Ten Things Joe Biden and Kamala Harris Should Do for Detroit

There are two reasons Detroit should have a special place in President-elect Joe Biden’s heart. First, because Detroit needs real help–now. And second is because Detroit is one of the key places that brought his victory. Detroiters voted in massive numbers for him and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and Democrats will need Detroit voters to win again. As the saying goes, you need to dance with the ones who brung you.

Here, then, are ten agenda items Biden and Harris should prioritize—giving back to a City that helped bring them into office.

1.Make plenty of vaccine doses available. Unemployment linked to COVID-19 closures have hit the poor and those in service jobs far harder than other industries. Unemployment numbers are more than double in Detroit than in Michigan. More vaccines mean it’s safer to go back to work, and Detroiters need that work and the accompanying income now. That will improve many other things mentioned here, including reducing violence.

2. Reduce the violence. We’ve seen major increases in murders and shootings. On surveys through the years, Detroiters have consistently said public safety is at the top of their agenda, but that does not translate to a desire for heavy duty police enforcement across the board. Rather than defund the police, Biden should talk about demilitarizing the police and making them responsive to the true needs of the community. Detroit citizens want tough action against the repeated violent offenders, but they want first time offenders and others diverted out of stigmatizing court process into community service, education and job training programs. For example, police regularly stop hundreds of people and arrest them for carrying illegal weapons. We need to divert these citizens into training programs that teach them about the risks of violence. We need to use conflict deflectors and de-escalators to reduce violence. Increased participation in youth sports and utilization of open community centers will also help deter violence. While many of these outlets have been closed and cancelled due to COVID restrictions, we must find ways to continue to offer such opportunities.  

3. Reduce domestic violence. Domestic violence, already high in Detroit, has increased under COVID-19, and the enforcement of parole violations for domestic violence offenders by Michigan Department of Corrections has declined.

Detroit has far fewer shelter beds than surrounding communities for survivors of domestic violence (DV) or intimate partner violence (IPV). This needs to be corrected immediately. Beyond that, survivors need to have far more access to advocates who can help them navigate the complex legal and support systems that do exist. They need more financial help to pay for things like moving to safe locations and serving Personal Protection Orders that are intended to help shield survivors from further violence.

4. Increase jobs for youth.  Detroit youth have extraordinary unemployment levels, well above the already high adult unemployment levels. This is a crisis, especially because we know that this will affect their lifetime earnings and connection to the workforce. Such high levels have led to challenges to democracy itself in other times and countries.

We need broad, youth employment programs funded by the federal government and operated by non-profits that do real work to help improve Detroit.  These jobs must create job ladders for youth so they have a future in which to invest.

5.Increase support for youth to go to college, apprenticeships, and training at community colleges. Many youth have no real way to pay for college.

We need to increase Pell Grants very substantially so youth who want higher education can get it without having a lifetime of debt, as so many do now. Apprenticeships and training in the skilled trades also often lead to good jobs with benefits and high wages—sometimes higher than college-educated jobs. These opportunities also need more funding so the youth have access to an even wider range of skills and jobs.

6.Fully fund special education. In Michigan, charter schools are implemented in a manner where they generally recruit higher performing students from the public schools, leaving the public schools with fewer higher performing students—who tend to cost less to educate. In major urban areas, charter schools proliferate and the public schools end up with a disproportionate share of special education students, which the charter schools avoid. These students cost more to educate. Because special education is not fully funded by the federal government, the costs are off loaded onto urban school districts in Michigan. These costs drive urban school districts into debt and decline. None of this makes it onto the debate stage, but this is the crucial work that needs to be completed to help Detroit and other cities like it. More federal funding is needed for special education students.

7.Invest massively in home repair. Detroit’s housing is crumbling with 63% of the housing units having at least one major health hazard. Lead paint, lack of heat, flooding, asbestos, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), structural hazards, fire hazards—these are all present across the range of homes in Detroit both for homeowners and renters.

Detroiters don’t have the money to pay for all these repairs, and Community Development Block Grant dollars continue to decrease. Money for repairs of existing homes is needed to make them safe and to protect existing residents from disease, injuries and break-ins. This will also protect them from gentrification.

