The new year brings a financially born again city, a fledgling 45-block entertainment district, a statewide vote that could mean $300 million to public schools, and possible changes to same-sex marriage laws and the Affordable Care Act.
The next 12 months will be Detroit’s first full year out of bankruptcy as the city tries to pinch costs and raise revenues to realize $1.7 billion in reinvestment initiatives over the next decade.
In 2015 residents will learn more about the Ilitch entertainment group’s 45-block district that will feature homes, shops and a hockey arena, and how Dan Gilbert, the other prince of the city, will develop the area south of there.
In May a statewide vote to raise the sales tax from 6 percent to 7 percent would boost funding of public schools by $300 million, and allow money from a new fuel tax to be used solely for road and bridge repair.
Same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act — Michigan is a focus of both — could be affected by the U.S. Supreme Court as it decides whether to get involved in the gay marriage issue and hears a challenge to federal subsidies received by low-and middle-income people who buy health insurance through the federal exchange.
Here are more details about those developments and other stories Metro Detroiters will be hearing a lot more about during 2015.
The city of Detroit embarks on a new chapter this year following its successful emergence in December from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
Gov. Rick Snyder hailed Detroit’s exit from receivership as a fresh start for the city that was unable to pay its bills or deliver basic services before its historic Chapter 9 filing in July 2013.
Detroit, however, isn’t yet completely free to operate on its own. The city will remain under several layers of financial oversight to ensure it does not slide back into insolvency.
Mayor Mike Duggan has stressed that the reinvestment funding for Detroit over the next decade isn’t a guarantee. Rather, the city must hit all of its budget targets and successfully raise revenue and reduce costs in multiple areas over the 10-year period to realize the funding anticipated to restructure and improve services.
Expect to learn in more detail this year about the Ilitch entertainment group’s plans for a 45-block district that will include residential, retail, bars, restaurants and a new hockey arena. Those plans will determine the fate of several historic buildings, including two large structures that stand near the new arena.
Downtown development impresario Dan Gilbert, meanwhile, is expected to put more meat on the bones of his vision for the area south of Ilitch’s entertainment empire. Gilbert has acquired many buildings along and just off Woodward, some of which already have been rehabbed and are rented, others whose renaissance is underway or planned as businesses are lured to an area that is steadily drawing new breath.
Work on the $140 million M-1 light rail streetcar line, which broke ground in mid-2013, will continue through 2015 — a minor annoyance for Woodward drivers. With its 12 stops, M-1 is integral to the Gilbert and Ilitch development areas, and north. Businesses already have opened along the route, once largely bereft of shops and offices, and more are likely to follow.
The future of Detroit’s riverfront and the Joe Louis Arena, whose main tenant, the Red Wings, will move to the new arena in 2017, continues to be murky. But since some coveted riverfront land went to city creditors during Detroit bankruptcy, development is expected there.
The historic Corktown neighborhood west of downtown should continue to grow and thrive in 2015, spurred by some brave entrepreneurs who opened shops, restaurants and wine and liquor specialty places in recent years. Their success, along with the promised redevelopment of the old Tiger Stadium property, is expected to keep that area’s mojo working in the coming year and beyond.
About $1.2 billion in extra annual road repair funding and big education policy decisions hang in the balance in the new year.
In May, statewide voters will decide whether to approve a constitutional ballot issue that would raise the sales tax to 7 percent from 6 percent, ensuring public schools would receive an estimated $300 million more a year in funding and local governments about $95 million, so they wouldn’t lose money as the sales tax on motor fuel is eliminated.
Snyder also has indicated he wants to explore how to “improve all schools in Detroit — from traditional public schools to charter academies to Detroit schools taken over by the Education Achievement Authority. As the governor first told The Detroit News, he wants Duggan, City Council members and other community leaders involved in talks about academics and the 47,238-student district, which remains mired in a $127 million operating deficit.
The issue is considered urgent, since an 18-month term for Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Jack Martin is nearing its completion in January.
