Opinion – Daily Detroit http://www.dailydetroit.com What To Know And Where To Go In Metro Detroit Mon, 18 Jun 2018 02:31:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 Keith Crain’s Editorial On Bike Lanes In Detroit Is Out Of Touch And Reeks Of Privilege. Here’s Why. http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/06/17/keith-crains-editorial-bike-lanes-detroit-touch-reeks-privilege-heres/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/06/17/keith-crains-editorial-bike-lanes-detroit-touch-reeks-privilege-heres/#respond Sun, 17 Jun 2018 17:14:37 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=42126 If you want to be a city of tomorrow, you need to have the building blocks for it. And tomorrow — even today, as Ford and General Motors have acknowledged with their recent investments in mobility — involves many different kinds of transportation options.

Keith Crain’s editorial on June 17, “Say goodbye to the Motor City” was emblematic of old Detroit thinking. Detroit thinking from the world of 1950, not 2018.

Lots of Detroit’s leaders talk about bringing back the city’s glory days. To me, the “we’ve always been the Motor City” trope feels similar.

Here’s a newsflash: To lots of Detroit residents, especially those of African American descent, Detroit’s glory days in the 1950s weren’t such a great time. We white folks don’t like to talk about it, especially in business circles, but it’s a real thing.

Black and brown folks were extremely limited as to how they could participate in Detroit’s community and commerce back then, and when you focus on the glory of Detroit’s past, that was a glory that didn’t include what is now the city’s supermajority population.

It was great in old Detroit if you had money and you were white. If you were a person of color, you could only live in certain parts of town, the jobs available to you were greatly reduced, not to mention the rampant segregation of the era mostly shut you out of Detroit’s success. 

And don’t even get me started on how car-centric development in later years decimated neighborhoods in Detroit and emptied out the city.

Personally, I think I live in a city that wants to look forward while taking the best parts of the past, be inclusive, and celebrate all different kinds of people and preferences.

Why do I bring this up? Keith’s response reeks of privilege. He doesn’t need to think about any other transportation options.

But many of my fellow residents do. About a quarter of households in the city of Detroit do not own a car – putting it in the top 10 for cities with more than 100,000 people. Michigan is also a state that’s seeing a decline in households that own a car. Don’t they deserve safe travel, too? 

A bike is a real thing people use to get to around. I know. I live over by Livernois and Six Mile. I see it every day. I see the bikes on the front of DDOT buses. When I come downtown, I see MoGo bike share bikes being used by all kinds of people as an alternative to hopping in your car for a mile-long trip.

And as to a “powerful lobby” he refers to? The Detroit Greenways Coalition is basically one guy, Todd Scott, supported by a lot of grassroots folks.

It says something about the fragility of the halls of power at the Detroit Athletic Club if one guy and a like-minded movement of passionate urbanists can rattle their cigar lockers and make someone wonder why THE Keith Crain wasn’t included with an embossed invitation.

Crain says there must be some master plan we haven’t seen. But there have been a lot of public presentations and meetings on the topic.

We at Daily Detroit covered some of those meetings. We’ve devoted our small resources multiple times to these events. You chose not to go, not to see it.

I remember that bike lanes were also talked about in the Detroit Future City planning process, I want to say in 2011 or 2012.

The bike lane projects haven’t been perfect in their rollout, but if we’re honest with ourselves, almost no infrastructure project is.

Speaking of  “I am not sure whose idea it was,” If you had been paying attention to this topic — even to the excellent reporters at your own publication — you’d know that another champion for bike lanes has been Detroit Mayor Duggan’s own planning guru Maurice Cox.

Cox brings a global, urban perspective to a city and a leadership community that’s not used to embracing outside ideas, even if they’ve been proven time and time again. He’s been a mayor himself. He’s worked in Italy and around the United States. I could go on an on, but he’s basically a true Detroit renaissance man.

He has seen that the rest of world that’s attractive to young talent has basics like bike lanes. Bike lanes aren’t the answer, but they’re part of the solution along with functional mass transit and, yes, smartly designed roads.

This may be uncomfortable for Crain to think about as a member of the Automotive Hall of Fame, but for many people, the car is no longer the center of the conversation.

Even Bill Ford Jr. picked up on the fact that times changing and bought the old train station in Corktown, among other properties, to position his company for the future of mobility. And mobility means a variety of ways to get around, not just the traditional car. If that’s not enough to convince you, his Fontinalis Partners invests in all kinds of startups that aren’t just about four wheels.

Maybe it’s time you, Keith Crain, and the others that think like you in Detroit’s leadership set, picked up on that fact, too.

