Detroit Journalism Cooperative

To focus on community life and the city’s future after bankruptcy, five nonprofit media outlets have formed The Detroit Journalism Cooperative. The Center for Michigan’s Bridge Magazine is the convening partner for the group, which includes Michigan Radio, Detroit Public Television, WDET and New Michigan Media, a partnership of ethnic and minority newspapers.

To see all the stories produced for the Cooperative, you can visit Next Chapter Detroit.

Stories from Michigan Radio are shown below.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss local election results, how a Tea Partier is trying to challenge Michigan's lieutenant  governor, and how the state might give Detroit less money for the bankruptcy and use Michigan's rainy day fund.

By now you’ve almost certainly heard about the so-called "Grand Bargain," which would save both the Detroit Institute of Arts and shore up the city’s pension funds enough to minimize the cuts.

Doing that would require hundreds of millions in funds from three sources:

  • A coalition of private foundations
  • supporters of the DIA itself
  • state government

The first two pots of money, from museum backers and the foundations, have been raised or will be.

That leaves the state’s share, which has usually been put at $350 million. Gov. Rick Snyder is supporting this. He believes, correctly, that it makes sense for the entire state.

But his Republican colleagues who control the Legislature aren’t so sure.

Speaker of the House Jase Bolger says he won’t even consider letting this come up for a vote, unless the city unions are willing to kick in some money as well.

Bolger, who is from Marshall, clearly feels no connection to or love for Detroit, and less for unions.

It isn’t clear if the city’s battered unions even have that kind of cash. What is clear to Republicans, of course, is that every dollar the unions have to give up is one less dollar they can conceivably donate to political campaigns.

User: mattileo/flickr

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

This week, Jennifer White, host of All Things Considered, examines the latest developments surrounding the Detroit bankruptcy case. Emergency manager Kevyn Orr spent two days in Lansing this week, trying to galvanize lawmakers to support a grand bargain to reinforce Detroit pensions while protecting the Detroit Institute of Arts. The state is being asked to contribute $350 million, but House Speaker Jase Bolger has balked at the proposal.

Ken Sikkema emphasizes that because it is an election year, Speaker Bolger will have a difficult time getting full Republican support to contribute state money to help with Detroit’s financial woes, and that in order for a deal to proceed where the state will contribute financially, it will rely on bipartisan support.

“The speaker is walking a fine line here, between driving a hard bargain to show that Republicans actually got something in the way of more accountability so that this doesn’t happen again,” Sikkema explains. “Down in Detroit, the pieces are starting to fall into place to make this happen and the last big piece is state participation. But he’s never going to get full Republican support for this, particularly in an election year, it’s going to have to be a bipartisan vote.”

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Kevyn Orr has wrapped up his two days of meeting with lawmakers in Lansing. His goal was to win support for some $350 million as the state's share in the so-called grand bargain. 

We shift our focus to money not from the state capitol, but the nation's capitol. 

Republicans, even some Democrats, are dead-set against the idea of a federal bailout for Detroit. GOP Senator David Vitter of Louisiana tried and failed last fall to get a law passed to prevent federal money from ever going to the city. 

But are the tides changing? 

The Obama Administration and Michigan officials are now in talks to give Detroit $100 million federal dollars for blight remediation, and just last week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew visited Detroit. 

Detroit Free Press Washington, D.C. reporter Todd Spangler joined us.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Could tobacco settlement money help the DIA?
DIA

Should money from a national tobacco settlement go toward fighting tobacco use and improving our health?

Or can the state raid that tobacco settlement "piggy bank" to help save works from the Detroit Institute of Arts works and help City of Detroit retirees?

That's the question Gary Heinlein addressed in a recent story for the Detroit News.

Heinlein joined us today.

*Listen to our conversation with her above.

LiveStream

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is spending a couple of days in Lansing for closed-door meetings with state officials. His primary mission is to convince reluctant state lawmakers to support the Detroit bailout package.

The state’s share, which would have to be approved by the Legislature, is $350 million dollars. That would help mitigate cuts to pension benefits as part of the city’s bankruptcy, and ensure the assets of the Detroit Institute of Arts are safe from the auction block.

Kevyn Orr
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is in Lansing today and tomorrow, getting face-time with the lawmakers whose vote is crucial to the so-called grand bargain, the complicated deal to protect city retirees and the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Orr heads to Lansing with a new piece of the puzzle in hand: a tentative five-year deal reached Monday with AFSCME, Detroit's largest employee union.

Detroit News reporter Chad Livengood joined us today to give us an idea of what progress has been made and what lies ahead for the city.

Listen to the full interview above.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

The city of Detroit has reached a tentative deal with more than a dozen unions that represent thousands of workers in the city.

Mediators for the federal court overseeing Detroit’s reorganization under Chapter 9 bankruptcy announced the tentative deal this morning.

They say the coalition of unions includes 13 civilian unions and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union. AFSCME is the city’s largest union.

The mediators say the city and the unions have agreed on the "major aspects" of a five-year collective bargaining agreement. The deal still has to be approved by the federal bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes and by the union's members.

