Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful Warrendale

Thanksgiving 2008 is almost over; less than 30 minutes remain. Before I head off to bed, I wanted to recount some of the things that relate to the Warrendale neighborhood - and Detroit in general - that I'm thankful for.

I'm thankful for the fact that 8-month long ordeal with former Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick's text messaging scandal is finally over. The whole thing went on way too long.

I'm thankful for the fact that we're going to have a special election in February and May to choose who will fill the duration of Mayor Kilpatrick's term.

I'm thankful for El Monterrey, the Mexican restaurant that opened on Ford Rd. a couple of months ago. With their opening, we have a few more jobs in the Warrendale neighborhood and we have at least one stretch of the road with no vacant buildings. This gives us something to build on.

I'm thankful for Gracie See Pizzeria. They were named "Best Traditional Pizza in North America" at the 2008 International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, proving to the world that some very cool things come from the Warrendale neighborhood.

I'm glad that we seem to have at least hit the bottom with the housing crisis in the neighborhood. We might not be recovering as quickly as I would like, but at least we aren't falling any farther.

I'm thankful for that we have some responsible investors who are buying and rehabbing homes in the neighborhood - creating a valuable product instead of just looking for a quick buck. We still have a lot who just want to flip and don't care about it's impact on the neighborhood. They're a problem, but at least we have a few good guys in the battle.

I'm thankful for the Warrendale Community Organization. They organized a series clean-ups to take care of some of the worst vacant home eye-sores and will do even more in the spring.

I'm thankful for the Warrendale Community Garden. The Ryan Playground has never looked better since it was set-up. Plus, it brings some of the residents who live near the playground out to interact with each other the way neighbors should always do.

I'm thankful for the MMBA crew and the mountain bike train that they re-opened in Rouge Park.

I'm thankful that the horse barn in Rouge Park has been rehabbed this year and is back in use. Warrendale is now the only neighborhood in Detroit where ordinary people can ride a horse.

I'm thankful for the Fred Bear Historical Archery Tournament that was held in Rouge Park earlier this year.

Most of all, I'm thankful that are still people who haven't given up on Detroit or the Warrendale neighborhood.

To all of those people, I simply say, "Thank you". I look forward to having even more to be thankful for in 2009.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Starting to Like Dave Bing

It's way too early for me to make any kind of an endorsement, but I have to admit that I'm starting to like Dave Bing. He pledged today to work for free, if he is elected mayor. He plans to use the normal $176,176 annual mayoral salary to hire more officers within the Detroit Police Department.

This plan, of course, is more than our current Interim Mayor Ken Cockrel has done to improve police service in his two months as interim mayor. Or in his eleven years on the City Council. Or his two years on the Wayne County Commission.

But I digress.

I'm not ready to make any endorsements. However, the fact that Mr. Bing has some kind of a specific plan to hire more police officers out there does mean that it's time for the other candidates to start stepping up and telling Detroiters what kind of solutions they will bring to the table.

Mayoral Forum

The Warrendale Community Organization will sponsor a forum for mayoral candidates on Saturday, January 17 from noon until 3 p.m. in the gymnasium at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. The WCO will invite 5 candidates to address questions such as public safety & crime, economic development in the neighborhoods, mass transit and the City's budget problems.

Members of the WCO will vote at their holiday party on which 5 of the mayoral candidates should be invited. (See below for details on the WCO holiday party.)

More information about this event will be forthcoming on this blog.

Tip of the Week: Courville Containers

After my post about a couple in the Warrendale neighborhood who has been robbed 4 times this year alone, and who have gotten no assistance from the Detroit Police Department, I received a flood of suggestions about what can be done to minimize crime in the Warrendale neighborhood. With all of those suggestions in hand, I've decided to launch a new feature on the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog.
I call it the Tip of the Week. As much as I my schedule permits, I will endeavor to publish this one every Monday. It will include crime prevention and money saving tips as well as general information that's useful to know.

