• Detroit: What the world sees

    London’s The Guardian newspaper asks “Why does anyone still live in Detroit?” in an article published last week and authored by a native Detroiter now living in New York.

    In the first five paragraphs, the article manages to pack in descriptions of the city’s problems with crime, police response, blight, population decline, lack of mass transit, crumbling roads and water infrastructure, lack of grocery stores and retail, and the difficulty of non-motorized transportation.

    Whew. That’s an impressive litany of woes jammed into the top of an article, packaged between photos of a tagged abandoned house and a party store’s outside wall advertising liquor, lotto and check cashing.

    In the remaining 2,100 words of the piece there is one paragraph devoted to Mayor Mike Duggan’s campaign promises, the city charter change to council elections by district and a description of how Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has “made blight removal and service provision a priority.” One subsequent paragraph summarizes foundation dollars and other private contributions that could provide some support for improvements. Another few paragraphs describe the goals and challenges of the Detroit Future City plan.

    The ‘Live in Osborn’ effort gets some rhetorical love in the article, with a description of improvements planned in that east side neighborhood. The blight removal efforts are as “the easiest answer, though not necessarily the best.”

    But the article’s conclusion? 

    “Perhaps Detroit needs a hero to battle its hydra.”




  • Gentrification, Grits and Grassroots: The Michigan Citizen event

    As part of its “Grits and Grassroots” series, the Michigan Citizen newspaper is presenting a breakfast discussion titled “Two Detroits? Gentrification” on Saturday, April 26.

    Scheduled speakers are Phil Cooley, of Slows Bar-B-Q and Ponyride, Lauren Hood, of Loveland Technologies and Deep Dive Detroit, Khary “WAE” Frazier, hip hop artist and Detroit advocate, George N’amdi, of The N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art, and Kirk Mayes, deputy group executive, Jobs and Economies, City of Detroit.

    Breakfast will begin at 8 a.m. with the panel starting at 9 a.m. at the Jam Handy, 2900 E. Grand Blvd., Detroit. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 313-963-8282 or visit

  • Loan Approved: Detroit to get $120 million to fund services, operations

    Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes today approved a $120 million loan for the city of Detroit to fund “quality of life” services.

    The city, complying with procedure to show how it would use the funds, last week outlined how it would spend up to $179 million on such efforts. Police, blight removal, and fire services are the top of the list.

    “The city is service delivery insolvent. It is not providing services to meet the basic needs of its citizens, and this loan will provide the city with the means to begin to make up that deficit,” Judge Rhodes said during court proceedings.”It’s important and urgent to the city to do that. The city recognized that importance and that urgency, and the time to begin is now.”

    4.2.14 Order Approving $120M Loan

  • Detroit details $179 million investment plan

    Plans for more cops and firefighters, vehicles for them, additional money for park upgrades and blight removal, city employee training and several technology upgrades. That’s what the city proposes if a $120 million loan is approved, according to a court filing Friday.

    The Detroit Free Press reports:

     The city listed $179 million in near-term investment needs for its beleaguered public safety, antiquated record-keeping systems and blight removal in response to creditor complaints that Detroit wasn’t detailing how it would spend the fresh debt from London-based Barclays, which must be approved by Judge Steven Rhodes.

    In the court filing (see below for document), the city proposed how it would use the loan proceeds, including:

    • $36.2 million for the police department, specifically for fleet vehicles, construction of new precincts and a training facility, IT upgrades, hiring and equipment purchases;
    • $35.6 million for residential blight removal;
    • $28.5 million for the fire department including vehicle purchase and maintenance, facility repairs and maintenance, IT upgrades and hiring;
    • $25.4 million to the finance department for hiring and IT upgrades;
    • $24.8 million for the general services department to be used for park upgrades and ground maintenance fleet replacement, citywide facility improvements, and repairs and increased staffing;
    • $5.1 million to demolish the Herman Kiefer building;
    • $4.5 million for facility consolidation and hiring in the planning and development department;
    • $3.4 million for city employee training;
    • $2.7 million for transportation facility improvements and service costs;
    • $3.2 million for recreation facilities repair and maintenance, and parks and recreation facility improvements;
    • $1.6 million for more legal staff;
    • $800,000 for the elections department to cover deferred maintenance and improvements;
    • $600,000 for human resources staff.

    3.28.14 City of Detroit Post Petition Financing

  • State board approves $120 million loan for Detroit

    In the second of three necessary steps, the Michigan Local Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board Tuesday approved a $120 million loan for the city of Detroit from Barclay’s of London. The funds, backed by the city’s income tax revenue as collateral, will be used for city operations including blight removal, public safety and computer system upgrades.

    The city council previously approved the loan. In the final step, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes will consider it, and a hearing is set for April 2. On Monday, Rhodes ordered the city to provide additional information about how it would spend the $120 million from Barclay’s.

    The state Emergency Loan Board has representatives from the Treasury Department, the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

    The Detroit News reports:

    Borrowing approved in this deal represents renegotiated terms of an earlier plan between the city and the London-based bank that fell through. Under the earlier proposal, which wasn’t supported by emergency manager Kevyn Orr, Detroit had hoped to borrow $350 million by pledging its casino tax revenue.

    Under the new plan, Detroit no longer is putting up its casino revenue as collateral, an issue that undercut the prior deal. It also avoids $230 million in borrowing to pay off a controversial transaction brokered by ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to cover pension debt.



  • Bankruptcy and Children: How Detroit’s youngest are faring and what they face

    Everyone is affected by Detroit’s bankruptcy, but the Associated Press examined its specific effects on the youngest citizens: children and teens. The wire services reports:

    (Detroit) is a city in the throes of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, where life places special stresses on young people. Many say Detroit is finally on the rise after hitting bottom. Yet teachers and parents worry about the toll of growing up amid danger, dysfunction, and the blight epitomized by tens of thousands of abandoned homes.

    “This is what we’re ingraining into kids’ psyches — this emptiness, the lack of safety,” said Tonya Allen, chief executive officer of the Skillman Foundation, which backs many child-oriented initiatives. “They’re going into school with a level of fear that something bad is going to happen.”

    Gang violence. Infant mortality. Lack of public parks. Limited public bus services that many teens rely on. Here’s another piece about specific challenges for the younger population of the city…and some of the possible remedies.



    By in Blight, Neighborhoods
  • Does graffiti have a role in urban revitalization?

    If you’re a graffiti artist – or writer, or vandal, depending on your point of view – no canvas is as big and appealing as Detroit, writes Nancy Derringer at Bridge Magazine, our Detroit Journalism Cooperative partner. In Detroit and other cities working to revive aging industrial cores, there is growing debate over whether graffiti is a legitimate form of grassroots art that enlivens gray cityscapes, particularly blighted ones, or a plague that slows revival. See how that argument is playing out in a sampling of Michigan cities.