Monday, April 15, 2019

Fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral

Firefighter - Stock Illustration/ Creative Commons
The city of Detroit was founded in 1701 as a French colony. For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, our community was known as the Paris of the Midwest because of its French heritage and influences. It is this context that I feel adds to my horror - and the horror that many of my neighbors feel - as we watch the news come in that Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is engulfed in flames.

I pray this afternoon that Saint Florian, the Patron Saint of Firefighters, watches over, guides, and protects the estimated 400 firefighters who are currently battling the blazes at the Notre Dame Cathedral.

I pray that the piece of the True Cross, the piece of the Crown of Thornes, the nails from the Crucifixion, and each of the other holy artifacts that are housed at the Cathedral are protected.

Finally, I pray that Our Lady of Paris brings comfort and peace to the people of Paris and to all of those souls who are affected by this tragedy.

Amen.

Update @ 9:34 p.m.
Since I published this post a few hours ago, two important developments have occurred. First, according to published news reports, all of the sacred relics that were stored inside Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris have been saved. In addition, President Emmanuel Macron of France announced in a televised address to the nation that the cathedral would be rebuilt.

While the fire itself is tragic, I feel that these two updates are important. Moreover, I also believe that the outpouring of support from around the world is both reassuring and inspiring.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

What is next for Detroit's incinerator?


Earlier this afternoon, Mayor Mike Duggan announced that the City of Detroit would close incinerator, which has been controversial throughout its 33-year history. According to published news reports, today will be its last day of operation. The City is expected to transfer its solid waste contract to another vendor.

Mayor Duggan stated that this will not result in any additional costs to the taxpayers of Detroit.

Multiple news outlets have reported on this announcement that Detroit is closing its controversial incinerator. One can read this story here, here, and in dozens of other media outlets.

The one thing that has not been made clear as of yet is the burning question: what will happen to this site next?

(And yes, I did just drop a quip about a burning question into a blog post about an incinerator.)

The short answer is that we do not know at this time exactly what will happen at this site. Mayor Duggan stated in a post on Twitter, "As far as future use of this site, it is my strong preference that this site never again be used as a waste incinerator." The mayor went on to add that the City of Detroit, "will be pursuing our legal options to make sure this remains the case."

Since there doesn't seem to be a clear plan as to what should be done with this land after today, I would like to offer an idea for everyone to consider.

First, bulldoze the entire complex. I'm normally one for saving and reusing buildings in Detroit. The incinerator, however, is a memory that I believe Detroit would be better without.

Once the land is properly cleared, I believe that strip clubs across the city should be incentivized to close in the neighborhoods, convert their current location into a sports bar or something, and move the adult entertainment to where the incinerator sits now.

For more than 30 years, I have heard one elected official in Detroit talk about how they would love to pick up all of the strip clubs in our neighborhoods and move them to a separate area away from everything. With the closing of the incinerator, I believe that Detroiters finally have a chance to do precisely this thing.

Screen grab of the area immediately around the incinerator - Google Maps
While the stench from the incinerator has traveled to residential areas miles away, there aren't any homes currently around the site itself. This coupled with its proximity to the expressways makes this land a perfect location to move strip clubs in Detroit to.

Visual and other barriers can be erected rather easily to isolate these strip clubs from the rest of Detroit. They can do their thing and it won't bother anyone in the surrounding neighborhoods.

There are, of course, many details to work out on this one. What kind of incentive should we use to encourage the strip clubs to relocate, is the most obvious detail. However, I don't think any of these challenges are insurmountable.

And it would be nice to see an idea that has been kicked around for decades finally happen.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Renter's rights and more this Wednesday

Home - Stock photo from Pixabay
The City of Detroit's Department of Neighborhoods will host a rent to own and renter's block club meeting this Wednesday, March 27. It will start at 5:30 p.m. in the St. Suzanne Cody Rouge Community Resource Center (19321 West Chicago), which is approximately a half mile north of the Warrendale neighborhood.

During this meeting, the Department of Neighborhoods will discuss homeowner opportunities, properties available for sale through the Detroit Land Bank Authority, and renter's rights as well as:

  • Renter's responsibilities;
  • Credit counselors;
  • Opportunities for renters; and
  • New renter's registration of properties.
Everyone who is either renting a home in Detroit or who has a rent to own contract for a home in Detroit is invited to attend this meeting.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Grant opportunity for healthy kids

Leadership Prep Academy - Photo by Action for Healthy Kids/Flickr
Since the program began in 2009, Action for Healthy Kids has provided $8.7 million in grants and technical support to help schools achieve their student wellness goals. Now through April 5, schools and parents are invited to apply for a series of grants.