My tip this week has to do with the Courville containers that the Department of Public Works gives everyone in Detroit for their weekly trash collection. It turns out that a growing trend for criminals is to use those containers as something to stand on when they want to break into a home by entering one of its windows.

The Courville containers are widely available, which means that the criminal doesn't have to bring anything with them. Plus, they're the perfect height for a thief to use for entry through a window.

There isn't much that you can do about the City's use of Courville containers or their size. However, you can make it a lot harder for thieves to use them for illicit purposes by storing yours in a garage. The harder it is for a thief to break into your home, the more likely they will be to try.

WCO Holiday Party

The Warrendale Community Organization, which represents that portion of the Warrendale neighborhood between the Southfield Freeway and Rouge Park, will have their annual holiday party on Monday, December 1. The party will begin at 6 p.m. in the school building at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, which is located at 5780 Evergreen.

A map to the church is located below.


View Larger Map

Everyone in the Warrendale neighborhood is invited to attend this event. Please bring a dessert to share with the group.

November WACO Meeting

The Warren Avenue Community Organization, which represents that portion of the Warrendale neighborhood that is east of the Southfield Freeway, will have their next general membership meeting this Wednesday, NOVEMBER 26 at 7 p.m. The meeting will happen in the Ford Memorial Church, which is located at 16400 W. Warren Avenue at Asbury Park.


View Larger Map

They will vote for officers and are in need of a recording secretary. You must have been a paid member by June 2008 in order to vote.

They will have lots of new Information for 2009 as well as a guest speaker from Home Owners Insurance Information. They are also looking for Block Captains.

This meeting is expected to by 9 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

Attendees are asked to enter through the back door of the church since that's the closest one to their meeting area. However, if stairs present a problem for you then please go to the front door.

Monday, November 17, 2008

MSHDA's Property Improvement Program

With winter coming soon, now is a good time for homeowners to look into energy efficiency home improvements. MSHDA's Property Improvement Program offers low interest home improvement loans to single-family homeowners with low-to-moderate income (up to $65,000). Eligible home improvements insulation, window replacement, furnace replacement, roof repair or replacement, new siding, installing a ramp, remodeling a kitchen and other similar improvements.

Homeowners can borrow up to $25,000 without equity and up to $50,000 with equity. Because we can amortize the loan up to 20 years, the monthly payments are very affordable for those on a fixed income. The interest rate for homeowners is 4%, 6% or 8%, depending upon income.

These loans are provided through MSHDA-approved participating lenders and community agents. For a list of lenders and agents, as well as more program details, visit the web site at www.michigan.gov/mshda and click on the Home Improvement link.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

137 Reasons to Cry

Wayne Country Treasurer Raymond J. Wojtowicz published in this morning's newspaper a list of homes in Wayne County that are subject to foreclosure. His list, incidentally, is 137 pages long in a small 10 point font.

Let there be no mistaking the fact that these are some incredibly tough times for not only the Warrendale neighborhood, but all of southeastern Michigan and the rest of the country.

And I'm not sure how fast things are going to get better or if we've even reached the bottom. I do know this, however. If we don't start doing something fast, we're all doomed.

RIP Walter Harris

Senior Fire Fighter Walter Harris of the Detroit Fire Department's Engine Company 23 was killed in the line of duty early yesterday morning while battling a blaze on Detroit's east side. He was 37 years old; leaving behind a wife and six children.

His obituary is available on-line from the Detroit Free Press here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Update on Getting Robbed 4 Times

I mentioned before that I wasn't sure what to tell someone who had been robbed four times in one year and who has been unable to secure any help from the Detroit Police Department. Since then, my in-box has overflowed with suggestions.

Several of them boiled down to "get a dog", "get a gun" or "move". Those are worthy suggestion, but not exactly what I was hoping for.

One of the more interesting suggestions was to plant crimson barberry near all of the windows so that no one enter through them. Crimson barberry will grow to 4 - 5 feet tall (as long as you don't get the pygmy variety) and has thorn bushes, which would deter people from trying to enter through there.

