Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Amber L. Bogins
A majority of people on government food programs get their food from large grocery stores according to a new report, which means they have a wide variety of foods available. More than 82 percent of SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps) are redeemed at supermarkets and superstores according to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) Retailer Policy and Management Division 2012 Annual Report.
$74 billion in client benefits were redeemed in the more than 246,000 participating stores, farmers’ markets, direct marketing farmers, homeless meal providers, treatment centers, group homes, and others authorized to accept SNAP. Supermarkets and superstores made up about 15 percent of the firms allowed to redeem SNAP benefits but continue to redeem the majority of them. In 2012, Michigan had 10,060 authorized firms to redeem SNAP benefits, those firms redeemed nearly $3 billion dollars worth of benefits.
But despite recent criticisms by people saying the SNAP recipients waste their food stamps on high-sugar foods and drinks, The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that most food expenditures by people on SNAP are of the healthy variety. A 2005 study found that 35 percent of SNAP benefits went toward meats and meat alternatives, 20 percent went to grains, another 20 percent to fruits and vegetables, 12 percent to dairy, while only 13 percent went toward other foods. Not unlike the foods purchased by people not on the SNAP program.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 10:13
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Bankole Thompson, Chronicle Senior Editor
Emergency manager takes on critics in candid interview about city’s future
KEVYN ORR, Detroit’s emergency financial manager, discusses the challenges facing Detroit while admonishing his critics to look at the facts on the city’s books. — Andre Smith photos
Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s emergency financial manager, unfazed by criticisms and mounting opposition, opens up to Michigan Chronicle editor Bankole Thompson in this exclusive sit-down interview about the difficult choices ahead for the city while sharing some of the city’s debt numbers. Orr said he is not an elected official bound to public opinion and that it is time to change course if the city is expected to make any progress. The future of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s comments about Orr are two of the hot button issues discussed in the interview. Orr applauded Detroit’s private sector for what he calls their commitment to the city.
MICHIGAN CHRONICLE: When you came on board you talked about the fact that you have faith that good parties can come together. Do you still believe that?
KEVYN ORR: I still do. I really do and this is why I mentioned the financial operating plan. I’m going to be fully open with everything. That includes labor, debt holders, citizens, elected officials, the press. Let’s just get it all out there the best we can. Nobody really can debate the numbers. They are what they are. The math is the math. So now the next step becomes what we are going to do about it. I’m assuming rational behavior, that everybody wants to get the city to a position that is both on a sustainable path. a path for growth and a healthier going forward financial practice.
MC: Do you get a sense of a rational behavior within the various apparatus that make up city government? Because I’m sure you’ve had background conversations with all of these interested parties.
KO: I have. I think given the tools that the city’s administration and legislative body has they are trying to do the best they can with what they can do. The emergency manager statute gives me significant additional powers and tools in my toolbox that aren’t held in ordinary course by either the mayor or the city council. So looking at what the city has tried to do in the past, they are trying to run a city on a……if we continue on those lines the city just wouldn’t be functioning.
MC: Mayor Bing said recently you need to speak more to Detroiters. Was there something missing there?
KO: No, I don’t think so. I’ve tried to be open, communicative to Detroiters. As you know, the mayor’s office is seven feet from mine. I talk to him. I talk to city council. I probably talk to city council more than some other people have in this building. The mayor’s certainly welcomed to have his opinion and what he wants to say. I don’t think it’s reflective of what I try to do.
MC: What do you see as the role of the private sector in light of the Mackinac Policy Conference and Detroit’s financial crisis?
KO: This is one of the bright points in my opinion. The private sector in the city is remarkably committed to helping the city do better. And it’s not just Dan Gilbert, Roger Penske or the Fords or the Illitches; there are many others like The Skillman Foundation, Kresge and all the other groups. They have over the past (10 years) at a minimum put over a billion dollars just in foundation money into the city. That’s our entire budget. They have made commitments in a very real sense. They put their money where their mouths are. Some of these private sector individuals could take their money to Miami, Florida, New York and make a much higher return than they can here in the city. They decided against their immediate financial interest to help the city. I’m very impressed and very thankful for this amount of support and commitment to the city.
MC: Do you now feel the weight of this office in terms of the challenges that lie ahead?
KO: No, not really. I’ve actually felt more comfortable in the office as I’ve got more information, got more data. Let me put it this way: I didn’t do this. I don’t feel any responsibility for where we are.
