborn campus is closed as well.

User cccpstorm / Flickr

Here are a few great radio pieces you may have missed this week.

Michigan Radio Senior Producer Mark Brush suggests two pieces.

This American Life makes a batch of Coke... (not THAT kind of coke... coca cola, silly)

"You called for backup?"

Cross a robot and a cop and you get a cult classic. Maybe not an instant cult classic (coming to love a robotic cop takes some time, after all), but 24 years after its release, all signs point to a statue honoring Robocop in Detroit.

From the Associated Press:

A group working to build a statue in Detroit of the fictional crime-fighting cyborg RoboCop says it has reached its fundraising goal of $50,000. Brandon Walley of Imagination Station said Wednesday he's "very positive" the sculpture will become a reality and could be erected on land the nonprofit owns near the hulking, abandoned Michigan Central train depot in southwest Detroit.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is skeptical. He told the AP that he doesn't "see where we get a lot of value" for honoring the robotic police officer.

The AP says "the issue got its start Feb. 7 when Bing's social media manager responded to a query on Twitter about it."

And in case you don't know the plot of Robocop, IMDb gives a summary of the movie this way: In a dystopic & crime ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg with submerged memories haunting him.

Maybe Robocop can rest in peace knowing people in Detroit will immortalize him.

The movie was full of one-liners - for those who've seen the movie (and remember it) do any one-liners stand out?

User duncan c / Flickr

University of Michigan professor Dr. Terri Orbuch goes by the nickname of the Love Doctor, and she has some suggestions for things lovers and spouses should remember to say to each other on Valentine's Day. From the Huffington Post:

  1. "I love you even more now than when we first met." This tells your partner you are still interested and gives him or her a sense of hopefulness, reassurance and security.

  2. "You are my best friend/the best lover/the best partner." This tells your spouse that you notice who your spouse really is and do not take him or her for granted.

  3. "I would still choose you." Every partner needs to hear these words on occasion. They are affirming, nurturing, and appreciative. It is also a reminder that you are renewing your commitment in this relationship.

  4. "Let's plan _____ [a vacation, a date, getting pregnant]." This says you want your partner in your future, and he or she is your top priority. It also says that you and your partner are a team and that you are committed to the relationship!

  5. "I've really noticed that you have _____ [been helping more around the house, been working really hard these past several weeks, been helping your mother through rough times, etc.]." This shows you are paying attention to the particulars of your partner's life and that he or she matters. It also says to your partner, "You are not invisible to me and I do not take you for granted.

Meanwhile, Allan Parkman, the author of the 2004 article “The Importance of Gifts in Marriage,” has some thoughts on why—and when—gift-giving becomes less important to a relationship. From the New York Times:

“Early in life, presents and occasions are important, but as you get older, you have everything you want.”

“We gave away a lot of money, but it wasn’t tied to an occasion, and it was not required.”

“You know you are doing the right thing. It’s not stressful at all.”

Dr. Orbuch—featured in the same article—suggests that couples should be spontaneous, and that this sense of novelty and adventure can be at least as important as what gift you give on Valentine's Day:

“Romance and passion is all about using the elements of surprise and the elements of newness.

“That’s what couples say, and that’s what I’ve found in the research.”

Whatever kind of research you get up to today, Michigan Radio wishes you a Happy Valentine's Day.

-Brian Short

Michael Gil / Flickr

Before April showers can bring May flowers, January snows bring February potholes. Roads all across Michigan are showing the strain of the premature Spring thaw, with in some cases cavernous holes opening up.

"RoboCop" photo: Orion Pictures (c) 1987

Ealier this week, a guy in Massachusetts sent this Twitter message to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing:

"Philadelphia has a statue of Rocky & Robocop would kick Rocky's butt. He's a GREAT ambassador for Detroit."

Mayor Bing's response? Thanks, but no thanks.

"There are not any plans to erect a statue of Robocop. Thank you for the suggestion."

But Detroit artist Jerry Paffendorf and others are running with the idea. Paffendorf says the idea touched a "funny bone," and sparked "the kind of interest and intrigue in Detroit, and an interest in what Robocop means to Detroit."

Resch Strategies

Budget schmudget.

The real debate in this state is over how we self-identify.

The Michigander vs. Michiganian debate rears up every so often.

We last heard about it during last fall's gubernatorial race.

Democratic candidate Virg Bernero preferred Michiganian, while Republican candidate Rick Snyder preferred Michigander (my spell check likes neither, by the way).

Snyder grabbed the victory and told the crowd to drop all the divisive labels... except one. From MLive:

Snyder told his victory party in Detroit that it was time to "drop the labels" of party, ideology and geography. "There is only one label that matters and that label is Michigander."