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PODCAST: Breaking Down The Michigan Governor’s Race With Jonathan Oosting (And A Few Words On Anthony Bourdain) http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/06/10/podcast-breaking-michigan-governors-race-jonathan-oosting-words-anthony-bourdain/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/06/10/podcast-breaking-michigan-governors-race-jonathan-oosting-words-anthony-bourdain/#respond Sun, 10 Jun 2018 21:59:28 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=42027

The candidates running for governor were out in full force at the Mackinac Policy Conference and for this edition of the Daily Detroit Happy Hour we caught up with Jonathan Oosting, political reporter from the Detroit News, about the race.

Then, Sven Gustafson and Jer Staes from Daily Detroit then broke it down from their perspective.

We also spent a few minutes in the beginning on the tragic death of Anthony Bourdain and what he meant to Detroit.

Like the show? Subscribe free in Apple Podcasts or wherever shows are found.

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Democratic Gubernatorial Hopeful Abdul El-Sayed: ‘I See A State That Is Quickly Failing People’ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/05/30/democratic-gubernatorial-hopeful-abdul-el-sayed-see-state-quickly-failing-people-state/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/05/30/democratic-gubernatorial-hopeful-abdul-el-sayed-see-state-quickly-failing-people-state/#respond Thu, 31 May 2018 03:06:50 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=41899

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed dropped by Daily Detroit on Wednesday at the Mackinac Policy Conference to talk about his decidedly underdog candidacy, his progressive policies, why he lost the endorsement of Mayor Mike Duggan and firmly establish his outsider credibility.

“A lot of politicians come here to rub shoulders with corporate lobbyists and try and get those corporations to back their campaigns. I just don’t take corporate money,” El-Sayed said.” My role here is very different. I see myself as an informant of sorts for folks who don’t get to come to islands like this for the things that I’ve been learning about the challenges in their lives.”

El-Sayed is famous — or in some circles, infamous — for being openly Muslim. He’s the son of Egyptian immigrants who grew up in the Detroit area, played lacrosse at the University of Michigan and won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in England. He’s a doctor who most recently ran the Detroit Health Department following its shuttering in the city’s bankruptcy.

He says his travels around the state have shown him that Michigan residents are concerned mostly with the quality of their children’s schools, infrastructure and health care.

El-Sayed says the state has badly underinvested in things like schools over time. He says that’s one of the primary reasons Amazon left Detroit off its list of finalists for its HQ2 project.

“The state tried to offer Amazon $4 billion in incentives. It didn’t work,” he says. “And the reason that they didn’t come is because we had not invested that same money in the same things that they were looking for in the first place: great opportunities for people to raise families because they have great public schools, and great public transportation, and great infrastructure. We don’t have those things.”

Have a listen in the player above. And if you like the show, head over here to subscribe with your favorite podcast app of choice.

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Will Metro Detroit Become A Permanent Second-Class Region? That’s the Question At The Heart Of This Year’s Mackinac Policy Conference http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/05/30/will-metro-detroit-become-permanent-second-class-region-thats-question-heart-years-mackinac-policy-conference/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/05/30/will-metro-detroit-become-permanent-second-class-region-thats-question-heart-years-mackinac-policy-conference/#respond Wed, 30 May 2018 14:41:14 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=41884 The Detroit region is a proverbial frog boiling alive in a pot of water.  

There are several major topics being tackled up here at the Mackinac Policy Conference — talent, transit, the opioid crisis and education among them. But the through-line that we see between all of them is “Will Metro Detroit become a permanent second-class region?”

See, despite what some politicians would like to tell you, all is not rosy in the Paris of the Midwest. The city does have a comeback beginning. But anyone who’s visited other cities and regions knows that even our “nicest” area of Midtown is an average block in most other major cities.

Our roads are reminiscent of the surface of the moon. And it’s our fault because we refuse to spend what it takes to fix our infrastructure.

Michigan’s education system — as we discussed with Ron French of Bridge Magazine — http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/03/22/michigans-bad-schools/ is in deep trouble, much closure to the bottom of the barrel among states that the top of the heap.

Michigan has the 4th biggest drug problem in the United States, and Macomb County’s drug overdoses are skyrocketing.

And transit? Well, there’s many second- and third- world regions that have better mass transit than we do. It’s something that’s like air to most millennial workers, not to mention many of the urbane executives and engineering talent we like to lure from other automotive hubs like Germany and Japan. But here, we have a bunch of folks who are telling their kids to get off their lawn and driveway — and then wonder why they don’t move back “home.”

To us, transit is a question of equity. It’s a hand up for people to get to jobs and improve their own station in life, not a hand out. In Metro Detroit, we’re apparently fine with “I got mine.” And that’s not the kind of community people who want to build something great want to live in.

