Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's Time to Declare Victory

Celebration in Detroit
My beloved readers, it's time for me to declare victory.

I started the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog back in December of 2005 because I was disappointed in the mainstream media. In particular, I was disturbed by the fact that most media outlets in Detroit paid little to no attention to the Warrendale neighborhood.

Back then, it wasn't uncommon for us to go an entire year without any of the major outlets in Detroit running a single story about events in Warrendale - even though there was much going on. Since then, I'm proud to report that much has changed.

The local news media regularly reports on events in Warrendale. More importantly, we've reached the point that those reporters seem to have a general understanding of what is going on in the neighborhood.

Things have even reached the point where I hear about certain news items in the neighborhood first by reading the Detroit Free Press or Detroit News. For them to go from not even covering the neighborhood to being ahead of the curve is tremendous transformation.

Plus, there are even some of the national news media outlets who have become aware of what's going on in the Warrendale neighborhood. CNN, CNN Radio, and National Public Radio have all done stories about our neighborhood.

I feel I can claim at least a certain amount of credit for this transformation. I've talked to several reporters and editors about the Warrendale neighborhood over the years. Many, in fact, subscribe to this blog - either via email, Facebook, or an RSS feed. (Yeah, I'm still disappointed that Google Plus hasn't caught on - but that's another story altogether.)

With my primary mission here accomplished, the question to ask is: what's next?

Quite frankly, I'm not certain. All that I know for sure is that I'm not going to quit. I'm having too much fun to give this up entirely.

I publish a lot of stories on this blog about the City of Detroit's budget - probably more than anyone else in town. I could transform my blogging focus and zero in on all things budget related.

I could tighten the focus on this blog around redevelopment efforts in the neighborhood. I'm not entirely certain how that would work, but I'm sure I could think of something.

Anyway, I'm going to take a couple of days off to think about all of this. In the meantime, please feel free to share your thoughts about what you think I should do next with this blog. You are welcome to leave a comment below or reach out to me via email. (My email is on the contact page above.)

"The Lorax" at the Edison Branch Library this Saturday



Dr. Seuss's The Lorax will be shown at the Edison Branch (18400 Joy Rd.) of the Detroit Public Library this Saturday, March 31 at 2 p.m. The film is free and complimentary popcorn will also be provided.

This is a great movie for the entire family. Danny DeVitoZac EfronEd Helms, Taylor Swift, and Betty White did a great job using their voices to help bring the charm Dr. Seuss's original story to the big screen.

The Lorax at the Edison Branch Library is your Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Protesters Disrupt the Financial Review Meeting


A group of protesters disrupted a meeting of the State's Financial Review Board this afternoon as they were considering whether or not to recommend an emergency manager be appointed for the City of Detroit. WDIV-TV has video of this meeting here. Quite frankly, I take this with a grain of salt - if not the whole damn shaker.

The first thing one has to keep in mind is that these "protesters" are all adults under the age of 65, yet they are available to go chant and sing at a meeting on a weekday afternoon. This, of course, is the time when most adults would be at work; not protesting at a meeting.

The other thing that one should keep in mind is that at least some of them have been paid by the kleptocracy to show up at these meetings and perform these antics. It's not uncommon for individuals or companies who have lucrative contracts with the current administration to pay someone a few dollars to join in for protests like this.

Those "protesters", therefore, hardly represent the true will of the people of Detroit.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chanting at the Public Comment Meeting?

Chanting and singing at the public comment meeting? If that isn't irrefutable proof that an Emergency Manager is needed immediately, I don't know what is.

Know Your Potential Emergency Managers

Gov. Rick Snyder
Governor Rick Snyder will likely appoint an emergency manager this week. With that in mind, I was thrilled that the Detroit Free Press posted a write-up of the potential emergency managers. Their complete list is available here.

Personally, I'm a fan of Mike Duggan. He turned the perpetually broke DMC into a money-making enterprise. He did more than simply manage the organization. He fundamentally transformed it, which is what is needed with out local government.

Mike Duggan is also the one person on their list who has the fewest connections with the reigning kleptocracy that has plagued Detroit's local government for more than decade.