Details of the deal will be released once it’s approved. Chad Livengood of the Detroit News reports he spoke with a source with knowledge of the agreement:

wikihow

If you’ve had a frustrating experience with a Detroit parking meter, you’re definitely not alone--about half those meters aren’t working at any given time.

The situation has the bankrupt city looking for outside operators to fix, and possibly run, its parking system.

It’s likely such a deal would get done fast. But experts warn Detroit might want to take a close look at Chicago’s recent experience first.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

At the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, 11-year-old Brianna Allgood is being tested by a machine called a spirometer. It measures her breathing.

Brianna has asthma. Sometimes she has difficulty breathing. Most of us would have a hard time imagining what that’s like.

“It feels like your chest starts tightening and you’re like and you can’t really breathe much air,” Brianna said. 

Vickie Elliot is Brianna’s grandmother. She says she finds herself checking in on Brianna – a lot – just to make sure she’s breathing okay.

“Having a child like that in the home is scary because anything could happen,” Elliot said.

Brianna is luckier than some kids with asthma. Her family can get her to the clinic. They now know how to treat the asthma.

Elliott says it’s made a difference.

Detroit’s historic bankruptcy case has picked up steam in the past couple of weeks.

The city reached tentative agreement with some of its major creditors, clearing the way for a relatively quick exit from bankruptcy court.

But there are still some key missing pieces that could derail the process, and now they’re mostly outside the city’s control.

“Now is the time to negotiate”

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Republican leaders in Lansing are not joining House Speaker Jase Bolger’s calls for unions to contribute to Detroit’s bankruptcy settlement.

Gov. Rick Snyder and several foundations have signed off on a complicated deal to protect retiree pensions and artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The state’s contribution to the so-called “grand bargain” would be about $350 million, and state lawmakers would have to approve that money.

Bolger, R-Marshall, says it’s only fair for unions to contribute to the deal as well.

Detroit Institute of Arts
Photo courtesy of the DIA

As Detroit's bankruptcy battle continues to unfold, a question remains: what will happen to the city-owned pieces at the Detroit Institute of Arts?

The city recently reached a tentative agreement with its retirees and pensioners. Could the agreements impact the possible sale of DIA work to satisfy Detroit's bondholders and other creditors?

Mark Stryker explored that question in The Detroit Free Press and we spoke with him today.

*Listen to the audio above.

Detroit Institute of Arts
Maia C/Flickr

The reality of worried creditors eyeing the treasures at the DIA has the museum world watching very closely.

There are few people who want to see the museum's art leave Detroit.

But in the face of monstrous debt, should it be a case of "hands off the art"?

Recently, the Delaware Art Museum announced it had decided, "with heavy hearts, but clear minds" to sell up to four works from its collection to repay debt from an expansion and thus, keep its door open.

We wanted to get a museum expert's view in this debate, so we welcomed the director of the University of Michigan's Museum Studies Program, Ray Silverman.

Listen to the full interview.

Screen shot from a "One Day" film.
onedayindetroit.org

On Saturday, hundreds of folks with cameras in hand will descend upon Detroit.

Their mission is to document stories that most affect the future of the city. The stories they capture will become part of a TV series on the future of the American city.

It's called “One Day in Detroit: Your Day, Your City, Your Future.”

Detroit is one of 11 cities across America to be a part of this "One Day" event.

The co-founder and executive producer of One Day on Earth, Brandon Litman, joined us today. And we also welcomed Stephen McGee, the local producer of “One Day in Detroit.”

*Listen to the audio above.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

There‘s one kind of pollution that researchers believe robs kids of their future like no other.

Scientists have found evidence it diminishes their intelligence, causes behavioral problems, even increases the likelihood they’ll end up in prison.

This toxin’s damage is known.

We even know how to protect children from being exposed to it.

Yet tens of thousands of Michigan children are poisoned by lead every day.

Jessica Jeffries showed me the work that was done on her upper-floor apartment of a two-story house in Detroit.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

It's taken months of bargaining, bickering and posturing, but there have been promising advances in the Detroit bankruptcy journey.

Pieces are starting to fall into place that could complete the so-called "grand bargain" that would protect the DIA collection and soften the blow for Detroit's retirees.

First came word of a tentative deal between the city and its pensioners. A day later, the board that represents police and fire retirees gave a unanimous approval to the deal.

Now it's on to the next hurdle: getting state lawmakers to approve Michigan's share of the grand bargain –$350 million.

Chris Gautz, Capitol Correspondent of Crain's Detroit Business, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Sam Beebe

Now that Detroit’s bankruptcy is moving along, Gov. Rick Snyder is moving to secure the state’s end of a so-called “grand bargain.”

It would use $816 million to minimize city pension cuts, and protect the Detroit Institute of Arts from potential liquidation to pay off creditors.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This has proven to be a watershed week in Detroit’s bankruptcy case, which is now moving along at lightning speed.

On Tuesday, representatives for Detroit’s two pension funds reached tentative settlements with the city.

The deals would spare Detroit’s retired police officers and firefighters any direct cuts to their pensions, while non-uniform retirees would take 4.5% cuts.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It's turning into a momentous week in Detroit's quest to exit bankruptcy.