MC: But you are the one in charge at this point.
KO: This has been coming for 40 years. From my perspective anything I do is better than where we were. Even if I tell the people the truth, just how bad the situation is. I was telling somebody the other day your water department gets 80 percent of its revenue from the suburbs. If the suburbs like Flint and Genesee who felt they are paying excessive amounts left, you wouldn’t have a water department. Is that what you want? No, I don’t think so. So I think what you want is to be responsive to your customer base, make sure you can monetize the assets so it provides revenue to the city. So if we think as in Judge Cox’s ruling about an authority, that’s a better deal for you. Maybe better than you thought you would have because you still keep the lines, the switches and valves and you get a revenue stream.
MC: What about those who are protesting claiming a water department takeover?
KO: So to the people who want to protest, I say unless you come here with a leprechaun and a pot of gold in your arm, what are you adding to the process? This is serious business.
MC: Some believe that the city is authority-fatigued. Do you think the water department needs an authority?
KO: I’m going to examine it because as I said when I first came here before I was in this office I said everything is on the table. But people maybe authority-fatigued but the reality is what we’ve been doing as a city isn’t working. So clearly we have to do something different and maintaining the course….we’ve got to change course. We don’t have a choice.
MC: What’s been the biggest surprise so far?
KO: Probably one of the biggest surprises is how little actual information I think the city population has. Once you sit down because most people want to see a better city and have a factual discussion with people, the light goes off. Rational people of good faith have that and they stand down from the emotional position because if you maintain an emotional position in the face of the truth, you’ve got something else at work other than dealing with reality. And I can’t change that.
MC: In that light are you walking a tight rope?
KO: No. As you may have noticed despite what some people may see in the press I don’t really pay attention to it. I could care less because most opinions are either informed, under-informed or have another purpose. I’m dealing with the facts and that’s what’s going to drive decision-making. Opinions and elbows everybody’s got. I’m free. I’m not a politician. Opinions matter to politicians because it translates into votes. I’m not running for anything. I don’t have any political ambitions.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 09:47
MAYOR BING, WAYNE COUNTY EXECUTIVE FICANO ANNOUNCE $600,000 EPA GRANT FOR BROWNFIELD ASSESSMENTS IN SOUTHWEST DETROIT
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Amber L. Bogins
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano announced today that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded the Wayne County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority a 2013 Brownfields Assessment Grant of $600,000. The grant will pay for approximately 32 brownfield environmental site assessments (ESA) in the city of Detroit. These brownfield sites have been impacted by contaminants from
commercial or industrial uses, but have redevelopment potential after cleanup. The EPA’s Brownfield Assessment Grant was awarded in response to a joint proposal submitted by the City of Detroit’s Building, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED); Wayne County; and the Detroit / Wayne County Port Authority.
“This grant is the first step toward reclaiming land that has been overused and neglected,” Mayor
Bing said. “Once brownfields are properly assessed, they can be cleaned up and redeveloped as
part of a neighborhood’s revival.”
“I’m very happy the EPA has recognized the outstanding work of the Wayne County Brownfield
Redevelopment Authority,” said Wayne County Executive Ficano. “The grant will assist in the
cleanup and revitalization of Southwest Detroit brownfield sites as well as the revitalization of
the local economy, turning properties into potentially usable, profitable assets.” Wayne County
was awarded a similar $400,000 assessments grant in 2007.
“This grant award is the perfect example of what intergovernmental collaboration can produce
for the City of Detroit and the surrounding region,” said John Jamian, Executive Director of the
Detroit / Wayne County Port Authority. “The DWCPA has enjoyed a great relationship with the
EPA since 2004 and we are excited that this latest grant will allow us to work with our partners
at the City and County to help promote the kind of growth and new investment our communities
All of the brownfield sites identified for assessment are in Southwest Detroit, the site of significant industrial development in past decades. The grant makes $450,000 available for 19 hazardous substance-related ESAs and $150,000 for 13 petroleum-related ESAs. A portion of the funds will be used for community outreach activities.
The three-agency coalition’s grant proposal identified brownfield sites such as the following for
evaluation: 5800 Michigan Ave. – a one-acre lot with an abandoned industrial building that has been
identified by Southwest Housing Solutions for expansion of a day care center. 9400 McGraw – the former site of an automaker and a glass plating company that sits on 39 acres. Streamco has identified the site for potential expansion and job creation.
