Wednesday, June 30, 2010

DeDan Milton Sentenced to Jail

DeDan Milton, a former aide to Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick, was sentenced to three 1/2 years in federal prison today on corruption related charges. He was a long-time fried of the former mayor and the latest in a long string of officials from the area to head to federal prison.

When the Impossible Finally Happens

There was an article published in Assignment Detroit by the Time/CNN crew about how the Russell Industrial Center (1600 Clay St.) has become a haven for artists and other small businesses. It was clear, well-written, and had multiple sources. It answered at least of majority of questions associated with the subject matter and told the good as well as the bad news associated with said story.

And it was written by the Time/CNN crew as part of their Assignment Detroit project.

Quite frankly, I'm shocked. I've previously compared the folks working on Assignment Detroit to the barristas at Starbucks. They have been here for several months now and have developed a reputation for filing stories that only barely scratched the surface of a given subject. Their previous material could pretty much be authored by someone in Des Moines who spent 5 minutes reading a Wikipedia entry.

Now, however, they go and produce a piece of competent journalism like this. I just don't know what to think anymore. It's as if someone told me that the Detroit Lions had won a Super Bowl.

Read Detroit's New Factory of Dreams on Assignment Detroit.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Grass Gets Cut at Ryan Playground

For the first time in almost a year, the City of Detroit managed to cut the grass at the Ryan Playground in the Warrendale neighborhood. This comes less than twenty four hours after the budget stalemate was resolved between Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council.



I hope you enjoy the video.

Fiscal Stability in Bankruptcy

The deal late yesterday to keep Rouge Park and 76 other parks in Detroit has prompted a decent amount of discussion on Facebook and elsewhere about how to best maintain financially.  I posted the comment below, which received positive reactions.  I am, therefore, repeating it here.

This is counterintuitive, but the road to fiscal stability for Detroit leads straight to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Almost 70% of our tax dollars go straight to debt service, in one form or another. This includes Detroit Public School debt, City of Detroit general debt, the revenue anticipation bonds, and Wayne County debt.

We need a massive reorganization of those debts, on a scale that can only be done under the supervision of bankruptcy judge.

As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below.

Ron Jeremy Comes to Warrendale

The Warrendale neighborhood has seen its fair share of celebrity appearances over the years, from Fergie stopping by Chick's Bar during Super Bowl XL to the movie that was shot nearby starring Danny Glover this past fall. In a little over a week, however, we get a celebrity appearance of the adult variety as Ron Jeremy is scheduled to appear at the Toy Chest Bar (18728 Ford Rd.) on Friday, July 9.

Yes - after appearing in more than 1,700 pornographic films as well as 60 mainstream ones, 14 music videos, and a reality television series - Ron Jeremy has decided that the only thing that can make his life better is to visit the Warrendale neighborhood.  (Okay, that might not be true. Regardless, that's my story and I'm sticking with it.)

I welcome Ron Jeremy to Detroit and to the Warrendale neighborhood. I hope he will enjoy his time here and return soon.

Last, but not least, for the benefit of anyone who would like to know more about Ron Jeremy, I recommend picking up a copy of his autobiography, Ron Jeremy: The Hardest (Working) Man in Showbiz. I bought a copy of it when it first came out a couple of years ago. It's a great book.


Best Pizza in Michigan

Gracie See Pizzeria (6889 Greenfield Rd.) has been nominated for Michigan's Best Pizza by Channel 4/WDIV Detroit. This is a great example of investigative journalism, if I may say so myself.

However, they need your help to ensure that they maintain their lead in the on-line voting. Please vote early and vote often by casting your ballot here.

The staff at Gracie See are promising a crazy party if they win. I would like to see that happen.

Again, the on-line ballot is available here.

It's Tiger Time

I want to congratulate the first-place Detroit Tigers on their win today over the Minnesota Twins.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, say it nice and slow, "the first-place Detroit Tigers."

Doesn't it just seem like those words were always meant to be together?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Detroit Rallies to Save the Historic Rouge Park

Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council have proposed the closure of Rouge Park in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood in order to save money. A few dozen residents turned out this afternoon in a rally to protest this move.

A short video clip from this rally is embedded below.



As the battle over the future of Rouge Park evolves, I will cover it here as always.

Update @ 6:58 p.m.
The Detroit News is reporting that a tentative deal has been reached between Mayor Bing and the Detroit City Council. As a result of this deal, not only has the layoff of police officers and firefighters been averted but the closure of 77 parks has also undone.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Save Rouge Park. Again.

