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News Round up for Friday June 29 and Saturday June 30

Detroit seizes the moment to rebuild

In a region riven by city-suburban feuds over such issues as Cobo Center, bus routes and water rates, the RiverWalk shows that competing interests can and do cooperate to achieve major goals.

Urban renewal didn’t work, centrally planned large projects (like shopping mall magnate Taubman’s Riverfront Towers, the RenCen) never turn out the way they were planned. The new model is to let smaller groups contribute the amount that they value a project, sort of like in a free marketplace, allowing the good ideas to get financial support in proportion to the number of groups broadly supporting them. Maybe this also means support for more smaller projects rather than all eggs in one large basket.

What has the new approach meant? Maybe not directly all of the following but here’s a list from the Free Press.
New downtown in the past 3 years:

  • Detroit RiverWalk
  • Hilton Garden Inn
  • Campus Martius Park
  • One Kennedy Square office tower, above
  • Loft residences in Woodward Corridor
  • Completion of GM’s RenCen renovations

Coming attractions:

  • Renovated Book-Cadillac Hotel
  • Renovated Fort Shelby Hotel, above
  • More RiverWalk
  • Three permanent casinos
  • Eastern Market renovations
  • Dequindre Cut rail-to-trail
  • More residences up Woodward and on the riverfront

[via Detroit Free Press]

Minimum wage up Sunday

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s minimum wage is increasing to $7.15 an hour from $6.95 an hour starting Sunday.

The increase is the second of three scheduled to take effect under legislation signed last year by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The law initially bumped the wage to $6.95 an hour from $5.15 an hour in October.

The minimum wage is scheduled to rise to $7.40 on July 1, 2008. Granholm said increasing the minimum wage is one part of her plan to diversify and grow Michigan’s economy. The state’s reliance on automotive and manufacturing jobs has contributed to its economic problems.

Although it’s unclear to me exactly how increasing the minimum wage diversifies the economy, I see it as a good thing to increase the wages paid by national chains operating in the state (such as Walgreens, McDonald’s, and other companies that are not so much creating jobs as sucking money out of the local economy, the locally owned businesses). McDonald’s makes enough money that they won’t base their decision to locate or move out of an area based on a one or two dollars increase in wages. Unfortunately this can also make things difficult for entrepreneurs trying to grow their businesses that rely on cheap, unskilled labor. No negative effect on high-paying, high skill jobs.
[via WOOD-TV]

Report: State should consider toll roads to ease congestion

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A new report from the Michigan Department of Transportation suggests the state should consider creating toll roads to ease congestion and help pay for transportation costs.

The idea has come up in the past in Michigan without being approved, but has been used across the country.

Well, these have been used successfully elsewhere in the country to control congestion. It should have been used 50 years ago when Detroit began sprawling out of control due to new “free”-ways that made it just as cheap to drive on 20 miles of road as 1 mile of road. Now metro Detroiters may traverse 60 miles of free highways getting from the east side to the west side for the same cost as using none of it. This would be called socialism in any other part of the world. We need to stop treating asphalt like it’s free to build, fix, renew, and use.
[via MLive.com]

Toll lanes suggested to ease jams

Michigan should consider creating its first toll roads to ease congestion and help plug an alarming $44 billion shortfall in transportation funding over the next 23 years, according to a new report from the Michigan Department of Transportation.

The idea of adding pay lanes to clogged highways has bombed in Metro Detroit through the years, but it’s a hit in a growing number of cities. San Diego, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City all have toll lanes, and a dozen others, including Dallas and Miami, are planning them, said Robert Poole, a tolling expert who was contacted by MDOT about the possibility here.

Dallas already has toll lanes.
[via DetNews.com]

THE SATURDAY LIST! Free Press critics’ picks for this weekend

Some fun for the whole family.
[via Detroit Free Press]

African-American Writers: A Reading List

The short list includes:
“Shifting Through Neutral,” by Bridgett M. Davis (2004)
A graceful coming-of-age tale of a young girl and her loving relationship with her father in 1970s Detroit.
[via New York Times]

Monumental obsession - Italian-American immigrant’s passion for history is set in Quikrete

Visit Silvio Barile, 67, in his “Italian-American Museum” in Redford Township, and you enter a crazy-quilt landscape that is, quite literally, like nothing you’ve ever seen.

Let him guide you through his former pizzeria — stacked to the ceiling with kitsch, from ceramic nuns to old Dean Martin and Connie Francis albums — as he ticks off his artistic creations, most of which loom in the wonderland behind the store.

“It’s out of another planet,” says sculptor Sergio DeGiusti, who used to teach at Wayne State. “I’ve known Silvio for 30 some years. I’ve given lectures on him. There he is — totally nuts.”

The best off beat Detroit-Italian folk art you’ve never heard of, not unlike the outsider art of Tyree Guyton’s Heidelberg Project.
[via DetNews.com]

Ann Arbor, Mich.: Waterfront, college vibe are draws

Bursting with youthful energy, the college town of Ann Arbor, Mich., invites us to remember those warm-weather moments — at a street festival, in a bookstore or paddling across glimmer-glass water — when we lingered as soulful teenagers. Those endless summers are gone, but there are weekends to rediscover the kind of artsy, outdoor and mind-expanding stuff we used to love and always will.

Are you feeling a bit of déjà vu? This time it’s Minneapolis’s turn look at visiting Ann Arbor.
[via Minneapolis Star Tribune (subscription)]

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