Axios Detroit

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🥤 It's Wednesday, and we're preparing to switch from tea season to iced tea season.

⛈️ Today's weather: Expect showers, and then potentially thunderstorms after 4pm. High of 69.

Thanks to our dedicated members. You too can support our local reporting team by becoming a member.

  • ğŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to our Axios Detroit member Vaida Saucer!

ğŸŽ¤ Situational awareness: Tune in tonight for Mayor Mike Duggan's 11th State of the City address. Keep reading to find out what he's expected to talk about and how to watch.

Today's newsletter is 909 words — a 3.5-minute read. Edited by Joe Guillen and copy edited by Cindy Orosco-Wright.

1 big thing: Republicans oppose auditor general budget cut

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in Detroit earlier this year. Photo: Emily Elconin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Republican lawmakers are defending the state's nonpartisan watchdog against accusations of partisanship after the governor proposed steep cuts to the agency's budget.

Why it matters: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to cut the Office of the Auditor General's budget next year by more than $8 million to $21.4 million — a 28% reduction.

  • The proposed cut would "significantly impair the oversight we provide to you and the public," Auditor General Doug Ringler wrote in a letter to legislative leaders last month.

The big picture: The auditor general has found performance and financial issues within several state departments in recent years.

  • Whitmer has not offered an explanation for the proposed cut, but other Democrats say the office has acted outside of its authority in partisan ways.
  • Republicans argue the governor is playing politics by trying to cut the office's budget.
Michigan Auditor General budget appropriations
Data: Office of the Auditor General; Chart: Axios Visuals

The intrigue: Records obtained by Michigan Advance reveal Ringler helped draft a request for a 2020 election audit after meetings with House Republicans.

  • Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.) says the request was inappropriate.

What they're saying: "If there is ever a place in Lansing where we should rise above petty partisan politics, it should be oversight and ethics," Rep. Tom Kunse (R-Clare) said in a statement.

  • Ringler wrote in his letter that the office received no feedback regarding the reason behind the cut. The governor's office has referred media requests about the proposed cut to the state budget office.

Flashback: Perhaps the most notable fight between the OAG and the governor's administration was over the accounting of COVID-19 deaths.

  • The auditor general provided a study of reported and unreported COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities in Michigan at the request of a Republican lawmaker.
  • Many Republicans at the time claimed the governor had covered up or undercounted the true number of deaths — a characterization Ringler himself disagreed with.

What's next: The budget could still change as negotiations take place. Whitmer is expected to sign budget bills this summer, before the next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Read the full story

2. What's next for the RenCen

The Renaissance Center. Photo: Courtesy of JSanta Fabio via General Motors

As General Motors plans to leave the RenCen next year, the future of Michigan's tallest building is a big unknown, with speculation already swirling.

Why it matters: The 14-acre riverfront campus has a mixed reputation. The RenCen is an iconic landmark with breathtaking views, but the collection of towers is difficult to navigate and disconnected from the city.

Catch up quick: GM will move its headquarters to Dan Gilbert's Hudson's Detroit office building in 2025.

  • Over the next year, the automaker will discuss a plan for the RenCen's redevelopment with Bedrock, Gilbert's real estate arm.

State of play: Converting RenCen office space into residential is one possibility. It would be pricey, but many cities are transforming underused office space as a key part of their plans to adapt to the post-COVID-19 era.

  • Real estate experts told the Detroit News it would make sense to convert at least some of the office space to hotel or residential space, and to potentially form a joint venture since Bedrock has experience repurposing buildings.

The intrigue: While GM and partners are focusing on redevelopment, the RenCen's demolition isn't off the table, Crain's wrote.

What they're saying: Redeveloping the buildings would make them worth more if GM decides to sell in the future, Paul Choukourian at Colliers' Royal Oak office told the News.

  • "So if they do decide to sell it at some point, they'll do better by working with Bedrock over some amount of time to secure the buildings, to maybe put tenants in there or reposition them or whatever they're going to do," Choukourian said.

Read the full story

3. The Grapevine: You heard it here

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

📺 Detroit Public Television is moving its headquarters from Wixom to near Detroit's New Center area and changing its name to Detroit PBS. (Free Press)

🍲 Metro Food Rescue seeks volunteers to collect unserved food from the NFL Draft for food assistance organizations. The nonprofit expects to get enough for 30,000 meals. (BridgeDetroit)

💰 A state board approved a $231 million tax reimbursement plan for the Future of Health development from the Pistons, Henry Ford Health and Michigan State. (Crain's)

🚨 Lee Chatfield, the former House Republican leader, was charged with 13 embezzlement, conspiracy and larceny counts, Attorney General Dana Nessel announced yesterday. (Free Press)

4. Speech, speech!

Mayor Mike Duggan speaks at a recent NFL Draft event. Photo: Courtesy of the city of Detroit via Flickr

Mayor Mike Duggan chose a smaller venue to deliver his State of the City address this year.

Why it matters: Recent locations for the mayor's annual speech have highlighted huge projects, like Michigan Central Station and General Motors' Factory Zero plant, Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison tells Axios.

  • But this year's event at the west-side Dexter Avenue Baptist Church will emphasize progress in neighborhoods that "doesn't always come, necessarily, from huge developments," he says.

Between the lines: In the address tonight, Duggan plans to go deep on the city's solar farm installation program, detail plans to remove abandoned junk cars and spotlight new businesses in Dexter-Linwood, Bettison says.

How to watch: The event can be streamed on the city's website, Facebook or YouTube starting at 6:30pm. The speech starts at 7pm.

  • It'll also be on TV on Channel 21 (Comcast) and Channel 99 (AT&T).

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5. Red Wings miss the playoffs — barely

The Red Wings' Christian Fischer pressures the puck against the Montreal Canadiens last night. Photo: Matt Garies/NHLI via Getty Images

The Red Wings needed some help last night to make the playoffs, but they didn't get it.

The big picture: Despite beating the Montreal Canadiens, 5-4, Detroit fell short because the Washington Capitals clinched the last playoff spot with a win over Philadelphia.

Our picks:

ğŸŽ§ Joe is listening to David Bowie's "Hunky Dory."

📖 Annalise is listening to the audiobook of James Baldwin's "Giovanni's Room."

ğŸŒŽ Sam is listening to the world.

Editor's note: Yesterday's newsletter was corrected to note that the Tigers played their first game at Briggs Stadium, then called Navin Field, in 1935 (not 1934).