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Ahead of President Joe Biden’s Tuesday visit, several large rallies were held in Dearborn to call for the end of violence against Palestinians and U.S. military aid to Israel. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, whose grandmother lives in the West Bank, gave a speech at the protest and also had a heated exchange with Biden soon after Air Force One landed. He later praised her “passion” during a speech at a Ford Motor Co. plant. 

And we bring you a look at a campaign to change Michigan law to allow undocumented individuals to get driver's licenses, plus two post-mortems on ambitious neighborhood projects in Detroit. The Dig’s Aaron Mondry spoke to the main developers of the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project about why it fell short of expectations, and he also read with interest a Metro Times expose about the downfall of Recovery Park, a commercial farming operation that hoped to hire people experiencing barriers to employment. Why did these big, foundation-fueled projects fizzle?

Read on for that + more news. 

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DETROIT IN FIVE 

Marching for Palestine: As deadly fighting in the latest Israel-Palestine crisis continues, activists in Dearborn, which has the largest Arab American population by percentage in the U.S., organized several rallies ahead of Biden’s visit to Ford Motor Co.’s electric vehicle plant in Dearborn. On Sunday, over 1,000 people marched along Michigan Avenue demanding an end to violence against Palestinians. Tlaib, who is of Palestinian descent, spoke at one protest, where she criticized U.S. military aid to Israel and had a heated exchange with Biden on the tarmac after Air Force One landed in Michigan. During his visit to the plant, Biden praised Tlaib’s passion and promised to do “everything” he can to keep her grandmother, who lives in the West Bank, safe. (MLive, Freep, New York Times, Michigan Advance)

Will it recover? As a returning citizen with a history of drug addiction, Gary Wozniak founded Recovery Park on Detroit’s east side with big ambitions to start a commercial farming operation in the city that would hire people experiencing barriers to employment similar to his own. But several years after raising funds, acquiring land and having some initial success that saw the farm hire and supply produce to Detroit restaurants — all of which garnered national publicity — Recovery Park appears to be dead. An audit of the company’s finances revealed a loss of over $1 million in 2019 alone, and several people involved in the project are speaking out against Wozniak and his mismanagement of the company. (Metro Times)

Rocketing into the office: Rocket Companies, the largest employer in the city of Detroit, has set June 7 as the day that it will start bringing employees back to its offices. Nearly all of the firm's workforce has been working from home since the start of the pandemic. The company hasn’t yet said how many of its 19,000 employees will return or what kinds of protocols will be in place. (Freep, Crain’s Detroit)


Back to the office? By @OneRepublic via giphy

Youth in planning: The city presented its Warrendale-Cody Rouge framework plan during a virtual meeting last night. It’s supported with $7.4 million in public and philanthropic investment that will go towards facade improvements for businesses along West Warren, a mural program, streetscape improvements (with protected bike lanes), park upgrades and an open-air plaza. The process, which took nearly two years, distinguished itself from other framework plans by incorporating significant input from youth — the neighborhoods have the second-most children in the city behind Southwest Detroit. (Detroit News)

A different kind of dining: Ready to venture into a restaurant after a long hiatus? Well, things might be a little different. Here are some of the changes you can expect: low to no contact ordering, longer waits, reservations and higher prices, to name a few. (Eater Detroit)

Let the good times roll: While known as the Motor City, Detroit has a rich bike history. Interest in cycling grew immensely during the pandemic, with sales at some Detroit bike shops increasing more than 600%. An essential medium for fostering that interest is through bike clubs, and there are several popular ones in the city. (Model D)

 

THE COUNT 

⬇️ Michigan case counts, positivity, hospitalizations and deaths are all down over the past 14 days in Michigan

💉 56.8% of Michiganders ages and at least 32.6% of Detroiters 16 and up have received at least one vaccine shot according to state data. (The statewide rate incorporates federal data not factored into the city total.)

Teasing the easing: Last month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tied easing of restrictions to Michigan’s vaccination rate. The CDC subsequently said vaccinated individuals could be maskless in most settings and the state followed suit. Now, the governor’s office is teasing further changes to Michigan’s “Vacc to Normal” plan -- reportedly being announced this week -- with a spokesperson telling MLive to expect “even greater steps to get back to normal now that a majority of Michiganders have received their vaccine.” Whitmer is facing plenty of pressure to move quicker from Michigan’s business community, especially as the rate of vaccinations slows and other states reopen at a faster pace. (MLive, Bridge)

Vacc it up: The eight-week vaccination center at Ford Field ended Monday. While the state is calling the effort a “success,” it fell about 60,000 doses short of its goal of vaccinating 335,000 people. Just 7% of nearly 275,000 shots administered at the site were given to Detroit residents. At about 33%, Detroit still has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state. Door-to-door efforts at promoting vaccines are underway across the city, including in Southwest Detroit, where canvassers have to contend with disinformation, language barriers and a lack of trust. Statewide, officials are looking to vaccinate the teenage population through both school clinics and TikTok outreach. (Michigan Advance, Detroit News, Bridge Detroit, Bridge)

 

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SPOTLIGHT

 

Is Michigan ready for driver’s license reform for undocumented immigrants?

 

By Aaron Mondry

 
This month, the Drive SAFE (Safety, Access, Freedom, and the Economy) bills were introduced in the Michigan Legislature. The package of bills would make it easier to get a driver’s license by eliminating the “legal presence” requirement, which necessitates applicants to prove U.S. citizenship or immigration status and has been in place since 2008. 

Undocumented people would benefit greatly from the bills, but even U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants sometimes struggle to obtain the necessary paperwork.

The Drive Michigan Forward Coalition, which is made up of immigrants and 10 allied organizations like the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and Michigan League for Public Policy, has been advocating for reform to Michigan’s driver’s license requirements for years. It’s in the midst of a week of action to inform the public and encourage Michigan Legislators to vote for the bills.

To learn more, we spoke with (former Detour fellow) Gabriela Santiago-Romero, policy and research director for We The People Michigan.

"So many of us don't think about driver’s licenses; we take them for granted until we don't have them," she said. "This is keeping people from opportunities and basic services, access to healthcare, mobility. It’s terrifying to hear stories about undocumented families with sick children who can’t drive them to the hospital or get prescription medicine."
Read more
 

THE DIG

 

The Fitzgerald Revitalization Project is winding down. Why did it fall short of expectations?

 

By Aaron Mondry


Courtesy Century Partners

When the Fitzgerald Revitalization Project was announced in 2017, it came with a great deal of fanfare. Too much, perhaps. 

The project to uplift the northwest Detroit neighborhood has accomplished a lot in that time. But the centerpiece of the plan — renovating over 100 homes in two years — has fallen well short of its considerable ambitions. What happened?

Read more
 

Wriiten by Aaron, edited by NIna
 

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