Rouge Park, which is the largest municipally owned park in the United States, is currently slated to close on Thursday, July 1 due to budget cuts. As a result of this, grass will no longer be cut in the park, trash will no longer be collected, no maintenance will be performed on any of the facilities, and all programming in the park will end.

It is widely expected that the lack of grass cutting, trash collecting, and maintenance will have a severely adverse impact on the 457 homes that are immediately adjacent to Rouge Park as well as the approximately 3,000 other homes that are within a 500 foot radius of it. All of this, of course, is in addition to the loss of recreational opportunities for all Detroiters.

From an economic standpoint, one should point out that allowing the park to become a blighted area will have a detrimental impact on Detroit's budget in th long-term. The 457 homeowners who are immediately adjacent to Rouge Park pay an estimated $1.1 million in property taxes. If one includes those homes within 500 feet of the park, that total jumps to $7.8 million. If a significant amount of homeowners are forced to abandon their homes as a result of this blight, the City of Detroit will have to make additional cuts next year in order to accommodate for that drop in tax revenue.

As a result of this proposal, the Friends of Rouge Park have organized a rally in opposition to this closure. It will happen on Monday, June 28 at 5 p.m at the Brennan Pools in Rouge Park. The pools are located just south of Plymouth Rd. in the park. A map is available here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kilpark Indicted on 19 Counts of Fraud

The former Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick was indicted on 19 charges related to corruption by a federal grand jury this afternoon. Most of these charges related to the operation of a charity that he set up, the Kilpatrick Civic Fund. In spite of this, Mike Paul, a spokesman for Mr. Kilpatrick, released a written statement this afternoon in which he said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation found "nothing" on him.

I guess it would've had to have been 20 charges in that indictment before he was willing to call it "something."

Earthquake Hits Detroit

An earthquake was felt throughout much of the Detroit area this afternoon. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake measured a 5.5 on the Richter scale and was centered around an area that was 24 miles north of Cumberland, Ontario.

No injuries or significant damage have been reported as a result of this earthquake.

All of this makes me wonder: where were you when the earthquake of 2010 hit Detroit?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How to Commemorate the Shooting Anniversary?

The one-year anniversary of the bus stop shooting in the Warrendale neighborhood is only a little more than a week away. It was on June 30, 2009 that seven teenagers were gunned down in broad daylight at the corner of W. Warren Avenue and the Southfield Freeway by two members of one of Detroit's more violent drug gangs. To this date, no one has been charged in those shootings.

Since the anniversary is fast approaching, I can't help but wondering: how should we as a community commemorate this tragic anniversary?

Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mailbag: What If We Stopped Paying Taxes?

In response to my post below entitled What If We Stopped Paying Taxes?, Dylan wrote in with a lengthy comment that deserves a longer than normal response. Therefore, I'm making my response a separate post of its own.
That's already been happening. People just walk away and let their houses fall into foreclosure. That's why the city is the largest landholder. Other cities pay a lot more in taxes than we do. They also typically have a city sales tax which extends into at least the inner ring suburbs. We're doing it all off property and income tax. And people are leaving with their taxes.
First, when I suggested that people simply stop paying taxes, I wasn't suggesting that they walk away from their homes. I was suggesting that they continue living here, just not pay taxes for the services that we aren't receiving.

As for the number of vacant homes and its implications on taxes, most estimates that I've seen put the number of vacant properties at 30 - 40% of Detroit's land mass. If our taxes were 30-40% higher than average and the services that we receive were on par with neighboring communities then that would make sense. However, that is simply not the case. We pay more than double their taxes and receive little to no public services.

As for your assertion that other cities pay a lot more in taxes than Detroiters do, that's not quite accurate. There are some places with a higher tax burden than Detroit - with a correspondingly higher level of services - however, those communities are few and far between.

According to the January 2010 issue of Forbes magazine, the national average for property taxes in the United States is $1,183. Most Detroiters pay anywhere from $2,000 - $3,000 in property taxes depending on the assessed value of their home. That is roughly double national averages.

In addition, Detroit is one of the few cities in Michigan with a local income tax. We are also the only one with a tax on utility services. Add all of that up and our total tax burden (property + income + utility taxes) is roughly three times the national average.

And we still don't get the most basic of city services on a consistent basis.

As for your comment about a sales tax, the first thing that one should point out is that such a tax is illegal in Michigan. For those cities outside of Michigan that do have a local income tax, they either don't have tax on utility services (New York City, for example) or they don't have an income tax (anywhere in Florida or Texas, for example).

Bottom line: Detroit has a tax burden on its residents that is roughly three times the national average. In spite of this, we do not receive basic city services on a consistent basis.

