Suicide rate likely higher, experts say: Accuracy of state database scrutinized

posted Jun 30, 2009, 4:13 AM by Unknown user

As alarming as statistics on teen suicide in Michigan are, many experts say difficulties in determining the cause of a child's death and the way data are collected mean the problem is likely larger than it appears.  This article explores the increasing in the number of teen suicides, and the number of teens expressing suicidal thoughts and boughts of depression.
Kurt Metzger, Director of D-ACIS, is interviewed for his opinion on the accuracy of school-based data on teen suicides and other state databases that cover a variety of areas connected to the public school systems across the State of Michigan.

Data pro calls for better decisions

posted May 31, 2009, 7:30 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 1, 2009, 7:31 PM ]

MACKINAC ISLAND -- Give Kurt Metzger a problem and the demographer will dive in headfirst.
He's spent years examining the racial divide in metro Detroit.
And he's spent time analyzing the brain drain of young talent.
He helped with the new One D Scorecard, developed in conjunction with the New Economy Initiative, which was released last week during the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Leadership Conference to compare Michigan with other states from a livability standpoint.....

Launch of One D Scorecard

posted May 29, 2009, 9:45 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 1, 2009, 7:32 PM ]

D-ACIS staff have been working diligently over the last several months to develop neighborhood indicators and have collaborated with One D (and the New Economy Initiative) on their latest product, the One D Regional Scorecard -  unveiled by Edsel Ford at the Mackinac Policy Conference today (May 29, 2009). It is a comparative analysis of Metro Detroit (the 9-county CSA) and the other 53 largest metropolitan areas in the country across five key sectors: economic prosperity, education preparedness, transit, quality of life and race relations. Seventy-five datasets (CSA-, MSA- and State-based) are provided in Excel format. D-ACIS provided data, technical assistance, and research analysis for the project. Please take a look.

No-confidence vote on voter rolls

posted Apr 27, 2009, 2:47 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 1, 2009, 7:33 PM ]
April 7, 2009

No-confidence vote on voter rolls


Detroit election officials confirmed Monday what an analysis of census and population records shows: The city has more registered voters than it has residents over the voting age of 18.

But Detroit is doing nothing wrong. The problem? The 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which took effect in 1995, requires local officials to wait two federal election cycles before purging their voter rolls. That means that all cities carry ineligible voters each year.

Kurt Metzger -- director of the Detroit Area Community Information System, the city's newest data center -- did the new analysis using 2000 U.S. Census data, SEMCOG population figures and the age distribution report in the 2007 American Community Survey.

He estimates that Detroit's population is about 853,000, which includes 603,000 people over 18 -- 30,000 fewer than the city reported as its total of registered voters.

"Even if you had 100% voter registration, which we know we don't have, you could not have numbers that high," he said. "Nationally, 67.6% of Americans are registered to vote. For African Americans, it's 60.9%."

Metzger estimates that Detroit's voter registration is closer to 422,000.

"He's right," Daniel Baxter, director of elections in Detroit said Monday -- but not about the number.

Following, amending the law

Baxter said that a city mailing in 2005 resulted in 47,000 cards returned as undeliverable.

After federal elections in 2006 and 2008, those names were removed from the rolls. Baxter said that the city will report its voter registration next month at about 575,000.

But not being able to remove the names sooner meant that, for two election cycles, city officials had to report registration higher than they knew it was.

Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey said her main second-term initiative is to work with Congress to amend the law.

"Our rolls are very clean, but because of NVRA, we can only purge after two federal elections," she said. "The problem is when people ask us for our voter files, we have to give them those numbers, including those we know are to be canceled. So when those guys run those statistics, it may appear that our files are bloated."

Until there is an amendment, Winfrey said, "I'm following the letter of the law."

Detroit has purged 128,000 voters since 2006.

Fairness and accuracy

Metzger, who began his career in 1975 with the U.S. Census Bureau and has worked since for Wayne State University and United Way of Southeastern Michigan, said his findings also call into question a state report of 98% voter registration for last November's election.

If the state total is "an accumulation of local government reporting their number of registered voters, then the problems pointed out in Detroit are replicated in larger cities across Michigan," he said.

The problems always have been about fairness and accuracy. The national law was changed to prevent disenfranchisement. But, before the law, cities could purge their rolls every year. And Detroit did.

Voter registration is always a moving target. Cities purge records when people leave or die but when they don't respond, the wait is longer.

As Detroit prepares for its second of four city elections this year, one would hope to get a true sense of who is electing whom.

The law should be amended so cities don't have to wait four years to get a glimpse of the big picture -- and how to make it better.


Pancakes and Politics Detroit News Online

posted Apr 27, 2009, 2:32 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 1, 2009, 7:33 PM ]

Detroit News Online    
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Detroit schools, transit among main dishes at 'Pancakes and Politics'
Catherine Jun / The Detroit News

Detroit -- The city of Detroit can't turn around without better schools and a public transportation system.

