Hey Hey, Detroit!
In our quest to leave no stone unturned when it comes to city and county government, Documenters last week dropped in on two agencies for the first time. The Detroit Promise Zone Authority administers the Detroit Promise scholarship for Detroiters starting or continuing their college education. The authority is looking for more board members. The Wayne County Airport Authority was busy celebrating a huge win at its meeting after J.D. Power’s announcement that Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) ranked No. 1 among “mega airports” for customer satisfaction.
Satisfaction in the skies seems to far surpass that on the roads. Riders attending the monthly Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) Virtual Community Input Meeting once again expressed frustration with buses not showing up on time. Only 63% of weekday buses ran on time in the month of July. Detroit City Council — aware that bus driver wages and hours are unattractive — proposed a new shiny benefit: child care assistance. The resolution passed unanimously, but it was effectively only a show of support. The council doesn’t have the power to implement this by decree.
Meanwhile, Council is taking sides in the United Auto Workers strike — approving a resolution in support of the striking autoworkers.
“When it comes to people who are homeless and have issues, and they want to bring their entire household into the bathroom — we can’t allow that.”
—Detroit Transit Police Chief Ricky Brown, explaining Rosa Parks Transit Center’s ban on large bags in bathrooms
Taking off with the airport authority
It was our first time covering the Wayne County Airport Authority last week. The authority controls hundreds of millions in revenue from airlines and travelers (parking isn’t cheap!). The authority is managed by a seven-member Board of Directors and appointments range from two to eight years. The term of member Marvin Beatty, who works as the vice president of community and public relations at the Hollywood Casino at Greektown, is expiring at the beginning of October.
The board is responsible for managing and operating the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW), The Westin hotel inside of DTW and Willow Run Airport near Ypsilanti. The board hires staff in charge of running the airport day to day.
At the meeting we covered, the board heard financial updates on capital improvement projects at both airports. More than two-thirds of the funding sources for these projects are financed with bonds, and about 20% comes from the federal government.
Get ready for some traffic congestion and delays at DTW as rehabilitation projects on the tunnels on John D. Dingell Drive begin. Projects include road repairs, lighting and electrical work, ventilation, flood mitigation and storm drain replacement. The entire rehab is scheduled to start later this year and take between two and three years to complete.
New security scanners, designed to expedite the passenger screening process, have landed at the airport. The Transportation Security Administration is currently testing 13 baggage scanning machines in the McNamara Terminal. A learning curve means back-ups are happening as staff and passengers get used to the equipment, so you might want to budget a bit more time before your flight.
DTW CEO Chad Newton shared that the airport has already won three industry awards this year, including being recognized as the best “mega airport” in North America for customer satisfaction, according to J.D. Power. Newton said he didn’t know of any other airport that has won all three awards in one year.
9/20/2023 Wayne County Airport Authority, Board of Directors
Documented by Amelia Benavides-Colón and Paige Rollins
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City and Regional News
The theme at last week’s Highland Park City Council meeting was “us versus them.” Should the city give priority to Highland Park residents, or should it recognize they are part of an interconnected region when it comes to political appointments, contracts and the sale of city-owned land?
Councilmember Khursheed Ash-Shafii wanted to know where appointees to the city’s Tax Increment Finance Authority lived, asking for confirmation of home addresses for members of that board.
The co-founder and head roaster of Sepia Coffee Project, Martell Mason, said out-of-town developers are buying up land and buildings, and Highland Park residents like him are not getting their share.
A Detroiter who gave public comment struck a different tone, calling it unfair to say he can’t participate or do anything in Highland Park just because he doesn’t live there.
In his closing statement, Council President Jamal Thomas said most people in southeast Michigan don’t know where Highland Park begins or ends. Thomas, born and raised on the far eastside of Detroit, said the “us and them BS” needs to stop.
9/18/2023 Highland Park City Council
Documented by Mi’Joy Reed-Nash and Carole Hawke
It would seem DDOT buses are starting their routes on time but still running late. Bus performance statistics for July show a disconnect between a 93% pull-out rate and 63% on-time service, both during weekdays. Ansel Stewart, interim assistant director of operations at DDOT, said the agency has plans to make sure operators leave stops at scheduled times.