Here’s the scary thing: The electorate, especially in parts of Oakland and most of Macomb County, is apparently fine with that. And our elected leaders? We’re back to the tiresome suburban/city bickering. It sure was nice to have a break from that, however brief.

But it’s not a good look, guys.

While you’re fighting, our future is leaving this state, and businesses by and large aren’t finding the talent they need. We look to people like Dan Gilbert to do everything, when in fact, if we were a successful region, we’d have 20 or more of them. Dan Gilbert in Chicago is just another rich guy. Here, he runs the table because he’s among the few games in town.

But that’s our culture. We’ve long looked to big companies to fix our problems. Ford, Chrysler and General Motors had their claws in city governments across Metro Detroit who then didn’t plan for people and residents. For the most part, they did what the biggest companies in town asked.

We made whole suburbs based on racist principles. Henry Ford, though a brilliant engineer, was a racist and anti-Semite. With his money and power, he weaved his wretched social beliefs into the fabric of our area, and most of us don’t even realize it.

And Detroit’s mostly hated Coleman Young? He wasn’t a cause. He was a symptom and a catalyst, like Donald Trump today. Now, we have Oakland County exec L. Brooks Patterson back to his cantankerous old ways, flipping corn and blankets over the proverbial fence and flipping off the camera. And Macomb’s Mark Hackel? He never met a political wind he didn’t bow to. He’s right about his electorate today, but he’s going to be on the wrong side of history.

What we need now is leadership. Will a champion, or a set of champions, step forward, or are we going to have 20 more years of the same story? Now is the time, or we fear the window of a Motor City comeback will close. And maybe that’s what our current leaders really want: the status quo, with a festering doughnut-hole for an urban core and a collection of disparate, sprawling suburbs offering plentiful parking. Nothing galvanizes a base like an enemy. And the easiest enemy in Metro Detroit always seems to be your neighbor.

So the question this year really is this: Will Metro Detroit find the will to turn a corner to keep up with the rest of the nation, or are we going become a permanent second- or third-class region? The choice, as they say, is ours.

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LISTEN: PGA Tour Coming To Detroit Could Be A Boost For More Than Downtown http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/05/09/listen-pga-tour-coming-detroit-boost-downtown/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/05/09/listen-pga-tour-coming-detroit-boost-downtown/#respond Wed, 09 May 2018 16:22:31 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=41743 Detroit looks to be in line to get its first-ever PGA Tour event.

The Detroit News reports that the city will play host to The National, one of the professional golf’s major tournaments, when it moves from Washington D.C. to the Detroit Golf Club in June 2019. Quicken Loans will be the title sponsor in a four-year deal.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Quicken Loans confirms they are “in the late stages of finalizing an agreement.”

It’s the first PGA Tour event in Michigan since the Buick Open left Warwick Hills in Grand Blanc in 2009.

PGA officials have reportedly already vetted and approved modifications to the two 18-hole courses, with an announcement expected in the coming days.

The 119-year-old private club is located near Hamilton Avenue and 6 Mile Road (McNichols). It features a clubhouse designed by Albert Kahn and three dining venues.

Quicken Loans officials see the four-day tournament as part of its broader commitment to investing in Detroit.

So what does this mean? We break it down with such a high-profile event not just being in the city of Detroit, but in the neighborhoods of the city.

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Why Donald Trump (Or Someone Like Him) Was Inevitable With Nathan Bomey http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/04/23/donald-trump-nathan-bomey-after-the-fact/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/04/23/donald-trump-nathan-bomey-after-the-fact/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 16:03:15 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=41513

Nathan Bomey won several awards for his work covering Detroit’s Municipal bankruptcy for the Detroit Free Press. And he turned that experience into a 2016 book titled, “Detroit Resurrected.”

Now, he’s got a new book coming out. “After the Fact: The Erosion of Truth and the Inevitable Rise of Donald Trump” comes out May 8 in hardcover from Prometheus Books, but it’s available now for pre-order. Bomey, who’s an old friend and former coworker of yours truly now lives near Washington D.C. Where he covers business for USA Today.

He joined us by phone to talk about his new book. The original interview on the Daily Detroit News Byte podcast is embedded above (Subscribe free in Apple Podcasts here) and a transcript edited for clarity is below.

SVEN: Tell us how did you get interested in this topic of “After the fact.”

BOMEY: Well actually, back in the Spring of 2016 — so about two years ago, now — I had the idea for this book.

Originally the inspiration was seeing on Facebook so many different people representing their lives as extremely positive when I knew that there were things going on that weren’t as positive and I thought to myself, “You know, we’re all using this — including myself — as a vehicle to publicize our lives and sort of be our own Communications Professionals.” Polish ourselves, put up photo galleries and videos and status updates that paint our lives in a fashion that’s not really reflective of reality.