That was the consensus among four political and policy heavyweights who gathered for "Pancakes and Politics," a breakfast forum at the Detroit Athletic Club this morning.

Panelists included Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers; Peter Karmanos Jr., Chairman and CEO of Compuware Corp.; Kurt Metzger, director of Detroit Area Community Information System; and Phil Power, president of the Center for Michigan.

The headlining conversation topics for the event were race and the regional economy. But the attendees pointed to two specific items -- the failing Detroit Public Schools district and the lack of an efficient mass transit system -- as problems hampering the revitalization of the city.

"Racism isn't keeping us down," Metzger said. "It's the fact that we have a culture that doesn't value education."

Karmanos, himself the product of Detroit Public Schools, blamed the district's decline on out-migration from the city, lack of tax funding and the teacher's union.

"The fact of the matter is, when I went to Detroit Public Schools, when it was the best school district ... teachers weren't part of the union. Today, every teacher is part of the union."

During the hour-long discussion, Power emphasized that a mass transit system was the major hurdle to drawing people back to Detroit.

"It inhibits people from getting from place to place, getting to work, going shopping," Power said.

While Conyers agreed in the merits of such a system, she said the responsibility to bring it online is shared by the region.

"It can't be just Detroiters who want mass transit," Conyers said.

All of the panelists agreed that efforts to bring about positive changes in the city and the region have been hampered by divisive politics.

Cobo Hall was a case in point.

Conyers, who has verbally sparred with Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson in the press over the fate of Cobo Hall, said: "I did reach out to him again, and he said he's not coming back to the table, and I don't think that's the spirit of cooperation."

The discussion took a break from heftier issues when Karmanos fielded an anonymous question from one of the forum's attendees, who were primarily local business and political leaders. The question: How was Kwame Kilpatrick doing? The former mayor, who left disgraced in a text-messaging scandal, is now working for a Compuware subsidiary in Texas.

"He's learning. He's doing a very, very, very good job," Karmanos said. "I saw him in our lunchroom yesterday and said hello." (313) 222-2019
Find this article at:

Panelists tackle schools, politics, mass transit

posted Apr 27, 2009, 2:27 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 1, 2009, 7:35 PM ]

2:08 pm, April 23, 2009

Panelists tackle schools, politics, mass transit at breakfast forum

Better schools, regional cooperation and regional mass transit — those were the topics that dominated Thursday morning’s Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes & Politics forum, the second of the 2009 season.

The topics of discussion were race, the economy and the region.

Panelists included Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers; Compuware Corp. Chairman and CEO Peter Karmanos Jr.; Phil Power, former newspaper publisher and president of The Center for Michigan; and demographer Kurt Metzger, director of the Detroit Area Community Information System.

Karmanos, a graduate of the Detroit Public Schools, said he’d moved his family out of the city in the 1970s, when his then-first-grade son who couldn’t yet read was given an A in reading because he was the best student in class.

Karmanos said he favors a consolidated metro area school district.

“We have 110 school districts in the metro area… why don’t we consolidate those school systems for the metro area?” he said. “Instead of talking about regionalism, let’s have some, and let’s start with education.”

Power and Metzger said they favor a ward system for the Detroit City Council over the current at-large system.

Conyers said she favors term limits, saying council needs fresh faces.

Power said that in a series of community conversations his organization has held, regional transit has emerged over and over as the top issue for young people.

Conyers advocated business development in the city, saying Detroit’s abandoned buildings could house retail outlets — like a development she has frequented as a visitor to Reading, Penn. — that would increase the city’s viability as a destination.

The council president said she feels that a federal earmark could provide for the expansion of Detroit’s Cobo Center, but said she felt that state and regional leaders had adopted an uncompromising stance.

Conyers questioned why Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson is applauded for being fiercely protective of his constituents’ interests, while Conyers said she is denigrated for standing up for Detroiters.

Metzger suggested that to advance regionalism and economic improvement in the city, politicians should “get out of the way, and let the people who want to solve these issues (get it done). Politics are a smokescreen.”

One question from an audience member, directed to Karmanos, asked how former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was faring in his new role as an account executive at Covisint, a Compuware business unit.

Karmanos said Kilpatrick was doing a fine job.

“Some of the people he works for are in this room, and I think they would tell you he’s a breath of fresh air,” he said.
© 2009 Crain Communications Inc.

Pancakes and Politics

posted Apr 27, 2009, 2:06 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 1, 2009, 7:35 PM ]

April 23, 2009

Conyers, Karmanos wrangle over issues

Participants bemoan lack of cooperation among suburbs, city


The topic was “Economy, Regionalism and Race Relations,” but in metro Detroit this morning, none was in very good shape.

The panelists at the Pancakes and Politics breakfast were an odd conglomeration of business and politics: Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers; Peter Karmanos, Compuware founder and new boss to Kwame Kilpatrick; think tank founder Phil Power and demographer Kurt Metzger.

They were all frustrated that better cooperation among regional leaders seems to be an elusive goal that is harming not only Detroit, but the rest of the region and the state.

