Thursday, December 05, 2019

Friends of Rouge Park are hiring an intern

River Rouge Park - Photo by Frank Nemecek
The nonprofit advocacy and service organization Friends of Rouge Park are looking for two qualified interns to help them organize volunteer work days in the natural areas of the park. One internship will run from January to May while the other will run from April to August. Both positions pay a stipend of $500 per month.

College students who are majoring in environmental studies, natural resources management, parks management, community engagement, or related fields are preferred.

Those wishing to apply for this position at the largest park in Detroit should ideally possess good communication skills. The group is also seeking interns who have a background in management of natural areas as well as:

  • Knowledge of invasive species and native plants;
  • Invasive species removal methods;
  • Certified pesticide applicator is preferred;
  • Experience working with a diversity of volunteers; and
  • Good computer skills including spreadsheets, social media, and website updates.
The intern should also must be comfortable contacting corporations to ask for volunteers and donations.

Duties for this internship will include assisting in the development as well as implementation of a plan for the management of the prairie, trails and natural areas in Rouge Park.  This will involve but is not limited to: prioritize projects, recruit volunteers, organize volunteer work days, train volunteers, develop core volunteers as well as corporate volunteers, develop partnerships, and solicit corporate donations and volunteers. The interns will also engage the local community in these efforts and in the park.

College students who are interested in applying should send a cover letter and resume to rougepark@gmail.com with “ATTN:  Internship” in the subject line. The deadline for applying is December 13, 2019.

Detroiter charged in child pornography case

Prison cell - Photo by Ichigo121212/Pixabay
A Detroit man was indicted yesterday on charges of production, possession and receipt of child pornography, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin announced earlier today. Mohsin was joined in the announcement by Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D'Antuono of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Detroit Division.

Indicted was Wade Preston Streeter, 49 of Detroit. Streeter was arrested on November 21 on a criminal complaint and was held in custody while charges were pending in his case.

According to court records, Streeter is alleged to have sexually assaulted and covertly produced sexually graphic photographs of minor boys as well as engaged in sexually explicit conversations with the minor victims.  This alleged conduct took place both at his home in Detroit as well as on a tugboat that he owns.

The FBI is asking for the public’s help to identify potential victims of Streeter, who would befriend young boys on Facebook and other social media sites and then arrange to meet them privately.

Anyone who may have been victimized by Wade Preston Streeter, or anyone who may have information about his alleged criminal behavior, is encouraged to call (313) 426-3880 or email the FBI at DetroitShipTips@fbi.gov.

The FBI is legally mandated to identify victims of federal crimes that it investigates. Identified victims may be eligible for certain services and rights under federal and/or state law. Victims in this investigation can find information about the hearings in this case at https://www.justice.gov/usao-edmi/united-states-v-wade-streeter-docket-19-mj-30602.

It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by special agents of the FBI and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys April Russo and Barbara Lanning.

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

One more Christmas miracle

Recent photo of Vivian Lemire - Family photo
As we get closer to Christmas, I become more and more of a sucker for news stories with a happy ending - especially when they involve sick children. Today, such a story comes to us all the way from Missouri, courtesy of the Children’s Organ Transplant Association

Vivian Lemire will celebrate her ninth birthday shortly before Christmas. Then on December 31 her family will ring in the New Year by remembering their post-transplant homecoming two years. These December celebrations are made possible by another family, complete strangers, who chose to donate their child’s liver and kidney during the most difficult of circumstances.

Her parents Cara and Rich Lemire are no strangers to loss nor to big gifts - especially ones that are life-saving. When they found out in 2010 they were pregnant with a daughter they would name Vivian, they were excited and anxious. Four years earlier, they lost their first child to Autosomal Recessive Polycystic Kidney Disease.

The condition caused their first baby’s kidneys and liver to swell and take up space the lungs needed to grow properly. Cara and Rich were completely unaware of her condition before her birth and they only had two days with their daughter, Renee, before she passed. They allowed themselves time to grieve before considering another pregnancy, but with support from their medical team they decided to try again.

“Once we were pregnant again we were thrilled,” Care explained, “but we struggled to let ourselves feel we could ‘get ready’ for her. We had walked this journey before and worried it would lead to the same heartbreaking place. Vivian’s early ultrasounds showed no sign of ARPKD and we felt encouraged about not experiencing a recurrence.”

ARPKD is a rare inherited childhood condition where the development of the kidneys and liver is abnormal. Over time either of these organs may fail. Even though ARPKD is rare, it is one of the most common kidney problems to affect young children. PKD International, a global network of patient organizations, estimates that 1 in 20,000 babies are born with this disorder. The condition often causes serious problems after birth.

