Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Years

I'm about to head off to my New Year's Eve celebrations. However, I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone who reads this blog (now almost a hundred or so people every day) a Happy New Years!

I'll be back with more next year.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Quote for 2011

Spirit of Detroit
Every once in awhile, I hear a quote that so perfectly summarizes how I'm feeling at a given moment, I am compelled, it would seem, to emblazon it on the wall by my desk. Today, I came across such a quote.

"A hero is no braver than an ordinary man," Ralph Waldo Emerson once observed, "but he is brave five minutes longer."

Today, as I ponder the challenges that our neighborhood faces as well as those that we face individually, I pray that each of us finds the strength to hang onto our bravery for those extra five minutes.

5 Years of the Warrendale Blog

The Warrendale (Detroit) Blog is now five years old. When I launched this site, quite frankly, I never thought I would still be doing it five years later. Regardless, here we are.

Anyway, I thought I would take a moment to look back over that past few years in the neighborhood.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays from Bing, Fred, and Me

My dear friends, Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, wanted to send along their holiday wishes to everyone in the Warrendale neighborhood and beyond. I join then in wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Violent Crime in Detroit Drops by 8%

The Detroit Police Department announced this morning that violent crime in Detroit has dropped by 8% in the first six months of 2010, in comparison to the same period last year. The homicide rate dropped by 28% and armed robberies dropped by 9%. Arsons, unfortunately, increased by 16%.

I congratulate all of the police officers and other individuals who were a part of making this happen.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Benefits of the Detroit Works Project

Mayor Dave Bing
I posted previously about Mayor Dave Bing's plan to encourage Detroiters to consolidate our population into smaller, denser communities, which is commonly known as the Detroit Works Project. Specifically, I wrote about some of the things that DWP will not accomplish. In this post, I would like to discuss the positive things that this will bring about.

I believe that the Detroit Works Project has the potential to stimulate new retail businesses and, as a result, create new jobs for Detroiters. I also believe that it will help to focus the limited efforts of our state and local governments and make the charitable foundations more effective.

The cornerstone of the Detroit Works Project is increasing population density in targeted neighborhoods. More people living in a given area mean more potential customers for local businesses. More potential customers for local businesses, in turn, invariably results in more businesses opening and remaining open in those areas. It also means that existing businesses will be able to expand their operations as their customer base grows.

As additional retail businesses open in our neighborhoods, it will also mean new opportunities for other businesses that cater to retailers. Bars, restaurants, and stores, for example, all need insurance for their business as well as tax and legal services. This creates new opportunities for insurance agents, accountants, and attorneys.

Each of these areas of development bring with them new jobs for Detroiters as well as additional tax revenue for our local government. As one examines the current state of Detroit, it is hard to escape the fact that Detroit is in desperate need of both of these things.

In addition to these benefits, there is also the fact that the Detroit Works Project brings about the ability for the limited efforts of our state and local governments to become more focused and for charitable foundations to be before more effective.

The Street Maintainance Division of Detroit's Department of Public Works, for example, has a relatively small budget that is less than 1% of the general fund. If its efforts are spread across the full 138.8 square miles of our city, its limited efforts are hardly noticeable. However, when these efforts and the efforts of similar government agencies are focused on a targeted area, one begins to see tangible results quite quickly. Our budget for street maintainance won't get any larger, but its impact will be stronger.

Similarly, the impact of the various charitable foundations will be much stronger if their efforts are targeted towards key geographic areas. While it isn't necessary that private charities focus their efforts in the same areas that are targeted by government, doing so does produce the strongest potential benefit.

The Limits of the Detroit Works Project

Mayor Dave Bing
Mayor Dave Bing is still developing his Detroit Works Project. Since it will likely be a far-reaching affair, I want to take a moment to discuss the things that it will not be able to accomplish. I choose to start with these simply because I have heard so many people, particularly in the news media, talk about DWP solving problems that it has no chance of solving. I'll get to what it can do next.

The Detroit Works Project is built on the idea of encouraging people to move from the lowest density neighborhoods to some of our higher density neighborhoods. Some individuals in the news media have argued that this will enable the City of Detroit to improve police and fire protection by focusing our resources in those areas. They are simply wrong.

Every part of Detroit will still need police and fire protection. All of it.

Unless every part of Detroit receives adequate police and fire protection, it will be a danger to all Detroiters. This will continue to be true even if everyone moves out of low density neighborhoods that Mayor Bing hopes to further depopulate.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

More Corruption Charges Against the Kilpatrick Clan

Federal prosecutors announced a new wave of corruption against former Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, his childhood friends (and prominent members of his inner circle) Bobby Ferguson and Derrick Miller as well as the former director of the Water & Sewage Department Victor Mercado. The Detroit Free Press has a complete recap of the charges available here.

Personally, I'm enamored by the fact that one of Facebook friends summed this announcement up perfectly this afternoon.

"Kwamzaa came early this year," he posted.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rouge Park Amphitheater

The next Friends of Rouge Park will hold their next meeting will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, December 15 at the Don Bosco Center (19321 West Chicago St.) from 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. This meeting is open to the public.

Clinton Snider, an artist planning a design for a new amphitheater at Joy Road and Spinoza Street in Rouge Park will attend this meeting. He needs input from the community on this design.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Former Detroit Public Schools Bookkeeper Charged with Federal Program Fraud

Allen Swayze, 34, a former Detroit Public Schools bookkeeper, was indicted by a federal grand jury today in Detroit on charges that he fraudulently obtained money from Detroit Public Schools, according to a statement release by U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade.

U.S. Attorney McQuade was joined in this announcement by Andrew G. Arena, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The indictment charges that between August 2006 and May 2009, Mr. Swayze, who worked as a bookkeeper at the Breithaupt Career and Technical Center, issued fraudulent checks to himself and to his company, Swayze Management Industries, in the amount of $148,000. Mr. Swayze then deposited the checks in his bank accounts or cashed them at banks where his accounts were located.

Ms. McQuade said,"As our community works to fund and improve our schools, we will not tolerate anyone who steals money intended to educate our children."

Mr. Arena added, "This individual has abused the public trust by illegally obtaining money designated for educating the children in the City of Detroit. The FBI is committed to investigating individuals who fraudulently obtain money through business with the Detroit Public Schools."

If convicted, Mr. Swayze faces a maximum sentence of ten years imprisonment and a fine of $250,000.

The investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the DPS Office of Inspector General and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Pamela Thompson.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Detroit Police Enact Verified Response System

Photo Courtesy of David Malhalab
The Detroit Police Department announced on Friday that they will enact a verified response system for alarms. This will require alarm companies to confirm the validity of an alarm before dispatching an officer to the scene.

This effort is designed to minimize the number of false alarms that police officers have to deal with. As a result, it is expected to improve the police department's overall response time.

Tip of the Week: Fire Safety During the Christmas Season

The Detroit Fire Department urges residents to take the time this holiday season to observe the following fire precautions when using lighting, decorations, and Christmas trees. If you use a natural Christmas tree in your home, pleas keep your tree stand full of water and check it daily.

Other holiday fire safety tips include:
  • Keep the tree away from any heat source, such as a heat vent, radiator or fireplace, and out of exit paths;
  • Do not plug more than three sets of lights into one extension cord;
  • Make sure lights used outdoors have been approved for outdoor use and are waterproof; and
  • Smokers should keep smoldering cigarettes and cigar butts away from gift-wrapping, Christmas trees, lights and other holiday decorations.
If you use candles this holiday season, please remember to:
  • Keep burning candles, matches, and lighters out of the reach of children;
  • Don’t place candles near natural Christmas trees, decorations, draperies, or combustible items such as furniture, paper, and clothing; and
  • Place candles in sturdy, non-combustible holders.
Staying safe this holiday season is your Warrendale Tip of the Week, courtesy of the Detroit Fire Department.

    Wednesday, December 01, 2010

    Another Guilty Plea in the Gardenview Estates Case

    A businessman from Northville, Michigan entered a plea of guilty as part of the ongoing federal investigation into fraud, money laundering, and obstruction of justice involving the Gardenview Estates public housing project in the Warrendale area, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced earlier today.

    Rodney Burrell, age 57, of Northville, Michigan entered the guilty plea in U.S. District Court before Judge David M. Lawson. According to court documents, the activity involved falsely inflated project bid documents submitted in the name of Mr. Burrell’s, R & R Heavy Haulers. Last month, a second defendant named Brian Dodds also pleaded guilty to participating in the same bid rigging scheme on behalf of his company D & R Earthmoving.

    The false bids were created at the direction of Bobby Ferguson and were used to make it appear that the $11.9 million bid submitted by Bobby W. Ferguson’s company Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. was the "lowest" bid presented to perform demolition, earth work, and utilities installation at the Gardenview Estates project. The Gardenview Estates development is a large-scale, multi-use public housing project being developed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Detroit Housing Commission. It exists on the site of the former Herman Gardens project.

    In return for allowing this false bid to be submitted in the name of his company, Rodney Burrell and R & R Heavy Haulers received a subcontract from Bobby W. Ferguson worth more than $180,000. In February of 2009, Mr. Burrell provided misleading and incomplete testimony to federal law enforcement agents and to a federal grand jury in an effort to conceal the commission of the underlying conspiracy to defraud the United States.

    "Fraud in the bid process has no place in city government," McQuade said in a prepared statement. "The citizens of Detroit deserve better, and we will continue to prosecute cases like this one to deter others from cheating the public."

    Andrew Arena, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation added, "This plea is a result of the continuing investigation into the corruption and fraud that has long plagued the City of Detroit. The FBI, with our law enforcement partners, will continue to investigate and expose the individuals who participate in these schemes involving blatant greed."

    Breck Nowlin, Special Agent in Charge, Office of Inspector General, Housing and Urban Development said, "Hope VI program, through revitalization and demolition of severely distressed housing, serves a vital role in the HUD efforts to transform public housing in the hardest hit communities, communities like Detroit. The charging of Mr. Burrell sends a very clear message that the US Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement will put a stop to the abuse of such programs, including holding responsible those who allow it to happen."

    Under the plea agreement, Mr. Burrell faces up to six months of imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.

    This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Judge.

    Breakfast with Santa

    The Detroit Recreation Department will host Breakfast with Santa on Saturday, Dec. 11, at the Belle Isle Casino.  There will be two seatings: one at 9 a.m. and the other at 11:30 a.m. Participants will enjoy breakfast, crafts, letters to Santa, and a winter wonderland walk!

    Tickets are $5 per person.  Pictures with Santa will be available for an additional fee.  For tickets and additional information, please contact your local recreation center or call (313) 628-2081. A map and directions are available here.

    While this isn't happening in the Warrendale neighborhood, it's still cool enough to be your Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week.