Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The City of Detroit has finished its reassessment of every residential and commercial property within the city limits. This means that the assessed value of our homes and businesses is now more in line with the fair market value of them.

This, by the way, is the first time in decades that the City of Detroit has reassessed all of our property values.

From my own personal experience, this updating of property values means that my property taxes has gone down by $294.

I want to thank Mayor Mike Duggan and his team for making sure that this happened.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tax help available for veterans

Tomorrow, February 15, select volunteer income tax preparation sites across Michigan will be celebrating all men and women who served in the Armed Service by offering free income tax preparation services. At sixteen locations across the state, any military veteran in Michigan will qualify to have their federal, state and city income taxes prepared and filed for free by an IRS-certified volunteer tax preparer. Sites will also provide information on different veteran services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Michigan Taxpayer Advocate Office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Financial Counseling for Veterans initiative.

There will be two locations available within the city of Detroit. AAS Piquette Square (6221 Brush St. in Southwest) will be open from 10 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Also, the Wayne Metro CAA/Michigan Veterans Foundation (4626 Grand River, just south of W. Warren Ave.) will be open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

“It’s hard to think of organizations who are as dedicated to helping my fellow veterans prepare and file their taxes and receive other important information on financial services and programs,” said State Senator David Knezek (D- Dearborn Heights). “Receiving quality, no-cost services like those offered by CEDAM members is a welcome gesture for the men and women who served our great nation.”

Every year, more than 100,000 Michigan taxpayers get their taxes prepared and filed for free at either a volunteer income tax assistance (VITA), tax counseling for the elderly (TCE) or AARP Tax Aide site. These sites are staffed with volunteers who have been certified by the IRS to prepare income taxes – a training certification that is not required of commercial tax preparers. Usually, there is an income limit of $54,000 to access this high-quality, free service, but on Wednesday, February 15 there will be no income limit for veterans in Michigan.

“As a veteran and former employee of the Michigan Department of Treasury, I understand the importance for taxpayers to receive all eligible and deserved tax credits,” said State Representative Tom Barrett (R – Potterville). “That is why I am so pleased that these free volunteer tax sites across Michigan are stepping up to the plate to give Michigan veterans a quality service and ensure they receive all their eligible tax credits.”
 
In addition to being trained on federal tax law, all VITA/TCE and AARP Tax Aide volunteer preparers are also trained to be sure that every eligible client receives Michigan tax credits like the Michigan Property Tax Credit (MPT) and the Home Heating credit (HHC). In 2016, more than 105,000 Michigan taxpayers used a free tax service, avoiding high-pressure sales pitches for high-cost tax loans and saving more than $14.6 million in tax preparation fees.

“I am pleased to join these IRS certified free tax sites in honoring the men and women who answered the call to serve our nation and protect our freedoms by helping to ensure they receive quality assistance in filing their taxes from highly-trained and IRS certified volunteers,” said Ross H. Yednock, program director of the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition (MEIC) at the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM). “I hope that by helping to serve those who served prepare and file their federal, state and city income taxes, we can make their tax filing season a little easier.”

The MEIC is a program of CEDAM and helps support organizations and local initiatives committed to supporting tax credit and asset building opportunities for Michigan families. All taxpayers are encouraged to go to www.MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org in advance of filing their taxes to receive valuable information regarding federal and state tax credits. The website is maintained by the CEDAM to help connect Michigan workers with free services and free tax sites which save working families money on tax preparation fees and connects them to other quality, low-cost financial services to help increase their financial security.

Taxpayers in Michigan have several options for free help determining their eligibility and claiming credits. They can go to a VITA, TCE or AARP Tax Aide site or prepare their own taxes using a free internet-based tool with assistance from a VITA volunteer either in person or over the phone.

