Detroit Roundup: June 2015

This June, keep an eye on: auto insurance policy (finally), fireworks curfew, the Detroit bus system, who even manages our water anymore?, and potential feel-good animal stories.

This recurring blog will strive to provide a one-stop shop for updates on public policy in the D that matter to young professionals. We’ll also be writing about state and federal politics, of course, and many other useful topics -- stay tuned!

1. Detroiter until the auto insurance company asks?

A lot of vehicles driven in Detroit somehow get registered at the homes of suburbs-dwelling parents. For those who don’t have a handy non-Detroit zip code to use, the cost of having a car in the city can be prohibitive. This topic has finally come up at the city and state levels.

The deets: Mayor Duggan is pushing a “D-Insurance” plan that would allow a driver to opt out of mandatory unlimited personal health injury insurance on auto, shifting medical costs after $275,000 to personal health care plans (such as employer insurance, Medicaid, Obamacare, etc.). The city estimates this could save drivers up to $2,300 a year, which comes out to nearly $100 per month to not get priced out of the Quicken dorms -- er, Detroit City Apartments.

Is it good news? Sort of. There is plenty of criticism of the plan; some say it could prevent adequate medical care given the costs of some serious injuries. Others have pointed out it does nothing to change the current zip-code-based assessment for auto insurance rates. D-Insurance is currently stalled at the state level, but at least it’s getting air time.



2. “Teenagers! Am I right?” - Detroit City Council*

City Council originally wanted to establish a 6pm- 6am curfew on anyone under the age of 17 unaccompanied by a parent or guardian for three days surrounding the Detroit Ford Fireworks. After backlash, it has now proposed an amended plan.

The deets: The new plan will apply a curfew only on the night of the fireworks. It does, however, add an additional curfew for the family-friendly Detroit RiverDays, applying only to the areas where the festival takes place.

Is it good news? Depends on perspective. On the one hand, some of us are young enough that the teenage years are still recent embarrassments instead of funny old stories; fewer teenagers can only reduce humiliation-by-proxy. On the other hand, who wants to be the one who denies kids fun while school’s out? And on the other other hand, if teenagers aren’t at RiverDays, then where are they?

* Not an exact quote.


3. Car insurance still too pricey; feel like busing to work?

It’ll have to stay a feeling for now. Mayor Duggan’s efforts to get more buses on the road to meet service needs haven’t been entirely in vain; there are 40 new buses. The problem is that nearly 70 have been retired, so we’ve had a net loss.

The deets: The bus deets are really the same as they have been all along: we don’t have enough buses, the ones we have break down too often, and sometimes they don’t even make it out of the lot. The new problem Duggan is facing is that only about half the trainees for drivers make it through the drug screening and driver training program

Is it good news? Well, sort of; we might be getting 40 more new buses, and the program as a whole seems to continue to enjoy funding priority. But without people to drive them, schedules will likely still be a curiosity. On the bright side, Detroiters will get to use “public transportation” as an easy punchline for some time to come.



4. Regional water authority is suburbs-Detroit cooperation, kind of.

As of last week, the Great Lakes Water Authority is now a Thing. It wasn’t easy to get here; the debate has been contentious and vocal since the city was ordered to lease its water and sewage system as part of its bankruptcy exit strategy last fall.

The deets: This one is a bit complicated. For over a century, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department has run water and sewage for Wayne and neighboring counties, including Oakland and Macomb. Now, municipalities will buy water from the GLWA, not Detroit. In exchange, the GLWA pays an annual $50 million lease to the city. This will theoretically give regional authorities more say in the water and sewage system, unglamorous and therefore critical elements of the smooth running of communities.

Is it good news? This one really depends on where you live. It’s not unlikely that water rates in neighboring counties will go up, and there are concerns that (despite provisions meant to prevent it) Detroit will use the $50 million towards its debt instead of fixing the infrastructure as planned. Detroit officials say it will help reduce some of the water crises that have made international news lately; part of the GLWA’s job is to help struggling customers. It’ll be several months before the authority is up and running, so there will hopefully be more debate in the meantime.

(Source)(Source)(From the Orr’ses mouth -- get it?)(Source)(If you really want to read the text of the execution agreement)


5. More animal rescue videos!

Who got warm fuzzies over the kitten the folks at D:Hive found in the dumpster? (I did, though I can neither confirm nor deny if I was at work at the time.) Animal rescue groups in the city are seeking reform that they say will make it easier to rescue dogs.

The deets: Currently, any dogs not surrendered by their registered owner are still considered property of said owner. They must be impounded for four business days in case an owner comes to reclaim it, which means that in some cases, rescue groups have had animals brought to them taken away in order to meet this requirement. After four days, they are transferred to the Michigan Humane Society -- only if they are evaluated as candidates for adoption. Rescue groups are seeking reform of this policy to make it not illegal to seize or keep an animal that is technically not owner-surrendered.

Is it good news? We have an unusual number of stray animals in the city, and it’s hard not to support efforts to make it easier to find them good homes. Plus, everyone loves a good Dog Realizes She’s Being Rescued viral video.


Kathy (@kathypercapita) has been a passionate Detroit advocate since moving to Michigan for City Year Detroit. She was an inaugural Challenge Detroit Fellow and has now gone native by working tangential to the auto industry. She once accurately predicted the outcome of the 2004 federal election on her Livejournal, but only about five people saw it.