Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Jinxed the Neighborhood





I uploaded a video last night about downed power lines; how a portion of Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood momentarily lost power but that it was back on. As soon as it finished uploading, however, we lost power a second time.

Literally.

As soon as it finished uploading, we lost power.

I simply hope that, by posting a second reference to this, I don't cause the power to go out a third time.

This video includes the footage that I shot during the second black out, which I caused by jinxing the neighborhood.

Power Lines Down on Paul Street





Power lines were down in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood, which cause Paul Street to be closed between Ashton and Rosemont Streets. Power was out momentarily in the neighborhood, but has since been restored.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

49 Reasons to Leave Detroit

Four employees of Dearborn Axle (20446 W. Warren Ave.) were robbed at gun point last Saturday at approximately 5:45 p.m. The employees had just stepped outside at the end of their shift when they were approached by two black men with handguns who demanded everything that had.

The entire incident was captured on video surveillance from the shop. Channel 7 Action News (WXYZ-TV ABC) featured the story on their newscast that evening. You can see their entire report on their website.

Sadly, the robbery at Dearborn Axle wasn't the only crime to happen in the Warrendale neighborhood. In fact, it was 1 of 49 crimes in the neighborhood to be reported in a week. Once upon a time, we wouldn't have had that many crimes in the neighborhood in an entire year. Now, we have 49 such incidents in a single week.

The Warrendale neighborhood was also victimized by:
  • 11 assaults;
  • 1 case of arson on Rosemont near Tireman;
  • 1 case of a motorist driving under the influence;
  • 7 cases of vandalism;
  • 1 vehicle break-in at Greenfield and W. Warren Ave.;
  • 3 vehicles were stolen;
  • 3 cases of telephone threats;
  • 1 case of intimidation; and
  • 20 cases of burglary - usually from homes while the owners were away.
All within a single week.

And this wasn't that unusual of a week.

The sad fact of the matter is that most of these victims will eventually decide that they have had enough of this insanity. Businesses will close. Residents will move. All of which will leave Detroit with more vacant homes and commercial buildings; not to mention less tax revenue.

The question that we ultimately have to ask ourselves is: how much more of this are we going to put up with?

Ralph Godbee has simply failed in his job as Chief of the Detroit Police Department. I can't really say that I blame him. He has done the best that he can. However, he was never really a cop. He has spent almost his entire career in a series of administrative roles.

If Detroit was being victimized by out of control paper clips, no one would be better to respond to the situation than Ralph Godbee. Gun toting thugs who are looking for enough to cash to score their next drug fix simply aren't something that he is prepared to deal with.

Detroit needs a top cop who is actually a cop; not a file clerk with a badge. Unfortunately, after former Chief Warren Evans developed a habit of appearing in front of a television camera too often, Mayor Dave Bing decided to replace him with someone who wouldn't be as much of a potential political rival.

And, to his credit, Ralph Godbee has proven himself to be a man with no mayoral aspirations.

That may be fine for Mayor Bing, but it cannot be good enough for the rest of us. We need to demand better. We need to demand a national search for a competent law enforcement professional; one who is capable of taking a department with one of the largest budgets in the nation and putting those resources to use.

That is what Detroit needs, in my opinion, and a lot of other Detroiters feel the same way. I just wonder if Mayor Bing will ever listen to us.

Detroit Works Project + Southfield Construction





First, an update on construction along the Southfield Freeway (M-39) in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood.

Also, Mayor Dave Bing announced three demonstration areas for his Detroit Works Project this afternoon. I provide my analysis and commentary of that.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trees Get Removed + Bad Guys Get Busted





In today's walk through the Warrendale neighborhood, I talk about a large tree that was blocking much of Ashton Street but is now cleared as well as the man who I saw arrested by police on Greenview Street.

Bing Announces Reorganization

Mayor Dave Bing announced his latest reorganization of the City of Detroit's bureaucracy last night. The short version of it that everyone now reports to Chief of Staff Kirk Lewis. Mr. Lewis is the only person who reports directly to the Mayor. The new organizational chart for the City's bureaucracy is available here.

After several such reorganizations over the past two years, I am cautiously optimistic as to whether or not this will actually result the kind of change that we ultimately need. We will find out for certain how successful this proves to be in the coming months.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Illegal Evictions in Detroit




Landlords are supposed to deposit anything that an evicted tenant doesn't take with them into a dumpster. Unfortunately, far too many of them don't bother to, and just dump the trash over the neighborhood.