8.Protect homeowners from foreclosure. This is a perennial issue in Detroit that turns into a crisis with every recession. In the Great Recession, many thousands of homes were wrenched from homeowners. Now foreclosures are high again.

Short term cash and longer term re-writing of mortgage agreements are critical to short circuiting this endless cycle of foreclosures that has already made Detroit a majority renter city. This too will protect existing homeowners from gentrification.

9.Invest heavily in weatherization. One the highest costs that Detroiters face are their utility bills, both for renters and homeowners. Leaky old houses mean huge heating bills that often take up a large part of the budgets of low and moderate income households. In neighborhoods like Southwest Detroit, where industry and traffic pollute the air, this weatherization should also include air filters to clear the air that people breathe most of the time (Americans typically spend 80% of their time in their homes).

The Obama Administration initiated a large weatherization program but the budget for that got nixed by the GOP in Congress. Now is the time to move forward with this both for the sake of everyday Detroiters and the sake of the planet.

10.Build Community Solar. Unlike many cities, Detroit has lots of open space that could be used for solar energy production. DTE, our local utility, mainly produces electricity from coal, which hurts the planet and the lungs of Detroiters. And, Michigan produces none of this coal. Another way to help Detroiters reduce their utility cost is use some of the massive amount of vacant land in the city for building community solar installations. With investment from the federal government, these could be owned by Community Development Corporations or others who could sell the solar power at cost to homeowners nearby. Investing in these small-scale production facilities would produce installer jobs for Detroiters, increase reliance on alternative sources of electricity, cut costs for citizens and make appropriate use of vacant land.

Michigan Employment Ramifications from COVID-19

Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer placed a three week stay-at-home order on the residents of Michigan to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). This order, along with other executed orders issued in the last week means restaurants are limited to takeout, casinos are shuttered and the Big 3 (Ford, GM and Chrysler-Fiat) all temporarily closed their manufacturing plants, along with hundreds of other businesses deemed non-essential. As the number of confirmed cases in Michigan continue to rise so do the concerns about economic stability. Staying home and social distancing are necessities at a time like this but businesses, and their employees, are grappling with how to stay afloat. Some have the ability to have their employees work from home, others can pay their workers for some period of time despite being closed, and many employees are left without knowing where their next paycheck will come from.

According to Bridge Magazine, the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity reported about 108,000 unemployment claims as between March 16-20, 2020. The same agency reported that the average weekly unemployment claims during the height of the Great Recession peaked at about 90,000.

To provide a better glimpse as to how many people in Michigan may be economically impacted due to this global pandemic we have provided the most recent annual employment numbers from the State for occupations and industries that have been or are most likely to be impacted.

All the employment data in this post is from the Michigan Department of Management, Technology and Budget and focuses on Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) in Michigan, which are areas with a dense population at its core and close economic ties to the surrounding areas in the region. Not all MSAs in this post had data to reflect the industries or occupations examined in this post. Additionally, some State totals may vary from the totals in the pie charts due to the fact not all MSAs had data and some areas, such in the Upper Peninsula, do not have an MSA but do still have employees in the various industries and occupations examined.

The chart below shows the number of employees in 2019 of the various industries and occupations that are arguably amongst the hardest hit due to COVID-19, whether it be from being forced to or from being overworked due to community needs (health care workers and grocery stores, who have been deemed essential employees by the governor).

In 2019, there were 672,000 people who declared manufacturing as their occupation; this was the highest number in the State of Michigan of those examined in this post; those declaring health care and social assistance as their occupation came in second at 606,900. The food preparations and serving industry came in third with 392,900 people employed in the State of Michigan.

In breaking the data down further, we look at the same industries and occupations (if data was available) for the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn MSA. For just this area, the health care and social assistance occupation had the most number of employees at 288,300 in 2019, followed by manufacturing at 257,900. In the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn MSA there were 169,500 people in the food preparation and serving industry.

