From the Headlines- October 31 – November 3

Not buying it: Highland Park officials have questions about the mysterious announcement of a $10 billion investment in the city, including money to pay off municipal water debt. Kenneth Hogan, president of the Redford Township nonprofit Manna Development Corp., said his organization would facilitate investments to revive the city with backing from a “global billionaire.” Highland Park Mayor Hubert Yopp said he hasn’t received any confirmation of a plan to wipe out the city’s $21 million water debt or “anything to confirm that there’s $10 billion for this city.” Hogan said the investment would be used for public-private partnerships in the city, including building “heavy and light industrial” manufacturing facilities. He wanted to meet with Highland Park’s City Council to discuss the proposal. “I don’t really buy it,” said Highland Park Council President Carlton Clyburn Jr. “$10 billion, that’s a stretch.” (Bridge Detroit)

Food inequity: Detroit has just 64 full-line grocery stores, down from 74 in 2017, according to the Detroit Food Policy Council’s most recent “Detroit Food Metric Report.” Poor access to quality foods contributes to chronic health problems like obesity, which affects 40% of Detroit adults. Amy Kuras, the Detroit Food Policy Council’s research and policy manager, said Detroit needs to join cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Baltimore and appoint a food equity director to address food access within city government. However, there were a few bright spots in the Food Policy Council’s report. The number of community and home gardens has increased recently, and the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network is building the Detroit People’s Food Coop in the North End. Detroiter Raphael Wright is also working on opening the city’s only black-owned grocery store, Neighborhood Grocery, in the Jefferson Chalmers neighborhood. (Bridge Detroit)

Ribbon cutting: The city of Detroit opened a portion of the planned 27.5-mile Joe Louis Greenway, which will run through Detroit, Hamtramck, Highland Park and Dearborn. The new segment runs from Warren to Joy Road, near the northeast corner of Dearborn, and it includes two concrete walkways and will eventually have a gravel path for runners. Trash cans, lighting and emergency call boxes are also in place, with some landscaping still ongoing around the new pathways. The city will also begin working on a portion of the greenway that extends the Dequindre Cut from Mack Avenue to East Grand Blvd. and Hamtramck Drive. However, at a recent public meeting, a group Breathe Free Detroit representative raised concerns about how pollution from the nearby US Ecology facility and WM’s planned $35 million dollar recycling hub could affect the Dequindre Cut extension. (WDET, Outlier, MI Radio)

Hard hat area: Detroiters will have to forego the warm embrace of Belle Isle’s Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory for the next year and a half as the structure undergoes a $10 million restoration. “Major renovations are needed to stabilize the building to keep the conservatory open for the next century,” said Amanda Treadwell, urban field planner for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “Although construction will temporarily close this popular attraction, the scope of work is critical to the dome’s structural integrity, public safety and improved conditions for the plant collection.” The conservatory was designed by Albert Kahn and first opened in 1904. It is expected to reopen in May 2024. (MLive)

Road diet: Why is Michigan spending billions of dollars to widen roads when the state’s population has been flat for twenty years, and we’re supposedly trying to achieve net zero emissions by 2050? Robert Goodspeed, assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan, asks this question in an opinion piece that argues measures to reduce congestion only create more traffic in the long run and facilitate urban sprawl. He suggests investing in public transit to help the nearly 300,000 Michigan households without cars access jobs and services and potentially use tolls in cities to reduce congestion. Eliminating road-widening projects and shrinking roads in some areas would also free up cash to improve roads that are already badly in need of repair. (Bridge)

A lesson in persistence: On Wednesday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that 99% of Benton Harbor’s lead service lines had been removed. A little over a year ago, environmental groups and community leaders petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to seek federal intervention for the city’s lead drinking water crisis. The public outcry compelled the state to look at nearly 4,500 water lines and either replace them or confirm they were lead-free. “Replacing Benton Harbor’s thousands of lead water pipes in just one year, well ahead of schedule, was unthinkable last fall,” said Rev. Edward Pinkney, president of the Benton Harbor Community Water Council. “I hope the persistence of Benton Harbor residents will inspire other communities fighting to make their tap water safe.” In 2021, nine Michigan cities or townships, including Wayne and Hamtramck, found lead in their drinking water at or above the federal action limit of 15 parts per billion. (Freep, Bridge)

Energy assistance: The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) is hosting “energy assistance fairs” on Nov. 10 in Grand Rapids and Nov. 17 in Melvindale. The events will connect rate-payers with assistance programs and energy efficiency upgrades. Attendees will have the opportunity to give feedback to the commission about energy affordability and other issues. The MPSC also launched a new energy assistance webpage to connect utility and telecommunications customers to various assistance programs. (MLive)

‘Climate carnage’: A report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says that the catastrophic impacts of the climate crisis are outpacing adaptation and protection efforts. “The UNEP report makes clear that the world is failing to protect people from the here-and-now impacts of the climate crisis,” said UN secretary general António Guterres. “We need a global surge in adaptation investment to save millions of lives from climate carnage.” 2022 offered several examples of this destruction, including the flooding in Pakistan that left a third of the country underwater and heatwaves that dried up rivers in Western Europe and China. According to the UNEP report, wealthy nations need to give as much as ten times what they are currently spending on climate adaptation measures in the Global South. Guterres said that “closing the financing gap for addressing loss and damage” will be a key measure of success at the upcoming COP27 climate talks in Egypt. (Guardian, E360, NY Times)


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