And then, at the same time, Donald Trump was leading the race for the Republican nomination and I was confused as to why people would be surprised that he could get away with skewing the facts about his own accomplishments and about his political views because we live in a world in which social media allows us all to do this on a daily basis.

And so I set out to do a much deeper dive into why people believe things that aren’t true, and why we should not be surprised that someone could rise to power and the White House while skewing the facts.

SVEN: You argue that Donald Trump, who’s going to be probably synonymous for the term “alternative facts,” that he didn’t really introduce this to the world, but really kind of rode it all the way to the White House. Can you explain that a little?

BOMEY:  I really feel strongly that Donald Trump was inevitable in the sense that perhaps not him personally, but someone like him, was inevitable. Meaning we saw the conditions were in place for someone to basically trample the truth and get to the White House by doing it.

There used to be disincentives for misinformation now there are incentives. I mean that for a few reasons. On social media, obviously that has really redefined the way people interact and information and the way that we share stories and the way we consume news. What it has done is put us as individual consumers in charge of our own information discovery and news consumption.

Whereas in the past, I’d say the post-Vietnam War era, in which the news media was fairly responsible and trying to do a good job of showing you the news you needed to know and basically provide this service of “fact authentication” on behalf of consumers in exchange for the subscriptions or for their attention to advertisements.

That whole model has given way now to an algorithmic based model. Silicon Valley in the form of social media engineers, has basically put us in charge of our own news consumption. And they think that what we want to see is news that’s engaging, sensational, that’s controversial, that’s sexy for some reason and they’re right and so that’s what we see now.

We don’t necessarily see the news that is substantive, or nuanced and in-depth. I think that that is what that is done is led to this complete transfer of trust from what used to be somewhat sober-minded news consumption to now this much more sensational age in which it’s easy to get attention by doing things like tweet all day about sensational things like Donald Trump does.

Because that is what’s going to penetrate this extremely noisy news environment that we live in.

SVEN: Yeah, that’s interesting. I recently saw a documentary about Watergate and Richard Nixon and one of my big takeaways —  one of the things that really struck me — was that the news media was probably smaller in terms of the breadth of it. It was broadcast TV, radio, and print that it is now, but it obviously commanded so much stronger trust among the general public then it does now. That seems to be a real problem as well, just to kind of the splintering of media.

BOMEY: Yeah it is. Exactly. I think the decline of journalism in general is a significant reason that we can point to as well.

I look at the decline of local news media in particular as a significant concern. Sven, you and I know each other from our early days earlier in local news media and working in Ann Arbor and Oakland County and covering business in Michigan. We have seen personally the decline of local news.

I have several former publications in my past that are gone. I think that it concerns me because when you don’t have the watchdog there then that allows people to get away with lies. And also, it really severs that relationship of trust between the public and journalists.

So I don’t think we should be surprised that people are glomming onto these false accusations of fake news that Donald Trump levels, because people don’t have relationships with reporters anymore. There’s no one in those communities to report the news.

I think about that I was 17 years old when I started at the Saline Reporter, which is crazy — and I’m sitting there at the Lodi Township Board of Trustees meetings and trying to make sense of very arcane topics like septic systems, zoning, you know all this stuff, and I’m like, well, okay, maybe I was young and inexperienced, but I was trying to do my best and ultimately, at least there was someone there to report try to report the news.

There’s no one going to those meetings anymore. And so I don’t think those people are corrupt, but honestly, who knows? Because there’s no one there to tell us. And I think that that on the large scale leads us to where we are today.

SVEN: You and I have talked about this a little bit. That this whole idea of the untruth and fake news and everything seems to be such a moving target. When you’ve got Donald Trump on any given day has already sent out five or six incendiary tweets by the time most people wake up. Was it hard for you to write this book given that… That things are constantly changing and there are constantly these huge stories coming out that relate to the squishiness of fact?

BOMEY: Yeah, it was difficult. What I wanted to do was make sure that this book was not basically a list of Donald Trump’s myths, truths or lies or falsehoods. Obviously many of those have been well reported and that is sort of the reason for writing the book. I didn’t want to necessarily get caught up in the day to day, the basically the ins and outs of what’s happening in the West Wing and that sort of thing.

That’s all good for other people. But this is a book that attempts to explain why we have Fallen prey to this skewing effect. And honestly Sven, this goes both ways. This is not just a Republican thing. This is really across the spectrum and in some ways, it affects both sides of the political aisle and in some ways it’s not political at all.

One of my favorite interviews for this book was with the editor of the Weekly World News, which is a Supermarket tabloid famous for writing about aliens coming to Earth and that kind of thing. Silly stuff.