At Cara’s 32-week pregnancy check, an ultrasound showed that Baby Vivian’s kidneys were enlarged with cysts and her amniotic fluid was dangerously low. The Lemires were devastated when they were told the baby also had ARPKD. “It was a crushing moment, but we were determined to give Vivian the best chance we could at survival,” Cara said.

When the baby’s heart muscles began to show signs of hypertension, the doctors determined they could not wait any longer and Vivian was delivered a few days before Christmas 2010. The baby’s lungs had some underdevelopment but she was able to breathe with minimal assistance. Vivian’s next challenge was severe hypertension and renal failure with kidneys that were estimated to be the size of adult kidneys in her tiny body.

At two weeks old, Vivian had her first kidney removed and began dialysis 24 hours a day. Four weeks later Vivian had her second kidney removed. The Lemires had to travel 40 minutes from their O’Fallon, Missouri, home to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis four days a week for Vivian’s hemodialysis. Each session was four hours long.

Vivian spent 278 days of her first year of life inpatient enduring several surgeries, battling infections and treating complications of her compromised immune system. Vivian’s medical care made it nearly impossible for both Cara and Rich to keep their full-time jobs; therefore, Rich decided to step back from his career to manage Vivian’s medical schedule of appointments, treatments, specialists, back-and-forth commutes and many more of her complicated medical demands.

Cara and Rich knew Vivian would need a dual life-saving transplant (kidney and liver) for long-term survival. At the start of 2012, while in the midst of Vivian’s hemodialysis sessions and appointments, a transplant social worker suggested Cara and Rich reach out to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association to learn more about fundraising for transplant-related expenses. On January 31st, Cara called COTA’s toll-free phone number and completed COTA’s Patient Agreement.

COTA uniquely understands that parents who care for a child or young adult before, during and after a life-saving transplant have enough to deal with, so COTA’s model shifts the responsibility for fundraising to a community team of trained volunteers. COTA is a 501(c)3 charity so all contributions to COTA are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law, and COTA funds are available for a lifetime of transplant-related expenses.

On March 8, 2012, a COTA fundraising specialist travelled to the Lemire’s hometown to train the volunteers for the COTA campaign in honor of Vivian. This group of family members and friends, quickly got to work organizing fundraisers to help with mounting transplant-related expenses. Numerous COTA fundraisers were held and the team surpassed its $60,000 goal in a short amount of time.

When Vivian was 2½, the transplant team at Cardinal Glennon officially listed her for a dual kidney and liver transplant. Cara and Rich were anxious but were excited to continue their family’s transplant journey. However the wait became lengthy and Vivian’s case became more complicated as she grew. Cara and Rich were eventually told by the Cardinal Glennon transplant team they were no longer able to perform the life-saving dual transplant Vivian needed.

“We will never forget the moment our nephrologist, whose guidance we trusted, told us if Vivian were her child, she would take her to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford,” Cara said. Soon after that recommendation, the Lemires flew to Palo Alto, California -- more than 2,000 miles away from their Missouri home. Cara says at their very first meeting ‘everything clicked.’ The Lucile Packard transplant team agreed that, when the time came for Vivian’s dual transplant, the Lemire family would need to temporarily relocate to California and start her transplant treatment plan.

In August 2017 after two years of being listed and a near match, the Lemires finally got The Call for both a kidney and liver match for Vivian in California. Cara remembers feeling like their bags were in their hands before they even hung up the phone. It was indeed the call they had been waiting for since the day Vivian was born. On August 9, 2017, Vivian received a kidney and liver transplant and her second chance at life. Cara and Rich received the greatest gift imaginable.

The dual organ transplant went well but required a longer recovery time for Vivian, which meant the family would be in California for an extended period of time. Cara took a leave from her job and the family was able to stay in the Ronald McDonald House very close to Lucile Packard. “With our home and jobs halfway across the country, COTA eased the financial burden and enabled us to be at Vivian’s side during her transplant and lengthy recovery,” they said.

On December 31st, four and a half months after her life-saving dual kidney and liver transplant, Vivian and her parents were able to return home to Missouri. It was indeed a positive way to step into the New Year and their new post-transplant life.

“Even before Vivian was born, we knew a transplant was likely in our family’s future. When it became clear the best outcome of Vivian’s transplant would be achieved at a transplant center more than 2,000 miles away from our home, we also knew we were going to need help to make everything work financially. With home and jobs halfway across the country, COTA eased the financial burden and enabled us to be at Vivian’s side before and after transplant. It is a tremendous gift to know COTA is here for our family now and will be … for a lifetime,” said Cara and Rich.