Changes Are Coming

The Detroit News reports that Tom Lijana has resigned his post as Mayor Dave Bing's finance director. The News also reports that more resignations are to be expected in the coming weeks as the Mayor roles out a new organizational chart with new responsibilities for mayoral responsibilities.

There are several questions still to be answered.
  • When will this new organizational chart be rolled out?
  • Will it prove to be a part of the comprehensive change that the City of Detroit desperately needs?
  • Or will it be yet another effort to rearrange the deck chairs on the R.M.S. Titanic?
I hope and pray that this is the beginning of something spectacular in Detroit. My fear, however, is that will prove to be a slightly different group of people doing basically the same things in much the same way, without accomplishing much of anything in the process.

Only time will tell the answers to these question for certain. As this situation unfolds, of course, I will have more about it on this blog.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Mayor Bing Proves Mark Twain Right

Mark Twain once famously observed, "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Mayor Dave Bing and his staff, it would appear, have recently launched a campaign to prove him right.

NPR did a story recently on the local fans who are keeping the former Tiger Stadium site at Michigan Avenue and Trumbull clean and the grass mowed. The site is a few miles east of the Warrendale neighborhood, but it is important for everyone in southeastern Michigan. One can find this story on-line here.

In this story, one of Mayor Bing's representatives is quoted as saying, "But it (the old Tiger Stadium site) cannot be a space for playing baseball. That space is not meant for that."

Really???

The old Tiger Stadium site is not meant for playing baseball?

Yeah, that's funny because it has been used for that purposed since 1895. That's 116 years of that site being used to play baseball, but Mayor Bing wants to argue that it simply isn't meant for such a purpose.

Mayor Dave Bing and his staff are proudly demonstrating to the world how keen an observer of the human condition Mark Twain really was.

M-DOT Is My Alarm Clock




In today's walk through Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood, I look at construction on the Southfield Freeway (M-39) and the guy who sells watermelon in his front yard.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

5 Tips to Cool Your Home Without Air Conditioning

The heat wave is still with us. Since not everyone in the Warrendale neighborhood has air conditioning, I thought I would share an article that I found on-line: 5 Tips for Cooling the Home Without an Air Conditioner.

Good luck and stay cool everyone!

Chief Godbee to Ignore His Job in a Better Building

Mayor Dave Bing, Police Chief Ralph Godbee, Fire Commissioner Donald Austin, and Lt. Col. Daniel Atkinson of the Michigan State Police crime lab toured what will be the new public safety headquarters earlier today. The Detroit Free Press has a full story about this as well as numerous photos that are available here.

The new headquarters is expected to be completed in April 2013. Everyone should be moved into the facility by June 2013. Quite frankly, I'm excited about this new facility.

For years now, Chief Godbee has had to endure the indignity of willfully ignoring his job responsibilities in a crumbling building from the 1920s. In a mere 23 months from now, he will be able to ignore those same responsibilities in a brand spanking new building.

I'm pretty sure that this is the crowning moment that Augustus Woodward was dreaming of when he rebuilt our fair city more than 200 years ago.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I'm Tired of "Cool"

Today is Wednesday. This is the day when (more often than not) I proclaim one thing or another to be the Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week. I'm not going to do that today and it will probably be awhile before I do it again.

The fact of the matter is that I am tired of "cool." Absolutely sick of it.

I have developed a reflex action, an almost innate desire to punch anyone who so much as uses the word "cool" around me.

I grew up in the Warrendale neighborhood. I've invested a few thousand hours over the years in neighborhood clean-ups and other such projects. I've paid taxes when I didn't have cash to spare.

All that I have to show for it now is heartache and a few things that someone or another tells me is supposed to be "cool."

I have witnessed drive-by shootings.

I have heard the sound of gunfire so often that I'm actually starting to get used to it, which is just sad.

I have seen the body of a 19 year old laying in the street, just a few blocks from my home.

I have seen the homes of childhood friends torched or vandalized.

I have seen businesses close down, and their employees laid off, because the business owner was so sick of crime that he or she decided to walk away from everything they invested in, leaving Detroiters with another vacant commercial building.

I have one friend who moved out of the Warrendale neighborhood after his home was broken into three times in less than six months. The Detroit Police Department never showed up or did anything after of those incidents.

Others are ready to walk away from everything they've spent years building because they don't want to raise their children in this kind of an environment.

One of my neighbors was carjacked and beaten on the Southfield Freeway service drive last summer. The police, of course, never showed up. If it wasn't for a Good Samaritan who came to his aid, he would probably be dead today.

