Spotlight on Detroit’s recent blackout and the much bigger problem of ‘limited lighting’ available to Detroit residents on a regular basis.
The Public Lighting Authority at firstname.lastname@example.org
Detroit is not a stranger to limited street lights on inner city roadways and in many inner city neighborhoods. But many were not expecting to find themselves without any electrical power this past Tuesday. On the July 28th day of July, local media coverage reported that a power outage left thousands without electricity. This unexpected outage hit close to home for this examiner contributor; as a resident of Detroit’s inner city I found myself among the many left in the dark..
DTE Energy reported that the power outage effected roughly 5,000 home and business owners in the University District, near Six Mile Road, and the area east of Livernois Avenue. For those unfamiliar with Detroit’s vicinity, Livernois Avenue is a major thoroughfare and section line road on the west side of Metro Detroit in the US state of Michigan.
A cable failure is why Detroiters went many hours without electricity, but one must wonder what is behind the long running problem of limited lighting in the City of Detroit. If you aren’t aware of how bad the problem is please click on the featured video of a recent drive through Detroit. The short video documents plenty of lighting in tourist trendy areas but little to no street lighting in the inner city communities.
There have been several recent safety meetings open to the public where community leaders and law enforcement officers assured those in attendance that plans were in place to install more lighting. I personally attended two such meetings in June and as an examiner contributor I personally haven’t seen any improvements in service.
If you live in Detroit and wonder who to contact for information research led me to the Public Lighting Authority. The good news is that if you are a concerned citizen you can contact them through Facebook and Twitter.
Below I have included some information from the official website of the Public Lighting Authority.
What is the Public Lighting Authority?
The Public Lighting Authority of Detroit (PLA) is an independent authority that was created to repair and modernize public lighting in the City of Detroit to produce a reliable system that will last well into the future.
When was the Public Lighting Authority created?
Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation in December 2012 to allow lighting authorities to be created in Michigan cities. The Detroit City Council voted 6-3 on February 6, 2013 to approve the PLA’s articles of incorporation.
Why was the Public Lighting Authority created?
Detroit’s street lighting system has been in increasingly serious disrepair for some time, with minimal infrastructure investment having been made for at least the last 20 years. Approximately sixty percent of the lights in the system are not working for reasons that include copper theft, bulb outages, vandalism, obsolete technology, lack of repair staff and a lack of funds to pay for repairs. The PLA was created to develop and implement a plan to get the system operating effectively and to provide a vehicle to secure the funds needed to make these badly needed improvements to Detroit’s public lighting system.
Who runs the Public Lighting Authority?
The PLA is run by a five-member board, all of whom are Detroit residents. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit City Council each appointed two board members and the fifth member was picked by council from a list of candidates provided by the mayor. Current members of the PLA board are Dr. Lorna Thomas, who serves as chair; Eva Garza Dewaelsche, vice chair; David Jones, secretary and Nicole Spieles.
The CEO is Odis Jones, a Detroit native who has extensive experience in managing urban initiatives. Prior to returning to Detroit to direct the PLA, Jones served as Economic Development Director for the City of Cincinnati. Before his work in Cincinnati, he served as Director of Urban & Site Development for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and before that was President of the Columbus, Ohio Urban Growth Corporation. Jones also has served as City Manager for several cities within the Midwest.
How is the PLA funded?
The legislation that created the authority allocated $12.5 million annually from the City’s Utility Users Tax, which originally was levied to pay for public safety activities. That source was chosen because the marketability of the bonds required a secured revenue stream and public lighting is clearly an important part of insuring public safety. The law also allocated a portion of the City income tax to public safety to ensure that funding for the Police Department remains whole.
This dedicated revenue stream and its independent status enabled the PLA to sell $185 million in bonds to fund the relighting of the city. The original goal was to sell $160 million worth of bonds, but a very favorable interest rate of 4.53 percent enabled the authority to sell $185 million in bonds, providing funds for an additional 10,000 lights, meaning a total of 65,000 lights will be installed.
What specifically does the Public Lighting Authority do with this money?
The funds are devoted exclusively to fixing all aspects of the street lighting system, including the poles, lights and wiring.
What can the Public Lighting Authority do that the Detroit Public Lighting Department can’t?
Because of the City’s weak financial condition, it is not able to issue bonds to generate the funds needed to repair and upgrade public lighting facilities. The PLA, as a state-created authority with its own independent revenue stream, can issue bonds to finance lighting improvements in the City.
