Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Update on the Tree Barricade

I previously reported about a tree in front of 6267 Ashton that had fallen late Saturday night; blocking the street and sidewalk. It's taken the City of Detroit a couple of days to clear it. However, I'm pleased to report that there is currently a crew on site now. They're removing the tree and re-opening Ashton, south of Paul, to traffic.

Happy New Year

Wednesday is my usual day for proclaiming something the Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week - that is, when my schedule allows me to post something on a Wednesday in the first place. It just so happens that this time around, Wednesday happens to fall on December 31st.

Therefore, be it ever so cheesy, I hereby proclaim the thousand or so New Year's Eve parties that are happening around town to the Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week. Chances are most, if not all of them, will have some kind of a connection to the Warrendale neighborhood so it seems appropriate.


As for me, I'm heading to a pair of house parties this evening. First I am going to a friend's loft in Brush Park; followed a visit to Indian Village. The Warrendale connections there, by the way, are that my Brush Park friend loves Gracie's pizza and talks about it all the time. As for my Indian Village friends, their neighbor from across the street grew up on Faust between Whitlock and W. Warren.

I always love finding the Warrendale connection at these events.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mailbag: Construction

Helen wrote in to say:
I'm so grateful to get the Warrendale blog. It's good to know what's going on around me. I have a question, do you have info on what the city project is going on at Warren and Outer Drive? Looks like some fencing is being put up...something to do with water? Thanks.
Thank you, Helen! It's always great when my neighbors find their way to my little corner of cyberspace.

What you saw is the beginnings of the Upper Rouge Park tunnel project. This is a massive undertaking by the Detroit Water & Sewage Department to improve the way waste water and storm water moves through the area. A good portion of Outer Drive will be closed during this project, likely creating a lot more traffic along Pierson.

You can read more about the project here. (It's a 5 MB file. It will take awhile to download but it makes for interesting reading.)

Featured Place to Live: 5811 Greenview

It's been too long since I've done this, but it's time for me to bring back my Featured Place to Live segment. There are a lot of cool homes in the Warrendale neighborhood. With the housing market the way it is now - not only in southeast Michigan, but across the nation - it's doubtful that any of us will ever see a better time to buy a home.

One of these great homes that is available a 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom brick ranch that is available at 5811 Greenview. This home is represented by Cheryl Doherty of Century 21 Americal.

This 1,000 square foot home, which is directly across from the Ryan Playground and the Warrendale Community Garden, features such amenities as:
  • Updated bath;
  • Some hardwood floors under the carpeting;
  • Large detached garage;
  • Newer furnace and A/C;
  • Updated windows;
  • Updated roof; and
  • Waterproofed basement.
Of course, it also comes with all of the coolness that is inherent in the Warrendale neighborhood - proximity to great restaurants, shopping, cultural institutions and health care; proximity not only to Ryan Playground and so on.

Anyone interested in seeing more of this home is invited to call Ms. Doherty at (734) 552-8879.

January WCO Meeting

The Warrendale Community Organization will have their next general membership meeting this coming Monday, January 5 @ 7 p.m. The meeting will happen in the school building of St. Thomas Aquinas Church. A map with directions is available here.

One of the items on their agenda for this meeting is the forum for mayoral candidates that the WCO will host next month. A copy of the agenda for this meeting is available here.

Everyone in the neighborhood is invited to attend.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Interesting Times in Detroit

The year is almost over. 2008 in Detroit was the kind of year that someone was thinking of when they came up with the curse, "May you live in interesting times." Some folks in this town are dwelling on the negative or even planning a move to Dubai.

As for me, I take a more balanced outlook towards things. With that in mind, I present a look back at 2008 in my hometown.

Within the Warrendale neighborhood, 2008 was the year that our own Gracie See's Pizzeria on Greenfield was recognized as Best Traditional Pizza in North America at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada. This, of course, led to a monthly gathering of folks from the Warrendale group on Facebook.

This was also the year that Warrendale launched it's own community garden. It was also the year that we got spoofed by The Onion for having a community garden.