Other transit users had various complaints. At least a few riders are concerned about plans to discontinue the Route 12 Conant bus (see Page 12) as part of DDOT Reimagined.
Several people talked about wheelchair users not being able to access the bus when cars are parked at bus stops. A public commenter shared a photo of a bus stop sign that has a parking sign below it, perhaps leading to some confusion.
9/21/2023 Detroit Department of Transportation, Virtual Community Input Meeting
Documented by Alex Klaus and Roshaun Harris
You’re invited to Outlier Media’s Coffee Thursday! Come hang out with us at In Harmony Café on Oct. 12. The first 20 guests will receive a free brewed coffee or tea of their choice. Stop by and chat with us from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Register now on Eventbrite. We hope to see you there!
More City and Regional News
Education, Politics, Utilities, Housing, Policing
9/15/2023 Detroit Promise Zone Authority, Board of Directors: Candidates were recommended to fill vacant board seats and will be voted on at the next meeting.
Documented by Tewonia Alamu
9/19/2023 Detroit City Council, Formal Session: City Council approved a resolution in support of the United Auto Workers, and a resolution recognizing September as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
Documented by Amber Umscheid and Elyas Khan
9/20/2023 Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Board of Water Commissioners: Approved $2.5 million for a backlog of catch basin cleanings and four new contracts totalling $45 million to replace lead service lines.
Documented by Eric McCormick and Jack Filbrandt
9/21/2023 Detroit Housing and Revitalization Department, 2022 Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report: HRD staff provided an annual report on four housing programs: Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Emergency Solutions Grants Program and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS.
Documented by Perry Sylvester
9/21/2023 Detroit Board of Police Commissioners: Two hundred fifty-six citizen complaint cases were improperly closed without investigation or sign-off; a motion to reinstate former staffer Melanie White was hotly debated.
Documented by Heather Alder
For more on the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, check out the latest BOPC Watch.
Awareness, support and hope
City Council passed a resolution last week recognizing September as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. The resolution states September is “a time to acknowledge those affected by suicide, raise awareness, and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services.” There are national resources for suicide awareness, while the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network provides suicide prevention resources in the metro area.
If you or someone you know may be thinking about suicide, you can call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line through online chat or by texting 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. Both services are available 24/7.
Upcoming training and events
Introduction to FOIA Requests
Tonight! Tuesday, Sept. 26, 6-7 p.m.
Join us to learn more about the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and how you can exercise your right to seek public information. This workshop will be led by Detroit-based attorney Ralph Simpson, who specializes in FOIA and Open Meetings Act counseling and litigation.
Postponed! Open Newsroom: Democracy in Detroit
We know you were excited to join us, but we are going to postpone our Open Newsroom event until next month. We are looking forward to learning from people who haven’t voted in a while and will share our new date soon.
Documenters Network-wide Virtual Community of Practice
Wednesday, Oct. 4, 6-7:30 p.m. Eastern time
All Documenters from any city in the network are welcome, regardless of whether you’ve attended a training or taken any assignments. Come as you are, and connect with Documenters in other places!
Detroit Documenters Orientation
Wednesday, Nov. 15, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
In this final orientation of the year, we will introduce you to the Detroit Documenters community. Find out how we help build the public record by paying people to attend local government meetings and take notes. This workshop is required for Documenters to be eligible for paid assignments. The orientation will be immediately followed by the Covering Your Local Government training on the same Zoom link. Save the date and register now.
Covering Your Local Government
Wednesday, Nov. 15, 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Earn your Public Meetings badge! In this one-hour training, we will explore local government in Detroit and how to monitor it for the public good. You’ll learn the basics of notetaking and open meeting law. We strongly recommend this training, as public meetings are our most common assignment offering. Register separately for this meeting, which will directly follow the orientation.
Tuesdays, 2-4 p.m. (Today’s office hours: 2-3 p.m.)
Drop in to ask questions, pitch ideas, discuss assignments or just hang out. You can even get personalized training on topics like live-tweeting or improving your notes. Visit us in the office or join our office hours on Zoom!