Reportedly, once upon a time, crimson barberry and wild rose bushes were called a "poor-man's barbed wire" for their effectiveness in creating a barrier to entry. Plus, they look a lot cooler than barbed wire or bars on a window.

I also heard from a few people who believe that the Warrendale neighborhood should secede from the rest of Detroit. This is an option that has been discussed off and on for more than a decade now. I personally am opposed to doing something like that because I like being a part of Detroit.

However, one creative individual with an impressive sense of humor came up with this image to inspire a possible Warrendale secessionist movement. I'm opposed to seceding, but I'm all in favor of creative expressions.

Please look closely at the flag and the building in the background.

Heck, I even think that Eugene Delacroix himself would approve of that revision to his classic painting from 1830.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Getting Robbed 4 Times

There are moments when I actually hate being president of the Warrendale Community Organization. One of those moments came last night when I got a phone call from someone who had just been robbed for the fourth time this year.

The frustration and agony of being robbed that often was only magnified by the fact that, despite repeated pleas to the Detroit Police Department and its Northwestern District as well as the crime reports that they've filed, they've never seen or heard from a police officer. They have gotten absolutely no response what so ever and no sense of protection from the police.

And they turn to me, as president of their neighborhood association, looking for answers.

I can explain to them that Detroit needs a lot more police officers on the job; that change takes time and that the City's financial crisis only makes things harder. But none of that makes any sense to someone who has been robbed four times in less than a year.

It doesn't do any good to mention the police mini-station that is in operation 4 miles away for 8 hours a day nor does it help to talk about a command post being parked nearby for a couple of days.

Nothing really makes sense at that point. The only thing that registers in one's mind at that point is that these people have been robbed four times in less than year and the police have been unable or unwilling to do anything about it.

Nothing makes sense to a person who has been robbed four times in less than a year.

It's moments like that where I simply hate being president of the community group and hate being a Detroiter.

Update @ 7:47 p.m.
I've gotten a few message saying that this many robberies at one location simply can't be a random thing. It's not.

The particular house in question is literally surrounded by vacant homes. Therefore, the thieves can strike in broad daylight - while the owners are at work - and there's no one around to witness the deed, call the police or otherwise interfere with them.

Hearing on Insurance Affordability

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm created the posted of Automobile and Home Insurance Affordability Advocate by executive order earlier this year to fight for affordable, reliable and fair automobile and home insurance in Michigan. As a result, there will be a hearing next Saturday, November 15 from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Michigan Gaming Control Hearing Room, which is in Cadillac Place (3044 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit).

The public is invited to share their opinions on auto and home insurance rates in Michigan. More details about this hear are available here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Horses - Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week

The Buffalo Soldiers and Calico Troops have refurbished the formerly vacant Detroit Police Horse Stables; converting them into the Buffalo Soldiers Heritage Center at Joy Road and Spinoza. They are offering horse back rides for children on Saturdays 12 p.m. - 5 p.m. from now until the snow starts to fly. Rides are only $3. They also offer riding lessons.

This is so cool, in my opinion. There's no place else in Detroit where ordinary children can go riding or learn the basics of horsemanship. It's another one of those things that makes the Warrendale neighborhood unique.

In this photo, Tulani Gordon, age 3 of Detroit gets her first horseback ride. She is led by Clarence LeFlore, also of Detroit, in Rouge Park.

Photo courtesy of David L. Malhalab, M News Service / MNS Photo.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Restrooms In Rouge Park

David Malhalab sent me an email about the public restrooms in Rouge Park that were abandoned by the City of Detroit long ago. In their prime, those facilities were a great amenity for anyone who used Rouge Park. Today, however, they are an eyesore.

These buildings were boarded up. However, vandals always find their way in. They are once again open to trespass.

Mailbag: Is My Daughter Safe?

Tracy wrote in to say:
I googled Warrendale and your blog came up. You make the area look nice, but the crime stats say otherwise. My daughter is moving there (evergreen and warren) and I'm worried. Will she be safe in your neighborhood? Any tips you could give would be awesome!
There's no getting around the fact that crime and public safety are issues for all of Detroit and the Warrendale neighborhood is a part of it. It wasn't always this way. However, as the number of police officers have been cut back and attention has shifted towards downtown, things have gone downhill for the neighborhoods in general; with much of it being tied to drugs and the gangs that sell them.

