Pontiac

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - An auction featuring more than 3,000 leftover items in the Pontiac Silverdome has fetched about $500,000.

RJM Auctioneers facilities manager Jim Passeno tells The Detroit News that he considers the nine-day event that ended Thursday a success and "had a huge response nationwide."

Items up for sale included end-zone turf, pretzel warmers, a boxing ring, a soccer field, flat-screen televisions and scoreboards. The stadium's copper wiring sold for more than $77,000.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING – Michigan is helping provide lower interest rates to first-time homebuyers in eight cities.

About 300 individual or families in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Pontiac, Saginaw, Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, and Jackson can take advantage of a program announced Friday.

First-time homebuyers who meet eligibility requirements can get a 3.125% mortgage interest rate without down payment assistance. If they need help with their down payment, the interest rate is 3.625%.

Gov. Rick Snyder says he wants to increase home sales in five cities hit hard by blight and three other cities needing a boost.

Michigan State Housing Development Authority Executive Director Scott Woosley says most of Michigan's real estate market has bounced back, but some areas are still experiencing significant sales declines.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The planned auction of parts of the old Pontiac Silverdome is on hold.

This week, parts of the Silverdome were supposed to go on sale.

People were going to be able to buy forklifts, generators, soap dispensers, and even a Zamboni.

But the sale is now on hold for up to three weeks, and it’s not clear why.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says new FBI crime numbers show there’s still work to be done to make Michigan cities safer.

Flint and Detroit topped the FBI’s list of most-dangerous cities, which is based on 2011 data.

But Governor Snyder says the state’s been aggressive about public safety, especially in Detroit, where violent crime rates have improved.

Bob Jagendorf / Flickr

This week in Michigan politics Emily Fox and Jack Lessenberry discuss ballot issues that have emerged in the Detroit mayoral race, the objection filings to Detroit's bankruptcy and Pontiac coming out of emergency management.

The deadline to formally object to Detroit's bankruptcy filing has come and gone as yesterday was the deadline to file challenges to the city's eligibility for Chapter 9 protection. On today's show: we took a look at the objections and where things go from here.

Also, emergency manager Kevyn Orr has requested that the collection of city-owned art at the DIA be formally appraised. What does this mean for the museum, the city of Detroit, and the art world?

And, the Amish community in North America has grown 20% over the past five years. We explored what's behind the growth.

First on the show, after nearly 5 years, the city of Pontiac's financial emergency is officially resolved.

Emergency manager Lou Schimmel resigned yesterday, but the state will still have a heavy hand in the city's finances.

A Transition Advisory Board appointed by Governor Snyder will have to approve all major budget decisions.

Lou Schimmel joined us today.

After nearly five years, the city of Pontiac's financial emergency is officially resolved.

Emergency manager Lou Schimmel resigned yesterday, but the state will still have a heavy hand in the city's finances.

A "transition advisory board" appointed by Governor Snyder will have to approve all major budget decisions.

Lou Schimmel was appointed to that board. He joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Detroit is getting $52.3 million to deal with its blight problem.

Several other Michigan cities are also getting money to tear down abandoned homes and clean up other vacant buildings.

In June, the U.S.Treasury Department approved $100 million dollars to help several Michigan cities deal with blight. 

In addition to the money going to Detroit, the governor’s office announced today that the city of Flint will receive $20.1 million. Saginaw, Grand Rapids and Pontiac will also receive some money from the federal government’s Hardest Hit fund.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Dozens of objections to Detroit's bankruptcy filed yesterday

Yesterday was the deadline for creditors to file objections to the city of Detroit’s request for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. A flood of objections was filed by unions, pensioners, and others. The objections argued that the city is not insolvent, that it failed to negotiate with creditors in good faith before filing for bankruptcy, and that the filing violates constitutional protections for public pensions. Judge Steven Rhodes will review the claims. He has scheduled an October hearing to determine the city’s eligibility for bankruptcy protection, according to Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett.

Pontiac's financial emergency officially over

Pontiac’s nearly five-year-long financial emergency is officially resolved. The city has made some major changes in the past five years, including cutting the general fund budget by half and merging the fire department with nearby Waterford.

“Emergency manager Lou Schimmel resigned yesterday, saying the city’s financial emergency is ‘resolved.’ But the state will still have a heavy hand in Pontiac’s finances. A Transition Advisory Board appointed by Governor Snyder will have to approve all major budget decisions,” Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports.

