Saturday, May 26, 2012

A&W Is Hiring

The A + W Restaurant (210 Town Center Dr. in Dearborn) across the street from Fairlane Town Centre is now hiring. Apply at the restaurant, if you're interested in this job.

Ralph Godbee to Respond to Critics Tomorrow

Ralph L. Godbee, Jr., Detroit's chief of police and a man who has spent almost all of his career in a series of administrative posts, will appear on Flashpoint tomorrow morning. This is billed as a chance for him to respond to critics with host Devin Scillian of WDIV-TV.

It's not clear exactly what Chief Godbee will say tomorrow. However, there are a few questions that I would like Mr. Scillian, or any other reporter, to ask.

  • Why does the Detroit Police Department have a response time for priority runs that is 113% worse than it was under his predecessor? I doubt one can say be the budget is entirely the cause of this because the City of Detroit had a budget crisis back then, too.
  • Why is it that the parts of Detroit that are patrolled by the Wayne State Police Department not only have drastically shorter response times but are ranked as having some of the lowest per capita crime in the region?
  • Speaking of the Wayne State Police Department, why did crime drop dramatically in certain parts of Detroit when they were transferred from being the responsibility of the Detroit Police Department to being serviced by WSU Police?
These are the questions that I hope Mr. Scillian will ask Chief Godbee tomorrow. We'll have to tune in to see if he does.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Focus: "Street Fighting Man" Shows Life in Detroit

In my Friday Focus segment for this week, I want to highlight a new documentary, Street Fighting Man, which provides a unique look into life in modern day Detroit. What I like about this film is that is goes outside of the usual Downtown - Midtown - Corktown comfort zone that a lot of filmmakers who do documentaries about Detroit find themselves in.

Award-winning filmmaker, Andrew James, has launched a Kickstarter campaign and trailer for the upcoming film, Street Fighting Man, a feature-length documentary that tells the story of three men, each a generation apart, struggling to survive in post-industrial Detroit. Deris Solomon is a young single father who wants to leave behind a high-risk life on the streets, Luke Williams is a middle-aged man remodeling a former crack house after being homeless for several years, and James “Jack Rabbit” Jackson is a retired police officer struggling to save his neighborhood from crime after the local police station is dissolved.

Street Fighting Man tells three intimate human stories buried within statistics of violence that too often dominate Detroit-related headlines. In the last two months alone, burned bodies, murdered children, and teen shootings were some of the major stories coming out of Detroit. Community crime-fighting groups like the Detroit 300 have taken their frustrations to the streets while President Barack Obama sent in the National Guard to help the overwhelmed police get a handle on what has become the “bloodiest city in America.” In an effort to push past these headlines and statistics, James moved to Detroit for over a year to closely examine life in the city’s neighborhoods, capturing this human struggle on the ground. In all, he spent two years documenting the lives of Deris, Luke, and Jack Rabbit as they struggled to escape violence, discovering a nuanced story of heartbreak and hope in each of their lives.

“We wanted to tell a universal, human story,” says James. “We wanted to avoid the popular tale of Detroit’s
economic decline or the trend to focus on young artists or entrepreneurs re-purposing vacant spaces near
midtown. Detroit is close to 50 percent unemployed and the downtown area is too far away and difficult to
access for many residents. With so many Detroiters coping with violence and struggling to get ahead, we felt the most immediate, meaningful, and representative stories would be found in the city’s neighborhoods.”

One such community is the Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhood on Detroit’s East side. It was once a thriving
middle-class area built up by the auto and manufacturing industries. But since the local police station closed
down, crime has been on the rise and residents have been moving out. It is here where director Andrew James connected with Deris, Luke, and Jack Rabbit and spent the majority of his time.

As Luke collects cans and acquires reclaimed materials to make an old home new again, Jack Rabbit stands up to violent young criminals who were once children in his neighborhood; eventually enlisting the help of Minister Malik Shabazz to close down a crack house. Meanwhile, Deris has to decide how he will provide for his daughter: by struggling to get an education, or by selling drugs like many of his peers. For each of these men, it is a war of little battles, often waged at home, at school, or in the streets. Ultimately, their three narratives collapse into one, telling the tale of one man as he attempts to make it through his youth, mid-life, and old age in post-industrial America.

James’ previous work, Cleanflix, a feature-length documentary about the Mormon-born clean film movement, premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival in 2009. It is now available on iTunes, Amazon, and DVD. After the success of Cleanflix, James turned his attention to Detroit, Michigan, a city and state he has been visiting his entire life where he has personal history and strong family ties.

