It's a sad Valentine's Day in Michigan
The shootings at Michigan State University break the heart of a state
Jer here, and I wish I was writing under better circumstances on this Valentine’s Day. But here we are.
Three dead, five in the hospital with critical injuries as I write this in the aftermath of shootings at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
We’re still light on details of the incident that started a little after 8p last night, but it’s become a weird mix of shock and normalcy when learning about terrible events.
Two dead at Berkey hall, one at the MSU Union.
The suspect, and I will not repeat his name here, killed himself. The motive is not known.
I grew up in the last generation who knew school before Columbine in 1999. I had an open campus for lunch. We didn’t have swipe cards or metal detectors at the doors. We didn’t have much in the way of drills except for tornados in high school.
Parents would come and drop off something we forgot, or we’d run out to the car and run back in between classes.
Now, I don’t have kids. But much of our podcast team does, and we have a member of our team who is young enough to be one of mine. In part, he wrote this last night in our team Slack channel:
“I've been hearing about mass shootings for as long as I remember. We routinely did school shooter drills in elementary school. I distinctly remember having a vigil for the Sandy Hook victims after school mass. Every name was read aloud. I wish something would be done to reduce gun violence because this should not be normal. This cycle should not be routine.”
No, it should not be routine.
We had vastly different childhoods. I had challenges at home, but school was a safe space. He and his generation were not afforded that right.
There are kids who lived through the intense trauma of Oxford — and then went to Michigan State and are dealing with it again.
I almost cried when I saw the “Oxford Strong” sweatshirt on a young man on TV who left his dorm room.
I don’t know what all the answers are. But I do know that we have a solemn responsibility to be part of the solution.
The fact is this just doesn’t happen in other countries at this frequency.
My dad was born in Canada. Newsflash: They have guns. There are people who like guns in the great white north. But it’s a different culture around it. There are more rules around it.
As much as we wish there’s one magic thing we could do, there’s not. It’s going to take multiple steps to bring back safety.
I don’t have all the answers, but there are starting points:
Right around 2000, mental health funding was gutted in Michigan and facilities closed. The level of service has not returned.
Schools have been declining in quality. We are 38th in the nation now as far as states with the best and worst school systems. Now — because of data availability I’m using some different sources — but in ‘96-’97, we were 8th or 9th depending on the metric.
Across different measures, the trend generally is before were were above the national average, and now we’re below. We know we’re underperforming in creating the talent we need for our workforce.
The jobs of today and the future require more education than the past. People with fewer options do more desperate things.
And of course, there’s work to be done around guns. Legally and culturally.
As we learn more, we need to do more.
But it’s almost impossible to have a reasonable conversation about changes as it’s become a tribal and personal identity marker, like so many issues now. I’m not optimistic much will change on that front — until younger generations get in power.
And then the changes will be sweeping. Because multiple times they have lived through the reading of the names. They lived through the drills. They lost friends. They feel this in their bones.
It’s not hard to see why generations like mine and those after me are restless. They’re having fewer children. They feel less safe. They make less than their parents did.
One thing I do know: Wagging fingers about cutting out avocado toast and “no one wants to work” isn’t the solution.*
The first step is to acknowledge the problem is structural, not spreadable.
*Federal Reserve data shows that the a major reason for labor shortages is people are retiring earlier. It’s yet to see if this trend continues.
Let’s get into the other stories. If this is your first time, consider signing up free for future notes.
My analysis after headlines is in italics.
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📰 What to know
» The Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) is adding 10 new cleaner diesel-engine buses this spring. They’ll be joining the 28 added last August, and will complete a full refresh of the fleet since 2016.
The new 40-foot coaches, manufactured by New Flyer, will have bike racks, video infotainment, USB chargers and protective barriers for driver safety. DDOT is dealing with a staffing shortage, and currently hiring 100 new transit operators to drive the buses.
At the recent state of transit event by Transit Riders United, I learned that nearby Ann Arbor’s system TheRide doesn’t have a driver shortage. Why? Because they pay $28/hour, while Detroit pays about $15 to start. I always knew —even with a new $1,000 every quarter bonus plan that Detroit drivers weren’t paid competitively — but yeah. This isn’t getting solved anytime soon unless those numbers change.
