Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 Year in Review (Warrendale Edition)

Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick issued his version of "2006 in Review" earlier this month with a press release that I previously wrote about. In the spirit of the season, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on all that has happened to Warrendale, and the surrounding area, this year.

2006 unquestionably started off with a tremendous bang for all of Detroit as we hosted Super Bowl XL - with visitors pouring into our fair city from around the globe. Many of them (including the SBXL Champion Pittsburgh Steelers) stayed in hotels near the Warrendale neighborhood.

We even got our dose of Super Bowl fame as two reporters from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ventured into the Warrendale neighborhood and proclaimed their time at Steve's Three Brother's to be the greatest breakfast of their lives in a published article; thereby confirming what we've known for years.

Super Bowl XL proved to be an added bonus to Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood shortly after that when the former site of the Herman Gardens Housing Complex was named to be location of the NFL's Youth Education Town, which is the NFL's gift to each of the Super Bowl host cities.

The site, officially known as the NFL Youth Education Town - Boy's & Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan on the Dick & Sandy Dauch Campus, replaces what for years now has been little more than an empty lot with overgrown weeds. When it opens in this coming spring, it will be the largest such facility in the nation. I think it's a huge honor to have such a distinction in the Warrendale neighborhood.

Also, it was shortly after Warrendale was selected to host the new NFL center that we started to see new businesses open in the neighborhood. We lost La Hacienda Mexican Restaurante on W. Warren Avenue. Papa Joe's Family Restaurant & Buffet opened and then closed only a few months later.

Regardless, the Warrendale neighborhood has seen a net gain of more than a dozen new and renovated businesses in less than a year. That is impressive in any economic environment. However, when one considers that the overall economic climate in Michigan is less than desirable, a dozen new businesses in the past ten months is all that much more impressive.

This past May, we saw the Warrendale Community Organization team up with the Detroit Synergy Group to clean the Southfield Freeway Service Drive as part of the Mayor's Motor City Make Over. Scrap tires and bulk trash were cleared away. Brush was trimmed back so it no longer obstructed the sidewalk.

Also in May, we saw the Warrendale Community Organizaion apply for "Cool Cities" status through the State of Michigan, only to later learn that we didn't make the cut.

2006 was also the year that we saw a little known baseball team called the Detroit Tigers go from being the punch line in one joke after another to being contenders in the World Series, going farther in one season than anyone thought they possibly would.

Their journey to the World Series was one of those things that reminded everyone that miracles do happen and that every season of baseball is about life beginning anew.

On a more practical level, 2006 was also the year that we saw the Joy-Southfield CDC open a free health clinic in the Warrendale neighborhood, providing quality health care treatment for those who simply cannot afford to get it anywhere else.

2006 was also the year of the orange barrells as the Michigan Department of Transportation targeted the three bridges in Warrendale that cross the Southfield Freeway for replacement. The Warren Avenue, Tireman Road and Paul Street Bridges were all replaced this year during a construction project that, for a moment there, I thought would never really end.

The Warrendale Community Organ- ization conducted several environ- mental surveys during 2006, chronicling cases of illegal dumping and other ordinance violations. The results of those surveys were alway turned in to our Neighborhood City Hall and to the Northwestern District of the Detroit Police Department. Sometimes the City managed to followed-up on those reports. Other times, they didn't.

Last, but not least, 2006 was the year that Mayor Kilpatrick declared war on illegal dumping in Detroit. Since then, we have seen progress on combatting illegal dumping but there hasn't been as much done as there could have, or should have, been done.

The Mayor also targeted six neighborhoods for improvement this year. While it's still too early to tell if this strategy will bear fruit towards building the NEXT Detroit, the concept of it does look promising.

All of this leads me to conclude that 2006, on the whole, was a good year for the Warrendale neighborhood. For what it's worth, here's hoping that 2007 brings about even more for the neighborhood and those who call it home.

The Warrendale (Detroit) Blog Gets Interrupted

For anyone who didn't read the post over on my personal blog, I have been out of commission for most of this week. I was rear-ended by a drunk driver as I was coming home from a friend's birthday party on Friday, December 23.

My car is totalled and I got to experience the unique joy of spending Christmas Eve and most of Christmas in the hospital. It also meant that I've been behind in a lot of things, not the least of which is the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog.

The blog should be back up and running at full-steam next week.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Tireman Bridge Re-opens Too

Just a quick note to let folks know that the Tireman Road Bridge over the Southfield Freeway (M-39) has re-opened to traffic. It doesn't look like their done with either the Tireman or Paul Street Bridges, even though they were supposed to be completed in October.

However, at least we don't have to deal with annoying construction detours any longer.

Christmas Lights: Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week

Okay - it has been way too long since I've done a Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week. So long that some folks might wonder if I thought Warrendale was still cool.

Fear not, though. I've just been insanely busy at work. (If anyone asks, I'm not really writing a blog post. I'm actually working on a proposal.)

Anyway, every neighborhood has Christmas lights but I've always thought that they ones in Warrendale were extra special. We manage to walk the fine line between being down-right gaudy and oh-so boring; all with a sense of classic midwestern charm.

The bad news is that I don't have my digital camera with me. I seem to have misplaced the thing; pretty sure that I left it at one meeting or another.

Therefore, I'll have to make do with a photo from last year. The lights are the same but (unfortunately) there's no snow on the ground at the moment.

Without further ado, Christmas lights are officially proclaimed the Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week for the week of December 20, 2006.

Detroit Turns Its Attention to Neighborhoods

Detroit's Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick announced earlier this week that his Administration will focus more of their attention on the city's neighbhorhoods now that downtown Detroit is rapidly improving. He is targeting six neighborhoods in the city for significant improvement.

While the Warrendale neighborhood isn't one of the six that were selected, it's good to see that the City is trying a different strategy for improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods. In previous years, one of two things usually happened:
  1. Mayors would focus almost exclusively on downtown; hoping that the neighborhoods would either take care of themselves or promising to deal with the neighborhoods but never get around to it.
  2. Mayors would try to do something for the neighborhoods but it was done city-wide and with so little focus that its impact was almost meaningless. (Think about the old Neighborhood Services Department.)
The new strategy of focusing on indidivual neighborhoods - with a strategy of Redevelop (a complete overhaul, which will focus on the Brightmoor and North End neighborhoods); Revitalize (for generally stable neighborhoods, which will focus on the Grand River/Greenfield neighborhood and Osborne Community) and Reinforce (for neighborhoods that are doing well and they just need to make sure they stay that way - in this case, Bagley and East English Village).

The fact that two of these neighborhoods are fairly close Warrendale (Brightmoor and Grand River/Greenfield) means that there will likely be somewhat of a spillover effect for us.

Oh, and if anyone is interested in some extensive reading, here is a link to the 157 page report that was the theoretical foundation for everything Mayor Kilpatrick announced. His official press release, and a PowerPoint presentation that accompanied it, are available here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

New Housing in Warrendale

More than a dozen new single- family homes are being built in the Warrendale neighbor- hood, just west of the NFL/YET that is being built on the grounds of the former Herman Gardens housing complex (now renamed "Gardenview Estates"). This is in addition to the 920 new housing units that will be built on the grounds of Gardenview Estates itself, which the Detroit News already reported on.

A few of these new homes have already been completed and appear to have been sold.

The fact that Warrendale is one of the few neighborhoods in southeastern Michigan where there actually is much of a housing market at all speaks well for the area. It also means that the steady growth we have seen in our retail markets is likely to continue.

Additional photos are available on my Flick page.

Mail Bag: 2006 In Review

An anonymous reader posted a comment in response to my post about the 2006 Year in Review press release that Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick sent out two weeks ago. He or she wrote:
"There aren't enough police officers on our streets. We pay too much in taxes and don't get enough services in return." Hmmm... maybe when you are Mayor you can plant that tree that money grows on... this will solve all our problems. Reality is: Detroit has no money. An income base simply does not exist and whatever little there is, it is fastly dwindling. Are you familiar with foreclosure statistics? Wake up.
First, I am fully awake and from the looks of things, I am even more familiar with the various statistics than you are.

Regarding your assertion that the City of Detroit has "no money", that simply isn't true. The City of Detroit's budget for Fiscal Year 2006-07 is $3.7 billion. That isn't as large as most would like but it is $3.7 billion more than having no money.

The question then is what is the City doing with the $3.7 billion that it does have. Specifically, what priorities are we setting?

As it currently stands, the police and fire departments don't have enough funding to do their jobs properly. There are, in fact, almost 2,000 vacant officer positions within the Detroit Police Department. There are also calls to 9-1-1 that go unanswered every day because there isn't anyone available to respond.

In spite of that, the budgets for the police and fire departments only represent 15.6% of the City's total budget. I firmly believe that essential services are called that for a reason. It is essential that those expenses be covered and those services be provided. The other 84.4% of the budget should have been cut to allow for full-funding of the police and fire departments, in my opinion.

The best part of the City's budget is the simple fact that there is a lot that can be done to free up cash without actually hurting the services that Detroiters receive.

The City of Detroit, for example, owns a lot of property that is outside of the Detroit city limits. All of it should be sold, in my opinion, and that includes those portions of the Water & Sewage Department that are outside of the city limits.