First came a deal with two global banks: UBS and Bank of America.

Then, an agreement with leaders of Detroit's retired police and firefighters.

That was followed late yesterday by a settlement with the remaining Detroit retirees.

Daniel Howes, a business columnist with The Detroit News, talks with us about the next challenges in the Detroit bankruptcy saga.

Here’s the one thing certain about Detroit’s bankruptcy: You don’t want to play poker with Kevyn Orr.

The state-appointed emergency manager had everyone convinced city workers and retirees were facing a steep 26% cut in their pensions – a cut that would jump to 34% if they didn’t quickly approve the smaller amount.

The city was getting ready to mail them all ballots explaining the cuts and asking for their approval.

Then, voilà – yesterday, everything changed. Suddenly, negotiators came up with a deal whereby most pensions would be cut by less than 5%. Police and fire retirees pensions won’t be cut at all.

There seems little doubt that the 32,000 employees and retirees will approve this deal. Yet we need to remember two things. First of all, this is not final yet – not by a long shot.

Something else that’s still very uncertain has to happen first. The Michigan Legislature has to approve contributing $350 million to a fund designed to shore up the pensions and protect any of the work in the city-owned collections in the Detroit Institute of Arts from being possibly sold for the benefit of the creditors.

Peter Martorano / Flickr

A major piece of the Detroit bankruptcy puzzle fell into place today.

The city reached a deal with the group representing Detroit's police and fire retirees. The deal means no cuts to monthly pension checks for retired officers and firefighters. 

We were joined by Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek in Detroit. 

Listen to the full interview above. 

The Theodore Levin United States Courthouse in Detroit.
Andrew Jameson / Wikimedia Commons

Mediators for the federal court overseeing Detroit's Chapter 9 bankruptcy say a deal has been reached between the city of Detroit and the Retired Detroit Police and Fire Fighters Association over pension and health benefits.

The deal calls for no cuts to current pension benefits, but does cut future "cost of living" increases in their benefits.

The Association's members still need to approve the plan through a vote.

The potential deal is the first agreement the city has reached with a group of retired workers.

Detroit’s bankruptcy case is throwing a wrench in the city’s usual budget process.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan didn’t give his charter-mandated city budget address as scheduled Monday.

Rather, officials told City Council members that Detroit needs to update its plan of adjustment first. That’s the city’s restructuring blueprint for getting through bankruptcy.

Detroit chief financial officer John Hill said that since the plan will shape the city budget, it doesn’t make sense start talking now.

Judge Steven Rhodes approved a key settlement in Detroit’s historic bankruptcy case Friday.

The deal will settle a costly interest-rate swaps agreement with two banks, UBS and Bank of America, for $85 million.

Emergency manager Kevyn Orr has pushed hard for such a deal. Detroit had guaranteed the swaps with casino revenue, and paid out about $200 million since 2009.

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

This week, host Jennifer White discusses the latest developments in the Detroit bankruptcy case and examines the implications.

There was a significant breakthrough yesterday. A settlement was announced between the city of Detroit and three major bond insurers. The insurers will get about 74 cents on the dollar, a significant increase from what emergency manager Kevyn Orr originally offered, and the roughly $50 million in savings will go to support retirees.

The question now is whether retirees will accept further cuts to their pensions, given the fact that Gov. Rick Snyder has stated that the state will not put any money forward unless the retirees agree to cuts. Ken Sikkema says it's imperative that retirees back the plan.

Detroit skyline.
user JSFauxtaugraphy / Flickr

There have been two big developments this week in the high-stakes showdown over Detroit's pensioners, its art treasures and creditors who hope bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes will pressure the city to put those art treasures on the table.

There's a lot to try to sort out. So, as we do each Thursday, we spoke to Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes.

Listen to the full interview above.

If you heard my commentary yesterday on the latest in the Detroit bankruptcy battles, I began with the news that the city had reached a deal with the holders of its general obligation bonds.

All we knew then was that an agreement had been reached, and I said the bondholders were, to quote myself, “evidently going to settle for less than 20 cents on every dollar owed them.”

Well, I was astonishingly far off.

In fact, they ended up settling for 74 cents for every dollar. But there is a reason why I was so wrong.

Could tobacco settlement money help the DIA?
DIA

One group who stands to lose a lot in Detroit’s bankruptcy has upped the ante in the battle over the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The Financial Guaranty Insurance Corporation, a major bond insurer, has gone out and solicited bids for the museum’s assets.

And in papers filed in federal bankruptcy court Wednesday, FGIC said it’s received four tentative bids for the museum’s assets, or portions of them.

The bidders include:

If you aren’t following every twist and turn in the saga of Detroit’s bankruptcy, you may think things are well on track.

Today, in fact, came the good news that the city has apparently reached a deal with its unsecured bondholders, who are evidently going to settle for almost 75 cents of every dollar owed them. 

But the biggest and toughest challenges are ahead.

And if you think the Detroit Institute of Arts is now safe, think again.

Here is how things stand:

Pages