Nine lots on Military Street – Peerless Metals has identified five acres for expansion.1801 S. Fort St. – an abandoned gas station on a half-acre lot at Ford and Schaefer Historic Murray Building, 4004-4030 Porter Street – Southwest Housing Solutions plans to redevelop this vacant apartment building into seven townhomes for low-to-middle
income residents. Historic Broderick Building, 1516 Vinewood – another vacant apartment building to be
redeveloped for low-to middle-income residents.
The ESAs will be conducted by environmental consulting companies that will be contracted and managed by the coalition of grant partners. The consultants have not yet been determined. Assessment work is expected to begin this fall and is required by the EPA to be completed
within a three-year period. The ESAs will determine existing health and safety risks to communities that surround each brownfield site, as well as costs of cleaning up the sites. The Brownfield Assessment Grant does
not pay for site cleanup or redevelopment.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 16:23
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by C.L. Price
2013 Mackinac Policy Conference will align diverse groups in statewide conversation
Emerging from its troubled state, Michigan is poised for a seismic economic turnaround that may be right around the corner.
While some critics and pundits predicted that it would take decades to turn Detroit around and years to address Michigan’s languishing economy, there is growing optimism that the biggest issues blocking the city’s financial recovery will be addressed soon — perhaps within the next 365 days.
Timing is everything, and in a city like Detroit, time is money.
“Detroit’s biggest problems will not all be resolved overnight, but the process to get the city on the right track is on the horizon,” according to Sandy K. Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
With Baruah at the helm, the Chamber, which sits squarely in the center of economic recovery efforts in Detroit, is gaining recognition for its role in helping spur an increase in regional collaboration in economic development.
There may be no better opportunity to measure the relative success of this effort than the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference, which draws on a diverse audience of more than 1,500 of the state’s leading political, business and community leaders annually.
This year’s conference will address cultural change, education and the 21st century global market, amidst a very diverse group of panelists and participants.
Baruah and ITC Holdings Corp. CEO and conference chair Joseph Welch plan to use the Mackinac Policy Conference as a platform to accelerate collaborative efforts statewide.
“Once isolated, our stakeholders no longer clearly identify themselves by geographic, racial or economic boundaries,” said Baruah, who has introduced innovative programs to bridge divides between Michigan leaders over the last several years.
Together, the two aim to further advance global thinking among conference participants, who they hope will emerge with a better understanding of Michigan’s role as an international player in the world marketplace, which is much “flatter,” more competitive and ever-reliant on a global consumer base.
Economic interests —employed as both a carrot and a binding agent — will serve to attract and keep conference participants aligned.
While Michigan is already home to many international automotive, furnishings and pharmaceutical manufacturers, until recently its hyper-competitive stakeholders often did not collaborate effectively or position their respective interests collectively, according to Baruah.
“Michigan is the eighth largest export state in the U.S.,” he said. “Although we hold an incredible market position, we’ve yet to fully leverage it.”
The Chamber’s MICHauto program, celebrating its second year as part of the Chamber’s economic development portfolio, is helping to change that. The successful public-private strategy is helping align automotive players to better compete and to leverage Michigan as a global epicenter of automotive and manufacturing competency.
The effort requires increased participation among Tier 1 automotive suppliers and associated businesses, which is why this year’s conference will include first-time representatives from these often silent business sectors and forums to address their unique business needs.
Immigration and education will also be on the discussion table.
Welch believes there is a need to continue to attract and retain international businesses and workers. This will be a key factor in maintaining our position in today’s global marketplace. He also supports equally, if not more aggressive, efforts to educate, train and employ Michigan residents for jobs in high growth business sectors
Logically, Detroit will be at the center of many informal conversations on the island and will be the focus of two of the scheduled conference events.
The “Detroit: On the Path to Turnaround” session features panelists Matt Cullen, president and CEO, Rock Ventures, LLC; Andy Dillon, treasurer, State of Michigan; Robert Kurnick Jr., president, Penske Corp.; and will be moderated by Sandra E. Pierce, vice chairman, FirstMerit Corporation.
