This is Bryce Huffman with the BridgeDetroit team wishing you all a lovely holiday season. What a year it has been here in the Motor City. Over the course of a year like this, it’s easy to forget some of the big stories that shook things up in Detroit. Let’s take a look back at some stories that made 2022 a year to remember.
BridgeDetroit’s editorial team takes a much deserved rest during this time of year. In addition to our regular news coverage, we’ve taken time to reflect on our accomplishments in 2022 and to share some of our priorities for 2023. Our editors and reporters love serving the citizens in the City of Detroit. We thank you for reading and your ongoing support of our nonprofit newsroom.
Detroiters’ properties were overtaxed by about $600 million between 2010 and 2016, but many in the city say not enough has been done to repair the damage of overtaxation and property tax foreclosures. While the city has put forth some solutions to help ease the burden on Detroiters who were able to remain, property tax justice advocates say residents deserve a more vast set of reparations.
One of my favorite things to do as a reporter is get out in the community and talk to residents about what is going on in their neighborhoods, and that’s exactly what the BridgeDetroit team did this summer. We hosted town hall meetings in each council district to hear directly from the citizens about how they want the city to spend the $826 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds that the City of Detroit received. Learning from the different communities in the city informed and continues to inform our coverage.
I have spent a lot of my time with BridgeDetroit reporting on the intersection of policing, transparency, accountability and mass surveillance. So, when the city’s police department wanted to use $7 million to fund the expansion of an audio gunshot surveillance system, I had a lot of stories to write. Eventually the police got what they wanted; a new contract that would allow California-based ShotSpotter Inc. to place gunshot detection sensors over about 28 square miles. Many residents debated the technology, but all agreed that something had to be done about the number of shootings in Detroit. The police have yet to provide evidence that this system will reduce the gun violence that plagues the city, but for now, the police will know of more shootings before anyone dials 9-1-1.
In August, the city had spent $64 million on housing demolitions since it passed a $250 million blight bond in 2020. But there still isn’t a uniform plan for the vacant lots left behind. Some residents can buy lots that are adjacent to their property, but others have struggled to get access. This leaves some in Detroit wondering if tearing down houses without a plan for what comes next is the best solution.
Detroiters with disabilities demanded a solution to the issues with the city’s paratransit service. The biggest issue – the vendor, Transdev – a French company that earned a reputation in Detroit for poor customer service, including leaving blind people in the wrong locations and failing to pick up passengers who scheduled rides in advance. The City Council before its winter recess rejected a new, five-year contract with the firm to supply about 70% of those services in the city. The outcome spurred tension between some council members and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Ultimately, the mayor overrode the council by signing off on four emergency contracts to keep the service at “full strength” for the next six months.
Some of you saw a post of mine on social media where I announced I will no longer be with BridgeDetroit full-time. It’s a bittersweet ending of an era where I did the best journalistic work of my career, made friendships that will last a lifetime, and grew into the writer I want to be. Having said that, I’m not done with BridgeDetroit. I will be contributing articles and audio stories for my favorite newsroom in the world and I’ll still be here in Detroit. If you see me in city meetings, please don’t hesitate to say “hi” or, better yet, “what up doe,” because it truly means the world to me!