And the most common response to any of these things when one goes do a police station to file a complaint the most common response is, "What do you want us to do about it?"

I hate that response, by the way. I hate it almost as much as I hate the word "cool" at the moment. If you're a police officer and you need to ask what someone wants you to do when they tell you that a felony has been committed in your jurisdiction then it's time to turn in your badge.

I'm tired of it all.

The fact of the matter is that one person after another is simply giving up the fight and trying to build a new life elsewhere; somewhere away from all of the "cool" things that the news media and politicians talk about when they don't want to talk about the reality that we live in.

I'm tired of "cool."

I'm tired of excuses.

I'm tired of delays.

I'm tired of being told that I'm being unreasonable when I expect the most basic of services in exchange for taxes that are double national average.

I hit my breaking point during an on-line conversation about food trucks, of all things. That was the moment when I became ready to punch the next person who used the word "cool" in my presence.

The City of Detroit, for those who haven't already heard, began licensing food trucks to operate in downtown Detroit this week. This places them in direct competition with brick and mortar restaurants who pay more in taxes than food trucks do and who employ more people than food trucks do.

More than one person has expressed concern over the potential for this to put at least some brick and mortar restaurants out of business; resulting in a net loss in jobs and tax revenue. Since the City of Detroit already has a budget that is strained, and since roughly half of all residents are currently without a job, the potential impact on jobs and tax revenue seemed important to me.

I suggested, in an on-line conversation, that it would be in the best interest of all parties if these food trucks were given a choice:
  • Confine their operations to areas of the city and times of day that would not place them in competition with brick and mortar restaurants; or
  • Pay the same amount in taxes that brick and mortar restaurants pay.
It seemed simple and straightforward to me.

But I guess I'm not "cool."

Don't worry about jobs or tax revenue, one person after another replied. Food trucks are "cool."

Food trucks shouldn't be taxed, one person after another argued. Food trucks are "cool."

I'm worried about this line of thinking. One regular restaurant pays enough in taxes to keep an EMS unit operating for three days. If that restaurant is driven out of business by a food truck that doesn't pay the same taxes, where is the money going to come from to keep that EMS unit running?

Don't worry about such a thing, I was told.

I was anti-business for worrying about such a thing, I was told.

I wanted to give the Ilitch family the power to control everyone and everything, I was told. (No, really. I'm not making this up. Someone actually said that.)

Food trucks, after all, are "cool."

Of course, if food trucks were really "cool" then no one would really mind paying an extra 50 cents or so for a taco so that said food truck could, in turn, pay the same taxes that regular restaurants pay.

No, don't worry about such things, I was told. Food trucks are "cool."

Who cares if people lose their jobs? Food trucks are "cool."

Who cares if the City of Detroit doesn't have enough money to keep the street lights turned on or ambulances running? Food trucks are "cool."

Young folks love them. Food trucks are "cool."

People shouldn't have to pay for anything that's "cool." Paying that extra 50 cents for a taco would destroy the coolness of the taco that one bought at this food truck. No one should ever have to pay for anything because paying is not "cool."

The truly sad part of all of this is that I'm not making a single word of it up.

I'm tired of "cool." I really am.

I'm tired of this belief that because something is "cool", everyone in Detroit should have to suffer so that others can enjoy their "cool" thing without paying for it.

Maybe I'm way off base, but if someone can raise $50,000.00 for a RoboCop statue because it was regarded as "cool" then there really shouldn't be a problem with a food truck having to charge an extra 50 cents or $1 for its "cool" food item so that said truck could, in turn, pay the same taxes as a regular restaurant.

Oh, I forgot - people should never have to pay for things that are "cool."

I think there's actually a clause in the U.S. Constitution about people never having to pay for anything that is cool. "Cool stuff should be free" is somewhere in between "providing for the common defense" and "establishing domestic tranquility."

How uncool of me to forget such a thing!

I'm tired of "cool." I really am.

Food trucks, of course, aren't the only examples of "cool" things that are destroying Detroit. They are simply the example that set me off. Food trucks are the moment where I reached my breaking point with freeloaders and excuse makers.

I'm tired of a news media that hypes a "cool" project downtown, but never gets around to mentioning that the Detroit Police Department sometimes has to release criminals back onto the streets without prosecuting them because our officers don't have enough holding cells to put them in.

I'm tired of conferences about what will be the next "cool" thing as well as the complete absence of a focus on the things that we could do to address problems with our police and fire departments.