The “Detroit: Legacy Leaders” panel will feature Dennis W. Archer, chairman and CEO, Dennis W. Archer PLLC, former mayor, City of Detroit; Dennis W. Archer, Jr., founding principal and president, Archer Corporate Services; Shelia Cockrel, president, Crossroads Consulting Group, former councilwoman, City of Detroit; Katy Cockrel, director, strategic communications, Ignition Media Group; John Rakolta Jr,. chairman and CEO, Walbridge; and John Rakolta III, business development manager, Walbridge. WXYZ-TV news anchor Stephen Clark will moderate the past-present-future perspectives among a multi-generational group of participants.
The city focus in these sessions, as part of a larger statewide conversation of the conference, offers an incredible opportunity to redefine our future, according to Baruah.
“Gov. Rick Snyder stepped up, despite great political risk, to tackle Detroit’s problems in a very meaningful way,” said Baruah.
The EFM appointment has helped put Detroit’s issues further into focus and will result in the opportunity to make change quickly, according to the Chamber president who commented:
“The entire state, and certainly Detroit, has suffered over the last 30 years as a consequence of being run in a process-oriented manner. Today, the EFM has the opportunity to change that and put results first.”
Results are the cornerstone of Sandy Baruah’s leadership style and, indeed, the Mackinac Policy Conference agenda.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference, gain insight on participant activity and panel discussions, visit www.michiganchronicle.com.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 22 May 2013 09:37
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Amber L. Bogins
For growing numbers of Americans, the new retirement may really mean no retirement. That's the conclusion of an article in the current issue of the ISR Sampler, the annual magazine of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.
"For most of the 20th century we saw retirement ages fall while life expectancy rose," said David Weir, an ISR research professor and director of the ISR Health and Retirement Study. "About 20 years ago, the trend in retirement age reversed and it has been inching up slowly ever since."
People are retiring later for a lot of reasons, but a key one is economic. Employer health insurance benefits for retirees are eroding, spurring many employees to hold out until they qualify for Medicare at age 65. Changes to Social Security, such as the increase in the age at which people can receive full benefits from 65 to 67, also may be playing a role. And people are living longer, requiring additional savings to support those extra years.
Some 40 percent of older Americans delayed retirement in the years after the Great Recession, according to an analysis of data from ISR's Health and Retirement Study and its Cognitive Economics Study.
"The typical household lost about 5 percent of its total wealth between the summers of 2008 and 2009," said ISR economist Brooke Helppie McFall.
People don't intend to work long enough to recoup all the money they lost, but on average, those who postponed retirement expect to work about 1.6 years longer than planned, she said. And even as the economy has begun to turn around, many households still find themselves facing a more precarious future.
"While the stock market has recovered most of its pre-recession value, housing prices have not, and for most people their house is their biggest asset," Weir said.
Economics are just part of the reason why many Americans are working longer, he said. Many married men are likely to stay on the job longer now because their wives are working. Couples typically want to coordinate their retirements, and if a wife is working until age 62 or 65, that's an incentive for her often slightly older husband to keep working, too.
And some people aren't retiring for a simpler reason: they love their jobs. Not surprisingly, working beyond normal retirement age by choice is particularly common among the wealthier and more highly educated, those who are likely to have better health and jobs they can still do effectively at an advanced age, Weir said.
Overall, many more jobs than before rely on cognitive skills, rather than physical abilities, studies show, and the number of retirement-age employees who are physically able to do work into later years has increased, as well.
Although people are working longer, most still decide to retire at some point. But even that process has changed. According to an analysis of Health and Retirement Study participants born between 1942 and 1947, nearly two-thirds of those who retired from full-time work passed through some sort of bridge job—either part time or of short duration—before leaving the work force entirely.
Going part time may seem an obvious bridge step. More surprising is the move to different full-time work after retirement, according to Nicole Maestas, a RAND economist and researcher with ISR's Michigan Retirement Research Council.
She said the number of people who retire, take a break for a couple of years and then return to work has been increasing since the early 1990s. Some 40 percent of workers between the ages of 51 and 61 who stop work will return in some full-time capacity, according to her analysis of data from the Health and Retirement Study. Maestas coined the term "unretirement" for this phenomenon.
"The New Retirement: No Retirement?" by Susan Rosegrant, appears in the Spring 2013 issue of the ISR Sampler. Read the full article, including stories of those who've chosen different retirement, or unretirement, paths, at http://home.isr.umich.edu/sampler/the-new-retirement
Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 14:37
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