The two pie charts below highlight what areas (MSAs) are likely to be impacted the most in terms of unemployment as a result of COVID-19 related closures. Food preparation and serving and manufacturing were the only two occupations with comprehensive data sets for 2019, and as both charts show, the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn MSA had the highest number of employees (this is also the most densely populated area in the State). For food preparation and serving there were 169,950 employees in the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn MSA followed by the Grand Rapids-Wyoming MSA with 45,140 employees. For manufacturing there were 257,900 employees in the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn MSA in 2019 and 119,000 in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming MSA.

As the snapshots above show, thousands of people are at risk of being unemployed for an unknown amount of time. And, as noted earlier, the number of unemployment claims continue to rise as a result of COVID-19 and the precautions being taken to “flatten the curve.” In 2019 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan was 4.1 percent, the lowest it has been since the start of the Great Recession in 2008. We certainly have a long way to go before unemployment rates reach what they were during the peak of the recession (14%) but with such a swift shift in employment for hundreds of thousands of people the possibility is certainly on the minds of many.

While the economic future of Michigan and the country is not exactly certain at this time, actions are being taken by federal and state officials to aid citizens. At the federal level officials are working to secure a coronavirus stimulus check for qualifying citizens and in Michigan Gov. Whitmer extended unemployment benefits, among other forms of support. For now, what we can do is adhere to the guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control to “flatten the curve,” which include: remaining at home-especially when sick, keeping at least six feet away from others, washing your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, covering coughs and sneezes and regularly cleaning frequently touched surfaces. Additionally, local businesses can be supported by: purchasing gift cards, donating to funds they may have created or are being supported through, ordering their products online or purchasing carry-out and writing your elected officials to find means to further support them through public policy decisions.

Southeast Michigan Children in Poverty

Those in poverty often experience food insecurity, including children. With schools across the State of Michigan closed for the next several weeks due to the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) it is important to understand which school districts have students at a higher risk of food insecurity while school is out.

Those in poverty often experience food insecurity, including children. With schools across the State of Michigan closed for the next several weeks due to the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) it is important to understand which school districts have students at a higher risk of food insecurity while school is out.

Revenue Sharing for Michigan Counties Remains Stagnant

The State of Michigan has consistently disinvested in local government by providing less and less in revenue sharing. Cities, townships, villages and counties all rely on this funding to address there budget needs. But, since 2002 the State has withheld more than $8 billion. We have discussed the loss of revenue sharing-both constitutional and statutory-for the local municipalities, however we have not explored revenue sharing at the county level. Unlike cities, townships and villages, counties do not receive constitutional revenue sharing but rather only statutory revenue sharing. The chart below shows data from the Department of Treasury, which reported on the amount of revenue sharing each county received since 2013. The 2020 number below is the expected amount each county is to receive for fiscal year 2020.

According to the State Revenue Sharing Act of 1971 counties are to receive between 21 and 25 percent of sales tax revenue at the 4 percent rate. That changed for a short period of time when in Fiscal Year 2004-05 revenue sharing payments to counties were temporarily suspended. At that time counties were required to create a reserve fund with their own general fund dollars; counties were then allowed to withdrawal funds in lieu of the state revenue sharing funds that were not being dispersed, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. Once a county exhausted its reserve fund then it could again become eligible for state revenue sharing funds. To add to that, in 2013 counties also became eligible for County Incentive Program Funds; 20 percent of a counties revenue sharing was based on eligibility in this program. These funds are allocated if a county meets certain transparency and accountability standards set by the State.

As the chart shows above, there has not been a serious increase in county revenue sharing since 2015, and between 2014 and 2015 Wayne County received the largest increase of about $10 million. This increase did not come from the County Incentive Program Funds, which accounted for about $10 million in 2014 and 2015, but from its statutory funding. In 2014 Wayne County received about $40 million in revenue sharing and in 2015 that increased to about $50 million. For Fiscal Year 2020 Wayne County it was proposed Wayne County receive about $52 million in revenue sharing, a small increase from its $50 million appropriation in 2015. In 2020 Wayne County’s revenue sharing payment is to be eligible to be $42 million from statutory funding and $10 million from the County Incentive Program. 

Another item to note is how Oakland County did not receive revenue sharing in 2013 and 2014. According to the data Oakland County was not eligible for any type of revenue sharing funding in either year. Although no specific information was available as to why, it could have been that the County used its reserve funds by 2013 and was not eligible for restored funding from the State until 2015.

One of the components of revenue sharing formulas is population, which is reflected in the amount of funding each county received in the chart above. Wayne County has the largest population, which is why it has consistently received the highest amount of funding and counties like Monroe and St. Clair or more rural with more lower populations and lower funding amounts.

Overall, the chart above show how revenue sharing for counties in Southeastern Michigan (and at a greater level, across the state) has remained stagnant for several years. The stagnation, and loss, of revenue sharing funds directly impacts that services a county provides. According to the Michigan Association of Counties, counties have lost $2.4 billion in revenue sharing funds. Additionally, in 2019, cities, townships and villages received more than $1 billion total in both constitutional and statutory revenue sharing funds and counties received $221 million in statutory funding. We will also look

DIA Seeks Millage Renewal

Throughout the Metro-Detroit region there are multiple millages being levied to support regional entities, most of which were born out of Detroit’s bankruptcy and the economic downturn. When some of these millages were originally levied, the initial intentions expressed to the public were that they were for only a specific amount of time, such as with the Detroit Institute of Authority (DIA). However, the Detroit Zoo for example passed a 0.1 millage in 2008, and then came back to voters in 2016, two years before the 10 year millage was set to expire, and asked for a renewal. The 0.1 millage renewal passed, and this public support for the Detroit Zoo continues to be levied; the cost of the Zoo millage for a home valued at $100,000 ($50,000 taxable value), is $5. We have also seen the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) continuously seek millage renewals and increases, the most recent being a 1 mill renewal for four years that was approved by voters in 2018.

Now, as the end of 2019 nears, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) recently announced it is up against the clock to put millage renewal language on the March 2020 ballot. The 10-year millage was originally approved by voters in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties in 2012, and it was stated at that time that it was a one time request, allowing the museum time to build up its endowment for long-term financial support of operations, according to news articles of 2012 and present. Now seven years into the one-time millage, DIA officials have announced a 10-year renewal is necessary to continue offering the services the public has come to expect. In order to do this the three Art Authorities in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties (which were born out of articles of incorporation crafted and approved by the corresponding Board of Commissioners) must approve the ballot language. Just last week the Wayne County Art Authority approved putting the 0.2 mill renewal on the ballot, Oakland County is expected to debate the potential millage renewal later this month and the Macomb Art Authority will do so on Dec. 3.

As discussions again begin to ramp up over whether another regional millage renewal is necessary, it is important to consider what benefits the current tax dollars levied for the DIA may have created the region. In addition to free general admission for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne residents additional benefits can be covered under three main areas: investment in schools (free field trips with bussing, teacher professional development, and curriculum development), investment in the senior population (free group visits for older adults on Thursdays with free transportation and special programs), and investment in community partnerships (Inside/Out program, partnerships with area non-profits).

The first chart below shows the amount of money invested into the schools in the region by county and by year. In total, between 2013 and 2018 392,231 students in the tri-county region have had access to the school programs now offered by the DIA, with that investment totaling about $4.3 million. Of the three counties the most amount of money has been invested into the Wayne County schools, with that total being about $2.2 million. Wayne County has the highest population of the three counties.  It should also be noted though that investment into these various programs in the counties requires participation from the residents.

When looking at the amount invested in the senior programs since 2013 that total is about $1.7 million with the total number of seniors being reached by these special programs being 32,422. The largest investment with the senior programs since the millage has been in Oakland County with a total of  $725,362 being invested into the senior population.

Finally, the area where the most investment has been made is in the community partnerships area. Between 2013 and 2018 about $5.3 million was invested. The largest investment was in Oakland County at about $2 million. In Wayne County $1.9 million was invested, and in Macomb County about $1.3 million was invested.

It appears a new trend is emerging where millages will be needed to support regional entities and interests (the Zoo, the DIA, transit) along with day-to-day services in some cities and counties. For example, in Detroit there are currently discussions about a March ballot proposal to levy additional funds to move blight removal in the city along at a much faster pace. In Macomb County residents will asked to decide if they want to pay additional taxes in order to build a new jail. So it may be even more important for taxpayers to understand what additional taxes are appearing on their tax bill and what their priorities are. In the coming weeks we will look at the additional taxes residents pay in certain communities throughout the region to shed further light on what tax bills are now looking like.