Restaurants can have outdoor smoking areas under 'smoke-free' law

“The Michigan Department of Agriculture says outdoor smoking areas are OK, as long as employees don’t have to wait on customers in those spaces. That means no food or drinks - unless patrons are allowed to bring them in themselves. Director Jamie Clover Adams says the state’s ‘smoke-free’ law was unclear when it comes to outdoor smoking sections. The Michigan Restaurant Association says it does not expect many establishments to allow smoking in outdoor areas because cutting food and beverage services in those spaces would be too costly for most restaurants,” Jake Neher reports.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

For the first time in nearly five years, the city of Pontiac is not under emergency management.

Emergency manager Lou Schimmel resigned Monday, saying the city’s financial emergency is “resolved.”

Schimmel was Pontiac's third emergency manager, serving since September 2011.

Pontiac is a radically different city than it was five years ago. The city’s general fund budget is about half what it used to be.

user dt10111 / Flickr

The city's emergency manager is no more. Lou Schimmel issued his last orders this week.

But that doesn't mean the state is done overseeing the city.

Now a "transition advisory board" will oversee things in Pontiac, and Mr. Schimmel sits on that board as of today.

The board can oversee many parts of city government, including approving budgets, overseeing cash flow projections, review collective bargaining agreements, and approve requests by the city to issue more debt through bond offerings.

Schimmel cited the following reasons for the resolution of the "financial emergency" in Pontiac:

  • Implementing health care and benefit reforms by consolidating 87 benefit plans into one to ensure quality, affordable but sustainable coverage for employees.
  • Selling excess capacity in the city’s sewage treatment plant to Oakland County for $55 million, allowing the city to significantly reduce its debt ($87 million) and eliminate its structural deficit ($9.2 million).
  • Creating a regional fire department (merger with Waterford Township) that reduced the cost of fire services by $3.6 million annually while strengthening services.
  • Contracting with the Oakland County Sheriff for police services, which saved the city $2.2 million annually while also boosting public safety and ensuring more officers on patrol.
  • Reducing general fund expenditures by nearly $30 million in six years by closing defined benefit pension systems, eliminating money-losing enterprise activities, consolidating or streamlining departments, and modifying the city’s hiring process.

Schimmel and city officials are planning to hold press conference later today. More details to follow.

pontiac.k12.mi.us / Pontiac School District

A state review team has determined the Pontiac school district is saddled with so much debt it’s in a financial crisis.

Now it’s up to Governor Rick Snyder to decide whether he agrees with that determination.

The state-appointed board found the school district’s debt has continued to grow over the past five years and it’s now almost $38 million dollars in the red with no credible plan to dig out. The district has missed paying some critical bills, including employee health insurance premiums.

People around the world and right here in Michigan are rethinking money in order to ease financial woes, and they're doing it with local currency. On today's show we found out what it is, and where it's working.

And, we headed up north to a resort town where a vacation can lead to putting down roots and building a business.

Also, one of the co-founders of The Artist Lounge joined us to tell us about how her business is breathing new life into Pontiac.

And, the Farm Bill and food stamp programs expire at the end of September. We took a closer look at what this means for Michiganders receiving federal food assistance.

Also, we spoke with Micki Maynard about what she thinks the future of personal transportation will look like.

First on the show, a State Senate panel has voted to make more than 300,000 Michiganders eligible for Medicaid in 2014. And that's not all: the GOP-led Government Operations Committee said yes to two alternative plans.

So, from the Senate ticking off Governor Snyder by adjourning without voting on the House-passed Medicaid expansion plan to this Senate Panel serving up not one, not two, but three Medicaid proposals, it's a lot to keep track of.

We turned to Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing reporter Jake Neher for a little help in sorting this all out.

Facebook

Bringing new life back into downtown Pontiac one brushstroke at a time.

That’s the mission of a new business called “The Artist Lounge,” which strives to use the power of art to touch lives and boost an Oakland County city that has had its share of struggles.

Wendy Fournier is the co-founder of The Artist Lounge on Saginaw Street in downtown Pontiac. She joined us today to talk about what The Artist Lounge offers to people in the Pontiac area.

Listen to the full interview above.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Detroit Public Schools get new emergency manager

Governor Rick Snyder has named Jack Martin as the new emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools. Martin replaces Roy Roberts, who is retiring after two years in the position. Martin is leaving his position as Detroit’s chief financial officer.  Roberts says DPS still has a long way to go, but conditions are noticeably better than when he started; the current budget deficit is more than $70 million.