Knowing your potential emergency managers is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Seeking More Cool Things in Detroit's Warrendale Neighborhood


Do you know someone in the Warrendale neighborhood who has a really cool house, basement, or backyard? Maybe an old car they're rebuilding?

Do you know someone from the Warrendale neighborhood who is in a band? Starring in an indie films? Does cool art projects?

Is there a local business that you've always wanted to know more about?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, please leave a comment below with some details. I would love to feature these people on the blog.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Death of the Kleptocracy

For more than a generation, there has been a group of politically well-connected individuals who have profited from Detroit's demise. Today, with the City of Detroit financially insolvent largely due to their handiwork and a consent agreement - if not an emergency manager - on his way into town, it's clear that their days are quickly coming to an end. If they're not driven from office soon, they will at least be so severely constrained that they won't be able to hurt the rest of us much longer.

Death Comes for the Kleptocracy
This is a great thing, not only for the Warrendale neighborhood but for all of Detroit and, by extension, the entire State of Michigan. Therefore, I hereby proclaim the death of the kleptocracy to the be the Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Housing Prices Up 32% in Detroit's Warrendale Neighborhood

Houses in Detroit's Warrendale Neighborhood
I was going over a list of houses sold in the Warrendale  neighborhood recently and prices paid for them. The exciting news is that the average sale price for homes in our area has gone up 32% in the past two years.

Prices are still much lower than they were prior to the beginning of the mortgage crisis. Regardless, the fact that they have climbed that much in spite of the problems that Detroit has is encouraging.

Just imagine what would happen if some of Detroit's problems were solved.

Therefore, my Featured Place to Live for this week is, well, everywhere. With this kind of improvement in the market, there really aren't any bad options.

Fear not, dear readers, I will be back next with a specific home in the neighborhood to recommend to you. Until then, I'm just too happy about the overall market.

Monday, March 19, 2012

7 Things That Should Be Changed in the Proposed Consent Agreement

Governor Rick Snyder unveiled his proposed consent agreement last Tuesday. Since then, there has been almost unending amount of howling from certain quarters within our community. Those complaints, by the way, came from many of those who were also opposed to the various reforms that we written into the new City Charter that was overwhelmingly enacted last year. Regardless of how much those individuals might protest, the fact of the matter is that consent agreement is likely coming very soon and it's probably the best thing for Detroiters.

With that in mind, I would like to offer seven specific suggestions that I believe Mayor Dave Bing as well as everyone on the City Council and Lansing should carefully consider.

#1. Guarantee Public Involvement in the Process
No matter what someone somewhere might plug into a spreadsheet, the fact remains is that it is our tax dollars that are being spent here and our futures that are at stake. While Governor Snyder was busy building his fortune, thousands of middle class families were fighting to make Detroit a place worth living in. Their efforts, quite frankly, are the main reason why this town is still standing.

If those families are going to be asked to continue the fight, and if new ones are going to asked to join in, then they must be guaranteed that they will have an opportunity to have their objections heard and their suggestions duly considered. There will unquestionably be a loud outpouring of people that my friend Jeff Wattrick of MLive.com refers to as "grape throwers" in his columns. It could be tempting to shut them out out of the process, but shutting them out also means shutting out the ordinary middle class families who have kept Detroit afloat for this long, which only gives those families yet another reason to leave.

Tip of the Week: Tax Benefits of Home Ownership


Home ownership is a big a part of the American Dream. When that dream becomes a reality, there are many great tax breaks that can come along with it. This tax season, I wanted to pass along a few tips from my friends at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service about the many credits and deductions that can add thousands of dollars to your refund.

“There are a wide variety of tax breaks available to existing homeowners and first-time homebuyers,” Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, explained in a statement. “Speaking with a local, knowledgeable tax preparer can help ensure taxpayers take advantage of all the home ownership-related credits and deductions for which they are eligible.”

For homeowners, Mr. Steber notes that there are several tax breaks available covering home-related areas, such as:  

Mortgage Interest
The amount of mortgage interest paid on a principal residence or second home is deductible and generally reported on Form 1098. Taxpayers can also deduct all the points paid to purchase the residence, even if some have been paid by the seller. If certain requirements are met, the points may be deducted in full in the year paid. Otherwise, they may be deducted over the life of the mortgage. Seller-paid points that taxpayers claim as an itemized deduction reduce the cost basis of the home. 

