Monday, January 31, 2011

Tip of the Week: $25 Off at Jackson Hewitt

It's time for everyone to file your income taxes.

Jackson Hewitt Get the Big Check
For those who don't want to suffer through the agony of doing your own taxes, I recommend Jackson Hewitt Tax Service. They have an office in the Warrendale neighborhood, 17627 W. Warren Ave., and they can you get the refund you're looking for.

Plus, Jackson Hewitt has a $25 off coupon available here.

A discount on tax preparation at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Detroit Works Project Comes to Warrendale

Mayor Dave Bing is hosting another series of community meetings regarding the Detroit Works Project. There are eight more of these meetings over the next few weeks. It will come to the Warrendale neighborhood on Wednesday, February 16 at the NFL/YET – Boys & Girls Club (16500 Tireman St.).

This meeting will run from 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. Everyone who is interested in the future of Detroit is invited, however, space is limited. Doors will close once capacity is reached.

Information on the other seven community meetings is available here.

Breaking News: Bombing Attempt Near Warrendale

The Dearborn Police Department arrested Roger Stockham of California for allegedly attempting to blow up the Islamic Center of America (19500 Ford Rd. in Dearborn), which is immediately adjacent to the Warrendale neighborhood. This is the same mosque that the Westboro Baptist Church protested at last November.

Bombing Suspect Roger Stockham
Thankfully, police officers were able to stop Mr. Stockham before any of the estimated 700 people inside this mosque at the time were injured. There was also no damage to the mosque itself either and the suspect is currently in custody.

The Detroit Free Press has more information about this attempted bombing available here.

I congratulate everyone at the Dearborn Police Department for a job well done. I also want to thank the anonymous person who supplied them with the tip that led to Mr. Stockham's arrest and ultimately saved hundreds of lives.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: 4 Police Officers Shot

Earlier this afternoon, at 4:20 p.m., an unidentified gunman walked into the Northwest District (11450 Warwick St.) with a pistol grip shotgun and opened fire. Four police officers were shot before the officers returned fire, killing their attacker.

Thankfully, each of these police officers are expected to make a full recovery.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Going to the Auto Show

One of my Facebook friends posted this note of advice for anyone heading downtown. It is my Warrendale Tip of the Week.
Going to the Auto Show? After all, if you're a Detroiter then it is pretty much a civic obligation!
FCC regulations in Detroit prohibit the local media from suggesting non-auto forms of transportation. So, when the weather is bad, the talking heads will instruct you to leave early, drive slowly, take alternate routes, allow yourself plenty of time, blah blah blah. But they will NEVER suggest taking the bus.
So here's a tip. Given the crummy weather, snow, possibly icy roads, consider taking the bus (DDOT if you're on the fun side of 8 mile, and SMART if you're not) to Cobo. It's a convenient, cheap way to get to/from the show. You can also connect with the DPM (People Mover) for the best 50 cent tour around.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cool Warrendale Thing: Ford Road is Full

For the first time in several years, every commercial slot along Ford Road now has a viable business in it. This is great, in my opinion, because it means that we have something strong to build on for the rest of the neighborhood.

Businesses along Ford Road is your Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week.

Detroit Police Department - Money Without Results

I have long been curious about how the Detroit Police Department's budget stacks up against other departments in cities our size. Therefore, I decided to spend some time going through data from the U.S. Census Bureau and cross-referencing it with budget data from the City of Detroit as well as other cities of similar size to Detroit.

Specifically, I looked at cities with a population that is less than 1 million but more than 500,000.  There are twenty six communities in the United States that meet this criteria, including Detroit. The results were  somewhat surprising.

The bottom line is the Detroit Police Department has a budget that is 32.2% above average on a per resident basis.  In spite of this, our police response time and case closure rates are well below average.  This is in spite of the fact that Detroit also a population density that is 32.4% higher than average.

There are reasons commonly given as for why the Detroit Police Department has the problems that it does:
  • Some blame it on Detroit's low population density;
  • Others argue that the Detroit Police Department isn't given the resources that it needs.
In my opinion, this data refutes both arguments. Our police department has a greater than average budget while our city, as a whole, as an above average amount of density.

I believe that we, as a community, need to take a very close look at the money that we are spending on DPD and what it is spent on. I have a few examples to illustrate this point.

In most cities, the Office of the Chief of Police consists of a chief, a deputy chief, a secretary, and a couple of assistants.  In Detroit, however, the Office of the Chief consists of fifteen people with a budget of $2.6 million.

If we simply brought the budget for the Office of the Chief in line with national averages, that would be enough money to put an additional three dozen police officers on the streets.

We also have seven assistant and deputy chiefs of police that have their own "office of" staff.  Between them, they cost us almost $12 million.  If we bring this in line with national averages, it would save enough money to put approximately additional four hundred police officers on the streets.

There are also areas where job duties seem to overlap.  We have an Assistant Chief - Administration as well as a Deputy Chief - Management Services Bureau.  Both are responsible for back-office operations - such as payroll, grant management, and so on - but they're separate entities within DPD.  This hardly seems efficient.

In my opinion, having a budget for the police department that is 32.2% higher than national averages while frequently failing to deliver on services is simply intolerable. I believe it's time for us as a community to take a very close look at what we are spending our money on.

For those who are interested, all of the data that I used is available on-line. A summary of the population density for cities with a population of between 1 million and 500,000 is available here. The population data for each city came from the U.S. Census Bureau.