Today Vivian is enrolled in elementary school, which she loves and where she is thriving. She loves dancing, singing and participating in any type of music. Vivian is thrilled to be making new friends at school. This Christmas will likely be full of celebration and joy for the Lemires as they enjoy the holidays in their own home. Vivian is indeed a gift for Cara and Rich who went from wondering when The Call would come to now watching their beautiful daughter enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of the season. They will indeed remember their special donor angel this holiday season as well.

Friday, November 29, 2019

"War on police" - rebuttal

Police car - Photo by Free Photos/Pixabay
I posted earlier this week about a Detroit police officer who was tragically killed in the line of duty approximately four miles north of the Warrendale neighborhood. My intention was simply to memorialize an individual who lost his life while heroically protecting our city. I had absolutely no intention of dragging partisan politics into this or causing any type of debate. I simply wanted to memorialize a fallen hero.

When I shared that post on Facebook, the majority of people reacted in much the way that I expected. There was shock and outrage as well as praise for the fallen officer and prayers for his family and all other police officers. This is great and pretty much what I expected when I shared my post.

However, there’s always that one guy.

One individual in particular was rather vehement in his opinion that former President Barack Obama had started a “war on police” and this was the latest example of it. This was followed by repeated usage of Blue Lives Matter hashtag and insults directed toward those who disagreed with him. When I pointed out that a thread dedicated to memorializing a fallen officer wasn’t the best place for partisan politics, he only seemed to double down on his attacks.

This prompted me to do a little bit of research. Here’s the big headline that I want everyone to remember: a carpenter in the United States today is approximately 30% more likely to be killed on the job than a police officer.

In spite of this, no one claims that there is a war going on against carpenters. There has also never been a Carpenters Lives Matter hashtag trending on Twitter or any other social media platform.

As for the numbers, there is an estimated 950,000 carpenters working in the United States, according to official statistics. On average, one out of every 10,000 carpenters died at the workplace each year. In contrast, with an estimated 850,000 police officers in the United States, there are 0.7 out of every 10,000 who die a violent death on the job each year. This translates into a carpenter being 30% more likely to die on the job than a police officer.

Oh, and the reason why I chose carpenters for this comparison is simply because my father, grandfather, and many of my uncles worked in carpentry. I’m the misfit in my family who chose to earn a living with a cell phone and a laptop.

I suspect that much of the reason for this has to do with the fact that police officers expect to encounter danger on the job. As a result, they train and prepare for it. This training and preparation helps them to mitigate the danger and bring the number of deaths down dramatically. Carpenters, in contrast, do not expect to die on the job so they don’t take anywhere near the precautions that law enforcement officers do.

But still, I cannot help but feel that if there was a war going on against police officers - regardless of whether Barack Obama, George Soros, Hillary Clinton, or whoever else was leading it - the result would not be that they would be less likely to be killed on the job than carpenters.

As further evidence that there isn’t a war on police that Barack Obama, George Soros, Hillary Clinton, or whoever else are responsible for, I would simply point out that line of duty deaths for police officers are largely unchanged with them out of office and someone who is the polar opposite replacing them.

It’s a sad fact that I will one day again have to memorialize the tragic death of another police officer or firefighter on this blog. I dread this prospect.

My only hope is that when that tragic moment comes, I won’t have to also worry about someone hijacking the issue with partisan attacks. It is much better, in my opinion, to keep the focus on the fallen hero and the grief that his or her family and friends are going through.

This post is a part of this blog's semi-regular Friday Focus series, which endeavors to highlight news and opinions that, in my opinion, don't get as much attention as they deserve.

Please follow this blog on Facebook for more great content. I'm also on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Detroit police officer killed in the line of duty

Officer Rasheen McClain - Photo by the Detroit Police Department
Officer Rasheen McClain was shot and killed in the line of duty last night while responding to a call on the west side. He was a 16-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department.

The Detroit Free Press reported that the suspect who is accused of shooting McClain had a lengthy criminal history. The man in question was also described as having a death wish. Their full reporting on this story is available here.

I'm thankful that the alleged shooter is currently in police custody.

On a personal note, I would like to join my fellow Detroiters in saying that while the shock and sorrow of losing a hero like Officer McClain is powerful, I take comfort in knowing that all of the angels and saints in Heaven will join in welcoming him home today.

I pray that Saint Anne, the patroness of the city he served, brings comfort and peace to the friends and family that Officer McClain was forced to leave behind.

