10 most popular Motor City Muckraker stories in 2016

“Water is a human right,” scrawled across a bridge in Detroit. Photo by Steve Neavling.

Motor City Muckraker‘s coverage of the Flint water crisis and presidential election led to our most popular stories in 2016.

The top 10 list represents stories with the most clicks.

10. Americans have fought and died for the right to voteBut that sacrifice was shrugged at in Detroit, where scores of voting machines malfunctioned, poll workers weren’t properly trained and thousands of presidential ballots can’t be recounted because of numerous voting irregularities. The gatekeeper of elections in Detroit is city Clerk Janice Winfrey, who has refused to take responsibility for the massive failures that made a mockery of the democratic system and further eroded trust in a fair and accurate election.

9. Investigative reporter Charlie LeDuff announced in November that he is leaving Fox 2 and Fox News with “no plan for what comes next.” After a successful career at the New York Times, where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for his contribution to a 10-part series entitled, “How Race Is Lived in America,” the Detroit native returned home and joined the Detroit News in 2008. In 2010, the gonzo-style LeDuff joined Fox 2 News and turned television news on its head, revealing serious stories with a twist of the outrageous. 

8. Embattled Gov. Rick Snyder released 274 pages of e-mails and other documents about the Flint water crisis in January that reveal a stubborn, often arrogant administration and state bureaucracy that failed to protect residents from being poisoned despite mounting evidence that the water was hazardous. More than a dozen state and city officials were eventually charged for their role in the Flint water crisis. 

7. The devil has returnedAbout 140 fires broke out in Detroit and Highland Park around July 4, nearly triple the number of blazes during the three-day Devils’ Night period last year. For at least three consecutive years, more fires have broken out on the Fourth of July than Devils’ Night, a decades-long, but fading tradition of setting houses, buildings, cars and trash cans ablaze.

6. Protesters plan to build a human wall to prevent Donald Trump from speaking at the Detroit Economic Club at the Renaissance Center in August. Trump was scheduled to speak at noon, but protesters hoped to keep him from reaching the building.

5. Anonymous hactivists have waged a campaign against Gov. Rick Snyder and other officials who ignored the Flint water crisis, pledging that “every wrongdoing will be rectified.” In a video announcing the campaign in January, a disguised voice pledges to seek retribution for the thousands of people who have been poisoned by elevated levels of lead in the drinking water. “The crimes committed by Gov. Snyder as well as other city officials will not go unpunished,” says the voice on the video.
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4. A Detroit man posted a video on Twitter that shows him pointing a gun at a man he believes is gay. If that wasn’t dumb enough, the armed man bragged this afternoon on a live Pericsope video that he is not worried about getting arrested. “Police ain’t coming, shit,” he said, resting two pistols on his bare chest. “You see what I got. They aren’t coming nowhere near this shit. … Test the water, bitch.” The man was arrested two days later.

3. A new poll shows that Bernie Sanders is quickly gaining ground against Hillary Clinton ahead of March’s Democratic primary in Michigan and could pull off an upset. According to the Michigan State University poll, Clinton is leading 51.9% to 46.9%, which is within the 6.1% margin of error. Previous polls have shown Clinton leading by double-digits. Sanders ended up winning the race in a stunning upset. 

2. A Shelby Township man and Donald Trump supporter posted a photo on Facebook of President Obama hanging from a noose and said “lets get to work and hang these traitors.” Two weeks after the story was published, Jimmy Mels was fired from his job.

1. The Flint water crisis that led to thousands of people being poisoned began because state officials maintained it would save the cash-strapped city money by disconnecting from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) and using a different source. But it turns out, DWSD offered the state-controlled city a deal that would have saved Flint more money by staying with Detroit. An e-mail obtained by Motor City Muckraker shows the deal would have saved the city $800 million over 30 years, which was 20% more inexpensive than switching to the Karegnondi Water Authority. More than a dozen state and local officials have since been charged with mishandling the water crisis.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.