How will the Public Lighting Authority pay for the additional lights?
Currently, approximately 85 percent of the city’s street lights are wired overhead, with 15 percent wired underground. The original PLA plan called for that percentage to change to 73 percent overhead and 27 percent underground, a move which would have cost $30 million. The board revised this plan in January and decided to spend more money on lights and less money on converting overhead wiring to underground wiring. The $30 million saved by that decision is being used to pay for the additional lights.
What is the PLA doing to deal with the threat of copper theft that has left so many lights not working?
One of the main reasons for theft was that the old “Christmas Tree light” method of wiring, in which if one light goes out all the lights in a circuit go out, is no longer being used. That wiring method required a copper coil at the base of each pole, which was easily stolen by scrappers. The new circuits, in which each light is independent, do not require a copper coil at the base of the pole. That combined with the fact that 85 percent of the wiring will be overhead, will cut down on opportunities for copper theft.
When will work be finished?
The PLA’s plan to relight the city puts all of the neighborhood and collector streets first. The neighborhoods and collector streets will be completed by the end of 2015. The eight major roads will be completed by the end of 2016. The eight major roads are:
Is the PLA replacing the Public Lighting Department? If not, how will they divide their responsibilities?
As repairs are made to the public street lighting system, the PLA will take over operation of the Public Lighting Department as it relates to street lights. The system will remain the property of the City of Detroit.
How do I reach the Public Lighting Authority?
The PLA can be reached at email@example.com, by calling (313) 324-8290, on Twitter and on Facebook.
Well, after watching the featured video the public should be assured that the Public Lighting Department, which is taking over from the Public Lighting Department, has been making improvements since 2012. Public Lighting Department has been put in place by Gov. Rick Snyder for Detroit, but is it also at work in other parts of Michigan? This is a question that maybe Cynthia A. Johnson the local host of radio talk show ‘StandUp Now’ can look into. Ms Johnson is mentioned because she is leading frequent protests to bring attention to the lack of lighting in the inner city of Detroit.
Why aren’t the citizens of Detroit being represented on decisions on who and how the city is managed? Where is leadership for the people of Detroit?
With further investigation it seems that CRIME is one of the prime reasons that Detroit has limited lighting. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) website contained the information below;
“Crime turns the lights off across Detroit
An increasing problem in the city of Detroit is criminals stealing copper wire from state-owned lighting along Detroit’s roads and freeways. High-impact areas of theft have been around I-94, east of I-75. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Metro Region has tried to keep two steps ahead of this lighting crime but seems to keep falling two steps behind. The wire is being stolen from the ground or transformers almost as quickly as MDOT electricians fix the problem.
This crime not only costs money – it’s also costing lives. In October, a man was electrocuted at Putnam and Lawton, near I-96, while attempting to steal copper wire from a transformer. This is one case out of many that happen every week in the city. Many are never caught trying to steal the wire and continue to vandalize state-owned property.
All avenues have been looked at to keep the lights on in Detroit. The criminals stealing the copper wire are knowledgeable on all types of technology that keep it locked up. Some are seasoned professionals who can break through any preventive measures put in place.
The only effective measure in this ongoing lighting battle has been the community, which has been extremely helpful about calling in suspicious behavior that could be potential wire theft. MDOT wants to keep the streets safe for the community that uses them, and in order to do that we must keep them lit. A collaborative effort between the local community and MDOT might be the only chance we have to stop these criminals.
If you see any suspicious behavior around street or freeway lighting, please call the police. Together, we can make sure the lights stay on for Detroit motorists and pedestrians.” – read more
From the above information it can be summarized that there is no police presence in the city of Detroit so it is up to the community at large to patrol the darkened streets and report suspicious unknown individuals who are in the process of stealing copper wire from the street lights.
Detroit remains in the dark; both literally and figuratively. The solution is that Detroit needs leadership that cares about the community. Without it Detroit has become a very dangerous place to live. To voice your concerns contact The Public Lighting Authority at firstname.lastname@example.org, by calling (313) 324-8290, on Twitter and on Facebook.
Cynthia A. Johnson has weekly scheduled light walks and there is one today. Click here to view the schedule if you are interested in participating.
Click highlighted words to read a recent article written by Patrick Sheehan, who is described as a teacher, writer, and activist living in Detroit, touches on lights and other relevant yet controversial issues.
For additional information please click on hyperlinks/highlighted words contained within the article.