“The Center for Michigan is holding a series of community conversations and we’ve talked to 3,500 people so far in the state,” Power said. “Uniformly people tell us we have to recognize that this is an entire region. And if Detroit puts a moat around the city, it hurts everyone.”

The dispute over ownership and operations of Cobo Hall was a tier one topic at the breakfast and Conyers said the blame for the death of the deal lies with Oakland County officials and Gov. Jennifer Granholm. She said the token $20-million payment a regional authority would have paid the city for Cobo was unacceptable.

“We don’t want any tokens, because I don’t consider myself a token,” she said. “Stimulus money is available for convention centers. The problem is the governor doesn’t want to give us money to use for Cobo Hall.”

Conyers also said she believes abandoned buildings in the city should be converted to outlet stores and that term limits should be instituted for the Detroit City Council, mayor and school board.

“If you continue to have the same people, you never get new people with creative ideas,” she said.

Karmanos said the sorry state of the city’s schools is one of the failures that is fueling the lack of regionalism in the metro area.

“When I went to school in Detroit, it was one of the best districts in the nation and the teachers weren’t part of the union,” he said. “Today, everyone is in the union and we uniformly have poor schools throughout the region.”

The lack of progress being made on mass transit in metro Detroit is one of the biggest signs that regionalism has been unsuccessful, Metzger said.

“We’ve got to get light rail just up to West Grand Boulevard first,” he said, but the economy is hampering many redevelopment efforts.

“Detroit can be the laboratory for radical redevelopment,” he said. “But. we have suburbs against suburbs, nobody has any money and financially we’re all suffering.”

As for Kilpatrick, Karmanos said he's doing well and that coworkers have described him as "a breath of fresh air."

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states cannot impose term limits on their members of Congress. In 1992, Michigan voters passed an amendment to the state Constitution to limit the terms of governor, secretary of state, attorney general and state legislators.

Politics slowing down regional revival efforts

posted Apr 27, 2009, 1:31 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 1, 2009, 7:40 PM ]

The Oakland Press (, Serving Oakland County


Politics slowing down regional revival efforts

Friday, April 24, 2009

Of The Oakland Press

Petty politics are blocking the way to a regional revival.

“I just find that politics in this region are so divisive. No offense, but I would just love it if the politicians would get out of the way and let the people who want to solve the issues — solve the issues,” said Kurt Metzger, director of the Detroit Area Community Information System, during a panel discussion on regionalism sponsored by the Michigan Chronicle newspaper and the Detroit Athletic Club.

“We just spend too much time on issues that don’t matter,” Metzger said.

“It’s just a killer day in a day out. “People who are trying to do the work and make this region successful and make this city successful are just being pushed to the side,” said Metzger, who is a long-time student of the region’s development and demographics.

The lack of an effective regional organization only feeds the negative stereotypes about Detroit and its racial divisions and conflicts.

“It portrays us nationally as very divisive,” he said.

Phil Power, the former publisher of the Hometown Newspapers who now heads a think tank called the Center For Michigan, also believes that while the divided local political structure benefits some local politicians, it has effectively blocked improvements such as investment in mass transit, and better education.

“This region has lost hundreds of millions of dollars over the years,” noted Power, because of its inability to create a single regional transportation authority.

“It makes absolutely no sense to have separate bus systems,” he said.

“They hinder you. They hinder your constituents. They hinder the region and makes everybody worse off,” he said.

“This is one region and we ought to recognize that,” said Peter Karmanos Jr., the chairman and chief executive officer of Compuware Inc., who expressed frustration over the fact the conversation about metropolitan area never seems to change or evolve.

Metzger, however, said divisions also mask the region’s larger problems.

“We have a culture that doesn’t value education,” he said.

“That has to change for the region to revive.”

The discussion was sparked in part by the recent conflict over Cobo Center, the home of the North American International Auto Show.

Monica Conyers, the president of the Detroit City Council, effectively blocked plans that would have turned over Cobo Center to a regional authority so it could be updated.

The plan had the support of Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Detroit Mayor Ken Cockerel Jr. and the top officials in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Conyers, who was also on the “Pancake and Politics” panel, said she believed she did the right thing when she blocked the deal.

There are other ways to fix Cobo Center, she said. Granholm, however, has refused to commit federal stimulus money for Cobo.

“If any project is shovel-ready, this is it. It’s been studied to death,” she said.

The fate of the auto show, however, never came up.

Conyers, though, held out an olive branch to the suburbs, saying both sides of Eight Mile have

to work together and collaborate for projects to succeed.

She also said she respected Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and didn’t necessarily consider him a foe.

“At the end of the day, we both have the same thing in mind and that is he’s fighting for what he thinks his residents need and I’m fighting for what my residents need,” she said.

“But when I stick up for his residents, it’s OK. But when I stick up for my residents, it’s not OK,” said Conyers.

“I don’t accept what the media says about me,” she said.


© 2009, a Journal Register Property

1-8 of 8