To help accurately determine eligibility and prepare returns at a free tax site, individuals should bring photo proof of identification as well as:

  • Social Security cards for themselves, their spouse and dependents or Social Security number verification letters issued by the Social Security Administration;
  • Birth dates for all persons listed on the tax return;
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Forms W-2, W-2G and 1099-R from all employers;
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099);
  • Copies of last year’s federal and state returns, if available;
  • Bank routing and account numbers for direct deposit of their refunds;
  • Other relevant information about income and expenses; and
  • Amounts paid for day care, if applicable and the day care provider's identifying number.

To electronically file their returns and get the fastest refunds, both spouses must be present to sign joint returns.

To locate a volunteer income tax assistance site in Michigan, or connect with volunteer assisted self-preparation tools, visit www.MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org or call Michigan 2-1-1.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cody Rouge meeting on January 31


On Tuesday, January 31, the Cody Rouge Community Action Alliance will have their next community meeting from 5 - 7 p.m. This meeting will happen at the Don Bosco Hall (19321 W. Chicago), which is just north of the Warrendale neighborhood.

Dinner will be served.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Friends of Rouge Park to meet on Tuesday

The non-profit community group, Friends of Rouge Park, will hold their next general membership meeting on Tuesday, January 17. Everyone who is interested in the future of Detroit's largest park is invited to attend. This meeting will happen from 6 - 7 pm at the Don Bosco Center (9356 Westwood St. at West Chicago).

The agenda for this meeting will include an update from the City Parks & Recreation Department as well as:
  • Update on Progress on the Scout Hollow Campground;
  • Report from the National Kidney Foundation's work in the park; and
  • Update on Detroit Water & Sewage Department's plan for Green Infrastructure in the park.
There will also be a general discussion of goals for 2017 as well as upcoming events in Rouge Park.
 

Monday, January 09, 2017

10 tips to prevent a rape

The following is a guest commentary from Ricardo Moore, who represents the Warrendale and surrounding neighborhoods on the Detroit Police Commission. This column is presented as part of the semi-regular Tip of the Week feature.

It has been reported by Detroit Police ChiefJames Craig that the crime of Criminal Sexual Conduct (Rape) has risen on the streets of Detroit. As Vice Chairman of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, it is my mission to help keep every woman, man, and child safe from any and all criminal attacks. Please report all crimes that occur to the Detroit Police Department by dialing 9-1-1. When crimes are not reported, it gives law enforcement leaders lower crime data. Unreported or unknown crime is known as the Dark Figure of Crime.
Photo by Adina Voicu/Pixababy

I would like to thank Sgt. Darren Laur and his wife Beth for providing the following safety tips:

Awareness: Your first line of defense. Most people think of kicks to the groin and blocking punches when they hear the term “self-defense.” However, true self-defense begins long before any actual physical contact. The first, and probably most important, component in self-defense is awareness: awareness of yourself, your surroundings, and your potential attacker’s likely strategies.

The criminal’s primary strategy is to use the advantage of surprise. Studies have shown that criminals are adept at choosing targets who appear to be unaware of what is going on around them. By being aware of your surroundings and by projecting a “force presence,” many altercations which are commonplace on the street can be avoided.

Use your sixth sense. “Sixth Sense.” “Gut instinct.” Whatever you call it, your intuition is a powerful subconscious insight into situations and people. All of us, especially women, have this gift, but very few of us pay attention to it. Learn to trust this power and use it to your full advantage. Avoid a person or a situation which does not “feel” safe–you’re probably right.

Self-defense training. It is important to evaluate the goals and practical usefulness of a women’s self-defense program before signing up. Here are two tips:
  1. Avoid martial arts studios unless you specifically wish to train in the traditional martial arts techniques and are prepared for a long-term commitment. Many women’s self-defense programs teach watered-down martial arts techniques that are complex and unrealistic under the stress of an actual attack;
  2. The self-defense program should include simulated assaults with a fully padded instructor in realistic rape and attack scenarios, to allow you to practice what you’ve learned.

Escape: Always your best option. What if the unthinkable happens? You are suddenly confronted by a predator who demands that you go with him–be it in a car, or into an alley, or a building. It would seem prudent to obey, but you must never leave the primary crime scene. You are far more likely to be killed or seriously injured if you go with the predator than if you run away (even if he promises not to hurt you). Run away, yell for help, throw a rock through a store or car window–do whatever you can to attract attention. And if the criminal is after your purse or other material items, throw them one way while you run the other.

Your right to fight. Unfortunately, no matter how diligently we practice awareness and avoidance techniques, we may find ourselves in a physical confrontation. Whether or not you have self-defense training, and no matter what your age or physical condition, it is important to understand that you can and should defend yourself physically. You have both the moral and legal right to do so, even if the attacker is only threatening you and hasn’t struck first. Many women worry that they will anger the attacker and get hurt worse if they defend themselves, but statistics clearly show that your odds of survival are far greater if you do fight back. Aim for the eyes first and the groin second. Remember, though, to use the element of surprise to your advantage–strike quickly, and mean business. You may only get one chance.

Pepper spray: Pros and cons. Pepper spray, like other self-defense aids, can be a useful tool. However, it is important to understand that there can be significant drawbacks to its use. For example, did you know that it doesn’t work for everyone? Surprisingly, 15-20% of people will not be incapacitated even by a full-face spray. Also, if you’re carrying it in your purse, you will only waste time and alert the attacker to your intentions while you fumble for it. Never depend on any self-defense tool or weapon to stop an attacker. Trust your body and your wits, which you can always depend on in the event of an attack.

Home invasions: A crime on the rise. The primary way to prevent a home invasion is simply to never, ever open your door unless you either are certain you know who’s on the other side or can verify that they have a legitimate reason for being there (dressing up as a repair person or even police officer is one trick criminals use). In the event that an intruder breaks in while you’re home, you should have a safe room in your house to which you can retreat. Such a room should be equipped with a strong door, deadbolt lock, phone (preferably cell phone), and a can of pepper spray or fire extinguisher.

Avoiding a carjacking. Lock all doors and keep windows up when driving. Most carjackings take place when vehicles are stopped at intersections. The criminals approach at a 45-degree angle (in the blind spot), and either pull you out of the driver’s seat or jump in the passenger’s seat.

A travel tip. Violent crimes against women happen in the best and worst hotels around the world. Predators may play the part of a hotel employee, push their way through an open or unlocked door, or obtain a passkey to the room. As with home safety, never open your door unless you are certain the person on the other side is legitimate, and always carry a door wedge with you when you travel. A wedge is often stronger than the door it secures.

Safety in cyberspace. Although the Internet is educational and entertaining, it can also be full of danger if one isn’t careful. When communicating on-line, use a nickname and always keep personal information such as home address and phone number confidential. Instruct family members to do the same. 

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Good bye 2016 and hello 2017

Looking forward
Today is the day.

Today is the day when say good bye to 2016; a year that has been challenging in so many different regards for so many in our community.

Today is also the day when we say hello to 2017; a year that I greet with cautious optimism.

I hope that each of us navigates through the challenges that will invariably meet us in the coming year and find the joy we all deserve.

Happy New Year, my friends.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Carrie Fisher and our dystopian future

Carrie Fisher - Photo by Riccardo Ghilardi
Earlier today, legendary actress and writer Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60. She joins Richard Adams, author of Watership Down who also died today at the age of 96, George Michael, and so many other high-profile deaths in 2016 that I have lost count.

Carrie Fisher doesn't have any particular connection to Detroit or the Warrendale neighborhood. Indeed, none of these deaths have any particular connect to Detroit nor the Warrendale neighborhood. However, I still need to rant about something and, well, this blog is my opportunity to do so.

It seems to me that the bankers and politicians who have screwed our world up will continue to live. Meanwhile, the artists like Carrie Fisher and others who have collectively made living in this world worthwhile are dying off rapidly.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how the dystopian future begins.