Monday, August 31, 2009

Self-Delusional Drivel

Mayor Dave Bing wrote an editorial in the Detroit News yesterday in which he argued that Detroit must "redefine" leadership. It was, in my opinion, the most self-delusional piece of drivel I have ever read in my life. You can read it on-line here, however - I do recommend that you make sure there aren't any sharp objects nearby before you click on that link.

Before going into my full-scale critic of Mayor Bing's article, I believe it's appropriate to step back and look at what the dictionary says about leadership.
Main Entry: lead·er·ship
Pronunciation: \ˈlē-dər-ˌship\
Function: noun
Date: 1821
1 : the office or position of a leader
2 : capacity to lead
3 : the act or an instance of leading
Leadership, in its simplest terms, is the ability to lead people in a specific, predetermined direction.

Mayor Bing used most of his editorial making references to Detroit's budget problems. The City of Detroit, of course, has a budget deficit of approximately $350 million. Mayor Bing has proposed remedying this by laying off a thousand municipal employees, which will only address approximately 15% of the City's budget woes.

What, pray tell, does Mayor Bing propose to do to address the remaining 85% of our problem?

Well, he apparently hasn't figured that part out yet.

The City of Detroit will completely run out of cash as early as this October, according to published news reports. Since Mayor Bing has only been able to address 15% of the problem during his tenure, one can deduce that - at his current rate - this problem will be completely resolved a mere fifteen months after the City has run out of cash.

To put it another way, one year and three months after the proverbial patient is dead, Doctor Bing will deliver the medicine.

This does not seem like leadership to me.

Of course, the most frustrating part of his piece for me was his "blame the victim" mentality as it relates to crime. Mayor Bing wrote:
More citizens have turned out to oppose proposed bus route changes than they have to decry the violence that holds our community hostage. Hundreds of people have called my office to complain about these possible changes, while the lack of calls turning in known criminals leaves police lines silent.
Mr. Mayor, Detroiters have consistently decried the violence in our neighborhoods. We have done so for decades. Our dissatisfaction with the way your predecessor was responding to the violence in our neighborhoods - and your persistent campaign promises of change - are the principle reasons why you were elected into office in the first place. Your assertion that we haven't decried the violence in our neighborhoods is one of the greatest examples of selective memory possible.

As for your assertion that Detroiters aren't turning in known criminals, that also is utter nonsense. The clearest example was the bus stop shooting in Warrendale earlier this summer.

No one has called the Detroit Police Department with the full name and home address of the shooters because no one outside of the gang responsible for it knows the name of said shooter.

We know which gang is responsible for it and we know where that gang tends to congregate. All of this information has been shared with the police.

No one outside of that gang, however, knows which one of their members actually pulled the trigger on that fateful day. This particular gangs is one of the most trigger-happy groups around. No civilian in their right mind will go within fifty feet of them. If Mayor Bing hadn't spent that fateful day hiding in his office, he would have known this already.

No one outside of the gang knows which individual member pulled the trigger. Finding out which gang member pulled the trigger is something that requires police work.

And sitting around, hoping that the killer will confess does not count as police work nor does it count as leadership.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bing Refuses to Debate Barrow

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced on WJR radio yesterday that he will not debate his challenger Tom Barrow. In his remarks, Mr. Bing said:
To be honest with you, here's a guy that won 11% of the vote. What is there to debate about? He's got his issues, and I've got mine and trying to run the city of Detroit.
What is there to debate, Mr. Mayor?

Did you really ask what there is to debate, Mr. Mayor?

How about this: the City of Detroit has a $350 million budget deficit. The Bing Administration has proposed addressing this by laying off as many as 1,000 municipal employees, resulting in considerable reductions to our already limited public services.

Since those laid off employees make considerably less than $300,000 per year, there's no way that these layoffs will even come close to balancing Detroit's budget. ($300 million deficit/ 1,000 laid off employees = an average salary & benefits of $300,000 that would be required for these layoffs to balance our budget.)

In reality, Bing's proposed layoffs will only solve approximately 15% of Detroit's budget problems and will do so with considerable hardship for Detroit residents and businesses. This prompts two immediate questions:
  1. What should we do to resolve the remaining 85% of our budget problems?
  2. What will we as a community do to mitigate the hardships caused by cuts in services after these layoffs?
In the long-term, we should also ask what we are going to do so that Detroit is no longer in this perpetual, seemingly never-ending budget problem.

Yes, Mr. Mayor, there is much for us as a community to debate in the coming months. It's too bad you're not willing to participate in it.

I am going to make a prediction at this point.

Mayor Bing appears quite confident that he has this vast groundswell of support and that his re-election in November is a certainty.  However, I am not as confident in this.

