Hey friends, Jer here.

The response to our last note was massive. So welcome, and hope you stay awhile.

As you peel away the layers of a story — which takes time and effort on the ground beyond the breaking news — you learn more.

Let’s get into the stories around town. My analysis in headlines, as always, is in italics.

☕️ Starbucks closure update

two white starbucks disposable cups
Photo by kevs on Unsplash

» A clearer picture is starting to emerge as to what actually happened to bring about the closing the Mack and Woodward Starbucks location that had been open since 2006.

One theory I see all over was that this was part of a greater anti-union campaign.

Those comments, so far, seem to be wrong in this case. Multiple conversations, comments by people I know on our work and other outlets share that really wasn’t a thing.

When unionization drives make real progress with workers — they’re generally very public about it. The Allen Park store recently announced there’s a unionization push. There are about 310 Starbucks stores in Michigan.

For perspective, if this thirteenth store is successful, that means about four percent of Starbucks stores statewide would be unionized.

What we did learn is that there are years of safety issues, drug use, and harassment at the Midtown location.

Baristas administering Narcan to people who had locked themselves in the bathroom and overdosed; people using the changing tables to do drugs; urination on the floor; staff being chased out by someone with a needle; harassment of other customers by customers and visitors, and more.

Multiple women I spoke to found the location a “no-go” place because of the safety and customer harassment issues (by other customers/visitors, not the staff, to be clear). Wayne State Police, I’m told on background, would privately advise people not to go there.

The Detroit Free Press has done some good reporting on this since we broke the story. Here’s an excerpt relevant to this topic:

There was no guard present one morning at about 6 a.m. when she spotted a person smoking crack in the store. As shift lead, it was her responsibility to approach the man and order him to leave.

“I smelled something and was like, 'Something’s burning.’ And I look over and I’m like, ‘Sir, I cannot believe I have to tell you this, but you have to go. You cannot smoke crack in this facility.' And he was like, “(Expletive) you. (Expletive) this place. And made a big fuss, and probably came in three or four more times to try and hang out."

Another thing in comments I’ve seen is something to the tune of “none of the other businesses around there are having this problem.”

That, unfortunately, I’ve found in my reporting, is not true.

We’re working on a bigger podcast episode and story about this, but in interviews I’ve already done I’ve learned of a number of similar issues in the close area and other parts of greater downtown.

It seems that there’s a common thread of mental health issues and drug use. Issues that require a lot of work, funding and coordination to handle. We’re looking deeper into that, too.

To hear all of our reporting plans, you can listen to the Thursday episode of the podcast.

A number of listeners have shared stories of their own challenges after that Thursday episode aired, like this one.

The larger problem is that Medicaid offers so few options, assuming that a person without housing can get that far. I am a suburbanite who is somewhat competent (but burdened with mental health issues), but it took me 40 calls to schedule a competent provider. That includes one psychiatrist’s office who abruptly closed their doors after I was notified that my intake form was accepted. After two long months of red tape and redirects, I have an appointment. I have a college education, and it was this hard for me. So, how much harder is it for those without a PCP, crippling mental illness, and physical issues? And obviously, this only clogs the hospitals in emergency situations. Other than someone being placed in a guardianship, I don’t see how it’s possible for them to get routine services.

I’ve seen a lot of hot takes with this story. Whether it’s union-busting or (somehow?) blaming Joe Biden.

The issue with copy-and-pasting your own beliefs on a situation is that you’ll miss the actual issue — and people who might be able to get some help with collective action and attention — won’t get it.

📰 What to know

» The Oakland County Commission unanimously approved resolutions for the largest investment in transportation in county history — and we’re getting a clearer picture of new routes and services.

This is on the heels of the countywide transportation millage passing. Cities like Bloomfield Hills, Novi, Farmington Hills, Orchard Lake, Keego Harbor, Troy and Sylvan Lake will get expanded bus services or services for the first time. You can check out the map from a SMART presentation above.

There are multiple transit agencies serving the further outer reaches of Oakland County, and fares will be standardized at $2.  [The Oakland Press]

» Failed Michigan Secretary of State candidate and election conspiracy theorist Kristina Karamo is now the chair of the Michigan Republican Party. [Bridge Michigan]

  • RIP to the GOP in MI? Nolan Finley over at the Detroit News, a longtime conservative voice in town, says get ready for Democratic control of the state for years to come, and that the party is “flat broke.” [Detroit News]
  • Karamo once called Beyoncé and Cardi B tools of Lucifer and yoga a “satanic ritual.” [Philip Lewis]

So at what point do people who think of themselves as conservative but don’t agree with this party direction realize it’s over, and that this really is what it is to be a Republican now? It’s been over. Cut losses. Start fresh. Find/make a new home, or you’re co-signing. Because it won’t change.

» Detroit City Council is demanding by resolution that Stellantis eliminate the odors from its Mack Assembly Plant — or pay for retrofitting neighboring homes with air filters, pollution monitors, HVAC systems and windows. [Bridge Detroit]

» Detroit’s Elected Officials Compensation Commission unanimously voted to increase elected officials’ salaries by 7% through fiscal year 2023 and 3.5% through fiscal year 2025. The Detroit City Council still has to vote on the proposal. The original proposal would have raised salaries by between 28% and 68%. [Free Press]

» The first condos are available in the historic Henry Glover house of Detroit’s Brush Park neighborhood. Built in the late 1800s, the home was going to be demolished, but Doug Quada purchased it in 2017. Sidewalks, parking spaces, and a carriage house have been added. [Urbanize Detroit]

» Southwest Detroit pizzeria PizzaPlex is closing on Monday, February 27. This news was learned from a GoFundMe campaign to financially aid the employees who recently learned of the closure. [Eater Detroit]

» We hear that Bunny Bunny owners Jennifer Jackson and Justin Tootla have decided to keep the restaurant open (for now). Located in Detroit’s Eastern Market, the restaurant had a two-year run starting in 2020. The owners decided to keep the restaurant open at least until their lease ends in 2024. [Instagram]

» There’s a new coffee shop in Eastern Market, La Ventana Cafe.

» 200 murals across Detroit will be commissioned to help residents honor neighborhoods’ histories and heroes. The City of Detroit’s Office of Arts, Culture, and Entrepreneurship will reach out to young artists and block clubs to jointly create art intended to reflect the many communities in the city. The aim is to make Detroit a “top street art city.” [City of Detroit]

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🎙 On the podcast

» Detroit City FC has signed a “Tractor Boy” from Ipswich Town, Ben Morris. Me and Fletcher Sharpe get into that, talk the multi-way Pistons trade that landed James Wiseman in Detroit, and some local Super Bowl ties (including players Fletcher coached back in the day!)

» It was a tough week in many ways. So me and Devon O’Reilly talked about a number of things that we’re positive about in Metro Detroit on the end-of-the-week show. We also talk about a couple of places we visited, including Gateaux Patisserie in Dearborn and Urbanrest Brewing in Ferndale.

A reminder that we take federal holidays off at the show, so we’ll be back on the air on Tuesday.

Thanks to Luciano Marcon for his help on this note.

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If you’d like to support the work we’re doing, join us as a member or buy us a coffee as a tip.

Until next time, remember that you are somebody and we’ll see you around town.


🎶 This edition of the newsletter was written while listening to one of the best musical reinterpretations of a Nintendo game soundtrack I’ve heard. I was one of the kids who still holds a huge place in my heart for Super Mario Bros. 2, and this big band version gets the spirit just right.

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