I'm tired of news stories about "cool" drowning out the real news.

I'm tired of one reporter after another from New York telling me what is "cool" about my own town.

I'm tired of excuses.

I'm tired of delays.

I'm tired of "cool."

The closest thing to a Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week I can come up with this week is Peter Finch's legendary speech from the movie Network.








I'll see everyone next week. Maybe by then I will have thought of a way to make police, fire service, EMS, and street lights seem "cool." This way we will be able to get them without having to pay anything.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

After the Storm




In my walk through Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood today, I discuss the aftermath of the thunderstorm, a broken water main, a landscaping job in the area, and some neighborhood break-ins.

Shop for a Cause is Back

You can receive a special saving pass which gives up to 25% off one item or 10% on electronics, furniture, mattresses, and rugs, at any Macy's store or online on August 27, 2011 just for donating $5 or more to the Detroit College Promise. 100% of your donation is used for scholarships for our students.

Of course, your donation is also tax deductible as allowed by law. Donate now by visiting our Contribute page at http://www.detroitcollegepromise.com/dcpcontribute.php. Your savings pass will be mailed to you separately.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Friends of Rouge Park to Meet on Wednesday

The Friends of Rouge Park will have their next meeting this Wednesday, July 20 from 6 - 7 p.m. at the Don Bosco Center (9357 Westwood).

Anyone interested in preserving and promoting Rouge Park is invited to attend.

Ferguson Wants the Charges Dropped

Bobby Ferguson, the embattled contractor and long-time friend of former Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick, filed a motion in U.S. District Court last week to have the federal charges against him dropped. His argument is that the work done at the Gardenview Estates in the Warrendale neighborhood, which was funded in large part by a HOPE VI grant from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, wasn't really a federally funded project.

And since this federally funded project wasn't really a federally funded project, according to Mr. Ferguson, the federal charges simply don't apply.

Any criminal wrong-doing that may or may not have occurred, according to the convoluted reasoning of Bobby Ferguson and his attorneys, is something that should be dealt with at the state or local level by Wayne Country Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy.

There are two separate points that I believe one should make in response to an issue like this.

First, Mr. Ferguson's reasoning that a federally funded project wasn't really a federally funded project is pure nonsense. I hope and pray that the U.S. District Court denies this motion without delay.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, I believe that this motion is also an indictment against Ms. Worthy. When criminals and their attorneys are willing to try a complicated legal maneuver in order to get a criminal case out of the hands of federal prosecutors into the hands of local prosecutor, it makes things rather clear that the local prosecutor (in this case, Kym Worthy) isn't doing her job properly.

Criminals actually want to be prosecuted by Kym Worthy, rather than by the U.S. Attorney.

Kym Worthy was re-elected with minimal opposition in 2008. She is up for re-election next year. On behalf of everyone in Wayne County, I seriously hope that a decent candidate rises in opposition to her and we're able to get a prosecutor that criminals don't like.

Tip of the Week: Recover Lost Funds

It is sometime surprising how often someone forgets about money that they didn't even know that they had. They leave a job but forget to pick up their last paycheck. They have a small amount of money in a bank account that eventually is considered dormant and closed by the banks. Insurance policies sometimes build up cash value for a child, but the parent forgets to tell said child so the money goes unclaimed with the insurance company.

Eventually, all of this money is transferred to the Unclaimed Property Division of the Michigan Department of Treasury. They hold it until its rightful owner can be identified and the appropriate paperwork is completed.

The challenge is that the Michigan Department of Treasury doesn't have the staff needed to search for the rightful owner of these funds. It's incumbent on each individual to contact them to see if any funds belonging to them have been turned over.

Luckily, this is a simple thing in the Internet Age. One only has to visit their web site and perform a simple search to see if they have any funds belonging to you. I encourage you to visit michigan.gov/unclaimedproperty to see if you have any moneys coming to you. If you do, please don't forget about your favorite blogger, who let you know about all of this.

Checking for unclaimed property is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Women of Summer





I was playing with editing program over the weekend and created a video slide show using series of images of women in bikinis. This is different from what I usually post, but it amused me and I thought some other folks on the internet might like it as well.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Orange Skies and Fireflies





The skies over the Warrendale neighborhood in Detroit turned orange this past weekend. Once the sun set, fireflies were out in full force. I made this short video that showcases all of it.

It is your Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week.

Dave Bing: 7 Months Until Lame Duck Status

Mayor Dave Bing has now been in office for a little more than two years. While he has accomplished several things during that time his accomplishments have not been in areas that most Detroit residents and small business owners would regard as the most urgent.