The governor also has expressed interest in reviewing the state’s renewable energy mandate requiring utilities to generate at least 10 percent of electricity from wind, solar and other alternative energy sources by this year. Environmentalists want to increase the standard, but some business groups argue that alternative energy sources still don’t pay for themselves and aren’t as reliable as coal and natural gas.
Washington meets Michigan
Federal decisions expected this year will affect Michiganians on issues ranging from transportation to health care to same-sex marriage. A challenge to the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage will dominate the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 calendar.
By a one-vote margin in 2012, the High Court saved the federal health care law from a constitutional challenge. But the law faces another critical test: Does the federal subsidy apply to millions of low- and middle-income individuals, including those in Michigan, who buy health insurance through the federal exchange?
On Jan. 9, the nine justices are scheduled to decide whether they want to hear an appeal of a three-judge Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decision upholding bans on gay marriage in Michigan and three other states.
Other decisions also loom. Michigan’s congressional delegation will continue to press for $250 million from the Obama administration to fund a customs plaza on the U.S. side of a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit.
The lobbying will continue as the delegation loses more than a century of experience and clout with the retirements of influential lawmakers: Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Detroit as well as Reps. John Dingell, D-Dearborn; Dave Camp, R-Midland; and Mike Rogers, R-Howell.
The North American International Auto Show opens to the automotive press on Jan. 12 and to the public Jan. 17, and will feature at least 45 global debuts. It follows the best sales for the U.S. auto industry in nearly a decade.
American consumers are expected to continue driving into dealerships in 2015 — but at a slower pace than in recent years.
Industry analysts speculate car and truck sales could increase in 2015 to about 17 million, up 3 percent, or 500,000, from 2014 — marking the slowest growth since the industry started clawing its way back from a 21.2 percent decline in 2009.
Hot sellers are expected to continue to be crossover and sport utility vehicles and pickups, as new vehicles are introduced and gas prices are anticipated to stay around $2 per gallon.
Even with low gas prices, expect automakers to introduce new, fuel-efficient technologies to help improve their vehicles’ mileage to meet the government’s 2017-25 Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards of 54.5 mpg in the next decade.
The year ahead in entertainment promises many blockbuster acts and exhibits, some exclusive to Detroit.
Several classic musical acts will be bringing their live shows to metro Detroit for the first time in a long time — and given the age of most involved it could of course be the last time.
Among them are Garth Brooks and Barry Manilow in Feburary, Bob Seger in March and the pop princesses: Ariana Grande and Meghan Trainor in March, and Taylor Swift and Lana Del Rey in May.
February will also be enlivened by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Tchaikovsky Festival, in what the DSO hopes will be a repeat of the success of last year’s Beethoven Festival. Then in March, the DSO celebrates the contributions of African-Americans to classical music.
The big excitement on the art scene is the Detroit Institute of Arts’ much-anticipated “Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit” exhibit, which runs March 15-July 12, while Cranbrook will feature a “Jewelry of Harry Bertoia” exhibit starting in March, highlighting one of its iconic artists.
The Tigers will be World Series contenders, even if they don’t re-sign Max Scherzer. Look for another exciting division race as the Tigers take aim at their fifth straight AL Central title. Yoenis Cespedes should be an improved hitter as he learns from Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.
Let’s say the Lions’ defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh, walks — which he is likely to do. This puts the pressure on General Manager Martin Mayhew to keep the Lions defense one of the NFL’s best.
Coach Brady Hoke and athletic director Dave Brandon are gone from the University of Michigan — and critics say that’s precisely what the UM football program needed. Jim Harbaugh, who once quarterbacked the Wolverines under legendary coach Bo Schembechler, should breathe new life into the program.
Meanwhile, in East Lansing, Michigan State has built a solid foundation — one it never enjoyed in previous regimes during decades of turbulent football. Coach Mark Dantonio will continue his plug-and-play style, where new faces replace the old and do just fine. And maybe two heads, with Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel, replacing Pat Narduzzi as defensive coordinator, is better than one.
Contributors: Louis Aguilar, Richard Burr, Karen Bouffard, Francis X. Donnelly, Christine Ferretti, Terry Foster, Gary Heinlein, Chad Livengood, Michael Wayland and Susan Whitall.