But I asked him, “Why do you think fake news? What’s the appeal of fake news,” it’s a bad term, but let’s just use it. He said, “I think the reason why fake news and fabricated content appeals to people is because reality is inconvenient. Because people don’t want to know the facts necessarily — and that goes across political boundaries — people don’t necessarily want to confront reality because reality is difficult.”

So that’s why it’s so hard to stop fake news and fabricated stuff, because it just has this natural appeal.

SVEN: I know your book offers some suggestions for ways to kind of regain the mantle of truth. I don’t want to ask you to give away the plot or anything here, but I’m just curious. Do you see anything encouraging out there that suggests maybe we could be turning a corner or there? That there’s reason to hope that we could come back to an age of fact? Specifically, I’m wondering about the the recent Facebook scandal with Cambridge Analytica and 87 million people’s personal information being obtained by a private company?

BOMEY: I think it’s a good thing that there is this heightened awareness of the effect that Facebook has had on the way that we perceive the world. That there is awareness. Now that Cambridge Analytical scandal is obviously primarily focused on data privacy and that sort of thing — all which is very important…

SVEN: But they used it to generate lots of fake news.

BOMEY: Right. Obviously the use of the data is extremely concerning. But yeah, I think the reality is that Facebook and the effect it’s had on the way that we view the world, it’s important to have this discussion. So I think that that’s one positive. But in terms of solutions, one of the things I would suggest is that in in the journalism world I think we need to take a strong look at nonprofit journalism as a model we need to get much more serious consideration to.

But the good news is we do see some serious investments going on there. With the Knight Foundation for example, and many others that are putting some serious money now into nonprofit journalism that I think people are realizing good strong journalism is critical to a democracy.

And it’s possible we are witnessing the extinction of for-profit journalism on a local scale. And if we are, then we have to do something to sustain it, otherwise, we will face this issue on a grander scale.

So I think that’s encouraging, and it’s a solution. The other thing I look at. Education needs to change dramatically if we’re going to actually address this because ultimately, we need really sophisticated news consumers. People who can discern for themselves what’s true and what’s not because if the news media isn’t there to do it, someone has to do it on their own.

So I think educators need to rethink the way they teach kids and I think it needs to be about critical thinking and not so focused on specific skills, but on really teaching kids how to learn. And if you can learn how to learn, then you can learn how to authenticate the facts on your own and so those are positives. But honestly, Sven, I’m also pretty pessimistic.

If you if you read one chapter of this book, I suggest reading chapter seven, “Fabrication Nation,” which is about the future of fabricated content. It’s about what is likely to come, which is an explosion of false audio clips and video clips, and when I was starting to report some of this and realized what’s out there, I was pretty startled and scared to be honest.

Because I think that within a few years it’ll be very easy to fabricate audio. Make it sound like someone said something they never said, and then video will be after that where you’ll be able to show someone doing something they never did. And that that is going to basically require us to be very, very smart about questioning things that we see — not just things that we read.

SVEN: Sounds terrifying. “After that after the fact: The erosion of truth and the inevitable rise of Donald Trump” comes out May 8th. It’s available for pre-order by clicking here. Nathan Bomey, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us.

Editor’s Note: This interview originally appeared in the Daily Detroit News Byte podcast. The show posts Mondays through Thursdays and is available in all popular podcasting apps.

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Metro Detroit Has A “Those People” Problem http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/04/13/metro-detroit-people-problem/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/04/13/metro-detroit-people-problem/#respond Fri, 13 Apr 2018 16:00:49 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=41447 The news out of Rochester Hills is sickening.

If you didn’t know, a 14 year old teenage boy got lost. His mom had taken away his phone, according to Channel 4, and was looking for directions. So Brennan Walker did what any sensible kid would do, and knocked on a door of a home with a neighborhood watch sign for help.

According to Fox 2, this is how Brennan describes what happened:

“Then she [the wife] started yelling at me and she was like, ‘Why are you trying to break into my house?’ I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High. And she kept yelling at me. Then the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the gun, I saw it and started to run. And that’s when I heard the gunshot.”

Doubly disturbing is that apparently, there’s an unreleased Ring security video that recorded the encounter. In it, you can hear the wife say, ‘Why did these people choose my house?'”

Brennan’s father is doing right, serving our country, deployed in Syria. His mother is doing right, too, holding down a job and taking care of her son while her husband is deployed.

Brennan’s parents are making sure he goes to solid school with a 97 percent graduation rate.

Brennan was raised right. To trust people. To ask the community for help. He was even prudent and thought to ask where there was a “Neighborhood Watch” sticker on the house.

But he was young, black and male and missed the school bus and almost paid for it with his life. A retired Detroit Firefighter of all people — someone who we’d hope would know better — almost snuffed out his future.

