Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Walking Home from Lunch

After lunch at 3 Nick's on W. Warren Ave. in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood, I made this short video to showcase some of the interesting things that I saw along the way. From parking tickets and graffiti to job postings to construction.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Tip of the Week: Free Golf Tomorrow

The 2011 Free Day at the Links is coming up this tomorrow, Tuesday, August 30 at various courses around Metro Detroit. This is your opportunity to golf some of the finest local courses for free. If you would like a cart, they can be rented for a $20. Proceeds from this event will benefit The First Tee of Southeast Michigan.

Here are the participating courses:

The Belle Isle Practice Center offers an all access pass, which includes a medium bucket, putting green, chipping green, practice bunker, pitch & putt course.

Tee times are required for each of the four participating golf courses. Tee times are not required for the Belle Isle Practice Center.

For anyone who has ever wondered why golf is such a great game, I give you a short video clip from Robin Williams. (It's Robin Williams. Therefore, this is not safe for work.)

Free golf is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Update @ 2:57 p.m.
For anyone looking for an added excuse to blow off work tomorrow and head to Belle Isle for some golf, I give you this golf blast from the past.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Crazy Seagulls Say Summer is Coming to End

In today's video, I showcase the first tree that I've seen in neighborhood that is starting to change colors. Also, I include a short video about some crazy seagulls that I shot earlier.

Interview for Norwegian Public TV

A local television producer, who is working Norwegian Public Television, is seeking a couple who has lost their home due to foreclosure. They are specifically looking for couples who lost their home within Detroit city limits only, an ethnic minority is preferred. The interview will happen on September 8 or 9.

If you are interested in being a part of this documentary, please send your contact information to visualmercenary at Gmail dot com.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cool (But Random) Things About the Warrendale Neighborhood

In today's walk through Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood, I discuss some of the cool - but completely random - things about this section of town. Some of them were things that I noticed myself and a couple were things that other pointed out to me.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lunch in Detroit

I'm spending most of today editing, but I was able to sneak away for lunch - and I wanted to take you along. Along the way, I talk about the weather as well as what seems like the world's largest slumber party.

It's all part of life in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhoood.

Reorganizing the Detroit Police Department

For quite some time now, I've advocated for reorganizing the Detroit Police Department to put a great emphasis on front-line operations, as opposed to administration. Since the very beginning, I have been told by a handful of people within the department, by appointees of Mayor Dave Bing, and other assorted apologists that I didn't know what I was talking about. They argued that the Detroit Police Department was fine the way it was currently organized, it just needed more money - even though it already had one of the largest budgets in the country on a per resident basis.

Now, thanks for to some great reporting by the Detroit Free Press, we now know that for almost a year, there has been a report sitting on Mayor Bing's desk, which showed that - if anything - I underestimated the need for reform rather overestimated, as so many occupants of CAYMC and 1300 Beaubien argued. This report is now available on-line here.

Mayor Bing and Police Chief Ralph Godbee have, to their credit, implemented some of the recommended reforms from this report. However, the majority of them still have not been implemented and Detroiters continue to suffer as a result.

To all of the bureaucrats, political appointees, and assorted apologists who have defended the status quo at the expense of public safety, I would simply like to say, "Suck it."

Reform is coming to the Detroit Police Department. There are simply too many people who are upset with the status quo to avoid it. The only question still to be answered is whether those reforms will be implemented by the Bing Administration or by his successor.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Search is On for Detroit's Christmas Tree

The Detroit 300 Conservancy is launching a statewide search for the star of the Detroit Tree Lighting Ceremony at Campus Martius Park (800 Woodward Ave. in downtown Detroit). They are looking for a 50-60 foot tall spruce tree, beautifully proportioned and Michigan grown. The winning nomination will crown Campus Martius Park November through early January, welcoming Santa Claus at the America’s Thanksgiving Parade, plus tens of thousands of park-goers and passersby throughout the holiday season.

The winning tree will be placed in Detroit’s award-winning and internationally-acclaimed Campus Martius Park, at the majestic Woodward Fountain and adjacent to the popular Ice Rink. Continuing what The Detroit Free Press has called a “Great New Detroit Family Tradition,” the tree will be lit in a spectacular ceremony on November 18. The family or individual that donates the tree will receive VIP-guest treatment, including a complimentary stay at the Westin Book Cadillac, and public recognition during the Tree Lighting ceremony.