We saw several businesses and homeowners succumb to the economy in 2008. However, we saw a lot more prove that they can hang on in what is arguably the worst economic climate since the Great Depression.

For the rest of Detroit, 2008 has been nothing if not a mixed bag.

The Detroit Lions are the worst team in NFL history. However, the Detroit Red Wings won yet another Stanly Cup this year. The Detroit Tigers turned in a respectable performance. The Detroit Pistons came this close to another NBA Championship.

Kwame Kilpatrick is in jail, but that saga is over. Now Detroiters get to look at everyone in Illinois and know that they're dealing with things that are much worse.

The Detroit Public Schools are broke. However, Detroit still has charter schools, parochial schools, private schools and home schooling.

Farmington Hills native Kirsten Haglund became Miss America 2008. In doing so, she showed the world what I've known for years - there are some seriously hot women in the Detroit area.

A few houses sold for $1 (plus back taxes & assorted fees that drove the final price up to around $6,000). Everything else is selling for a fraction of what it would've been worth two years ago. The important thing is that real estate prices are slowly beginning to rebound.

Detroit's unemployment is the highest in the nation. No getting around that one. The promising part is between things like the Westin Book Cadillac and Ft. Shelby Hotel re-openings, the umpteen new restaurants, the auto bail out happening and dozens of major motion pictures coming to town (each spending tens of millions), there's a decent chance that things will get better soon.

Major festivals either got severely scaled back or canceled. The one bit of good news is that the NCAA Final Four is still coming to Ford Field in April. That will bring in more cash than all of those festivals combined.

2008 could've been better, but it also could've been a lot worse.

My Tip of the Week is a simple one: It's okay to recognize the things have gone wrong. You can't fix them if you don't. Just don't dwell too much on the negatives. If you do, you'll miss all of the cool stuff.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tree Becomes Barricade

All of southeastern Michigan got hit by some wicked winds late last night and on into early this morning. The result of this is that we have trees down throughout the area.

The worst example of it is a large tree that was in front on 6267 Ashton, which is immediately south of Paul St. It came down early this morning in the winds. It is completely blocking the street as well as the sidewalk on the east side of the street.

I tried calling 3-1-1 to report it, but the call center is closed for the weekend. I'll call again on Monday morning. We'll see how fast this gets taken care of.

In the meantime, there are several other tree limbs that partially block portions of the streets. Those are small in comparison to the entire tree that is blocking both pedestrian and automotive traffic on Ashton. I noticed neighborhood residents clearing them up on their own this afternoon.

Photo credit: Mark Nemecek.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Can Cockrel Survive?

The Detroit Free Press ran a piece on their front page this morning in which they asked the question: Can Cockrel Survive to Stay Detroit Mayor? The answer to that question, in my personal opinion, boils down to the answer to one other question: is Ken Cockrel willing to start doing what Detroiters have asked of him?

Before I elaborate any further, I have to remind everyone of the disclaimer that appears at the top of this blog. The opinions that I express here are mine alone. They do not necessarily reflect those of the Warrendale Community Organization or any other organization that I am a part of.

With that duly said, I would like to call everyone's attention to one particular quote from our interim mayor in this morning's paper.
"When I'm out and about, there are a couple of issues that keep coming up. One is crime. ... Second is jobs," he said.
There can be no doubt that crime and jobs are the top priorities of Detroiters. There's no need for me to elaborate as to why those are our top priorities; we as Detroiters see, hear and live those reasons every day of our lives.

It is curious, though, that Mr. Cockrel admits knowing that these are Detroiters' top priorities, but has done almost nothing to meet those demands. One would think that a politician who is up for re-election and who wants to remain at his post would make a concerted effort to meet those needs for his constituents.

Unfortunately, he has made almost no progress on those fronts. He opened four new police mini-stations, which is nice. The problem with a mini-station is that they're only open for a few hours every day and the officers assigned to them don't respond to any calls. That's important in a city like Detroit were several hundred calls to 9-1-1 go unanswered every day.