This, in my opinion, is completely unacceptable and it's time that it change.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Charles Pugh Grandstands - And Then Backs Down

Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh posted a 44 second long video on Facebook over the weekend in which he ranted about people who litter in Detroit. It was entitled Stop F@*#ing Littering. As its title implies, this video contained more than a few profanities that were prompted by an orange peel that Mr. Pugh found on the ground in downtown Detroit.

I regret that Facebook does not allow anyone to embed or download videos from their system. This video was a classic.


More importantly, from a political standpoint, it was an interesting diversionary tactic. Cops and firefighters will soon be getting laid off. Parks are closing. Unemployment is at an all time high. But hey, let's talk about this (biodegradable) orange peel that Charles Pugh found on the ground.

The thing is, by Monday morning, this video had been removed from Facebook. Only time will tell if this means he going to stop grandstanding all together, or if he is just going to do it without the profanities.

What If We Stopped Paying Taxes?

We in Detroit pay some of the highest taxes in the United States. In spite of that, the services that we receive range from minimal to almost non-existent.

For decades now, one politician after another has been elected on the promise that they would make things better. As soon as they get in office, however, they quickly switch their tone and start telling us that we're being unrealistic in expecting the same level of services that neighboring communities enjoy - even though we pay double or even triple what they pay.

There's been a thought in the back of my head for awhile now. I suppressed it at first because I thought it would be too radical or out of the mainstream. However, with every day that goes by, that thought keeps getting louder and louder.

What if we just stopped paying taxes?

For decades, the residents in Detroit have played a game with their elected officials. Detroiters pay some of the highest taxes in the nation. The politicians keep thinking of reasons why residents have to go without silly luxuries like adequate police or fire protection.

I believe that it's time for us to do something to change this game. We need to make sure that the politicians fully understand that this is no longer acceptable; that lip service and vague promises are no longer tolerable.

If one person decided that he or she would no longer pay taxes, it wouldn't even be noticeable.

If a handful of people refused to be a part of this game, it would be too minor to have an impact.

However, as that movement gets larger and larger, it would eventually force a crisis. The politicians would literally have no other option but to start taking their duties seriously. It's the kind of fundamental game change that has been absent in Detroit.

These, my friends and neighbors, are the thoughts that have been lurking inside my head.  What do you think?

Please feel free to leave a comment below or send me an email at frank [dot] nemecek [at] gmail [dot] com.

There's A Garden In There

I went past the Ryan Playground (18540 Kirkwood St.) the other day. Since the grass hasn't been cut in almost a year, much of the playground equipment seems to disappear into its waist-high waves of green blight.

Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council are still arguing over who is going to use which excuse for neither of them doing the jobs that they were elected to do. As a result, a multitude of city services are no longer provided - such as grass being cut in city-owned lots and parks.

(Yes, I'm just a tiny bit bitter about yet another set of politicians telling Detroiters that we have to continue paying some of the highest in the nation, but we still can't have the most basic of city services.)

Anyway, the one cool thing in this is that the Warrendale Community Garden is still going strong. It is located in the midst of a vast prairie and it's hard to see unless you know where to look. However, it's still going strong.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hilarious

The Warrendale neighborhood, like the rest of Detroit, has more than a few vacant homes. However, where is the last time that you saw a deer in vacant, burned out house?


This, my friends, is hilarious.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tip of the Week: How to Prevent Identity Theft

Identity theft is a crime that costs it victims more than $1 billion in losses every year. However, it is also a very preventable crime, as the Detroit Police Department explains below.



Preventing identity theft is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I'll Be Back

I feel bad about not posting at all this week. There are many, many things happening in and around the neighborhood that are worthy talking about.

Unfortunately, I don't have the time to write about them.  (In fact, I probably shouldn't even be writing this post.) I have a work deadline that just changed and, on top of that, I realized that there's a problem with the whole project that is going to require lots of revisions.

Details, for those who are interested, are available here and here.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Real Life OnStar Commericial

Several months ago, the blogs and bulletin boards around Detroit were abuzz in horror. GM shot a commercial that features the police recovering a stolen car, with the whole thing seen from the perspective a dashboard video camera, and - horror of all horrors - the entire thing was shot entirely in Detroit.

If you don't remember this commercial, it's available in its entirety below.



I mention all of this because a real life version of this happened this morning in the Warrendale neighborhood.

Detroit Police arrested a suspect today who allegedly carjacked a 39-year-old woman at a gas station at W. Warren Ave. and Southfield Fwy. this morning. The police later located her vehicle with the help of OnStar. It  was occupied by the suspect and a friend that he later picked up. This friend reportedly had the victim's ATM card in his pocket.