Buying a Home
Most of the expenses incurred when buying a home are not deductible. However, there are certain closing costs that are added to the basis of your residence. Keeping track of the basis of your home is important because when selling, it is needed to calculate any gain or loss.

Property Taxes
Taxpayers may deduct real estate property taxes in the year paid. They may be reported on Form 1098, the annual statement from the financial institution holding your mortgage. Taxpayers may also be able to deduct some of the taxes paid during closing. The taxes must be the responsibility of, and paid by, the taxpayer.

Energy Credits
There are energy credits available for making energy efficient changes to a home. For 2011, the credit is limited to 10% of the cost of improvements, up to a lifetime total of $500. The credit will be further limited for each category of improvement. 

Home Improvements
Home improvements are not generally deductible on a tax return. Instead, the cost of improvements is added to the basis of the home and helps keep any gain below the $250,000 ($500,000 if married filing jointly) exclusion amount when the house is sold.

For those who find themselves in the unfortunate position of a foreclosure or short sale on their home, there are tax breaks available as well. Foreclosures and short sales are treated as both a home sale and a canceled debt. When the house is a taxpayer’s primary residence, and they have lived in and owned the home for two of the last five years, any gain up to $500,000 on the disposition is tax-exempt. In addition, the canceled debt (mortgage still owed) is excluded from taxable income, as long as it is less than $2 million and is for the taxpayer’s principal residence. 

To learn more about home ownership-related tax benefits, please visit www.jacksonhewitt.com or call 1-800-234-1040 to find a local Jackson Hewitt office.

Knowing my about the tax benefits of home ownership is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day



Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood and beyond. In honor of the Feast of St. Patrick, I wanted to share a song from one of my favorite Irish rock bands of all. I give you "My Town" by The Young Dubliners.


Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gary Brown Offers His Thoughts on the Consent Decree

Gary Brown, President Pro Tem of the Detroit City Council, wrote an editorial that was published in the Detroit Free Press this morning. In it, he makes the case for a consent decree between the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan to address our City's financial problems.

It is available on-line here. I encourage everyone to take a moment to read it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Detroit is a Rorschach Test


Detroit, in many ways, is a Rorschach test for pundits and other commentators. People tend to look at this city and see as the cause of its failure whatever their favorite issue is.

What Do You See in Detroit?

For example, a certain documentary filmmaker who happens to have a degree in international relations proposed in her most recent project that Detroit's problems were the result of international trade policies. Never mind, of course, that a host of other industrial cities like Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Pittsburgh are doing much better than Detroit.

Several different urban planners have opined in one outlet or another that Detroit's problems were either the result of the way our streets are laid out or the fact that our utility lines are all above ground or the size/type of the housing stock in our neighborhoods. Never mind, of course, that Detroit is surrounded by suburbs such as Dearborn, Ferndale, and Redford with the same street layout, the same above ground utility lines, and the same size/type of housing stock. However, they are also doing much better than Detroit.

And then there are the political or economic conservatives who argue that Detroit's problems are the result of liberal economic policies. Never mind, of course, that Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Philadelphia all have notoriously liberal local governments. However, those cities are also doing much better than Detroit.

Quite frankly, I think we as a community need to take a step back. I believe that we need to ask ourselves a  few very important questions at this moment in our city's history.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, by way of his Sherlock Holmes character, once opined that once one eliminates every other possible explanation for a certain thing than whatever is leftover - regardless of how utterly improbable it might seem - must be the truth.

Another wise man that I once knew argued in simpler terms. He believed that when nothing else makes sense then follow the money and one will begin to understand why things are the way they are.

After so many decades of failure, there comes a point in time where one starts to wonder if those in charge of this town really and truly do want things to rebound permanently.

One then has to ask: who benefits financially from the way things are today?

Measure for Measure to Perform in the Warrendale Neighborhood

Measure for Measure, a men's choral society, will perform at Sts. Peter & Paul Church (7685 Grandville St.) in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood. Their concert will happen inside the church this Sunday, March 18 at 4 p.m. This will be their first performance in the neighborhood since 2008.

Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure was founded in 1988 to provide an opportunity for men to perform music composed and arranged for male chorus.  The group made its concert debut in April 1989 under the direction of its founding Conductor, Dr. Leonard L. Riccinto and has since grown fourfold.  Beginning in 2003, under the direction of Dr. Riccinto, Steven Lorenz served as Assistant Conductor and in 2007 became our Music Director and Conductor and continues the legacy of musical growth and excellence to which the men of Measure for Measure continually aspire. 

From the sonorous tones of the deepest bass to the airy lilt of the highest tenor, the classical and contemporary repertoire for male voices delivers a compelling sound unique in its range and in its ability to engage the listener. This is the sound of Measure for Measure, a chorus committed to exposing audiences to the breadth of musical possibilities inherent in men's choral music. A chorus equally committed to growing the ranks of men's choruses by engaging high-school and college choristers in concerts that demonstrate the joy of a rich musical life beyond school years.

Tickets for this concert are only $10. They are available at the Sts. Peter & Paul Parish Office during business hours, after every weekend Mass from the Music Ministry Office, and on the day of the concert at the door.

Measure for Measure returning to our neighborhood is your Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mayor Bing Opposes the Consent Decree

Mayor Dave Bing issued a statement to the news media a few minutes ago, in which he announced his opposition to the proposed consent decree that Governor Rick Snyder unveiled this morning. His statement, in its entirety, reads as follows.

Mayor Dave Bing
I’m tremendously disappointed that this consent agreement proposed by Governor Snyder does not represent the spirit of partnership needed between the City and the State to resolve the City’s financial challenges. It forfeits the electoral rights of the citizens of Detroit guaranteed by the democratic process.

The Governor has been disingenuous in his recounting of a near deal after our 4 p.m. meeting Friday. After my team and I reviewed the agreement, Andy Dillon was informed, and I, personally, called and spoke with the Governor Monday morning to let him know the proposal was unacceptable. It was the only time he and I spoke after the meeting.

He’s being disingenuous when he says this agreement leaves elected officials in charge of the City. In fact, the proposed, nine-member advisory board selects and “oversees” the functions of the City’s COO, CFO and Human Resources director – not the elected Mayor.

This proposal also circumvents the role and power of the City Council as the legislative body, waives the ability of elected officials to contest any aspect of the agreement, and dismisses the unprecedented effort and concessions made by the City’s labor unions to avoid an economic catastrophe.

And, the Governor is being disingenuous when he says he’s become frustrated by our lack of responsiveness. My team and I have been waiting for several weeks for the Governor and his team to respond to the tentative labor agreements and for an offer of tangible financial and operation assistance.

I never asked for a consent agreement. But we’ve provided the Governor with an action plan to resolve our financial shortfall, which we believe is reasonable and achievable with support from Lansing. This proposed agreement will not solve our problems.

The question is: with Mayor Bing adamantly opposed to this consent decree, what will happen next?

What's Wrong With the Proposed Consent Decree?

Money Problems
Governor Rick Snyder unveiled his proposed consent decree with the City of Detroit earlier this morning. He has publicly said that this is beginning of a public negotiation process and is willing to consider revisions to it. For those who haven't seen this document in its entirety, it is available on-line here.

I like the idea of a consent decree as an alternative to an emergency manager or bankruptcy. However, I have some issues with the details of it.

For the past 3 years, Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown and the other members of the Detroit City Council have been doing everything in their power to reign in our City's out of control spending.

Also, for the past 3 years, Mayor Dave Bing has insisted on borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars from Wall Street and spending more than our City takes in, all the while insisting that everything would be okay.

With all of this being true, one has to ask: why does the proposed consent decree give so much power to the man who made Detroit's problems worse and so little to those who have been working diligently from day one to solve them?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Consent Decree to Be Unveiled Tomorrow Morning

A proposed consent agreement between the City and the State will be unveiled at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Will it be a real solution or just kick the down the road?

Tip of the Week: Belle Isle Practice Center is Open this Week

Golf Image by Kriss Szkurlatowski
The Belle Isle Practice Center (175 Lakeside Dr. on Belle Isle) will be open every day that the temperature is above 50 degrees, which the Weather Channel tells us should be every day this week. They have a 30 bay driving range, 3 putting greens, and 2 chipping greens to practice your golf game. The center will be open from 11 a.m. - dusk each day.