The Warrendale Community Organization called on the Mayor and City Council earlier this year to hire more police officers in order to reduce the number of emergency calls that are going unanswered currently. Several other community groups around the city have echoed that call for better police service. Mr. Cockrel ignored those pleas when he was President of the City Council. He continues to ignore them today.

The question that Mr. Cockrel is going to have answer for himself is: does he want to stay Mayor badly enough that he's willing to start listening to his constituents?

If he is able to start delivering, he has a chance of remaining in his post beyond May.

If he isn't willing to do that then, in my opinion, he's wasting our time running for office.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas once again. While the holiday is almost over, I would be remiss if I didn't take a moment to wish a Merry Christmas to all of my neighbors and to everyone who reads the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog.

2008 has been a challenging year for everyone in the neighborhood and those challenges have clearly not been limited to the boundaries of the Warrendale neighborhood. In spite of those challenges, I remain convinced of the region's tremendous possibilities.

Christmas is the time for us to believe; to believe in ourselves, in our neighbors, in our community and in our own ability to meet the challenges that face.

Christmas is also a time for us to celebrate everything that we have that is worth celebrating; our families, our friends and our lives. Even if we don't have everything we want, we still have the opportunity to make things better.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Poetic Justic in the Snow

Once upon a time long, long ago - as in last winter when Kwame Kilpatrick was still mayor - the Department of Public Works would occasionally plow the streets in Detroit. There were cases where they missed a street - or it simply took longer than the standard 24 hours before they came through - but they kind of, sort of did their job.

Today, Detroit has a different mayor and a different DPW. It's been five days since Mother Nature more than seven inches of snow on the Motor City. I'm yet to see a single residential street in Detroit that has been plowed.

The irony of it all hit home this afternoon. I saw a white City of Detroit pick-up truck stuck in the snow in front of my home. It was someone from the Department of Public Works - the folks who are responsible for plowing our streets.

This is my idea of poetic justice.

My only regret is that the driver managed to get his truck free before I could grab my camera and snap a photo. As a result, I can only offer a photo of the unplowed streets.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tip of the Week: Free Admission to the Detroit Historical Museum

While the Detroit Historical Museum isn't in the Warrendale neighborhood, it's still one of those great cultural resources that I believe everyone should visit from time to time. It's especially important in trying times like these because it helps us remember that Michigan has been through some tough moments in our history before; not only have we survived them but we've become stronger as a people because of them.

Of course, the fact that the Detroit Historical Museum is offering free admission starting this Friday, and continuing through January 4, simply makes things all that much better. This weekend is an ideal time for everyone to visit the Museum.

Now is the time to walk the streets of old Detroit, to learn about the collapse of our major industries (like wood burning stoves and railway cars) and to see how those events have always positioned us for our next great moment. Learn about how Detroit was burned to the ground and how we managed to rebuild.

All of these things are available at the Detroit Historical Museum and they're available for free for limited time.

The Detroit Historical Museum is located at 5401 Woodward Ave. in Detroit's Cultural Center. It's open from 9:30 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Wednesday - Friday, from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Saturday and from noon - 5 p.m. on Sunday.

All of this makes free admission to the Detroit Historical Museum my Tip of the Week.

Cockrel Unveils Green Efforts

I was away from the blogosphere for most of last week.

While I was away, Interim Mayor Kenneth V. Cockrel, Jr. announced the creation of an Office of Energy & Sustainability last week. This new office, which will exist within the Mayor's Office itself, will be responsible for a variety of green initiatives in Detroit.

Some of the ones that Mayor Cockrel has identified include:
  • Cut energy costs borne by the City that could be as modest as changing the type of light bulbs;
  • Create a "Green Council" comprised of representatives from City agencies to find ways to improve energy use in City buildings;
  • Start "Green Thumbs Up," which will launch by this spring to provide parcels of City land to community groups for urban gardening; and
  • In July, if Mayor Cockrel is still in office, the City intends to implement a pilot curbside recycling program for 15,000 west side households and 15,000 east side households.
I have two criticisms about this effort - ones that admittedly seem contradictory at first glace.