Retiree health care coverage suspended in Pontiac

Pontiac’s emergency manager Louis Schimmel has proposed the Emergency Loan Board address an expected $6 million general fund shortfall in the current budget year. The board approved a plan to suspend health care coverage for retirees from the city of Pontiac and increase their monthly pension payments. The city's roughly 1,000 pensioners will get an extra $400 a month to buy their own health care, the Associated Press reports.

EPA now accepting Great Lakes grant applications

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has $9.5 million to distribute for Great Lakes projects and is looking for takers. The money comes from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, an Obama administration program to clean up and protect the lakes from a variety of threats. A webinar explaining the application process will be held July 30.

Andrew Jameson / Wikimedia

The city's emergency manager, Lou Schimmel, said the cuts are necessary to keep the city from municipal bankruptcy.

More from Chad Livengood of the Detroit News:

A state board Monday approved the Pontiac emergency manager’s plan to suspend health insurance coverage for nearly 1,000 city retirees for two years and give them $400 more a month in their pension checks in lieu of the benefit.

Emergency Manager Louis Schimmel had threatened the specter of Pontiac plunging into bankruptcy if the state’s Emergency Loan Board didn’t approve the plan to cut the $6 million expense.

Retired firefighters and police officers will not be affected by the plan.

Back in April, Schimmel said cutting retiree healthcare would "structurally fix the city financially." 

Schimmel is expected to end his term as Pontiac's emergency manager at the end of this month. 

pontiac.k12.mi.us / Pontiac School District

Teachers in the struggling Pontiac School District are suing the district after being told their healthcare coverage could get axed.

The teachers who filed the lawsuit are claiming school officials took money designated for their healthcare premiums, and transferred it to the general fund in order to make the district’s finances look better.

Diana Dillaber Murray from The Oakland Press reported:

pontiac.k12.mi.us / Pontiac School District

Gov. Rick Snyder has named six people to review the finances of the Pontiac School District, a step that could lead to the appointment of an emergency manager or other measures for the Oakland County district struggling with a $38 million budget deficit.

 A three-member Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board on June 6 found "probable financial stress" in the district.

Under the new emergency manager law, if a financial emergency is found to exist, Pontiac officials have four options. They can enter a consent agreement with the state, agree to an emergency manager, go through a neutral evaluation process, or choose bankruptcy.

Here's a list of all school districts and cities that engaged with the state's emergency manager law (the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act).

11alive.com

Michigan’s teen unemployment rate is more than double the state’s overall jobless rate.

State and local officials say limits on federal grants intended to promote youth employment are partly to blame.

State labor officials say a quarter of Michigan teens who want a job can’t find one this summer.   And they say part of the problem is the number of requirements on youth employment programs that are funded with federal grants.

user dt10111 / Flickr

The Detroit News asked Pontiac Emergency Manager Lou Schimmel if the city could go bankrupt after he leaves.

Schimmel said that won't happen if they follow his plan:

Pontiac is into its third emergency manager, Louis Schimmel, who is scheduled to leave his job this month but first will present a two-year plan to avoid bankruptcy to citizens at a meeting at 9 a.m. at City Hall.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Leaders of the Detroit branch of the NAACP say they'll file a lawsuit next week challenging Michigan's emergency manager law.

The law has allowed Gov. Rick Snyder to put managers in Detroit and other struggling cities and school districts. Critics plan to talk Monday outside the federal courthouse in Detroit.

Other legal challenges have not been successful. An Ingham County judge in April threw out a lawsuit that claimed lawmakers violated the Open Meetings Act when it approved the bill in December.

Dave Garvin / Flickr

There's no re-open in sight for the Buena Vista school district.

Now, Pontiac schools could be next to close its doors.

The district could be forced to shut down operations before the end of its school year.

A letter sent this week by state Superintendent Mike Flanagan warns Pontiac schools the district won’t be able to make its Friday, May 17, payroll.

It’s been almost a week since the tiny Buena Vista school district in Saginaw County abruptly closed its doors.

There is still no plan to get the roughly 400 displaced students into classrooms for the balance of the school year.

Governor Rick Snyder says a financial bailout by the state is very unlikely.

“Well, I hope there’s solutions that could be short of that, and that’s what we’re having discussions on, the community coming together, other districts working with the state, all of us coming together to say, let’s solve this problem.”  

Buena Vista ran out of cash because the state is withholding payments to make up for a grant the district should not have received.

The district’s finances and academic performance were already in poor shape. Buena Vista and Pontiac are both on the state’s “watch” list.

Will Michigan's next emergency manager operate the Pontiac School District?

More from the Associated Press:

Officials plan to wrap up a review by next month of the Pontiac School District's finances that could lead to the appointment of an emergency manager or other measures.

District officials recently were notified by state Superintendent Mike Flanagan of the preliminary financial review, which is to begin Monday and end by May 24.

In a letter, Flanagan describes the public school district's situation as "critical and alarming."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Ninety new Michigan State troopers will soon be on the road.

The troopers were officially sworn in today in Lansing.

Governor Rick Snyder told the new troopers they are part of reinventing Michigan, in part by helping those communities hit hard by violent crime.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

What is an actual emergency manager's take on Detroit's financial troubles.

Lou Schimmel has been the appointed emergency manager for Pontiac since March of 2009.

We had Schimmel speak with us on Stateside to get his view of what needs to be done to fix the city's broken finances and his suggestions for fixing Detroit.

Listen to the full interview above.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) - A judge says Pontiac's state-appointed emergency financial manager violated the Open Meetings Act in making changes to the city's retiree pension board.

The Oakland Press of Pontiac and the Detroit Free Press report Oakland County Circuit Judge Rae Lee Chabot on Wednesday ruled against Lou Schimmel, who last year cut the pension board from 11 members to five amid concerns about spending.

Chabot says the change "looks like a dictatorship."

Schimmel says he disagrees with the judge's order but he'll comply with the directive. He's working to fix the finances of the cash-strapped city.

The preliminary injunction comes in a lawsuit filed by the City of Pontiac Retired Employees Association. The board is scheduled to meet this month.

   Pontiac's finances have been under state supervision since 2009.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Judge says prisoners sentenced as juveniles should get parole hearings 

Judge John Corbett O'Meara says a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down mandatory no-parole sentences applies retroactively to Michigan inmates already behind bars.

There are more than 350 inmates in Michigan prisons serving life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles, and there's been a lot of debate about whether these inmate should get a shot at parole.

The Detroit Free Press has the story of one of those prisoners this morning.

...life has never been simple for Jennifer Pruitt. Her 37 years have been punctuated by turmoil -- a tough upbringing, a life sentence for murder, repeated rapes in prison and glimmers of hope that quickly got dashed.

Road funding discussions get underway in Michigan legislature

In his State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder made roads a top priority. He called for new revenue to support road building. Whether that will mean higher taxes or higher fees for Michigan residents remains to be seen. Jonathan Oosting of MLive reports the discussions will get underway soon:

... a joint resolution introduced by Republican Sens. Randy Richardville, Roger Kahn and Bruce Caswell offers a simple starting point for discussions: A constitutional amendment to raise the state sales tax from 6 percent to 8 percent. As a trade-off for the increased sales tax, a related bill would eliminate the state's 19-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax.

Such a tax increase would require voter approval. Other plans, such as increasing gas taxes or registration fees, are being considered as well.

Investment in Pontiac, GM plans expansion

General Motors announced its consolidating some of its research and development operations and expanding its Global Powertrain Engineering Headquarters in Pontiac. Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports the company is expected to invest $200 million in the Pontiac facility.

GM estimates the move will move about 400 jobs now in various facilities to Pontiac. The investment is part of a GM commitment to invest $1.5 billion in North American facilities across the state and the country.

GM officials say employees will start transferring to Pontiac as soonas the middle this year, and the expansion will be completed in mid 2014.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The impact of economic problems are often likened to waves. And the waves of Michigan's economic crisis are still rolling up onto the shores in cities around the state.

The Detroit News looked at the numbers of police cuts and how communities react to these cuts.

The data from the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards show that since 2003, the state has lost more than 2,000 police positions in total.

Communities react to the cuts by completely disbanding their departments, as Pontiac did, or by trying to raise more revenue.

But as the events in the struggling city of Benton Harbor show, residents are not always willing to tax themselves more to keep their police departments intact.

From the Detroit News:

City of Pontiac

The mayor of Pontiac tells Bloomberg News he thinks the city is on the "cutting edge" of strategies to help struggling cities survive, by turning to regionalization of essential services. Leon Jukowski says that's why he's cooperating with an emergency financial manager who has been given the authority he used to have.  Watch the video here.

MDOT

Some refurbished commuter rail cars will start test runs in southeast Michigan today.

The stainless steel, bi-level cars will run on tracks between Pontiac and Jackson.

State officials hope the cars will eventually be used for separate commuter rail lines connecting Detroit and Ann Arbor, and Ann Arbor and Livingston County.

Janet Foran is with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Pages