The mayoral race will unquestionably tighten in the coming months as Mayor Bing has to make unpopular choices that are only exacerbated by his own unwillingness to engage the people that he was elected to serve and some equally unpopular moves such as his decision to demolish Tiger Stadium.  This race will almost certainly narrow to within 10 percentage points.  Moreover, if Tom Barrow plays his cards right, I believe there's a decent chance that he could win this race.

DPD Is Getting Better

Long time readers of this blog will no doubt recall that I have frequently complained about the Detroit Police Department and its responsiveness to 9-1-1 calls. In recent years, I have had to call 9-1-1 for everything ranging to shots being fired to domestic disputes. The police rarely showed up for any of those calls.

I, unfortunately, had to call 9-1-1 again early this morning. This time it involved four individuals fighting in the middle of the southbound Southfield Fwy. service drive. One woman appeared to be getting beaten rather severely by a male companion. Another man occasionally joined in this beating as a second woman stood in the middle of the road screaming. Two young children were also in the middle of the street screaming.

It was, to put it quite mildly, a rather unpleasant scene.

I called 9-1-1 and debated getting involved more directly. Luckily, I didn't have to do so.

Within four minutes of my call, there was a patrol supervisor and two other police cars on the scene. The officers appeared to resolve this matter quickly and professionally.

In other cities, the fact that the police responded appropriately to a 9-1-1 call would not be worthy of mentioning in a blog or anywhere else. Unfortunately, in a city like Detroit, I can't help but feel that a prompt and professional response to a 9-1-1 call is huge news.

The Detroit Police Department is definitely getting better. I commend every officer and civilian who is a part of making this happen.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Young Fuol Update

This past Tuesday, I posted my review of Mayor Dave Bing's proposal to cut bus service in Detroit on the weekends. (My original post is available here.) I included in my review a remark about a protest rap that a young man calling himself Young Fuol had posted on YouTube.

I have since learned that later that same evening Young Fuol appeared on Fox 2 News at 11 p.m. to talk about his protest rap and to share his thoughts on Mayor Bing. Young Fuol credits the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog for bringing him to the attention of the television news team.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. The Warrendale (Detroit) Blog - proudly elevating Detroit's young talent.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chemical Fire + Entertainment

Yesterday, at the Koscuisko meeting, there was a certain amount of discussion before hand about a fire that some folks had seen on their way in. Plumes of thick, black smoke were visible from I-96 but no one was certain what was on fire.

But now we know.

It was a fire at Diversified Chemical Technologies (15477 Woodrow Wilson). The fire reportedly started in an oven and spread from there.

There is, however, one part where I'm not sure if it's funny or sad. One guy decided to play the accordion and sing his rendition of Johnny Cash's classic tune "Ring of Fire". Video of this was captured by a friend of mine.

There are days when I just don't know how much stranger this town can get.

Bemused by Bus Service

Mass transit has been a curious thing in Detroit as of late.

First, Mayor Dave Bing and the Detroit Department of Transportation announced that they were going to upgrade 1,000 signs for bus stops along 5 major routes. The new signs would be 50% larger than the old ones. They would also be color coded:
  • Green for routes traveling into and out of downtown;
  • Blue for all routes that travel east and west; and
  • Purple for all routes that travel north and south.
This, I thought, was a nice upgrade to D-DOT's service.

Shortly after that, it was reported that Mayor Bing was considering cuts to bus service - upgraded signage and all - in order to remedy the budget problems that just won't go away. This proposal has met from considerable opposition from many parts of Detroit's populace.

My favorite form of protest has come from a rapper who calls himself Young Fuol. He recorded a protest rap entitled "F*** Dave Bing" and posted it on YouTube.

Kudos, by the way, to the City Hall Insider for finding this one.

In response to this public outcry, Mayor Bing's staff reportedly told the City Council today that they are working "around the clock" to find a way to avoid cutting bus service. I'll save commentary on whether or not they'll be able to do it for others.

Instead, I'll just say this: several weeks ago, I predicted that the general election in November is going to be a lot closer for Mayor Bing than anyone else expects. I even went out on a limb to say that it will almost certainly be within a 10% margin of victory and that there is a chance that challenger Tom Barrow might pull off the upset of the century if he plays his cards right.

The first time I mentioned this, shortly after Mayor Bing won the primary with more than 70% of the vote, people literally laughed at me. Today, no one laughs when I repeat my prediction.

When any conversation about the City's budget takes place, there are two facts that remain unspoken but undeniable.
  1. Detroit residents already pay dramatically more in taxes than their counterparts in neighboring communities;
  2. In spite of this, Detroit residents receive dramatically less in city services than their counterparts in neighboring communities.
These two facts combine to form a distinct distrust of city government and a general sense that residents aren't getting their moneys worth. When Mayor Bing proposes to cut city services even further, without any reduction in the taxes that we pay, the result is simply not good his chances to remain in office.

Redeveloping Kosciusko: The Options

The Detroit Community Design Center and the City of Detroit's Historic Designation Advisory Board convened the second of four meetings yesterday evening that are designed to solicit community input regarding the potential redevelopment of the historic Kosciusko Elementary (20220 Tireman St.). This school has been shuttered for years now.

The first meeting was designed to identify the strengths, weaknesses and desires of the Warrendale neighborhood. This included strengths such as the diversity of our neighborhood, Rouge Park as a destination point as well as our proximity to health care, nightlife and retail.

During the second meeting, the Detroit Community Design Center presented a series of 16 design options. Each option was designed to maximize one of our strengths, address one of our weaknesses or otherwise meet one of our desires. Some of these options included:
  • Targeted residential use for artists or senior citizens;
  • Business incubator space;
  • Cultural center;
  • Music education and performance space;
  • As well as several other options.
Residents were then invited to vote on what elements of these 16 options they liked the most. Design elements that involved the arts seemed to be the most popular as were those that involved child care.

Architects from the Detroit Community Design Center will next refine their ideas based on the community's feedback on their 16 ideas. This will then be presented at the third meeting, which will happen on Monday, September 21 at 6 p.m. in the Don Bosco Hall (19321 W. Chicago St.). Everyone is invited to attend this meeting, even if you weren't able to attend the first two meetings.

Investing in Warrendale

I had a rather cool experience on Tuesday, August 12 - one that I had to promise not to talk for a couple of days afterwords. I had the pleasure of serving as a tour guide. The attendees on this tour were representatives of various banks as well as other government and financial institutions.

I was able to show them the impact that the foreclosure crisis has had on the Warrendale neighborhood. If there's one vacant home on a given block, the neighbors are generally able to take care of it. We can pick up the trash that inevitably collects around it, mow the lawn and so on.

It's an inconvenience, of course, to have to maintain one's own home as well as a vacant one. However, it is something that we as neighbors can do it.

As the density of vacant homes increases, however, the workload increases proportionately and there are fewer neighbors available to help. This results in a fundamental tipping point whereby the neighbors are overwhelmed, blight overtakes a community and property values plummet out of control.

The goal of this tour was to persuade these entities to make a greater effort to help us avoid vacant homes. No specific promises were made. Regardless, I believe that moments like this are an important step in solving the problem.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Police Chase Ends in Fiery Crash

I've always said that running from the police is a bad idea. Of course, some people just don't listen.

Take, for example, this guy who was running from the Michigan State Police this morning in southwest Detroit.

He was fleeing from the police along Michigan Avenue, clipped a minivan that was making a turn and lost control of his truck. He then slammed into a utility pole in front of Teleway Hamburgers (6820 Michigan Ave.) and his truck burst into flames. The idiot who was driving that truck was killed in the fiery crash. The driver of the minivan that he hit sustained what the police described as minor injuries. Thankfully, no one else was hurt.

Running from the police is simply a bad idea.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Evans Unveils DPD Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence

Detroit Police Chief Warren C. Evans announced a new initiative for the Detroit Police Department, which seeks to use data about shootings to target police raids more effectively. I think the idea of using data to make decisions like this is a good one, in and of itself.

My problem with this is that, when one considers how incredibly understaffed the Detroit Police Department is, there is decent probability that deploying a large number of officers to one geographic area will simply leave the rest of the city exposed; without the kind of police protection that it needs. If that happens then there is a very real probability that when the police target one area for enforcement, the gangs, drug dealers and other criminals will simply scurry away to an unprotected area like cockroaches scurrying from the light.

If that is allowed to happen then the police are essentially playing Whac-A-Mole with criminals who are constantly on the move. The only way to avoid that situation, in my opinion, is to maintain a basic level of police services throughout the city and use additional officers to hit certain hot spots. This, unfortunately, requires a greater commitment to funding for the police department that recent mayors and city councils have been willing to provide for Detroiters.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tip of the Week: Thunderbirds

Usually, I make my Tip of the Week something that relates to life in the Warrendale neighborhood or is happening fairly close by. This time, however, I want to talk about something that is happening more than 30 miles away from us - at the Selfridge Air National Guard Base.

The Selfridge Air Show will be Saturday, August 22 and Sunday, August 23. The show will feature the U.S. Air Force's Thunderbirds.

If you've never seen the Thunderbirds live, well, just trust me. You want to see these guys. They do things with a plane that are just awesome to watch.