For example, the City of Detroit had its audits completed on time due to the Bing Administration, but the Detroit Police Department still has one of the worst response times in the nation. This is in spite of the Department having of the largest budgets in the nation on a per resident basis.

The Bing Administration managed to secure improvement to Cobo Hall downtown, which is great. However, his signature effort, the Detroit Works Project, appears to be stuck in the proverbial mud.

Several historic buildings in and around downtown Detroit were demolished. This included the vacant Tiger Stadium, even though U.S. Senator Carl Levin had secured the funds to redevelop the historic ballpark. While these historic properties downtown were being demolished, Mayor Bing's efforts at combating vacant and blighted homes in Detroit's neighborhoods has been even worse than those of disgraced former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

There is still time for Mayor Bing to turn things around. Quite frankly, I hope and pray that he does. I would much rather keep a successful incumbent in office than go through the process of selecting a completely new mayor and then have to hope that he or she actually does turn out to be better.

However, the political reality is that Mayor Bing's time to turn things around is rapidly running out. Business leaders and the leadership of various charitable foundations have all expressed a lingering frustration with the slow pace of progress under Mayor Bing. Moreover, what I hear off the record pales in comparison the complaints that I have heard in published news accounts and I have heard these complaints from every section of the city.

Based on this, I predict that if Mayor Bing isn't able to show a considerable amount of progress in the areas of police response time, combating vacant and blighted housing, and economic development in the neighborhoods by next spring then he will essentially be a lame duck. He will, of course, still be in office beyond the spring of 2012.

However, without a significant turnaround, the fact of the matter is that there will be so many mayoral and city candidates with knives out to get him that it will be impossible for him to get anything accomplished. He will have very little of surviving the primary and even less chance at surviving the November 2013 election.

As someone who supported Mayor Bing during the special election that brought him to power, I pray that he is able to use the next 7 months wisely. I fear, based on the past two years that he will squander his last opportunity, but I pray that I am proven wrong and that he begins making drastic changes in how his Administration operates.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

$50 Million by the 4th of July

Mayor Dave Bing has expressed an uncertainty as to how to implement the $25 million in cuts to the budget that the City Council called for without reducing the already limited services that residents receive. I sent him a letter towards the end of last week in which I showed him how he could cut more than $25 million and, more importantly, do it all without cutting services one bit.

My letter to Mayor Bing is available on-line here. If and when I receive a response from the mayor, or any of the other government officials that I sent this letter to, I will post it on this blog.



Featured Place to Live: 6440 Vaughan St.

6440 Vaughan St. is a well-maintained 1,100 square foot bungalow in the Warrendale neighborhood that is available with an asking price of $60,000. The kitchen features a garbage disposal and dishwasher as well as new cabinets.

This 1.5 story home, which was built in 1947, features three bedrooms and 1 bathroom. It also has an unfinished basement with a laundry and furnace section.

Since this home has only been on the market for a few days, it appears to be in move-in condition right now. There are foreclosures and other homes that have been on the market much longer that are cheaper than this one. However, those houses aren't in as good of an overall condition as this one.

That is why 6440 Vaughan St. is your Featured Place to Live for this week. More information about it is available from the real estate agent here.

$50,000 for New Retail Business

Hatch Detroit is giving away $50,000 in cash and a suite of business services to one lucky entrepreneur who wants to start a new retail business in Detroit. They are accepting applications now until September 1. Quite frankly, I would love to see someone set up a new business in the Warrendale neighborhood using this opportunity.

For example, Warrendale is home to Rouge Park, which in turn is home to more than 6 miles of paved bicycle paths as well as the only mountain bike trail in Wayne County. In spite of this, we don't have a single bike shop.

We also have one of the few archery ranges in Michigan, a spot where one can ride houses, and there's a public golf course nearby. In spite of this, we done have any sporting goods stores.

The Warrendale Community Garden is in its third year of operation. It would be great to see a small cafe open that features food from it. Bonus points if it has a bar that features made in Michigan beer, wine, and spirits.

Anyway, these are just a few ideas for retail business concepts that would do well in the Warrendale neighborhood and would be perfect for a contest like this. If you would like to know more, please click here for all of the details from Hatch Detroit.

All of this is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy 4th of July

Happy 4th of July to everyone in the Warrendale neighborhood and beyond. The Warrendale (Detroit) Blog will return to its normal publishing schedule tomorrow. Until then, I hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday.



Happy 4th of July, everyone!