Health Care Forum for Senior Citizens

There are still many questions about how the health reform bill passed by Congress will impact individuals' health care coverage.  To address provisions of the bill, the City of Detroit Senior Citizens Department and the Detroit Area Agency on Aging will host its next My Healthchoice luncheon seminar on Thursday, June 17 from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Northwest Activities Center (18100 Meyers).  The seminar is entitled Now That the Health Reform Bill has Passed, What Does This Mean for Me?.

This luncheon will include presentations by Adult Well-Being, the American Cancer Society, American Association of Retired Persons, MMAP (DAAA), Hospice, Detroit Medical Center, Visiting Nurses Association, as well as the Wayne State University Institute of Gerontology.  They will discuss the various programs and services offered for seniors with attendees.

This event, including lunch, is free and open to the public. For more information, or to RSVP by June 10, please call (313) 224-5444.

Detroit Seeks Host Families for Students

A student exchange delegation from Toyota City, Japan will visit Detroit from July 22 - August 5, 2010. The exchange program is part of the Detroit Sister Cities Program, which is an excellent way to learn more about another culture and to establish an international friendship.

The City of Detroit is seeking families that reside in Detroit to host the students and chaperones during their stay. Although preference is given to Detroit families, the City will consider families outside Detroit.

The group will include eight high school students between the ages of 14 and 18 and two chaperones. All members usually have fairly good skills in the English language.

During the summer of 2011, the City of Detroit will send eight students and two chaperones to live with a family in Toyota City. A host family application is available on-line here. For more information, please see the Sister Cities flyer or call (313) 224-3757.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Armando Galarraga's Imperfect Game

My friends at the Dyspathy blog have created a new t-shirt to celebrate Armando Galarraga's imperfect game. This shirt is available on Zazzle.


If you would like to order one, please visit the web site here.

Cool Warrendale Thing: Movement

I didn't get a chance to post yesterday.  (Please see my personal blog for the gory details about what was keeping my occupied.) Anyway, while I may be late, I did want to post a Cool Warrendale Thing for this week before this week turns into next week.

Movement is an electronic music festival in Hart Plaza each year. It's obviously not a part of the Warrendale neighborhood. However, I did see a bunch of folks from Warrendale down there. Therefore, it seems like an appropriate to bend my own rules.



Movement is the Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week, that just happens to be outside of the Warrendale neighborhood.

Drug Seizures Double from 2009

The Detroit Police Department’s new approach to narcotics enforcement has resulted in a massive increase in drug seizures in the city, Chief Warren Evans announced today.

The narcotics enforcement unit has confiscated $17 million worth of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and pills through June 2. This more than doubling 2009’s year-end total of $7.3 million, Chief Evans said. These numbers do not reflect additional seizures made by drug task forces DPD is involved in, which also are seeing larger returns, he added.

“This is just one more example of how the Detroit Police Department is working smarter and producing better results,” Chief Evans explained. “We have doubled our results in half the time with half the officers.”

“A year ago, this unit was chasing street level drug dealers with three rocks of crack in their pocket,” the Chief said. “Now we are getting to their suppliers and we are getting more guns.”


DPD Narcotics Enforcement Unit Results
JANUARY 1, 2010 THROUGH JUNE 2, 2010

NARCOTICS SEIZED 
Cocaine: 35.27 lbs. (2010 YTD) vs. 13.91 lbs. (2009 total).
Heroine: 8.83 lbs. (2010 YTD) vs. 4.60 lbs. (2009 total).
Marijuana: 724.54 lbs. (2010 YTD) vs. 450.63 lbs. (2009 total)
Pills: 12,637 (2010 YTD) vs. 10,480 (2009 total).

NARCOTIC PROCEEDS
$920,448.00 (2010 YTD) vs. $863,420.00 (2009 total).

RAIDS:
Search Warrants Executed: 448 (2010 YTD) vs. 1,440 (2009 total).
Street Enforce Execution: 518 (2010 YTD) vs. 1,830 (2009 total).

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Featured Place to Live: 6720 Faust

6720 Faust is a 900 square foot bungalow with three bedrooms, one bathroom, and an unfinished bathroom in the Warrendale neighborhood. The house definitely needs some work. However, since it's offered with an asking price of only $4,000, almost anyone could transform this into a very lovely home quite easily.

The real estate agent listing this home has a short video tour of the home and its interior available below.



6720 Faust is your Featured Place to Live for this week. More information about this home, as well as contact information for the real estate agent, is available here.