• What’s up, Belle Isle?

    Judge Damon Keith administers the oath of office for members of the Belle Isle Advisory Committee.

    Judge Damon Keith administers the oath of office for members of the Belle Isle Advisory Committee.

    If you’ve been wondering what has happened at Belle Isle in advance of the island formally becoming a state park on Feb. 10, the answer is found in some newly functioning restrooms, removed (diseased, dying or dangerous) trees and repaired shelters and picnic tables.

    A crowd of more than 100 filled a Detroit Yacht Club ballroom today as the seven-member Belle Isle Advisory Committee held its first public meeting, a three-hour affair. State officials reported about progress to date and described their future plans for management, operation, maintenance and improvement of the island park.

    And those are detailed, specific, promising plans for the park so many of us visit for walking, running, biking, skating, sunset watching, photographing, dog exercising, golfing, birdwatching, museum appreciating, cruising, fishing, sailing, power boating, kayaking, canoeing, cricket playing, picnicking, reunion holding, partying…

    Let’s stop there as a dozen or so of the men and women at the meeting were clad in law enforcement uniforms from multiple agencies, and their commanding officers promised elevated public safety at the park.

    Other future efforts now that the island will be a state park are to include a summer youth employment program, creating a “greener” infrastructure for the park, protecting native plants and specimen trees and historic preservation of buildings.

    “We want to keep things moving in a steady but positive direction, and there’s more of that to come,” said Ron Olson, the chief of the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Division, “whether you jog, fish, swim, ride your bike or just come out an read a book.”

    The biggest difference will be that beginning Feb. 10, the $11 annual state recreation passport will be required to enter the park.

    Public comments were generally positive.

    But a handful of people objected to the closure of the island for the Grand Prix auto race. Some others – members of the Detroit Rowing Club, photographers and other early risers – objected to the assumed state park hours of operation: sunrise to sunset.

    “At this point we’re talking about 6 a.m. so the hours of operation would be from 6 in the morning until 10 at night,” Olson said. “Basically I want to reassure that our intent is to have the rules be the same.”

    -By WDET’s Sandra Svoboda

    @WDETSandra and nextchapter@wdet.org


    By in Belle Isle, WDET
  • Introducing Next Chapter Detroit

    Hello, and thank you so much for finding Next Chapter Detroit.

    The story of Detroit’s bankruptcy is complex and  multi-layered.  Getting the story right, and ensuring accurate, fair, and thoughtful reporting requires in-depth investigations, serious data crunching, a lot of fact checking and at times myth busting.

    DJC_official logo

    In an effort to make sure that we serve you better, and tell a richer story of the bankruptcy and its impact on citizens of the city and region alike,  WDET has entered into a partnership with four other news organizations called the Detroit Journalism Cooperative.  The DJC was created with help from the Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and The Ford Foundation. It includes WDET, Michigan Radio, Detroit Public Television, Bridge Magazine, and New Michigan Media.  With a story this big, and this important, we need to work together to help you better understand both the immediate and long term impacts of what the city is going through right now.  This is new territory not just for the city, but for all of us.  As part of the DJC, WDET has created  this blog to bring you the latest and best information that we can.  It will include breaking news, rich feature stories, and interactive content.  Most importantly, it will serve as a one-stop shop for the latest and most reliable information.

    A task this comprehensive required that we bring someone on board to handle it.  I would like to introduce you to Sandra Svoboda, who will be responsible for curating this information.  Sandra comes to WDET with significant credentials.  She has worked for the Associated Press, the Metro Times, and the Toledo Blade.  She has a journalism degree from Indiana University, and a Masters in Public Administration from Wayne State.  Her experience and education is the right mix to handle a job this complex.  Sandra is a great writer, and she will be sharing with you what she has learned on a daily basis.   All of us are excited to have Sandra piloting this blog.  Feel free to reach out to her with your thoughts and ideas.  You can follow @WDETSandra on Twitter, or send emails to nextchapter@wdet.org.

    I also invite you to join us each weekday during The Craig Fahle Show. We’ll be discussing the latest news with the DJC partners and Sandra on a regular basis and we’ll give you the opportunity to share your thoughts and questions through live call-ins.

    Thanks again for taking a look.  We hope to see you here on a regular basis…together, we can figure this out.

    - WDET’s Craig Fahle (General Manager and Host of The Craig Fahle Show)

    By in DJC, WDET
  • View from the south: Windsor mayor weighs in on Detroit Bankruptcy

    Ask Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis how the bankruptcy situation on the American side of the river affects his city, and he has a ready answer.

    Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis

    Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis

    “It’s given me more speaking opportunities,” he says. “Basically speaking about how the bankruptcy should not be a reflection on the community of Detroit. It’s the city government that’s bankrupt.”

    As the three-term elected leader of the Canadian city closest to and most often compared to Detroit, Francis expected the attention when the largest municipal bankruptcy petition in U.S. history was filed in July.

    If the American city across the river had $18 billion in debt, what was the situation in Windsor?

    “I think it’s affected us from an image perspective but we have to get out there and tell the story of it,” Francis says.

    While Windsor is no Detroit, it’s not immune to the economic downturn of the last few years. Some economic conditions in Ontario are similar to southeast Michigan’s.

    For example, several credit agencies have lowered their outlook on the province in the last year and growing governmental debt is a concern, according to an annual report “Emerging Stronger 2014: A Transformative Agenda for Ontario’s Economic Future,” produced, in part, by the Ontario Chamber and the Windsor-Essex Chamber of Commerce.

    The same report found Windsor suffers from the lowest score in a Regional Confidence Index and predicted unemployment in the city to remain at 8.8 percent for the year.

    So Francis, as the mayor of a Canadian city that also has some, ahem, challenges,  knows what his various audiences may want or expect to hear about Detroit.

    But he’s found, surprise, surprise, that they are unaware of yet receptive to some of the possible signs of an economic upturn in the Motor City. For example, Dan Gilbert’s investment in his expanding downtown infrastructure and high residential occupancy rates in the core city surprise his Canadian audiences.

    In his public appearances as well as private conversations, Francis says he fights the perceptions of Detroit as a, well, something L. Brooks Patterson might describe. (My words, not his!)

    Francis, instead, describes a Detroit downtown with bustling corporate headquarters, little vacancy among residential properties, and new jobs created at business, medical facilities and educational institutions.

    “It’s been a complete contradiction to what they have as to the image of a bankrupt city,” Francis says.

    Like everyone, Francis is looking forward to seeing the restructuring plan and watching how Detroit, Michigan and corporate leaders move the city and region forward. He does, after all, have a stake in it.

    While he’s confident his privatization, tax-cutting and personnel reductions have stabilized Windsor, Detroit’s situation should be a warning to all municipal leaders, he says.

    “This bankruptcy, although hard on everyone, once the city government comes through, will be in a much stronger position to come around and complement what’s been done by the private sector,” Francis says. “I think most of North America will learn from the Detroit bankruptcy.”


    -By WDET’s Sandra Svoboda

    @WDETSandra and nextdetroit@wdet.org

    By in WDET
  • Discovering the community’s voice through WDET’s Detroit Agenda


    Whether it’s a lack of jobs or lighting … or too much blight or crime … or completely different concerns… Detroit residents had a chance to tell the WDET’s news team about their communities in a context that should serve to inform decisionmakers about the realities of life in Detroit neighborhoods.

    We call this project the “Detroit Agenda” because it’s set by Detroiters.

    They told us their stories. We listened. And now you can too. Find the Detroit Agenda broadcasts here.

    By in Feature, WDET