Brennan Walker almost became a hashtag. A Twitter movement. A statistic. Why? Because he was a “They.” A “Those People.” A “Them.”

To his credit, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard is pressing charges against the man who fired the 12 gauge shotgun that, if not for a safety being engaged at first, may very well have killed the teenager whose crime was asking for help.

“Them” and “Those People” takes away the soul

Words have meaning. Something I’ve learned in the last 20 years is that we live in a region where we think diversity is one family of color on the block and we shout down anything that makes us uncomfortable with “you’re being racial!”

I can see the comments now. But buckle up buttercup, because we’re about to get uncomfortable.

When you refer to a fellow person as “Them,” “Those people,” and “They” in this context, you’re taking away a person’s soul. And when you in your mind take away someone’s soul, it’s infinitely easier to justify mistreating them, discriminating them, and even taking their life.

Metro Detroit has a “they” problem. Sometimes I hear it when I hear Sterling Heights being referred by some of its own residents as “Saudi Heights” referring to a growth in the population there from the Middle East. Or when I’m at a restaurant downtown and a homeless person is ushered out, even though someone is paying for their meal. Or if it’s the line of, “I-696 is the new Eight Mile.” Or the countless times I’ve been in mass transit conversations and I see or hear, “if they come they’ll lower my property values.”

It’s been said by quite a few people over the years that race weaves its way into everything in metro Detroit.

It does. It was only in recent history that blacks and other people of color could legally live wherever they want.

I only need remind you of the Ossian Sweet story, when during the 1920s that many people regard as Detroit’s heyday a white mob attacked his Detroit home because he moved into a white neighborhood. This was not a rare occurrence at the time. Or restrictive neighborhood covenants in the city and suburbs that said that homes could not be, “sold or leased to or occupied by any person or persons other than of the Caucasian race.”

There are many, many people still alive in our region who lived through that time in our history. Despite the lie that some like to tell themselves that we’ve “moved past” this, it’s not some far-off concept. Many of our parents and grandparents lived in that world. Many of the covenants, though not legally enforceable, still have that terrible language in them to this day.

Concrete wall, one half mile long, Detroit, Michigan. This wall was erected in August 1941 to separate the Negro section from a new suburban housing development for whites. Photo: Library of Congress/U.S. Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information

We even still have a real wall standing near the Detroit border that was built to divide us.

The first step to moving forward is admitting we have a problem. As Marlowe Stoudamire said on our Daily Detroit Happy Hour podcast recently about reopening wounds from the events of 1968, “Who ever said we closed them?”

This isn’t a partisan issue. Fear is the greatest enemy of any people. In Metro Detroit, and America, we’re gripped by a terrible fear of our fellow Americans and our fellow humans. It’s high time we found our bravery — and together, found a way through it.

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Dear Ilitches: Nobody Moves To Detroit For The Surface Parking Lots http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/02/02/dear-ilitches-nobody-moves-detroit-surface-parking-lots/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/02/02/dear-ilitches-nobody-moves-detroit-surface-parking-lots/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 22:17:58 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=40701 When it comes to planning our city, we had hoped developers might have learned a lesson after the demolition spree of the last few decades, where building after building was torn down for surface parking lots.

After all, Dan Gilbert (and a host of other developers, large and small) have clearly shown that people want to be part of re-using historic structures, whether for locating their office there or making the place their new home.

It seems that message hasn’t made it to the offices of the Ilitch family, which has been around plenty long enough and should have figured it out by now.

This is raised again as there is the real prospect of the demolition of some of the few historic buildings we have left in the core of the city.

Two of the properties are an old car dealership at Charlotte and Woodward and an apartment building on Peterboro.

Shipping container food court on Peterboro.

Across the street from the Peterboro property, a new food court in shipping containers is going in as well as there are signs of retail and restaurant life on nearby Cass.

On Woodward, the old car dealership is among the last buildings of older architecture before you get to Little Caesars Arena.

Let’s set aside any political disagreements you may or may not have with the organizations, and focus on culture. Gilbert’s crew and the Ilitch organization found success in different ways.

Bedrock’s real estate arm prides itself on trying to create unique experiences. Quicken Loans, the engine of the money to pay for all of their projects, is now the largest mortgage lender in the country. To get people to spend thousands and thousands of dollars in the very personal transaction of buying a home, you have to build some sort of trust. They publicly talk about their “isms.”

The Ilitch family, on the other hand, has basically the same core product across the world. It’s a franchise organization that prides itself on a product that costs just $5. They’ve built their fortune occupying strip malls across the country where, for the business to make it, everything has to be the same and parking has to be plentiful. Nothing can cost too much as the margins are razor thin.

