Update on Detroit143

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Detroit Tax Rates May Rise as Part of Streetlight Plan

By Kirk Cheyfitz

The recent cuts in Detroit’s income tax could be reversed as part of the plan Mayor Bing and Gov. Snyder are pushing to fix the city’s crumbling streetlights, but it will likely require renewed efforts by the Republican governor to shore up support for the plan among GOP state legislators.

Under a 1998 arrangement agreed to by city and state officials, income tax rates for residents were cut July 1 from 2.5 percent to 2.4 percent; rates for non-residents who work in the city went from 1.25 percent to 1.2 percent. If the cuts remain in effect, they will reduce taxes by $9.5 million annually.

But the July 1 tax cut could be reversed as part of the streetlight initiative, and Chris Brown, the city’s chief operating officer, said by email last week that “we remain optimistic” the initiative will prevail.

Continue reading

Goal: “…Match the streetlighting of the cities of the developed world”

That seems like a reasonable aspiration, but it comes not from Detroit Mayor Dave Bing but his counterpart in New Delhi, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

The Press Trust of India reports that the the Indian capital’s top official set that standard in a meeting earlier today with top civic and power distribution officials.

“Street lighting in Delhi must match the street lighting in developed cities of the world,” the chief minister said. “The functionality of the street lights should be more than 98 per cent.”

Current estimates put the level of Detroit’s functioning streetlights at about 60 percent.

A day in the life of a (streetlights) story

Updated from my Facebook update: Our old Free Press pal, Chris Christoff, does a piece for Bloomberg, which catches the attention of Marketplace, whose correspondent, Mitchell Hartman, tracks me down for an interview via the ISDN line at Poynter. (Chris had quoted my Detroit143 partner, Kirk Cheyfitz).

Hartman does a perfectly fine 2 min, 30 sec story [transcript posted here:  http://www.marketplace.org/topics/economy/detroit-half-street-lights-could-go-dark)], but Marketplace anchor Kai Ryssdal misreads Hartman’s script in his intro and lists Detroit’s once-anticipated population as 12 million (!) instead of 2 million. Dismaying on a show that does a “by the numbers” segment every night, but stuff happens. Hartman tells me Kai quickly realized what he’d done and taped a new intro for later broadcasts, and the error was subsequently corrected in the web audio version.

Christoff’s story on Bloomberg, meanwhile, gets picked up by Drudge. Among the results? More than 1,000 comments attached to Christoff’s story. The Bloomberg story also catches the attention of local TV in Detroit, which for the most part misinterprets its discussion of the Bing-Snyder plan as “surprising” when, in fact, that news had been reported three weeks earlier. As Kirk says (in a Facebook comment) of the unfolding coverage:  ”While it’s a little like a game of telephone, it is getting enormous attention for the issue that we believe to be the formative issue for Detroit at this moment.”

Lights Out!

This collection of images was taken on two different nights on the stretch of West Grand Boulevard between West Vernor Highway and the Fisher Freeway. All the streetlights here have been out for a long time.  All photos by Detroit143 photographer Ellen Jacob © 2012.

Bing has $160-million plan to turn on Detroit’s streetlights

Note: This story originally appeared in somewhat different form on Friday, May 4, 2012, in the Detroit News under the headline: “Let there be light in Detroit: Fixing a broken system.” (The story is no longer available for free on the News’ site; that’s why there is no link here.) Due mostly to space limits in the Newsprint edition, it was shortened. We agreed with all the News‘ edits. The version below includes the material the News did not run and some updates added after the News published it.

By Kirk Cheyfitz and Bill Mitchell

Mayor Dave Bing and Gov. Rick Snyder have joined forces on a complex plan to overhaul Detroit’s broken street lighting by taking on debt, collecting more Detroit income taxes and shutting down the city’s antiquated electricity system so all power is provided by DTE Energy over the utility’s transmission lines.

The plan’s most controversial provision involves diverting tax money now reserved exclusively for paying Detroit police officers to a streetlight fund, a step backers hope can be made politically acceptable by paying for cops in other ways.

Lansing legislators and senior aides to Bing and Snyder have described the details of the plan in numerous interviews over the past several weeks.

“We’ve made the decision to get out of the lighting business. We weren’t very good at it,” said Chris Brown, the former DTE executive who is Bing’s chief operating officer and the mayor’s point man on the street lighting plan.

Bing and Snyder are united behind a package of three bills—expected to be introduced in the state legislature soon – that would create and fund public lighting authorities in Michigan, said Rep. Maureen Stapleton, D-Detroit. Stapleton has been working on the package for weeks and is set to introduce the main piece of legislation establishing the lighting authorities. The other two bills would make changes to two different taxes to fund the Detroit lighting authority. Continue reading

Streetlight slides: McKinsey study details

Greetings to visitors from our streetlights coverage in Friday’s Detroit News. Anyone following the issue closely may want to check out the details of a study conducted for the city by McKinsey & Co. We’ve posted McKinsey’s slides as a PDF file here. The study is from 2010, but most of it — unfortunately for Detroit — remains relevant today. And here’s some good coverage of the study by Crain’s Detroit Business.

Streetlight finances, technology a global issue

Pegged to Detroit143′s latest reporting on efforts to address Detroit’s streetlight problems in Thursday’s Detroit News, here are a few examples of the latest developments elsewhere on the topic: