Saturday, July 31, 2010

Force Feeding Scrap Tires

I was doing a video shoot for Yahoo! News this afternoon. I was at the former Ruddiman Middle School (7350 Southfield Fwy.) to file a report about the school being added to the National Register of Historic Places. While there, I found a couple hundred scrap tires that had been illegally dumped behind it.

Needless to say, I was not happy. The video below clearly shows my exact reaction.

Facebook vs. the Detroit City Council

One of my Facebook friends, who happens to be a patrol officer with the Detroit Police Department, had this as his status yesterday.
I was on a shooting and stabbing scene when I heard about 8 shots a block away. A minute later we were pulled from our scene to investigate. Double shooting, one was a 15 year old. Some Council members are upset over the name of an ABC drama "Detroit 187," I have to ask why?
This sums up my thoughts quite well.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Clips from the Kosciusko Presentation

I regret that I botched the recording of the Kosciusko presentation the other week: bad audio and bad video. Regardless, there were at least a few people who said that they'd like to see some it anyway.

Therefore, without further ado, I give you two clips from my botched clips.

Dictatorship of Irony

Scene for the City Council Hearing on Voting
Earlier this month, a group of individuals successfully blocked efforts to allow Detroiters to vote on whether or not they want the Mayor to oversee the Detroit Public Schools, in a non-binding advisory question that would have appeared on the November ballot.

Now comes word that the same group of individuals will ask Detroiters to vote to recall those council members who voted to allow us to vote on school governance.

Yes, the individuals who were opposed to allowing Detroiters to vote are going to ask us to vote to remove those members of the Detroit City Council that they don't like.

Please take a moment to relish the irony of this.

Man Killed at West Side Store

I had reported on Wednesday about how Detroit had seen a total of five murders within a thirty six hour time period. I mentioned then that, even though none of those murders took place in the Warrendale neighborhood, everyone in Detroit should be concerned because it marked a distinct reversal from the downward trends that we had seen under former Police Chief Warren C. Evans. I was worried that, while one cannot read too much into one day of crime reports, it might be the start of an alarming trend.

That was on Wednesday.

On Thursday, a man was gunned down at a party store at the corner of Joy Rd. and Ohio St., which is a little more than a mile away from the Warrendale neighborhood. According WDIV, a local man was leaving the store, which he frequently stopped at on his way home from work, when he found himself trapped in the crossfire.

A second unidentified man was being chased by a group of gunmen who opened fire. The first man was hit by those shots and died at the scene. Both the shooters and their apparent target remain at large.

When one combines this shooting with the murders from Tuesday and Wednesday, this begins to sound quite troubling. I pray at the Detroit Police Department will be able to bring this trend under control expeditiously.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Holding Owners Responsible for Blight

The Detroit City Council passed a Vacant Property  Registration Ordinance earlier this month. The ordinance was sponsored by Councilman Kwame Kenyatta. It is modeled after similar ordinance throughout Michigan and is intended to help hold property owners responsible for blighted property.

6072 Minock - One of the Blighted Properties in Warrendale

The ordinance requires the owner of any vacant structure to register it with the City of Detroit and pay a $25 annual fee for each property. This registry is expected to allow officials to better track property owners, to levy fines when appropriate, and to hold owners accountable for their properties before and after they become blighted.

The fines for failing to register a vacant property are expected to range from $250 to $500 per citation, per property. The fines for failing to maintain a vacant property according to city codes will range, depending on the size of the structure, from $500 to $3,000 per citation, per property.

5 Murders in 36 Hours

The past two days have been particularly violent in the past two days, with five murders being committed within a thirty-six hour period. Thankfully, none of these murders happened within the Warrendale neighborhood. Regardless, it is unquestionably a cause for concern.

This is particularly troubling since both murders and non-fatal shootings had been down during the tenure of former Chief of Police Warren C. Evans. Now that Mayor Dave Bing forced him to resign and there is a sudden rash of murders, the coincidence is nothing if not troubling.

I wish Interim Chief Ralph Godbee well and pray that these murders prove to be nothing more than a tragic coincidence; not the start of a new trend.

WXYZ-TV has more on this story below.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kosciusko Plans Announced

I have discussed the efforts to bring the long shuttered Kosciusko Elementary School (20220 Tireman St.) back as a community center several times on this blog. The Detroit Community Design Center, which is operated by the University of Michigan, has worked with neighborhood residents to develop a community-driven plan for the adaptive reuse of that building. They presented their plans last week; I was fortunate enough to attend said presentation.

Model of a Redeveloped Kosciusko
I want to give everyone a quick recap of the plans, starting with the exterior. Much of the grounds behind Kosciusko are envisioned as a sports fields for football, soccer, etc. There will also be a community garden with raised beds to accommodate the handicapped.

These plans also envision bike and walking paths on the property. This will be connected to the GreenWays Initiative, which seeks to connect people, communities, and nature throughout southeastern Michigan.

There will also be a separate play area for the child care center. This will enable children at the center to play outdoors, while also allowing the staff to supervise them.

Moving to the interior, their plans call for a multitude of services on the first and second floors of this historic building. Each of these items was brought into the plan after a series of meetings with neighborhood residents and stakeholders to identify the needs in Warrendale.

The child care center will operate on the first floor. It will also have a separate entrance for maximum security.

Also on the first floor, some of the former classrooms will be converted into business incubator space. There will also be a special event space in the former auditorium as well as a cafe nearby.

Up on the second floor, the plans envision counseling services for at-risk youth. They also call for a media center, which will be complete with a recording studio.

The entire project is expected to cost approximately $7 million. Since this building is on the National Register of Historic Places, there are a series of state and federal tax credits that will cover a portion of that amount.

If you are interested in getting involved with the Kosciusko project, please feel to contact me at frank [dot] nemecek [at] gmail [dot] com. As always, more details will be posted on this blog as they develop.

Update @ 10:50 a.m. on July 30, 2010
I originally wasn't going to show any of the video clips that I recorded at this presentation. The fact of that matter is that I botched the job with both bad audio and bad video.

Regardless, there were at least a few people who wanted to see it. Therefore, without further ado, I give you my botched clips from the Kosciusko presentation.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Detroit Police Seize $2.3 Million

An investigation by the Detroit Police Department's Narcotic Unit on the city’s east side resulted in a major cash seizure for this year, Chief Ralph Godbee announced today.

$2.3 Million in Cash
Officers were conducting a narcotic conspiracy investigation, which led them to intercept a vehicle which contained approximately $2.3 million in US currency. A K-9 unit was called to the location and a positive hit for cocaine was found on the money. Officers seized the money and arrested the male driver. Due to an ongoing investigation, no additional information will be released at this time. The confiscated millions of dollars in suspected drug money will be used to fund additional crime fighting efforts after the civil forfeiture process.

“This major cash seizure just demonstrates the Detroit Police Department’s continued commitment to go after the mid-level suppliers in our community,” Chief Godbee explained in a prepared statement. “Confiscating the cash guarantees that they will not be able to purchase drugs that were indeed intended to be distributed in our community.”

I commend each of the police officers who were involved in this investigation. While this did not take place in the Warrendale neighborhood, the fact remains that when a drug cartel loses this much cash, it makes all Detroiters that much safer.

Lindsay Lohan and Me

Lindsay Lohan Doesn't
Like Rumors Either
I was on WDIV (Channel 4) last week to talk about politics in Michigan during their morning show. I posted about it on my blog the day before I went on the air, mentioned it on Facebook, and told a few other folks about it.

The thing is, ever since that appearance, there is a certain group of people in the neighborhood who have been talking about it extensively. They all want to know why I didn't tell more people about it, why I didn't give more advance notice, what I talked about, and so on. Most of these rumors seem to tie my appearance to some kind of a sinister conspiracy.

As far as I can figure, I'm now more talked about than Lindsay Lohan at least within the Warrendale neighborhood. (She still has me beat in the rest of the world.)

I almost can't wait until they start talking about my next television appearance.

Until then, Lindsay Lohan and I would like to share a few words with all of the gossip hounds.

Lindsay Lohan - Rumors

Friday, July 23, 2010

Walk With the Butterflies

The Friends of Rouge Park, along with the Southeast Michigan Butterfly Association, will host a butterfly walk in Rouge Park with on Saturday, August 7 from 2 - 3:30 pm.  This is an excellent chance to see some of the butterflies who call Rouge Park home and to learn how to identify them.

Anyone who is interested in joining is encouraged to meet along Outer Drive just south of Joy Road in Rouge Park.

The organizers for this event, however, do caution that it will be postponed if the weather isn't sunny that day. A rain date will be announced, if necessary. Please check their web site for updates.

There is also a flyer for this event that one can download. It is available here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dave Bing: Results Don't Matter

Mayor Dave Bing
Mayor Dave Bing pressured Warren C. Evans to resign as Chief of Police for the Detroit Police Department earlier this week. Mayor Bing has appointed Ralph L. Godbee, Jr. to be the third Chief of Police in Detroit in under two years. He is appointed on an interim basis, although there is much speculation that it will become a permanent position.

According to numerous reports, much of the cause for this stems from a reality TV show that Mr. Evans was a part of pitching to the networks and from his reputation as a "cowboy" police officer.

I will simply say that during Mr. Evans' tenure as chief of police:
  • Homicides dropped by 25% in Detroit;
  • Non-fatal shootings dropped by 15%;
  • Police response time for emergency calls improved by 29%; and
  • Narcotics seizures more than doubled.
In addition, Mr. Evans introduced a text messaging based method for citizens to pass information anonymously to the police.

All of this was on top of saving the taxpayers more than $7 million in reduced overtime expenses.

Quite frankly, if a certain someone is able to produce results like this then, as far as I'm concerned, they can appear in a hundred different reality television shows for all I care. Obviously, Mayor Bing has a different opinion in this matter.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Coming to a TV Set Near You

I've been invited to appear on Channel 4's morning show. I'll be on at 6:15 a.m. tomorrow morning to discuss politics.

I figure it'll take at least eight cups of coffee to get me up and to the studio in time. It should be interesting to see how that plays out.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Kosciusko Is Coming

The Historic Designation Advisory Board for the City of Detroit is sponsoring a presentation about the reuse of the long-shuttered Kosciusko Elementary School. This school, by the way, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A brief overview of all of this is available below.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Largest Group on Facebook

I've mentioned before how there is a group on Facebook for the Warrendale neighborhood.

That group, it turns out, is now one of the largest in its category on Facebook. There are more than 500 groups dedicated to one neighborhood or another, but the Warrendale one is one of the largest.

If you're are on Facebook then I invite you to join the group.

Responding to Blight in Detroit

Sometimes, there are things that need to be said.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Suspect Arrested in Bus Stop Shooting

Fox 2 News is reporting that the Detroit Police Department has arrested one of the two men who shot seven teenagers while they were waiting for a bus at the corner of W. Warren Ave. and the Southfield Fwy last summer. Demetrius Hinton, age 20, turned himself in at the 6th Precinct Station (11450 Warwick St.).

Police believe he is one of two of the masked gunmen captured in the surveillance video who opened fire at the bus stop at W. Warren Ave. and wounded seven students who just got out of summer classes. That happened in July of 2009.

Police say one month later, Mr. Hinton is believed to have committed another crime, shooting and killing Donald Bohlinger and wounding another man during a robbery that went bad.

In October, it is reported that federal investigators joined in the hunt for Mr. Hinton. Investigators believed he fled to Georgia and even applied to college in Atlanta.

Over the last few months, however, investigators learned Mr. Hinton was back in the Detroit area. We're told they were closing in on him, putting pressure on him and his family, so much so that he had no choice but to turn himself in. Monday evening, he walked into the police station and surrendered.

Sources told Fox 2 that the police are still searching for the second masked gunman. They believe they are very close to arresting him, too.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Toddler Dies in Arson Fire

A two-year old boy died this morning in an apparent arson. The fire started at approximately 2:30 a.m. this morning in the 9900 block of Winthrop, which is approximately 3/4 of a mile north of the Warrendale neighborhood.

WXYZ-TV has more on this story below.

The Detroit Police Department continues to investigate this crime. In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers go out to this family.

Local Doctor Pleads Guilty to Health Care Fraud

Ali S. Makki, M.D., who has an office at 6050 Greenfield Rd. in Dearborn, which is just outside of the Warrendale neighborhood, plead guilty in federal court on Thursday to defrauding Medicare and making false statements in immigration and tax matters.

According to information provided to the court at the time of the guilty plea hearing, from July 2004 through September 2009, Dr. Makki knowingly submitted false claims to Medicare concerning the number and quality of x-rays provided to his Medicare patients, thereby obtaining $113,777 to which he was not entitled. In addition, Dr. Makki admitted that he falsified an immigration form for a patient applying for naturalization in an effort to exempt his patient from certain requirements necessary for naturalization, and underreported his income by not reporting certain cash receipts on his 2003 federal income tax return.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Dr. Makki faces, among other things, up to 30 months in federal prison. He will remain free on bond pending sentencing, which is scheduled for September 30, 2010 in Port Huron, Michigan.

The criminal investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Internal Revenue Service.

The United States also resolved Dr. Makki’s civil liability under the False Claims Act and civil forfeiture statutes, resulting in Makki’s forfeiture of commercial real property with an appraised value of more than $4.7 million in Canton and Dearborn, and approximately $76,000 in cash. According to the publicly filed civil forfeiture complaint, the United States alleged that Ali Makki engaged in drug diversion and various fraudulent billing schemes, including billing for services that were not rendered and for unnecessary tests, and writing false progress reports in patient files.

U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade praised the result in this case.  She explained in a prepared statement, "We are paying close attention to Medicare billing records and we will prosecute doctors like Dr. Makki who abuse the system."

Friday, July 09, 2010

Free Fun Activities for the Kids

The Edison Branch (18400 Joy Rd.) of the Detroit Public Library has three fun activities for the kids next week, all of which are free.

Their first one is the animated film Flushed Away, which stars the voices of Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet among others. It was done by the creators of Shrek and Madagascar.

Flushed Away is the story of an uptown pet rat, Roddy, who gets flushed down a toilet from his penthouse apartment. He ends up in the sewers of London, where he has to learn a whole new and different way of life.

This film will screen on this coming Monday, July 12, at 6 p.m. in the activities room of the Edison Branch Library. Free parking is available in the lot adjacent to the library.

Flushed Away is rated PG for crude "bathroom" humor. A trailer for the film is available below.

The library will follow this up with Duck, Duck, Story Time on Tuesday, July 13 from 3 - 4 p.m. This is part of their summer story time with ducks as the theme.

Finally, the Edison Branch will present Rubber Duck Craft on Wednesday, July 14 from 2 - 3 p.m. in the library. This is will include Summer Reading Program reports as well as duck-themed crafts for young children and tweens.

Again, there is no charge for any of these events.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Santana vs Pugh

There is a political contest afoot. Several candidates are vying to replace State Rep. Gabe Leland, who is unable to run for re-election due to term limits.

The race has essentially narrowed to Harvey Santana and Stacy Pugh. Both are political newcomers so it's hard to judge their viability.

Harvey Santana has been planting lawn signs throughout the neighborhood for several weeks. Stacy Pugh, however, has been catching up quickly in recent days.

This lawn sign battle has produced an interesting side-effect. There are several homes in the Warrendale neighborhood that have signs for both Harvey Santana and Stacy Pugh.

(Video tour of the Harvey Santana/Stacy Pugh lawn signs below.)

One can immediately ask: what does all of this mean?

The short answer is: pretty much nothing. I'm a firm believer in the old political adage, "Signs don't vote." Regardless, this is trend does provide some interesting comedy.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Weatherizing for Summer

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has a series of tips for making older homes, such as those in the Warrendale neighborhood, more energy efficient in the summer months. Their suggestions are available in this video below.

This is your (belated) Tip of the Week.

Opening Fires Hydrants Creates Hazards

With Detroit in the midst of another heat wave, now seems like a good time for me to remind everyone in the Warrendale neighborhood that, while opening a fire hydrant may be a lot of fun, it does create a public safety hazard. The illegal use of hydrants can cause the city to experience dangerously low water pressure, which affects the water pressure available to fight fires and the water pressure available to all residents.

An open fire hydrant can pump 1,000 gallons of water per minute.  The force of that water can cause injuries, push a child playing into oncoming traffic, or even affect a motorist, causing serious traffic accidents.  Tampering with hydrants may also result in damage to the fire hydrant stem (the turn-on valve), which could make it difficult for Detroit firefighters to turn the hydrants on in the event of a fire.  In addition, the repeated illegal turning on and off of fire hydrants can cause increased volumes and pressures, which can stress water mains that ultimately lead to water main breaks below the surface.

That's the bad news. The good news is that there is a legal alternative.