Street Fighting Man is nearing the finish line but needs to raise crucial post-production funding to bring it to the screen. In addition to approaching granting organizations, the producing team has launched a Kickstarter
campaign to help secure these much needed funds. Through a partnership with Amazon, Kickstarter allows
supporters to make secure pledges in return for incentives crafted by the project creators. If successfully funded within the deadline, the project receives the amounts pledged. The team of Street Fighting Man is seeking to raise $20,000 for post-production costs, including hiring Sundance-award winning editor Greg Snider (How To Die In Oregon). The campaign is set to conclude on Sunday, June 10.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Click-It or Ticket" in Warrendale

The Detroit Police Department is running a "Click-It or Ticket" operation on W. Warren Ave. Get your seat belts on Warrendale.

Friday, May 18, 2012

This Must Be the Place

As I continue to ponder how to reinvent the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog, one of the things that strikes me is how many amazingly cool things happen in the Detroit area that no one ever really knows about. One of the things that I want to do is include a new, although likely irregular, series where I highlight some of these cool, but under-appreciated things.

My first installment is below.

This Must Be the Place is a web-series that looks at some of the interesting places where people chose to live. It looks at the some amazing characters and asks why they chose to live where they do.

This time around they ventured to Detroit where they met up with Allan Hill, a former auto body repairman. For the last seven years he has made his home in rather spacious digs. Let's just say he had a hard time relating to the constraints of our tight New York City apartments.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Warrendale Comes to WDET

Sally Patrella, a Warrendale resident and representative of Friends of the Rouge, was on Detroit's public radio station WDET yesterday. She talked about removing the Wayne Dam from the Rouge River.

Her interview is available on the station's web site here.

"We Bought A Zoo" at the Edison Branch Library

The Edison Branch (18400 Joy Rd.) of the Detroit Public Library will host a special screen of We Bought A Zoo this Saturday at 2 p.m. This is a great family film starring Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, and Thomas Haden Church about a man who seeks to start his life over by, well, buying a zoo.

This screening is free and open to the public. Complimentary popcorn will also be provided.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ralph Godbee Speaks at Rutgers University

Ralph Godbee, Jr., chief of the Detroit Police Department, spoke at the commencement ceremony at Rutgers University in New Jersey this morning. In a prepared statement, Todd Clear, dean of School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers, called Chief Godbee "a visionary in urban policing."

Let's review Chief Godbee's track record to-date:

  • The Detroit Police Department's response time for priority calls is not only the worst in the nation, it is 113% worse today than when he came into office almost two years ago. This is in spite of the fact that it was steadily improving under his predecessor;
  • Detroit's homicide rate is at an all-time high in spite of the fact that it was dropping under his predecessor;
  • Badly needed new patrol cars sat idle under his watch for weeks while Detroit police officers were forced to use ones that were simply broken down; and
  • The Detroit Police Department continued to waste millions of tax dollars on outdated leases for cars.
The Detroit Police Department today has one of the largest budgets of any police department in the nation on a per resident basis. In spite of this, terrible management at the upper levels of the department mean that residents continue to suffer under conditions that no other community in the industrialized world would ever tolerate.

I believe that calling Chief Godbee "a visionary in urban policing" is the equivalent of calling Tonya Thomas a visionary in effective parenting. The simple fact that he wears a badge is nothing less than an insult to every person who takes the phrase "to protect and serve" seriously.

Can We Compromise on Mayor Bing's Tax Proposal?

Mayor Dave Bing and the Detroit Police Commission proposed raising our property taxes in an effort to generate more money for the Detroit Police and Fire Departments. The Bing Administration argues that it is absolutely essential given the current budget condition.

Many critics, however - and this includes some on the City Council - believe that the Mayor hasn't done enough to manage his current budget effectively. Recent new reports of the Police Department wasting $4 million on expired car leases only reinforce that contention.

With that in mind, I'd like to propose a compromise. Mayor Bing can have his tax increase. I'll pay it. In return, I believe certain conditions should be written into this increase.

In return for the additional tax revenue, the Detroit Police Department should be required to:

  • Eliminate the rank of deputy chief. Anyone who currently holds it should have a choice between retirement or reduction in rank and a return to patrol duty.
  • Reduce the number of assistant chiefs to no more than four. The Police Commission can determine the exact areas of responsibility for each of them.
  • Reduce the number of aides and secretaries the chief and assistant chiefs have. This is one of the most persistently bloated parts of DPD's budget. Each assistant chief should one civilian secretary and one sworn officer as an aide. The chief of police should only get one civilian secretary and two aides.
  • All police officers hired with this new tax revenue must be assigned to either patrol, investigative, or special operations duty. In other words, every one of them should be in the field in one capacity or another. We really don't need more police officers doing desk jobs.
As for the Detroit Fire Department, they should be required to phase out the rank of sergeant. Anyone who currently holds it should be allowed to hold onto it, but no one else should be promoted into it.