When it comes to development, it’s time for a culture change at the Ilitch organization. There have been some notable exceptions, but it feels like the default there is to demolish it. To create the lowest-cost development with the highest return, just like the business model for their pizza.

What Olympia Development has done and continues to do in the lively heart of the city is akin to eating a high-cholesterol diet without exercise: Take the high profits from a parking lot with the lowest taxable value, then do almost nothing to the property.

For too long we’ve defined progress in downtown Detroit through a narrow focus on sporting events and concerts instead of creating 24-7 vibrant neighborhoods with amenities that draw residents and visitors.

But since the conversation online is dominated by people who don’t live in the city, there’s this belief that everything’s fine. That we should be thankful for whatever we get and not ask questions.

You can be appreciative of investment but also fight for your community. That’s part of the natural give and take that makes for a better project in the end.

Back to our old car dealership and apartment building.

Take a look at the Woodstock Apartments. It’s the kind of place where people in other cities would love to live. We showed you pictures from today. Here’s a picture from their heyday. This can be again. Who wouldn’t want to live there?

And this former dealership at Woodward and Charlotte is gorgeous. We hope we can meet there for a drink one day.

Sure, we love old buildings. They’re worth saving for a lot of reasons. But we get business is business, so we’ll make another argument.

It’s sad for the entire community the Ilitches clearly don’t see the potential in what they already own.

Their actions make it seem like the organization, even under newer, younger leadership, doesn’t yet get why Detroit is cool to the nation again.

The “energy” of the city isn’t fueled by ample parking on vast surface lots. That’s what people are moving away from.

What makes a city like ours magical, in part, are the connections. Connections to each other. Connections to our work. Connections to our friends. And connections to our past.

Treating Detroit as a community and not just as a playground for visitors can and should be done. We don’t have to let the mistakes of the past define our future. The money is there. All it takes is will and vision — and maybe a little public pressure.

If an older building is limited in size or scope, maybe you incorporate new and old. You only have to look at the plans for the Soap Stone building on Detroit’s riverfront to get an idea.

If you’re passionate about this topic, there’s a protest happening tomorrow (Saturday) at 2 p.m. The information is here.

Detroit’s future is still in flux, but could be very bright. As residents, let’s demand the sun come out.

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Why I Think Going To A Chef’s Table Is Totally Worth It http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/01/27/think-going-chefs-table-totally-worth/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/01/27/think-going-chefs-table-totally-worth/#respond Sun, 28 Jan 2018 02:02:38 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=40510 It’s no question that the Apparatus Room has become a very popular destination for diners looking for an upscale dining experience.

It is one of my favorite recommendations when people ask me where to go for a nice meal.

Executive Chef Thomas Lents has created a great menu that is great for people with a variety of tastes.

But if you really want to get to know Chef Lents personal aesthetic when it comes to cooking, you need to pony up the money for an evening at his Chef’s Table.

I’m not going to lie. It costs a pretty penny at $175 per person plus an extra $95 if you want to add the wine pairing.

Some people might think that it is frivolous, but if you are a foodie or love to eat this is one of those things that you need to experience at least once.

Put it in the same bucket as going on a fancy staycation or a weekend in another town. It’s dinner as a show.

So, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to dine at the Chef’s Table overlooking the Apparatus Room inside the Foundation Hotel.

It was exquisite.

It wasn’t just the food. Of course the food was amazing and the wine parings were great. But my favorite part of the evening was the stories behind the food.

With each course Chef Lents let us in on his thoughts about food sustainability, preparation, and cultivating relationships with people in the food business. You could feel the passion he had for food.

Bluefin tuna, kohlrabi with tomato ponzu

We learned why he swore he would never serve bluefin tuna again because it was over fished. But now someone has found a way to breed wild tuna, so he puts his name into a lottery each week to try and get it.

Or about how the butter he paired with the freshly milled whole wheat sourdough that came from a creamery in France. The butter is hand turned, and Chef Lents thinks this is the best butter in the world.

I’m not sure about that, but the gentleman across the table from me was eating it straight after each course.

I digress.

Chef Lents portioning the dover sole.

Beyond learning the story behind each dish you also get to watch Chef Lents prepare and plate the dishes. I was seated right next to the small kitchen, so I got to get up close and personal with the dover sole.

Going to the Chef’s Table also gives you an opportunity to get to dine with people you might not have ever met before.

The couple who was seated across from us were from Ann Arbor. They were young and hip and liked coming to the city to see all of the new things that are going on here. We talked about how much we like Bad Luck Bar.

There were also two couples down at the other end of the table that found a common thread because they were from Grosse Pointe. I was at the other end of the table so it would have been rude to shout “Hey, I’m a Blue Devil too!”