There is also the fact that Detroit is home to thirty two strip clubs, by my count. The women who dance in said clubs can earn a rather significant income and they get it entirely in cash. Many of them are honest enough to pay taxes on it. Some, however, do not pay any income taxes.

All dancers are required to get a cabaret license from the Detroit Police Department. It would be relatively simple to cross-reference the list of dancers with a list of individuals who filed an income tax return with Detroit's Finance Department. If they didn't file a such a return, the tax collectors should decend upon them.

By the way, doing this in cooperation with the IRS and the Michigan Department of Treasury would make the entire collection process that much easier on everyone involved - except, of course, for the folks who aren't paying income taxes.

There is also the fact the City of Detroit simply bleeds cash from frivolous lawsuits that are filed against it. It's time to take a long hard look at those lawsuits and what can be done to minimize that expense without hurting the underlying services that Detroiters receive.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Upgrades to the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog

The good folks at Blogger have released the beta version of a new, improved version of their software. Yours truly is one of the early adopters of this beta version.

So far, it has proven to be a lot easier to use that its predecessor. As the webmaster, I like that I don't have to re-publish this site everytime I put up a new post.

It's also easier for me to post photos to the site, like the one to the right. (If you don't recognize it, that is a close-up of the Isamu Noguchi designed Dodge Fountain in Hart Plaza.)

For my readers, the biggest change that you'll probably notice is the addition of "labels" at the end of each post. Labels describe the general subject of each post. If you click on one of those labels, you'll be able to find any other blog posts that I have done that also have that same label.

Is Pete's Bar Coming Back?

The former location of Pete's Bar on W. Warren Ave., just west of Westwood, has been sitting vacant for so long that I only have a vague recollection of it being anything other than a vacant building.

However, that might be changing soon. I went there on Friday and there was a construction crew inside doing some work. The folks from DTE were also there to restore power to the building.

This looks promising.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I'm Back

I'm sorry for not posting anything in the past week, Warrendale.

My life was extremely busy between work and Detroit Synergy's Shop Detroit project. (I do the marketing & publicity for Detroit Synergy).

Regardless, it's good to be back in the swing of things.

Dearborn Mayor Michael Guido Dies - Local News - ClickOnDetroit.com | WDIV

Dearborn Mayor Michael Guido Dies - Local News - ClickOnDetroit.com | WDIV

Our neighbors to the south have lost their mayor today. Longtime Mayor of Dearborn Michael A. Guido passed away at the age of 52 following a battle with cancer.

He had been Mayor of Dearborn since January of 1986. He was re-elected in an uncontested election this past November for a sixth consecutive term.

His family will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Finally!!!

The Paul Street bridge over the Southfield Freeway (M-39) finally re-opened to automobile traffic last week. It was only a month behind schedule, which is something considering that they started work on it three weeks early.

The bridge is still closed to pedestrians, at least officially, because they haven't finished the concrete work on the sidewalk portion of it. However, there isn't anyone or anything there to prevent a determined pedestrian from walking across the bridge.

The bridge still has a series of stop signs to regulate traffic across the bridge. The traffic signals that were there before have not been reactivated.

I'm not certain about the status of the Tireman Road bridge over the Southfield Freeway. It was still closed the last time I checked.

Who are we?

There was an interesting exchange between Rebecca and an anonymous reader in my Thanks- giving post. They were wondering what residents of the Warrendale neighborhood should properly be called: "Warrendalers" or "Warrendalians".

Personally, I can't help but feel attracted to the term "Warrendalians". This is in part because it sounds like something out of Star Trek or Star Wars. I was a big fan of the show growing up.

In fact, one of my first creative ventures as a kid was to write this illustrated story (the summer of 1977, if I recall correctly) that was called Moon Wars. It featured such fascinating characters as Spitbaca and Hans Duo. I didn't really intend for it to be a parody, but I was only 7 years old.

Oh, well - if you have an opinion, please feel free to leave a comment below.

2006 Year in Review

Detroit's Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick issued a 9-page press release this morning, which chronicled his Administration's accomplishments in 2006. In it, he talked extinsively about developments in downtown Detroit but also talked about the neighborhoods as well.

I campaigned against the Mayor in 2005 and continue to believe that there is still an enormous amount of room for improvement in terms of how the City of Detroit is operated. There aren't enough police officers on our streets. We pay too much in taxes and don't get enough services in return.

However, in spite of those facts, I have to admit that the Mayor's job performance in 2006 was vastly superior to what we saw in 2004 or 2005.

And that gives me hope for 2007.

If you are interested, you read the Mayor's full press release here. (Adobe Reader required.)