Plus, the Selfridge Air Show offers free admission as well as free parking. There is even a concert on Friday night to kick everything off. More information about this show is available here.

Let the Character Assassination Begin

Two of my favorite political consultants, Democrat Joe DiSano and Republican Joe Munem, predict that with the primary behind us we will soon see an impressive amount of character assassination in the race for Detroit's City Council. One likely target of this will almost certain be Charles Pugh, the first openly gay candidate for the City Council in Detroit, who came in first place in the primary last week.

Quite frankly, I think their prediction will prove to be true. President Bill Clinton once opined that politics is a contact sport. That is true at local level, just as it is at the national level.

It's entirely possible that I'm reading way too much into this. However, I can't help but feel that Charles Pugh tried to head some of this off at the proverbial pass during his victory speech last week.

I notice that Charles Pugh started his speech by thanking God. He made an explicit reference to religion - enough to establish himself as someone who believes in God, but didn't go over the proverbial top with it. He struck the right balance, just enough to make anyone who might attack him on religious grounds think twice about such a move.

Charles Pugh also made a couple of references to his family and the support that he received from them. Again, this is crucial in establishing that he - as an openly gay man - isn't anti-family, which is a charge sometimes leveled against gays in the public realm.

I'm certain that Charles Pugh and others will still face personal attacks during the coming three months before Election Day. However, Mr. Pugh seems to be doing his best to head those attacks off before they're even launched.

And that's a smart political move, in my opinion.

In a related note, I also want to mention that if you don't currently subscribe to the Two Guys Named Joe podcast then you really should. Their analysis is top-notched. More about it here.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Number 1, Baby

I just discovered that if one searches for Jeri Ryan on Google Blog Search, my post from last Thursday (More 7 of 9) comes in as the number one item out of the 45,782 blog posts that it finds.

Number 1. Out of 45,782.

I'm pretty sure even Jeri Ryan herself would find that to be at least mildly cool.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

More 7 of 9

I posted below that seven of my nine city council endorsements made the primary cut. I entitled that post "7 of 9".

I had completely forgotten that 7 of 9 is also the name of Jeri Ryan's character on Star Trek: Voyager. That is, of course, until a friend of mine reminded me about it.

I don't know how I could have forgotten an image like the one of Jeri Ryan below.

Plus, Jeri Ryan was on Star Trek - one of the most awesome franchises in the history of television.

And I forgot about the one and only Jeri Ryan as 7 of 9.

I am losing nerd cred. I really, really am.

jIH Daq latlh. (For the non-nerds who read this blog, that is "I need to watch more television" in Klingon.)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go back to fantasizing about being assimilated by Jeri Ryan.

UPDATE @ 6:12 p.m.
Speaking of Jeri Ryan as 7 of 9, I found this video on-line.

Jeri Ryan - 7 of 9 Compilation (Voyager) - The funniest bloopers are right here

Ah, Jeri Ryan.

7 Of 9

I endorsed nine candidates for the Detroit City Council last month. The primary election was this past Tuesday. I'm proud to report that seven out of the nine candidates that I supported made the cut.

Of course, I'm also proud to report that Monica Conyers and Martha Reeves did not make it.

I congratulate John K. Bennett, Gary Brown, David Jonathon Cross, Fred Elliot Hall, Lisa Howze, Saunteel Jenkins, and Charles Pugh on their performance this Tuesday. I also look forward to supporting Roy McCalister, Jr. and Matthew Naomi in future campaigns.

Most importantly, I want to congratulate my fellow Detroiters on making some fairly wise decisions on Election Day. There are a couple of points where I wish the results were a bit different. However, on the whole, I believe that Detroit's electorate - or at least the ones who showed up to vote - did a great job on Tuesday.

Monday, August 03, 2009

5K Planning Meeting on Thursday

The Friends of Rouge Park will host their next planning meeting for their upcoming annual 5K Run on Thursday, August 6. This meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the historic Park-Joy Bar (23220 Joy Rd. in Redford Twp.).

For those who aren't familiar, the Park-Joy Bar is located at Joy Rd. and West Parkway. It's across the street from Rouge Park.

Anyone who would like to be a part of planning this annual fundraiser for the Friends of Rouge Park is invited to attend.

Tip of the Week: National Night Out

Tomorrow, August 4, is National Night Out. This is a nationwide crime and drug prevention program that is sponsored by Target Stores, the National Association of Town Watch and the U.S. Department of Justice.

In the Warrendale area, our local National Night Out event will happen tomorrow evening from 5 - 10 p.m. at the Northwest District of the Detroit Police Department (11450 Warwick).

The focus of National Night Out is to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness as well as
  • Generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs;
  • Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and
  • Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
Everyone is invited to attend this event.