At the end of the evening each couple was presented with a gift bag with a loaf of the bread from the beginning of the meal and signed menus from Chef Lents.

The Chef’s Table at Apparatus Room is one of those things where I would save up my pennies to go to again.

The Chef’s Table occurs on Friday and Saturday nights at 6:00 p.m.

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If Oakland And Macomb Counties Don’t Want The Benefits Of Mass Transit, Forget’em http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/01/24/oakland-macomb-counties-dont-want-benefits-mass-transit-forgetem/ http://www.dailydetroit.com/2018/01/24/oakland-macomb-counties-dont-want-benefits-mass-transit-forgetem/#respond Wed, 24 Jan 2018 17:24:27 +0000 http://www.dailydetroit.com/?p=40614 The ongoing saga of regional transit negotiations is like watching a friend tragically go after dating someone they really, really like – but the person that’s the target of their affection just isn’t interested.

The reality is a four county transit solution isn’t politically workable here. We should accept that and like Indianapolis, an Amazon top 20 city, move on.

One of the things that was surprising on our most recent Daily Detroit Happy Hour podcast was that Indianapolis was a top 20 city when Detroit was not.

So we did some digging.

Rendering of an Indy BRT station.

Indianapolis is underway with improvements including 50 miles of Bus Rapid Transit (across 3 lines!) and a 70 percent increase in short haul bus service. They focused their efforts on Marion County, and although it’s not done, it’s funded. They’re stepping forward.

Meanwhile, Metro Detroit is basically stalled. There are early signs with a FAST bus route that hold promise, and the QLINE putters down Woodward.

What did Indy do? They kept it simple. Yes, the goal is to spread to more counties. But they got started with their transit. And we should do the same.

We’ve tried time after time after time after time. County Executives Mark Hackel in Macomb and L. Brooks Patterson in Oakland have been less than good faith negotiators around the topic. It’s spineless to negotiate a deal, push hard for drastic changes, get those changes, and then not publicly back the deal.

We need to be honest with ourselves and realize that with their competency and ability to push things through, if Hackel and Patterson were actually invested in mass transit it would have already been done. Supporters of transit in those counties need to remember this is a representative democracy and their leadership DOES speak for them, and if they don’t like it, they should work to make them pay where it counts — at the ballot box.

If Wayne and Washtenaw counties make their own backbone transit system happen, the businesses will move. The people will move, and new people will move in.

When it comes to talent and retention, Metro Detroit didn’t make the cut in the Amazon bid. Even outside of the Amazon bid, anyone who is honest about the conversation knows we don’t make the cut.

A transit system connecting the two most dynamic areas of the region will bring more people and more investment.

The world has changed in the last 25 years. One of the reasons why Midtown (and greater downtown) in Detroit is so hot is because it’s the closest thing that Metro Detroit has to a true urban area.

Those neighborhoods are attracting huge amounts of investment, in part, because they’re not like most of Metro Detroit. We’ve interviewed developers who have stopped almost all new development in the suburbs because of these changing demographics and tastes, focusing on cities.

Even if we connected the city of Detroit with places like Dearborn and Grosse Pointe and Canton and Wyandotte and Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, that’s a good thing. Maybe if it’s connected with proper Bus Rapid Transit or Light Rail, you’ll see places like Highland Park come alive.

No, a two-county system isn’t going to connect everything it should, but it will connect more than we have. It’s a step forward, and sometimes you have to walk before you run.

And when this plan is successful, the rest will fall into place. When the suburban detractors, worried about hyper-low taxes and others coming into their cities see their property values drop, and drop hard, they’ll change their tune. There’s a reason Royal Oak is looking at their own city bus system. Their leadership has to know what’s around the corner and that they could get left behind.

But we can’t afford to wait another four or eight years. Detroit’s moment is now. We have to back up our ideas with dollars.

We also have the opportunity to it better than anyone else, using our unique skills.

Ford and GM say they’re a mobility companies now. They’d both be served by a Wayne/Washtenaw transit deal. What if they got involved  to remake the future of transit and mobility that sets them up for future success and benefit our citizens?

What if Dan Gilbert played hardball and decided that he’s going to incentivize his new employees to live inside the new transit zone?

Maybe that’s an out of the box idea, but I’ll take that over our leaders who seem permanently unable to come to agreement like some buddy film featuring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon.

I’ll leave it to your imagination to pick who’s Walter and who’s Jack on this issue.

We seem to have no problem spending millions on economic incentives on a regular basis in Detroit and in Michigan. And we seem to clearly have the votes, vision and will in Wayne and Washtenaw Counties.

The time for talking is over. Get it done with people who get it, and ignore the people who don’t.

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