This week, large buckets of golf balls will continue to only be $8. Plus, this will be your last chance to get a 10 pack of passes to the Belle Isle Practice Center for only $65.

Extra practice for your golf game out on Belle Isle, as well as the discounts that this brings, is your Tip of the Week.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Mayor Bing to Deliver His 4th Turnaround Plan Tonight

Mayor Dave Bing is scheduled to deliver his State of the City address this evening, starting at 7:00 p.m. According to the local newspapers, much of his address will focus on presenting his latest plan to turn the City of Detroit's finances around without resorting to bankruptcy or an emergency manager.

This, of course, will be the 4th turnaround plan that he has presented. It's part of a series that began back in 2009 when he appointed what was then termed a "Crisis Turnaround Team", whose plans were never fully implemented.

The question that I hope Mayor Bing will answer this evening is: how is this turnaround plan different from all of the other ones that he has brought forth, but never fully implemented?

Update @ 10:11 p.m.
I started to write a lengthy (as in 9 pages and counting before I gave up on it) rebuttal to everything that Mayor Bing said this evening. However, I can't help but feel that such a post simply isn't worth it.

The answer of it, though, is that this "turnaround plan" is exactly like all of the other ones that he has proposed over the years, but never fully implemented.

Update @ 10:16 p.m.
Also, and this is purely a personal point, but I was shock that Mayor Bing was able to use the phrase "continued transparency" and not be struck by lightning. Last November, I filed a FOIA request for public records that his Administration had but refused to share with the public.

Video from it is below.



Does that look like "continued transparency"?

A Giraffe in Detroit's Warrendale Neighborhood Thing of the Week



Some of my friends were impressed by, and maybe even a little weirded out by, an immense collection of lawn ornaments at one home in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood - one that includes crocodiles, cows, some deer, a grizzly bear, and - of course - a giraffe.

I talked about this once before. This time, however, I wanted to add video to it as well.

The Warrendale Sculpture Garden, as I affectionately refer to it, is your Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Tip of the Week: Watch What You Heat



One of the most common causes of a fire these days is actually careless cooking. People get distracted while something is cooking on the stove and a small problem quickly becomes a big one. Luckily, the U.S. Fire Administration has prepared the short video above to highlight some of the dangers associated with cooking.

Preventing fires in the kitchen is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Friday, March 02, 2012

$10,000 Reward for Info on Greenview Shooting


The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible for the murder of nine-month old Delric Miller. On Monday, February 20, just after 4 a.m. an individual fired at least 30 rounds of ammunition from an assault rifle into the home of Delric Miller in the 8400 block of Greenview Avenue, in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood.

In addition to the ATF reward, Crime Stoppers is offering an additional $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual responsible for the murder, for a total reward of $10,000.

Acting Special Agent in Charge William Temple said, "The citizens of Detroit deserve a safe community; this crime is senseless and incomprehensible. These types of violent acts from cowards cannot and will not be tolerated. ATF is committed to working with the Detroit Police Department to solve this crime and other crimes of violence that continue to cripple our communities with fear."

ATF and Crime Stoppers are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying the individuals responsible. Anyone with information is encouraged to call ATF at 313 202-3400 or 1 800 ATF – GUNS (1-800-283-4867) or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK UP (1 800- 773-2587).

For more information on ATF, go to www.atf.gov.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Detroit Police Find Possible Bomb on Grandville Street

Stock Image by Paul Wurzer
WXYZ-TV is reporting that a suspicious package was found on Grandville Street, between Whitlock and Paul, earlier today. The Detroit Police Department's Bomb Squad is currently on the scene and is taking this package away.

Also, in what may or may not be a related item, a helicopter is currently hovering overhead. No marking of any kind are visible on it.

More on this story as it develops.

Update @ 2:04 p.m.
The helicopter that had been overhead for almost an hour is now gone as are the police officers. It's still not clear, for certain, whether or not this actually was a bomb or just a suspicious package that turned out to be an old shoe box.

As an interesting side note: approximately one hour before this happened, the Dearborn Police Department announced that Fordson High School, which is less than two miles away, had also received a bomb threat this morning. Thankfully, their investigation into the matter determined that it was not a credible threat.