These grants will be available for the 2019-2020 school year. Grant opportunities fit into three basic categories:
  • Game On Grants. These grants will secure funding and resources for your school to introduce or improve nutrition and physical activity programs. With a grant of $1,000 or more utilizing AFHK’s flagship program, Game On, you can build a school garden, jump-start active recess, purchase physical education equipment, host taste tests, kick-off an after-school activity club, and so much more.
  • Parents for Healthy Kids Grants. This program is a chance for parents to make their mark on school health! Parents and parent-led groups (such as PTAs and PTOs) can apply for a $1,000 school grant to provide funds and resources to introduce or improve fitness or nutrition programs and engage families in health at school and at home. This opportunity helps to ensure that all students have access to healthy choices.
  • School Breakfast Grants. This is a grant opportunity to expand access to school breakfast for hungry and undernourished kids. Grants from $1,000 to $3,000 can support equipment and other resources needed to implement or expand Breakfast in the Classroom, Grab-and-Go Breakfast, or other alternative breakfast programs that help students start their day right.
Parents and educators are invited to visit http://www.actionforhealthykids.org/grants for more information and to learn how to apply. The deadline for all applications is April 5, 2019.

First day of spring

Trees in the springtime - Creative Commons photo by J. Plenio/Pixabay
It's official, Detroit.

As of today, we have made it to the first day of spring. The weather may not be super awesome at the moment, but we made through the winter - polar vortex be darned.

Detroit is supposed to be a lot more spring-like later in the week. I look forward to seeing lots of my neighbors outside enjoying it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Detroit police commissioners are now majority female

Detroit Board of Police Commissioners | Official Seal

Women’s History Month became especially historic in Detroit this year with the new composition of the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners. For the first time in its 45-year history, a combination of elected and appointed female police commissioners totaled six. This makes women the majority on this 11-member oversight board.

“As the civilian oversight board for the Detroit Police Department, one of our goals for the department’s workforce, as well as the Board itself, is to reflect the demographics of the City of Detroit. This is why the current number of women serving on the Board is historic and truly special,” explained Lisa Carter, the immediate past chair who is in her second term as police commissioner for District 6.

“Still, it is important to remember that each police commissioner comes to the Board with a strong dedication for the important work of ensuring our city has the most professional, responsive, effective, and diverse police department,” Carter added. “We all work together towards that end.”

The BOPC was destined to become majority female last fall when Mayor Mike Duggan named women to fill two vacancies. In addition to Carter, the female police commissioners are:
  • Elizabeth “Betty” Brooks, who was appointed in 2015 as one of four at-large members;
  • Shirley Burch, who was elected in 2017 to represent District 3;
  • Eva Garza Dewaelsche, who was appointed in 2015 to serve at-large;
  • Evette Griffie, who was appointed to fill a vacancy for District 2 and began serving in December 2018. The seat became vacant when DMC Executive Conrad Mallett, a former at-large BOPC member who won the district election in 2017, resigned for professional reasons in October 2018; and 
  • Annie Holt, who was appointed to fill an at-large vacancy and began serving at the end of February 2019.
The other five members of the board are Darryl D. Brown of District 1 and who serves as vice chair; Willie E. Bell, from District 4, who serves as chair; Willie E. Burton representing District 5; William M. Davis who represents Warrendale and the rest of District 7, and Jim Holley, At-Large.

Monday, March 18, 2019

How to report a problem to the city government

Reporting | Stock photo from Pixabay
It happens - a Detroiter sees a problem that isn't an emergency but still requires the attention of city hall. Maybe the storm drain in front of their house is clogged. Perhaps someone has dumped a pile of trash in a vacant lot. It might be that a fire hydrant on their block needs repairs. Whatever the issue is, you need to get the city involved and navigating through the City of Detroit's every changing but always a bit more complicated than it needs to be bureaucracy can be a daunting task.

The City of Detroit has a simple yet effective way of reporting non-emergency problems. Residents with a smartphone should download the Improve Detroit app from either the iTunes or Google Play Store. This app enables Detroiters to report non-emergency issues to the City. It also enables them to track the City's response to it; even to communicate directly with the employee tasked with handling it and/or his or her supervisor.

Residents who don't have a smartphone can also report non-emergency issues. Instead of using an app to report it, though, they should instead file their report here on the City of Detroit's website.

I posted about the Improve Detroit app and website when it first came out a few years ago. Regardless, after talking with a few of my fellow Warrendale residents, it was clear that a reminder was needed.

The Improve Detroit app and website are your Tip of the Week for the week of March 18,2019.

These tips are brought to you by the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog as part of our semi-regular Tip of the Week feature. Please check back every Monday for more advice on your home, money, and life.

Also, be sure to follow the author, Frank Nemecek, on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek for more great information.