A summary of the budget for police departments in this population category is available here. The raw data for police budgets came from each of the individual cities. Links to each city's budget are available here.

Update - May 26, 2011
With the 2010 Census complete and its results released, Detroit now has a population of 713,777 people. This translates into a population density of 5,142 people per square mile, which is 8.2% above average for cities of our population size (less than 1 million but more than 500,000) and down from the 32.4% above average that I reported above.

As one continues to adjust for the new Census numbers, the Detroit Police Department now has a budget of $581.11 per resident, which is 66.3% above average for cities our size. The Detroit City Council has proposed $12 million in cuts to the Department, which would mean that its budget would still be 61.1% above average.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Missing Property Tax Bills

Several residents of the Warrendale neighborhood have reported that they haven't received their winter property tax bills. It turns out that the City of Detroit outsourced the printing and mailing of these bills. Unfortunately, the bills were not delivered and were returned to the City.

The easiest solution to this problem is to pay your property taxes on-line here. The alternative is to visit the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center (2 Woodward Ave. in downtown) and get your bill in person.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Detroit Submits Audit on Time

Mayor Dave Bing announced that the City of Detroit has submitted its annual audit to the State of Michigan on time. This is the first time in thirteen years that the City has done so. "Financial responsibility has returned to Detroit," Mayor Bing remarked in a statement.

Mayor Dave Bing
I congratulate Mayor Bing and his staff for completing this audit on time. This is a significant improvement over his predecessor.

However, before one can honestly proclaim that "financial responsibility has returned to Detroit", I believe it would appropriate to take a very close look at Detroit's massive bureaucracy. Detroiters pay almost double the national average for taxes, but do not receive the most basic of city services on a consistent basis.

Mayor Bing was elected almost two years ago with the promise of "change with a sense of urgency." Unfortunately, he has kept much of the Kilpatrick Administration in place and the bureaucracy that hinders the delivery of services remains untouched. Once he has made progress on those issues, then and only will one be able to claim in all seriousness that financial responsibility has returned to Detroit.

Regardless, I congratulate Mayor Bing and his staff for completing the audit on time.

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

"Find Your Place in History!" continues this January! Admission to the Detroit Historical Museum (5401 Woodward Ave. in Midtown) will be free this Sunday, January 16 courtesy of MASCO Corporation Foundation.

The Detroit Historical Museum will be open from noon to 5 p.m. Docent-led tours of their famous Streets of Old Detroit will be available from noon - 3 p.m.

Free admission to the Detroit Historical Museum is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

So Very Cool

There's a guy in London, England who will take your old Christmas tree and transform it into furniture for you. I looked, but I can't find anyone in the Detroit area who does this.

I would love it if someone where to launch such a business in the Detroit area.

And I would love it even more if said business opened up in the Warrendale neighborhood.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Lions Win Because of Warrendale

Roaring Because of Warrendale
The Detroit Lions beat the Minnesota Vikings 20 - 13 yesterday at Ford Field. This was their fourth straight victory to close out the season. As one person after another has opined already, this gives fans hope for next season. The thing no one has else has reported, however, is that the Detroit Lions owe their winning streak, at least in part, to the Warrendale neighborhood.

Warrendale is home to a certain woman who is a transplant to the Detroit area. Until recently, she was a loyal fan of the Green Bay Packers. However, on December 12, she attended a game at Ford Field and, prior to said game, publicly switched her loyalty to the Detroit Lions.

The Detroit Lions, of course, went on to defeat the Green Bay Packers 7 - 3. This, in turn, was the start of their winning streak that gives everyone so much hope for next season.

Therefore, I believe one can safely proclaim that the Warrendale neighborhood is officially Home of the Good Luck Charm of the Detroit Lions. Our property values are no doubt climbing already.

Welcome to the Party, Freep

Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor for The Detroit Free Press, wrote a column yesterday in which he argued that Detroit must stop its policy of charging residents and businesses taxes that are well-above average while delivering services that are dramatically below average. I have been arguing this same thing for years on this blog. In addition, one resident after another has argued it in one community meeting after another.

More importantly, Mr. Henderson announced in his column that the Free Press editorial board will focus intently on these issues during the coming year. It took them awhile to start doing this. However, I'm glad that they are. I look forward to seeing what happens when they shine their much larger spotlight on these issues.

For those who are interested, Mr. Henderson's column is available on-line here.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

42 Shots Fired

Detroit Police Chief Ralph L. Godbee, Jr. issued a statement on Wednesday in which he praised the "Hugs Not Bullets" campaign. This was a public relations effort to encourage Detroiters to refrain from shooting into the air on New Year's Eve. In spite of this, there were at least forty two shots fired in the Warrendale neighborhood to welcome 2011. (Yes, I spent the evening counting gunshots.)

In spite of all these shots being fired, I did not see a single police officer last night.

I feel old by saying this, but I can remember several New Year's Eves in a row where there wouldn't be a single shot fired in the Warrendale neighborhood. When it did happen, it was never more than one or two shots fired. Moreover, in my estimation, it would seem that every year more and more ammunition is going into the sky on New Year's Eve. This means that every year, more and more bullets are coming back to Earth with the potential for tragic consequences.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that we need to do a much better job at safely welcoming 2012. This is a problem that needs more than a public relations campaign to combat it.