First, while it's great that Mayor Cockrel is launching this new effort, I'm disappointed that we haven't heard anything from him in months about how he is going to improve the Detroit Police and Fire Departments. I don't think we have to chose between improving our environment impact and strengthening our police and fire departments. It's possible to do both.

My second criticism has to do with how little the Cockrel Administration is doing as part of this Green Initiative. The City of Detroit might start using compact fluorescent light bulbs, but we're still demolishing vacant buildings instead of deconstructing them - something that would lower our costs, create a couple thousand new jobs and result in less debris ending up in a landfill. (For more information on deconstruction, please click here.)

The Cockrel Administration might convene representatives from every City agency and call it a "Green Council". However, they're still needlessly reinventing the wheel when the U.S. Conference of Mayors has already outlined a strategy for cities to improve their energy usage.

Monday, December 15, 2008

December Friends of Rouge Park Meeting

The Friends of Rouge Park will have their December 2008 general membership meeting on Wednesday, December 17 at 6 pm in St Suzanne School. The school is located at W. Chicago & Westwood. A map with directions for driving, walking or public transit is located below.


View Larger Map

Attendees are asked to enter through the back door, which is located off the parking lot. Please ring the bell if this door is locked.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Breaking News: Nursery to Re-Open in Rouge Park

I have learned that the W.I. Meyers Tree Nursery in Rouge Park will soon re-open thanks to an agreement reached between the City of Detroit and the non-profit group Greening of Detroit. An official press conference is scheduled for tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m.

This agreement was originally brokered by former Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick. However, it sat in political and judicial limbo for several months due to a lawsuit that was brought by the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees as well as a reluctance to approve the agreement on the part of the City Council. AFSCME wanted their members to work at the tree nursery, instead of the Greening of Detroit's staff. The City Council was concerned about a possible payment to the Greening of Detroit.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tip of the Week: Preventing Buglaries

One of the most effective crime deterrents are neighbors. People who know you and your family; who watch out for your home as you watch out for theirs.

Of course, with so many vacant homes in the Warrendale neighborhood due to the on-going mortgage crisis, one can no longer count on even having neighbors let alone neighbors who will watch out for you.

In fact, much of the property crimes that we're seeing in the Warrendale neighborhood is on individual blocks with lots of vacant homes. The more vacant homes, the more those occupied homes are targeted by criminals who often see it as an opportunity to score their next drug fix.

The mortgage crisis is something that no blog can fix. However, as part of my weekly Tip of the Week, I'd like to offer a few tips on preventing home burglaries that come to us courtesy of the Los Angeles Police Department. (The Detroit Police Department, of course, doesn't make such tips available on their web site.)
  • Always lock your doors and windows - even if you're just leaving "for a minute";
  • Never leave a house key available under a door mat, in a flower pot or on the ledge of a door. These are the first places that a criminal will look;
  • Exterior doors should have a "dead bolt" lock that goes at least one inch into the door frame;
  • Be sure to have good locks for the garage, cellar, patio and other doors that lead through storage or other areas of the home.
Locks on a cellar door are especially important because, in the infamous case of couple that had been robbed four times in one year, the thieves apparently entered the home through an unlocked cellar door at the rear of their home.

For more crime prevention tips, please check out the LAPD's web site. (*sigh* Just not DPD's useless site.)

WCO Mayoral Forum

The Warrendale Community Organization will host a forum for the various Detroit Mayoral candidates on Saturday, January 17 from noon until 3 p.m. This forum will happen in the gymnasium at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, which is located at 5780 Evergreen in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood.

The first hour will be an informal meet and greet, where residents will have a chance to talk with all of the candidates on a casual basis. There will then be a moderated discussion of the issues beginning promptly at 1 p.m.

In the interest of time, the executive board of the WCO decided to only invite five of the eighteen candidates. A vote was taken at the WCO's annual holiday as to which five candidates should be invited. The membership decided to invite:
Each of the candidates will be asked a series of questions that were prepared by a committee of WCO members. After that, the floor will be opened for questions from attendees.

This forum is free and open to the public.