"When temperatures rise above 80 degrees, residents can contact the Detroit Recreation Department to send out an authorized representative to turn on the nearest and safest fire hydrant for a street shower," said Chief Katrina Butler from the Detroit Fire Department Community Relations Division.

Warrendale residents can call the Northwest District, Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. to request a street shower. Their phone number is (313) 628-0940 or (313) 628-0942.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Stay Cool - At the Library

Detroit is in midst of a heat wave. A number of Detroit Public Library locations have been designated by the city as Cooling Stations. These are locations where citizens can get a break from the heat during the hottest part of the day.

In the Warrendale neighborhood, this includes the Edison Branch (18400 Joy Rd.) of the Detroit Public Library. The library is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 10 a.m. until - 6 p.m. On Mondays and Wednesdays, the library is open from noon until 8 p.m.

WCO Fundraising Trip

The Warrendale Community Organization is sponsoring a day trip to the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort (6800 Soaring  Eagle Blvd. in Mt. Pleasant) as a fundraiser. Travelers will meet in the parking lot of St. Thomas Aquinas Church (5780 Evergreen Rd.) at 7 a.m. on Saturday, August 14. They will depart promptly at 7:30 a.m.

The cost of this trip is only $40. Participants will receive a $20 gaming voucher as well as a $5 food voucher, in addition to their round trip ground transportation. Snacks will also be provided on the bus during both legs of this trip.

Travelers are welcome to leave their vehicles at the church parking lot. The group will return at approximately 7:30 p.m. that evening.

Seating for this day trip is limited. A flyer, and registration form, for this trip is available here.

Writing for the Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal published an article today by Alex P. Kellogg. It focused on volunteers in Detroit taking over many of the responsiblities that would traditionally belong to city government.

This was an excellent article. I should know because I wrote something very similar to this almost a year ago.

To their credit, The Wall Street Journal did have original photographs as well as original examples of this trend that were accompanied by original quotes. However, there is nothing that changes the fact that I still had this story almost a full year before The Wall Street Journal published their version of it.

The Wall Street Journal's version of this story from today is available here.

My version of it, from July 22, 2009, is available here.

I guess this simply means that I am now a reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Tip of the Week: Shop Safely

The Detroit Police Department has a series of tips on how one can stay safe while shopping.

Staying safe while shopping is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Vacant Apartment Building Gets Torched

A vacant apartment building at Joy Rd. and Schaeffer, which is approximately two miles from the Warrendale neighborhood, was set ablaze this past Friday. According to news reports, it was an apparent case of arson.

More on this story is available below from WXYZ-TV.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Pirates to Invade Detroit

Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood will be invaded by pirates next week.

Sort of.

The Edison Branch of the Detroit Public Library (18400 Joy Rd.) will host two pirate themed special events next week for neighborhood children.

Their first event one is a summer story time with pirate themed stories entitled Aaargh! You Ready for a Story. It will happen on Tuesday, July 6 from 3 - 4 p.m. at the library. This event is intended for children.

On Wednesday, they will follow that up with Pirate Craft. This includes summer reading program reports as well as pirate themed crafts from 2 - 3 p.m. It is intended for children and tweens.

While these pirates presumably prefer Faygo to rum, I still won't let my treasure chest out of my sights. I encourage everyone else in the Warrendale neighborhood to exercise a similar degree of caution during this pirate invasion.

Update: Strip Club Gets Shut Down for Hiring 14 Year Old

I reported back in April that Andrew Hutson, manager of All-Stars (14541 W. Eight Mile), which is a strip club that is approximately six miles north of the Warrendale neighborhood, had been charged with a twenty year felony after he allowed a fourteen year old girl to work as an exotic dancer in his club. This, according to multiple sources was only the latest of such incidents.

Today, I am proud to report that Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Virgil Smith declared the club to be a nuisance. He further ordered that it closed for one year.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

This is the Coolest Basement Ever

I want to thank Stella from the Fabric of My Life blog for introducing me to one very cool basement in the Warrendale neighborhood. It was done several years ago by an artist named Girard Zalno, who has long since passed away.

Basically, the entire basement is crafted to look like a dungeon. It looks very cool.

You can see more of this work over on her blog.

Happy Canada Day

Today is Canada's birthday. Therefore, I would like to take a moment to wish a very happy Canada Day to my neighbors to the south.

And, yes, I do get a kick out of living in the only major city that can refer to Canada as its neighbors to the south.