Communities Continue to Opt Out of Michigan Recreational Marijuana

In November of 2018 the State of Michigan legalized recreational marijuana. And, while recreational marijuana facilities have not made their way into any municipality yet (the state has until November 2019 to work out logistics to allow such facilities to operate), several municipalities have already opted out of allowing them. Under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, every municipality is considered to be “in,” or to allow medical marijuana facilities, unless the elected body of a municipality votes to opt out through an ordinance or resolution (an ordinance is preferred for legal matters). According to the Michigan Department of Legal and Regulatory Affairs, 48 municipalities in Southeastern Michigan have opted out, with the city of Monroe being the first in the state. Even though almost 50 municipalities in Southeastern Michigan, more than 60 in the state of Michigan, have opted out of allowing recreational marijuana, the ordinances that allowed them to opt out can be changed, allowing them to opt back in. As the map below shows, the highest concentration of opt out communities in Southeastern Michigan is in northern Macomb and St. Clair counties. In that area alone there are 12 communities that have already opted out of allowing recreational marijuana facilities. Wayne County has the highest total number of opt out communities at the county level at 13; Macomb County has the second highest number at 10.

Reasons why municipalities have opted out include wanting to wait to see how the state will regulate recreational marijuana facilities, wanting to further amend their own zoning regulations for such facilities and not wanting such facilities within the boundaries of their municipality at all.

 

Turkeys, Chickens and Ducks

As Thanksgiving approaches it is worth noting that our state has had a great success in expanding wild turkey populations across the state from near extinction in 1900 to over 200,000 birds across the state nowadays. All but the most densely populated areas of Southeastern Michigan have wild turkeys. And now they will find many cities are allowing their domesticated cousins—chickens. And at least one has added ducks.

Across Southeastern Michigan there are 30 communities that allow for residents to house chickens on their property, according to recent research conducted by the Detroit Free Press. These communities have various ways of allowing residents to have the chickens on their property. For example, in the City of Warren residents are allowed to have three hens and pay a $10 registration fee to have the chickens. In the City of Berkley though restrictions are bit tighter, with only five permits available for residents to have backyard chickens.

It is within the purview of each community as to whether or not they want to allow backyard chickens and to what extent they will be allowed. This local control comes from a rule the Michigan Agriculture Commission adopted in 2014 that essentially states not everyone can claim rights under the Right to Farm Act. The rule is intended to protect the overall goal of the Right to Farm Act, which is to protect industrial sized farmers in rural communities. The local control aspect of backyard livestock and poultry allows more suburban and urban communities to decide what is best for their community and residents. As noted above some communities only allow a certain number of permits to be distributed, while others require a fee to be paid, and only a certain number of hens to be owned by an individual. While there are 30 communities in Southeastern Michigan that allow residents to own chickens, there are 21 that have banned them. Ann Arbor recently added ducks to the list of animals backyard farmers can cultivate.

Reasons individuals want to house chickens in their backyard typically links back to wanting the chicken’s eggs. Hens can lay up to five eggs per week. Reasons communities cite for wanting to ban them include the allegation that the chickens, and their feed, may attract rats and that the hens themselves may be a noise nuisance.

Southeastern Michigan Communities Working to Fund Pension Systems

In 2017 the Protecting Local Government Retirement and Benefits Act was passed, with the goal of identifying the systems that are underfunded. According to the State of Michigan, a retirement fund is underfunded if less than 60 percent of the fund is funded, and there is an annual required contribution that is over 10 percent of governmental fund revenues. While 60 percent is the current threshold, there are discussions that eventually that number will continue to increase to 100 percent to more accurately reflect the funded status of a retirement plan. There are also thresholds that determine if a local government entity has an underfunded retiree health care system, an issue we will explore next week.