» Detroit City Council and the Detroit City Clerk want a pay raise. Currently, the annual compensation for City Council members is $89,547, with the Council President earning $94,111. City Clerk Janice Winfrey says her job has changed since she was elected in 2006, and the current salary is "insulting" compared to other nearby cities.
The elected officials are seeking:
$115,000 salary for council members
$125,000 for the Council President
$150,000 for the City Clerk
Detroit’s officials are paid below the market rate of similar-sized cities with full-time officers, according to a report. [Freep]
This is always a contentious topic because of Detroit’s intense poverty. The median household income in the city is about $35,000, so a councilmember alone would be making a little over three times what the average Detroit household does. On the other hand, talented people deserve a salary that reflects their talent or they’ll use it elsewhere.
» Who works in what industries in Metro Detroit? The 2023 State of the Region report shares that the top industries here are Health care and social assistance; Government; Manufacturing and Retail. [Detroit Regional Chamber]
» Michiganders are cutting the cable cord in big numbers. The number of households in Michigan abandoning cable TV increased in 2022. In 2009, 62% of households had cable. Now, it’s just 37.5%. According to the Michigan Public Service Commission, there are now just 1.5 million cable subscribers in Michigan. [Bridge Michigan]
This has huge impacts on the media landscape. Much of cable’s success was built on parts of your subscriber fee going to companies, whether you watched them or not. Here’s a fun fact for you. Independent news YouTuber Phil DeFranco often gets more views on his daily videos than CNN does on their nightly on-air programming. In fact, among my friends, I see links to stuff like that way more than I see larger news operations. The change is already here.
p.s. - We have a YouTube channel, too.
» The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is investing $23 million in the digital future of arts in Detroit. This includes multi-year grants to 10 Detroit arts organizations and three programs for fellowships, commissioning and technical capacity-building.
Here are some of the notable projects:
BULK Space will create the BULK Media Lab, a mobile media laboratory with portable tools and resources available to artists, in Detroit’s North End.
CultureSource will increase the technical capacity and understanding of Detroit’s arts leaders through the creation and operation of the CultureSource R&D lab, which will provide cross-disciplinary cohorts of arts leaders in Detroit with training and technical resources.
Michigan Central — a 30-acre innovation district located in Detroit’s Corktown Neighborhood that will feature world-class art —is developing an Art & Technology program.
Midtown Detroit Inc. will expand the public’s access to free and secure WiFi available at its Cultural Center and will design and pilot a new outdoor performance space on the Detroit Institute of Arts’ campus.
Motown Museum will create a “Digital Jukebox,” which will make key archival content and physical materials available online and on-site.
Sphinx Organization will foster increased participation of BIPOC performing artists in classical music by expanding the digital reach of Sphinx LEAD and SphinxConnect, the largest convening dedicated to diversity and inclusion in classical music.
This investment brings Knight’s overall commitment to Detroit’s arts sector to $50.75m. [Knight Foundation]
» Michigan Panthers RB Reggie Corbin is looking forward to playing at Ford Field this spring. Fletcher Sharpe joined me to talk to him and preview the 2023 USFL season on Monday.
» DTE Energy is moving to “time-of-day” rates next month. This means their two million customers that cover much of Metro Detroit will be paying more for their energy consumption between 3p and 7p on weekdays — but those who choose to use appliances outside of these peak hours could see savings on their monthly bills.
Consumers Energy, serving much of the rest of the lower peninsula, has already made the change.
The new rate is reportedly revenue-neutral for the utility and is part of a bigger global trend to incentivize use away from peak demand times.
The rate is designed to create between a 7% and 9% decrease in customer bills if people go along and make changes. [Detroit News] [Fox 2 Detroit]
On this Valentine’s Day, be sure to hug a loved one. That’s all I have for today.
Remember that you are somebody, and I’ll see you around town.
THANK YOU for reporting on this.....Mental health facilities are struggling to meet the demand...we need to address the issues & make changes.....Hope MSU marches at the Capital & demands some resolution..gun laws need to change & I don't mean taking away rights....just the type of weapons that are so easily available. We are the only Country with so many mass shootings...there has to be a reason & changes must be made....