Survey says

The Lansing-based PR firm Resch Strategies decided to feel the state's pulse on this question. They contacted 600 Michiganians/Michiganders at the end of January and asked them, "Do you consider yourself a (ROTATE:  Michigander or a Michiganian)"?

The results:

  • 58% said Michigander
  • 12% said Michiganian
  • 7% said both
  • 11% said neither
  • 12% didn’t know

 

Online Poll (warning, extremely scientific)

We thought we'd try to gauge your preference:

 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Holland and Grand Rapids’ Public Schools are both closed because the sidewalks aren’t shoveled enough yet to send kids to school safely.

Lindsay Smith / Michigan Radio News

Ok, so we all know that this week's winter storm caused copious amounts of snow and ice to blanket much of the state. And, of course, we couldn't forget the school closings and sore backs (hey, shoveling a foot of snow out of a driveway is strenuous!).

But, what about the actual financial impact of a huge winter storm? Just how much money did all that snow cost the state? Hard to quantify? It sure would seem like it. But, one firm, IHS Global Insight, has decided to go ahead and try to figure the economics out.

In a report released this week titled, The Economic Costs of Disruption from a Snowstorm, IHS said the storm had a $251 million a day economic impact in Michigan. The study took into account both direct (think loss of income because of a missed day of work) and indirect effects (such as lost sales in the local economy) of the storm into account when figuring out the numbers.

Aside from the actual economic data, IHS also reached three conclusions about the financial impact of winter storms, and I quote:

  1. Among all economic classes, snow-related shutdowns harm hourly workers the worst, accounting for almost two thirds of direct economic losses.
  2. The indirect economic impacts of snow-related shutdowns, including loss of retail sales and income and sales tax revenues, roughly double the initial economic impact.
  3. The economic impact of snow-related closures far-exceeds the cost of timely snow removal. Although states and localities may be hesitant to expand significant upfront resources in the short-term, the long-term payoff more than justifies the expense.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The east side of the state may have been spared the brunt of the storm but in Grand Rapids the nearly 16 inches of snow in a 24-hour period could prove record setting

Chad Doty shovels a foot of snow off the sidewalk of a Big Boy in downtown Grand Rapids. It’s normally packed during lunch but today it’s closed. He’s been out shoveling for hours.

 “We tried to get out at like 1 o’clock (in the morning) but the weather was just too bad I couldn’t see the drive. So I had to pack it up, got back out at about 4 o’clock I think and just started the grind.”

Doty says he’ll work until early evening, take a nap, and head back out. He says the extra snow means extra cash for him. 

The busses are running, even though all universities, many schools and businesses are closed today.

Mayor George Heartwell refused to declare a snow emergency. City workers are working around the clock to clear the streets. He says all of them should be clear by Friday. Heartwell is asking those physically able to do so help clear snow away from fire hydrants, and keep cars off the streets if possible.

City leaders say they expect around 16 inches total. That’s nearly equal to the record set more than 20 year ago. 

Hal and Judy Fruit trek down a normally busy street in snow shoes they got for Christmas.

“It’s a good storm but I think they overblew it a little bit. It’s Michigan. It’s snow. It’s winter. No big deal. You know you live with it. Roads are clear. The sun is out. It’s beautiful!”

Just under 400 people in Kent County were without power, but are expected to be back online before the end of the day.

Abby deRoo

Looking at the photos... they don't really look like snowmen - more like snowbots, but I guess that's the kind of quality you can expect when the goal is quantity.

The cities of Zeeland, St. Clair and Saline took part in a snowman building contest over the weekend.

As Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reported, the goal of the contest was to see who could build the most snowmen (at least 4ft. tall) in a 2 hour period with 50 volunteers.

The volunteers employed garbage cans, pickle buckets, and Pam cooking spray to help them churn the snow creatures out.

The city of Saline came out on top winning the soon-to-be coveted, wood-carved trophy known as "Frosty."

Here are the final tallies:

1st Place - Saline with 483 snowmen like creatures

2nd place - Zeeland with 268

3rd place - St. Clair with 113

St. Clair Downtown Development Director Dan Lockwood blamed their poor showing on "terrible packing snow."

The Grand Rapids Press has several photos of the contest as it took place in Zeeland.

You be the judge, do they need to tighten up their definition of a snowman? Or should snowbots count?

Dan Lockwood / St. Clair DDA

Zeeland, St. Clair, and Saline are competing this weekend to take home the "Snowman Building Champion of the Free World" trophy.

Art Trapp is Saline’s Downtown Development Director.

“In our community we don’t see a lot of activity downtown during the winter and we thought this was one way to get people off their couch.”

The other point of the competition is to see which community can build the most 4-foot-tall snowmen with 50 volunteers in 2 hours.

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