Currently, in the State of Michigan local government entities are facing, in total, over $18 billion in unfunded liabilities for retirement and retiree healthcare funds, according to the Reason Foundation. This foundation worked with the State of Michigan to develop the Protecting Local Government Retirement and Benefits Act and the reporting system that goes along with it.

The maps below provide details on what local government retirement plans are preliminary funded or underfunded in Southeastern Michigan, as determined by the Michigan Department of Treasury through implementation of the Protecting Local Government Retirement and Benefits Act. These are deemed preliminary due to the fact the new oversight body for determining funded, unfunded and waiver status must still review information submitted. Note, information is not displayed for all local government units in the region because not all units had provided their funding as of June 9, 2018. Additionally, some local government units beyond cities and townships are included in the data provided by the State, such as public safety retirement funds.

Of the 183 local government entities (this includes multiple funds for one municipality) that submitted their retirement funding information to the State for the Southeastern Michigan region, 37 of them were reported as having an underfunded status, or less than 60 percent of the retirement fund being funded. Of those that were reported as being underfunded, the majority of them had 45 percent or more the entity’s retirement system funded. However, there were five entities with 25 percent or less of the retirement system funded. These entities were:

  • Capac (St. Clair County): 24.2%
  • Highland Park General Employee fund: 2%
  • Highland Park Public Safety Fund: 3.7%
  • Highland Park Police and Fire Fund: 6.8%
  • Taylor City Housing Commission Authority: 0%

It should be noted that while the City of Taylor’s Housing Commission Authority retirement fund is underfunded, the City of Taylor’s general employee and police and fire retirement funds met State guidelines to be determined funded.

As part of the newly adopted State legislation related to retirement and retiree health care plans a Municipal Stability Board was created to review the corrective plans that underfunded entities must create and submit to the State. This board is housed under the Michigan Department of Treasury is made up of three individuals appointed by the governor. Corrective plans must be developed and submitted within 180 days of the State determining an entity’s retirement system is underfunded.

 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, while there were far more local government entities that were determined have funded retirement systems, than not, there were several that were more than 100 percent funded. The entities with the highest percentage of funding for their retirement funds were:

  • City of Ferndale (General Employees): 253%
  • City of Dearborn (Chapter 24): 239%
  • City of Pontiac (General Employees); 176%
  • City of Ypsilanti (General Employees) 126%
  • City of Grosse Pointe: 119%
  • City of Troy: 117%
  • Lima Township: 112%
  • City of Grosse Pointe Farms: 111%
  • City of Gibraltar (General Employees): 106%
  • City of Dearborn (General Employees): 104.3%
  • City of Mt. Clemens: 103%
  • Oakland County: 103%
  • City of Gibraltar (Public Safety): 102%
  • Groveland Township: 101%

Funding of retirement plans is vital for all local government entities as underfunded plans can lead to long-term financial troubles for a government entity, not excluding bankruptcy. Additionally, underfunded plans can also affect recruitment and retention of employees.

Majority of Medical Marijuana Shops Close Throughout Detroit

More than 200 medical marijuana caregiver centers have closed throughout the State of Michigan in the last several weeks, the majority of those being located in Detroit. According to data provided by the City of Detroit, as of March 23, 194 medical marijuana caregiver centers have closed in the City in 2018. Of these, 159 of medical marijuana caregiver centers closed between March 15 and March 29; these centers closed following cease and desist letters sent by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) due to the fact they didn’t apply for licensing through the state. Centers had been allowed to stay open through an emergency rule that was issued in December stating, if the business had approval from the municipality it was located in and applied for the required LARA license. According to multiple media sources, the letters sent by LARA to the 200 plus medical marijuana caregiver centers stated if the centers did not close they would be at risk of not being able to obtain future licensing and/or face consequences from law enforcement.

Currently in Detroit there is a moratorium on new medical marijuana caregiver facilities opening; it went into affect on Feb. 13 and will last for at least six months. Despite the moratorium and closings there are still medical marijuana caregiver centers in Detroit. The first map below shows where all the medical marijuana caregiver centers in Detroit (368) are or were located, including those that have been closed in 2018, and those that are still operating and/or seeking licensing (57 still operating and/or seeking approval and 98 simply seeking approval). While the centers are spread out throughout the City, there were certainly areas with higher concentrations of the centers. For example, right along the northern border of Detroit, 8 Mile Road, there were about 55 medical marijuana caregiver centers. Gratiot Avenue is also heavily lined with medical marijuana caregivers. While majority of centers, both open and closed, are located north of Detroit’s downtown, there are a handful in Detroit’s inner core.