The Conservancy will only accept entries that meet the following specifications:

  • The tree must be a Norway Spruce and stand between 50-60 feet tall, with a 25-30 foot base measured branch to branch;
  • The tree should be well branched and symmetrical, and easily accessible from the road with no interference from overhead utility lines; and
  • The tree must be a donation and available at no cost.

This year marks the eighth year that the Conservancy has partnered with the City of Detroit, DTE Energy and other downtown Detroit companies to bring a Christmas tree and related festivities to Campus Martius Park. The deadline to enter a tree for consideration is Sept. 19. Those wishing to enter a tree for consideration should include their name, telephone number and a photograph of the tree with information about its size and location to DetroitTreeLighting@detroit300.org or by mail to:

Detroit Tree Lighting
Detroit 300 Conservancy
1 Campus Martius, 3 W
Detroit, Michigan 48226

Random Moments in the Neighborhood

In today's walk, I highlight some of the purely random moments that make up life in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood. From the joy of seeing trash get picked up and homes repaired to the irritation that more trash comes. I also talk about life springing from unexpected places and Christmas trees.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Tip of the Week: Crime Mapping Tool

The Tip of the Week for this week comes this week comes to us courtesy of our friends at WXYZ-TV (Channel 7/ABC). The Detroit Police Department is one of many departments around the nation that post their crime data on-line. This video explains how to access that data.

You can view this on-line database by visiting the appropriate section of the Detroit Police Department's web site and then clicking on "Click to Enter On-line Crime Mapping Center," which is approximately half way down that page.

Tall Grass, Loud Music, and Power Outages

In this morning's walk through Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood, I discuss tall grass and loud music as well as our third power outage of the summer.

Changes at the Detroit Police Department

A lot has happened within the Detroit Police Department in recent weeks. I want to take a moment to recap some of those things.

First, WWJ reported late last week that the Detroit Police Department has raided a total of 90 homes since the beginning of July. Those raids have resulted in 616 arrests and the confiscation of 69 firearms as well as the seizure of $3.5 million in illegal narcotics and $360,000 in cash and narcotics proceeds. That is a fantastic accomplishment. I commend every officer who was a part of making that happen and hope that there will be more of them in the near future.

Second, Chief Ralph Godbee announced the Lighthouse Project on Friday. This will allow the Detroit Police Department to access security cameras that are already installed around buildings in downtown Detroit to better deploy police officers where they are needed. More importantly, the department will deploy an additional 50 police officers per shift to respond to situations in downtown Detroit. These are officers who had previously been assigned to administrative duties within the department.

This project will also create a series of "safe havens" downtown. These are places where residents and businesses can go for anything from directions to emergency assistance. The following locations downtown will be marked with a blue sign to indicate their status as a safe haven:
  • Atheneum Hotel;
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield;
  • Comerica Park;
  • Compuware headquarters in Campus Martius;
  • Detroit Athletic Club;
  • Detroit Medical Center;
  • Detroit Opera House;
  • Detroit Police Headquarters;
  • Detroit RiverFront Conservancy;
  • DTE Energy;
  • Federal government buildings downtown;
  • Ford Field;
  • Fox Theatre;
  • General Motors Renaissance Center;
  • Greektown Casino-Hotel;
  • Hilton Garden Inn;
  • Joe Louis Arena;
  • Marriott Courtyard;
  • MGM Grand Detroit;
  • Motor City Casino Hotel;
  • Wayne County Sheriff locations; and 
  • Westin Book-Cadillac.
Again, this is a great first step. I look forward to this being rolled out in areas outside of downtown Detroit.
    Of course, I believe that it's important to remember why all of this is badly needed. The Detroit Free Press reports that, in just one day last week, fifteen people were shot in nine locations in Detroit. Nine of those fifteen victims were fatalities.

    We still have a lot of work to do in the town.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Whole Foods. $4.2 Million. Again.

    Mayor Dave Bing and Governor Rick Snyder signed off on a $4.2 million incentive package last month that will bring a Whole Foods grocery store to Detroit's Midtown neighborhood in 2013. Quite frankly, I'm thrilled to have another grocery store in Detroit, but I don't believe that a Whole Foods is worth $4.2 million in incentives - especially when a large part of those incentives are coming from governments that don't have much cash to throw around.

    I mentioned my opinion at various places, including on-line. I was ready to let the issue die because there seems to be something about a Whole Foods opening in Detroit that impairs the critical thinking skills of otherwise intelligent Detroiters, thus making any discussion of the issue extremely frustrating. However, a certain blogger has prodded me into revisiting the issue.

    This blogger made a thinly veiled swipe at me for supporting Michigan's film tax credit program yet opposing the $4.2 million incentive to attract Whole Foods to Detroit. For those who don't know, I own a small film production company in Detroit and have supported the film tax credit, even though none of the projects that I've worked on have ever received said tax credit. I was also the one who created a page on Facebook entitled Whole Foods Isn't Worth $4.2 Million in Incentives.

    Since this blogger brought up the film incentive, let's talk about the film incentive and how it compares to the incentive package for Whole Foods.

    To summarize briefly, there is a strong connection between a location being featured in a motion picture and said location seeing a significant increase in tourism. There is more than 50 years of real world economic data to support this connection. It has been discussed and analyzed by scores of economists in peer reviewed journals and is factored into the business plans of Fortune 500 companies. By some accounts, the increase in tourism can be as high as 55% once a location is featured in a motion picture.

    This connection was factored into the creation of Michigan's film incentive program, but largely ignored by the Michigan Legislature when Governor Snyder proposed gutting it. (This, by the way, is another reason why I hate term limits - but that's a topic for another post.) If one includes the billions of tourism dollars that flow as a result of the motion picture industry and the tax revenue that results from those billions, the end result is that state recoups its incentives within a 1 to 2 year time frame.

    Will the State of Michigan or City of Detroit recoup the $4.2 million incentives from Whole Foods within the next 1 to 2 years?

    No, they will not.

    It will, in all probability, take more than 20 years for us to recoup those incentives to Whole Foods. That time horizon is particularly important because there is absolutely nothing to guarantee that Whole Foods will stay in Detroit for 20 or more years. One of the key components of this deal is the new market tax credit, which only requires that businesses benefiting from it remain in operation for 7 years after first receiving the incentive.

    To recap, the film incentive allows a state government to recoup their money within a relatively short time period. Governor Snyder axed said program. Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Ohio are only all too happy to take those jobs and that tax revenue.

    Whole Foods is coming to Detroit in 2 years. $4.2 million in incentives has been spent that will not be recouped any time soon, if it ever is. All of those other projects that Michigan's allocation of new market tax credits could have been used on will simply have to find another source of funding. There's a decent chance that most of those projects will end up in Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, or Ohio as well because none of those states spent a single penny to attract a Whole Foods.

    I'm thrilled to have another grocery store in Detroit. I just don't think that a Whole Foods is worth $4.2 million in incentives.

    Tuesday, August 09, 2011

    Clean Up on Westwood

    The Westwood Street Block Club will have a clean up this coming Saturday, August 27. Everyone who is willing to help is asked to meet at the vacant lot that's about halfway between W. Warren Ave. and Sawyer Street at 10 a.m. (Google Maps says that its approximate address is 7540 Westwood, but that could be off.)

    I have to be at work in Ypsilanti at 11 a.m. this Saturday. Otherwise, I'd join them.

    Regardless, I hope lots of other people turn out for this.

    Breaking News at Twilight

    I have a special video installment of the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog this evening. A section of the Southfield Freeway service drive is currently flooded. Here is some video from the scene.

    By the way, there are two notes that I should share with everyone regarding this video.

    First, there is some bad camera work in this video towards the end. It's, unfortunately, what happens when you're dodging waves created by a bus going through a flooded street.

    Second, I'm afraid I got way too excited by the idea of a bus going traveling through a flooded street.

    Monday, August 08, 2011

    Cutting Grass for $4.2 Million

    During my walk through Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood today, I discuss construction on the Southfield Freeway, the overgrown grass at the Ryan Playground, as well as the $4.2 million in incentives that were given to Whole Foods for them to open a grocery store in Detroit.

    Monday, August 01, 2011

    Behind the Scenes at "Club Cantina"

    In today's episode, I wanted to do something a bit different from my usual news about Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood.

    I thought I would take you behind the scenes on my day job. I run a video production company and we were in Ypsilanti this past weekend to create a pilot for a reality television show called Club Cantina.

    I'll post more about the show later. For now, though, I wanted to give you a behind the scenes look at life on the set.