Property crimes in particular are an issue for everyone in the area. When drug users need cash to support their habit, they will steal anything that they can get their hands on. The goal in keeping yourself from becoming a victim in that regard is to simply make sure that you aren't their easiest target. The more effort a criminal has to exert in order to steal from you, the less likely they will be in to do it.

The Los Angeles Police Department has a variety of crime prevention tips on their web site. Many of their recommendations are specific to southern California, with articles on what to do during a rolling black out. However, most of what they recommend will apply anywhere you live or work.

I recommend that everyone read them here. Their tips do much to address Tracy's concerns about her daughter's safety.

As a related side note, I have to say that it's almost sad as a Detroiter to look at the LAPD's web site and then flip over the crime prevention section on the Detroit Police Department's web site. DPD's site mostly consists of telling people what they need to do in order to get a Neighborhood Watch sign.

Those signs are nice. However, I can't help but feel that there is so much that the DPD's leadership could learn from their professional brethren in the City of Angels.

Also, for those issues that undeniably do exist, I would like to invite everyone to get involved with the Warrendale Community Organization. We are working on them and could always use more help.

The WCO's next meeting will on Monday, December 1 at 6 p.m. in the School Building at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. This will also be the group's annual holiday party.

Voter #169

Today, of course, is Election Day. The day when millions of Americans collectively choose our path for the coming years as well as the leaders who will guide along that path. For what it's worth, I had the privilege of being the 169th person to vote in my precinct at approximately 2 p.m. this afternoon.

For most of the country, the political clamor will die down after the polls close in a few hours. Detroit, however, will likely be different.

When tomorrow dawns, it will be the unofficial start of Detroit's mayoral race. The campaigning to replace former Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick began even before he resigned. However, it will unquestionably be taken to another level in the coming weeks as we move closer to the primary in February and the special election in May.

My only hope is that when those elections come along, there at least as many voters who make it to the polls as there were today.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Traffic Crash on the Southfield Fwy

I was already at St. Thomas Aquinas for the WCO's monthly meeting when this happened, but my sources with cell phones told me that there was a dramatic crash on the southbound Southfield Freeway on Monday evening. At least three cars were involved in this crash. Several police and EMS vehicles were on the scene. None of my sources, however, could tell just how extensive the injuries were.

The crash reportedly happened just north of Paul. Traffic on the freeway was backed up as far north as West Chicago as a result of this crash.

Family Movie Night for November

The "Cherish Your Parish" Fundraising Committee at St. Thomas Aquinas Church will sponsor a Family Movie Night on Saturday, November 15 at 7 p.m. in the Monsignor Lenk Hall. The movie for this month is Harry & the Hendersons.

Tickets for this event are only $3 for adults or $2 for children 12 and under. An entire family of 5 or more is allowed in for only $10. (You really can't beat that price.)

Giant chocolate chip cookies, popcorn and drinks will be available for purchase. Floor mats and chairs will be provided. Personal chairs and sleeping bags will be allowed for those who choose to bring them.

St. Thomas Aquinas Church is located at 5780 Evergreen Rd., which is just north of Ford Rd.

WCO Cleans Vacant House

This past Saturday, a team of volunteers from the Warrendale Community Organization targeted a vacant home on the southeast corner of Tireman and Evergreen for a clean up. They mowed the lawn, raked leaves, cleared the brush that cluttered one side of it and - most importantly of all - hauled away 17 bags of debris from the site.

They also had a team of volunteers who went door to door in the neighborhood; talking about the WCO and what the group does. This made the event both a community service mission, but also an outreach one as well.

Update on the MMBA Work Day

The Michigan Mountain Bike Association had their fall work day this past Sunday in Rouge Park. More than 20 volunteers showed up to help clear brush and help maintain the only mountain bike in Wayne County.

Kudos to everyone who was a part of this.