The second map shows the 194 medical marijuana centers that have been closed in 2018. As stated, that is 194 out of 368 in the City (the 368 includes those that are operating, those that are seeking approval and those that are closed). The centers that have closed in the City are not concentrated in specific neighborhood.

There are 13 medical caregiver facilities in the City (shown in the map below) that are operating the closest to compliance as possible, within the expectations of local and state laws, because they have received zoning approval from the City of Detroit and have applied for the emergency licensing described above. According to two initiatives passed on Nov. 7, 2017 in Detroit the Zoning Board of Appeals does not have the authority to review dispensary applications and allows these businesses within 500 feet of several organizations, including religious institutions and other dispensaries. The City has since challenged these initiatives, further confusing the legal operation of medical marijuana caregiver facilities in the City, and the zoning regulations related to them.

In addition to Michigan Medical Cannabis Commission medical marijuana caregiver facilities and those that have closed, there are also the ones that are in the approval process and ones that are in the approval process and still operating. The first map below shows that there are 57 medical marijuana caregiver facilities and/or currently operating in the City of Detroit. While the City of Detroit doesn’t detail what “and/or still operating means,” it is likely related to the facilities that applied for emergency licensing to remain open during the time their new licensing through the state was being reviewed. In addition to the 57 facilities that are seeking licensing and/or still operating, there are an additional 98 medical marijuana caregiver facilities (second map below) seeking approval from the City and the State that are not operating.

In traversing through this issue for this post, it is evident there is still plenty of work to be done at the local and state level to eliminate confusion and allow medical marijuana caregiver facilities to operate legitimately. Like Detroit, other local governments are also trying to navigate through state and local regulations. For example, in Ann Arbor new zoning regulations were approved by the City Council in February. Zoning for four dispensaries in Ann Arbor was then approved, while decisions on two others were delayed. Local officials there too are still learning how to adjust.

Number of Robots Increasing, But Not Unemployment Rates

The data we’ve presented on robots in Michigan are clear. Their numbers are increasing. And the interpretation of those numbers by some economists are also clear. A recent Detroit Free Press article, on a Brookings study says that M.I.T and Boston University researchers currently estimate that the addition of one robot per 1,000 workers leads to the unemployment of up to six workers. So, unemployment might be going up as robots increase? But no.

While the number of industrial robots in use has increased throughout the State of Michigan between 2010 and 2015 the unemployment rates for the affected Metropolitan Statistical Area’s (MSA) have not. For example, in the Battle Creek MSA the Brookings Institute Analysis of International Federation of Robotics Data found there were about 17 industrial robots per 1,000 workers in 2015, this equated to a total of about 840 industrial robots in use in the Battle Creek area in 2015. Also, in 2015 the unemployment rate for the Battle Creek MSA was 5.1 and in 2010 the unemployment rate for that area was 11.7. A substantial decrease.

In the Detroit Metropolitan area, the number of industrial robots in use has nearly tripled since from 5,752 in 2010 to 15,115 in 2015. If each robot is worth more than one job as the economist projects, then that would mean a lot of unemployed people. But the unemployment rate fell from 13.9 in 2010 to 5.9 in 2015. According to the Michigan Department of Management, Technology and Budget none of the State’s 14
MSA’s experienced an increase in the unemployment rates between 2010 and 2015. So, more robots, but a decrease in unemployment? Well, maybe, but some might say we’re mixing up a macro trend—the overall
expansion of the economy since the 2008 recession—with a more micro process—the increase in the number of robots, which would not have so large an effect as to decrease overall unemployment. There still might be an effect, but at a lower level. And it might be consistent with recent findings from University of
Michigan economists who are indicating that the expansion has brought back only about 73 percent of the jobs lost in the recession.

Where are the other 27 percent? Robots and offshore, perhaps?