I pray also that the Saint Michael the Archangel and Patron Saint of Police Officers watches over, guides, and protects those who protect our city tonight.

Amen.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Another attempt at regional mass transit

Commuter train - Photo by Shutterbug75/Pixabay
 Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter, and Mayor Mike Duggan of Detroit annoucned a plan to put a new regional mass transit plan before voters Washtenaw Counties are going to try one more time to get voters to approve a regional mass transit plan. I've been listening to plans like this since I was in high school. I'm currently a few months away from my 50th birthday.

I regard this as progress. At least we've recognized that Macomb County isn't going to be a part of it. I'm doubtful that Oakland County will approve it or - if they do - it will likely be so watered-down that it will be of minimal value.

My only hope is that regardless of whether Oakland County approves a watered-down version, Wayne and Washtenaw Counties move forward with a more comprehensive plan for their two counties.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Reconsidering AirBnB in Detroit

AirBnB, Detroit
Home - Stock photo from Pexels
For several months, the City of Detroit has been looking for ways to better regulate short-term rental housing. This includes popular options like Airbnb and Homeaway that have been achieving more and more success in our area.

Critics of short-term rentals point to negative the impact these services have on hotels, housing prices, and the community at large. A study published in the Harvard Business Review, for example, showed that as more Airbnb rentals happened in a given area, the local rent prices would increase proportionately. In some cities, that increase has made a difference in whether or not someone could afford to live there.

These rentals also have a detrimental impact on hotels in the area, as Forbes magazine pointed out. This is important because traditional lodging options pay more taxes and generate more jobs. If hotels are hurt too much, we lose the thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue that they create.

Supporters, however, point out that optins like Airbnb and Homeaway allow ordinary Detroiters to generate a few hundred dollars a month in extra income from an empty bedroom or two. That extra money can be invaluable to many families.

There is also the fact that when someone stays at a hotel by a large corporation like a Hilton or Marriott, much of the income generated from it leaves our state. In contrast, when money is spent with a small local person then, as a different study by Michigan State University pointed out, that money is more likely to be spent and reinvested locally.

Clearly, the ideal solution is to find some kind of balance that works for everyone. While I don't claim to have all of the answers, I do have a few ideas. For starters, let's talk taxes.

Taxes - Stock photo from Pexels
When someone rents a hotel room in Detroit for a night, they pay a 13% tax rate but when they rent an Airbnb for the same night, they only pay a 6% tax. The difference between the two tax rates is because, while both pay a 6% sales tax to the State of Michigan, short-term rentals do not pay either the 1% tax to Wayne County to support the stadiums nor the 6% tax to support the convention center.

This, I believe, is fundamentally unfair. There's no reason to tax one option for a night's lodging at one rate while taxing a different option at less than half that amount.

Therefore, I propose that we impose an additional 7% tax on short-term rentals in Detroit to even things out. I would further propose that most, if not all, of the revenue go towards improving mass transit. I say this because the stadiums and convention center are both doing just fine as is. Meanwhile, Detroit has what has been ranked as the worst mass transit system in the nation and could desperately use the extra revenue.

We could even add an extra 1 or 2% onto Lyft and Uber rides, while we're at it as well. This would bring them in line with the taxes that we levy on car rentals or taxi cabs. It would also generate even more revenue for mass transit.

The Detroit City Council looked into this issue in 2016; concluding that such a thing is indeed possible. We may have to put the question to a ballot referendum, much like we did with taxes for stadiums and convention center. However, I don't believe that would be a significant challenge.

Neighborhood - Stock photo by Pixabay
The next challenge is in terms of regulating how many Airbnbs can operate in the city. There was an efort by the City Council earlier this year to place a hard limit on the number of these rentals that could exist. This was intended to address the impact of these operation upon the housing market, which I mentioned earlier.

While that move was well-intended, I believe a better option would be to place on limit on the percentage of residential housing stock in a given area that may be used for such things. I believe it would be appropriate for a limit of 1 or 2% of the housing stock in any one square mile for short-term rentals.

In a place like the Warrendale neighborhood, with roughly 4,000 housing units per square mile, this would mean a limit of 40-80 homes that could be used for a short-term rental. As new housing is eventually added in, the limit would increase proportionately.

These, of course, are just a few ideas. I welcome feedback either in the comments below or by email.

This post is a part of the Warrendale Detroit Blog's Friday Focus series. The series endeavors to highlight news, events, and opinions that, in the view of this blog's publisher, don't get as much attention from the news media as they deserve.

Please follow this blog on Facebook for more great content. I'm also on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek.