The Weekender: Without power
Plus Bedrock announces Cadillac Square plans, a local restauranteur will be on Chopped and more
Living life off a portable battery (mine’s called a Jackery, and I highly recommend it) while doing the “what do I unplug to plug something else in” dance with the line from the generator isn’t fun.
There are so many tasks required just to keep going that being without power for days creates, so I haven’t been able to write as much.
People have it far worse than I do, but it’s my repeated experience that our regional power grid is anything but reliable.
This is the fourth year in a row I have dealt with significant outages. It’s early in 2023, so I just expect another one over the summer.
Now, I know there are improvements that need to be made to our power grid. In response to the Friday show where we talked about it, I got a number of thoughtful notes that the proposed $12+ a month rate hike is truly needed to upgrade our infrastructure.
Parts of it have been around for as long as a century, in some cases. Climate change is putting more stresses on things, too.
The hike last year — significantly blunted by the Michigan Public Service Commission — was nowhere near enough to cover what’s needed to fix it, I’m told.
I don’t disagree our infrastructure is old. Most of Metro Detroit’s everything is.
When you do not grow — as Metro Detroit has been basically flat in population since the 1970s, but added far more developed land — those costs keep rising but are spread among the same or fewer people. The new stuff usually goes to the newly developed land. That’s even before inflation is figured in.
Statewide, Michigan from 1980 to 2010 added 50% more developed land but only 7% more people. All that needs to be connected with infrastructure, including power. And that costs money.
So considering we are where we are, let me give some free, unsolicited advice for the future.
A major issue why there’s so much opposition by the public to rate hikes isn’t just the money.
It is because there is little trust in DTE.
If there is no trust, there can be no deal.
At least the people I talk to feel like they’re not communicated to. That there’s an obligation when power is out for days — whatever the reason — to take the arrows. To be present.
To hop on all forms of media and the CEO themself should clearly, calmly, explain what’s going, what the challenges are, and how they’re being fixed.
Here’s an example of a new U.S. House rep in North Carolina who does that well on TikTok.
And then deliver.
To most people across the region, a company owned by Wall Street should not make $265 million in quarterly profit and their CEO gets $11+ million a year in total compensation when each year when it seems the service keeps getting worse.
To the public, the power is out for days but the profits keep coming.
The proposed rate hike would raise $622 million a year, they say to fix infrastructure. This is on top of what is among the highest per-kilowatt hour rates in the Great Lakes.
It is my sense the feeling among most is that those profits should be used before they go to the public for more money. That technology should make things cheaper over time.
I know it’s more complicated with bond holders, the fact utilities are usually held by risk-averse groups, financial obligations and all of that.
That’s why I expect more calls in the coming months to try and take DTE offline as a private company and create a truly publicly owned utility.
That’s a long shot — and no panacea. It comes with its own issues, and amount of capital required that would be eye-popping.
Plus, whenever there’s a lot of money around — there are people who are determined to stick their hand in the piggy bank.
Thing is, change is here. Something has to be done before there’s more widespread adoption of electric cars — or father time grinds our grid into third-world country mode.
We’re the Motor City, but I can’t say we’re anywhere near ready for the electric switch yet.
I can’t imagine right now if I didn’t have the option of a gas-powered vehicle to go get gas for the generator; to power my battery bank; to get real heat while I sit in the car for 15 minutes to warm up.
Yes, you could find a charging station — but that tech just isn’t ready yet.
We need a better grid in Metro Detroit. For what we do now, and the future with the coming “electrification of everything.”
The question is how will we pay for it. How will we create a system where there is accountability, progress, and some trust. I don’t know the answer. We need to find it. And soon.
Let’s get to the stories.
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🍪 Food + drink around town
» Baobab Fare co-owner Hamissi Mamba will compete in an upcoming episode of Food Network’s show “Chopped.” The episode airs at 8pm on Tuesday, February 28. [Baobab Fare's Instagram post]
» The Detroit Institute of Bagels has re-opened in Detroit’s Core City. DIB is currently open only for pick-up, and the dining area will open in a few weeks.
» Great American Cookies has opened its first Michigan location in Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi. The company offers fresh baked cookies, gourmet cookies, and cookie cakes. [DBusiness]
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📰 News to know
» Plans were unveiled for a development in Cadillac Square in downtown Detroit. Details on the 1.5 million square foot development by Bedrock include:
250-280 new residential units
90,000 square feet for a market hall, a grocer, restaurants and other retail
60,000+ square feet dedicated to entertainment offerings including the National Theatre with about 2000 seats
1,500 – 1,800 parking spaces
400,000 square feet of Class A office space
On the podcast me and Devon discuss the new plan and how it might fit into the future of downtown Detroit.
» DDOT and SMART are switching apps to Token Transit. The change comes quick on February 29. I’m told only a small percentage of riders use the current app. [Daily Detroit]
» Detroit City Council Member Angela Whitfield Calloway announced a plan to reduce the property tax rate by 2 mills each year for 5 years. The city’s property tax rate would decrease from 19.9520 mills to 9.9520 mills by 2028. For context, the current average property tax rate for cities in Michigan is slightly over nine mills. This doesn’t include mills for other government entities, like schools. [Council Member Calloway's post]
» Plans take a step forward for a developer to build a five-story, multi-family project in St. Clair Shores. The St. Clair Shores Planning Commission voted 7-2 to recommend approval. It would have 40 one bedroom and two bedroom units, yoga and fitness areas, a small pool, and a rooftop lounge. [Macomb Daily]
» Macomb County announces a major environmental project to reduce combined sewer overflows into Lake St. Clair. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. [Macomb County News]
» UAW workers for Stellantis will receive profit-sharing checks as much as $14,760. [Free Press]
» Dick’s Sporting Goods is to buy Moosejaw from Walmart for an undisclosed amount. Moosejaw was founded in Madison Heights, where it is still headquartered. The deal is expected to close in March. [CNBC]
I’ve known a number of Moosejaw employees over the years and the thing that set them apart in the early days was their culture.
» Berkley officials are drafting ordinance changes regarding the retail sale of cats and dogs after concerns regarding a new pet store. The controversial “Puppygram” is closed until it receives a license from the building department. Following up on allegations of animal abuse, Berkley City Manager Matthew Baumgarten said in a statement that an animal control officer visited Puppygram multiple times and found the dogs to be “well cared for.” [Berkley City Manager]
» The Addison apartment building in Midtown Detroit is dealing with flood damage, black mold and more. [Outlier Media]
I’ll write more next week, but we’re near the max of what we can stick in an inbox reliably so we’re done for today.
Thanks to Luciano Marcon for his help with the Weekender edition of our newsletter.
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