By doing this, Mayor Bing gets the extra tax revenue that he wants. In return, Detroiters will get progress towards improving our public safety.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

News Chopper Over Warrendale

Why is there a news helicopter over the neighborhood?

Update @ 11:03 p.m.
It's still not clear why there was a news helicopter over the Warrendale neighborhood. However, according to residents to live near the scene, two Dearborn police squad cars, two Detroit police squad cars, and a Detroit EMS unit rushed to a scene near Ford Rd. and the Southfield Fwy.

The news helicopter appeared to be overhead from that scene.

Cool Idea for Dealing with Scrap Tires

We have more than our fair share of scrap tires littering the Warrendale neighborhood. I found the photo above on Pinterest. Can you imagine doing something like this in the alleyways or in the vacant lots of the Warrendale neighborhood?

I think it would be seriously cool.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bad News and Good News About Life in Detroit

Bad News: Some @$$holes tried to break into my shed while I was away this afternoon.

Good News: One of my neighbors scared them away before they managed to take anything. As a result, I only have a broken window to deal with.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, it's the awesome neighbors who make this town worth living in.

Reflecting on the First 3 Years of Dave Bing's Mayorship

Mayor Dave Bing
Dave Bing became the 70th Mayor of Detroit three years ago this past Friday. To commemorate this milestone, and gauge where things stand in our fair city, I asked residents to share their thoughts on his first three years via Facebook, Google Plus, or Twitter. The responses, I'm afraid, due not fair well for Mayor Bing nor chances at being re-elected next year.

Bradley G. wrote in with what is quite possibly the most positive comment of those that I received via Facebook. He wrote:
Well, he has done a lot for cyclists. So I won't say he has been a complete failure.
Erik D. came up with my favorite summation of Mayor Bing in this Facebook comment:
He is like the Jennifer Granholm of mayors. He talks about what needs to be done, but never actually does anything.
Bob A. wrote on this blog's G+ page:
So far no signs of corruption. Other than that, I can't say he's done much of anything to fix the city's problems.
Cheryl A. added this thought to this blog's G+ page:
He has succeeded in working with the state government, but has otherwise shown little leadership.
When I mention on Facebook that Mayor Bing has at least gotten the City of Detroit's annual audits completed on time every year thus far during his tenure, something that recent mayors haven't been able to do, David B. replied with this thought:
I'd give him an F-. He ran on getting the city's finances in order and did very little. A year ago, he was fighting with city council to keep $10 million in the budget and then 6 months later he said that an emergency manager was imminent. The Detroit Works project might be worthwhile or maybe not, but his focus has been there when it should have been on running the city and getting the budget in balance. But his real goal is to eliminate the unions, which he could not do without extra power from the state. So instead of fixing what he could, he led the city down the road to ruin to get what he wanted. The reasons people move out of the city and often to other cities are the 2.5% income tax, crime, and the highest auto insurance rates in the counry, as well as lack of legitimate rapid transit. He has stated he wants to increase the income tax, has done little on crime but build a new police HQ, has ingored insurance rates, and has cut funding to DDot while working with the governor for bus transit against the M1 rail. The legally mandated audits have been on time - that is a minimum standard; big deal. Can he get a grade less than an F-?
I have to say that this confirms the polling data that I have seen regarding Mayor Bing's job approval numbers (roughly 20 - 25% of Detroiters say they approve of his performance depending on which poll one looks at). To put that in perspective, during the worst days of the Watergate scandal, former President Richard Nixon never saw his approval rating drop below 24%.

I think it's safe to say that Mayor Bing is now a political lame duck, which is consistent with my prediction from last summer. His approval numbers are among the lowest that any elected official since George Gallup began tracking them in 1937 and they continue to slide lower. The comments that I received through social media cement this in my mind.

Of course, now that I have proclaimed Mayor Bing to be a political lame duck, I suspect it won't be much longer until a certain other blogger in this town begins posting about the tremendous job that he is doing and how his re-election is all but inevitable. She and I will likely meet up at the first successful development that spins-off (without an additional subsidy) from Whole Foods opening a store in Midtown, whereupon she can remind me how wrong my analysis was.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Police Make Arrests in the Back Page Murder Case

The police made a pair of arrests recently in murder case. This case involved a series of murders involving women connected to a web site that various escorts used to find new clients.

I congratulate each of the officers who were involved in this investigation.

Happy Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo photo by Sarah Dawn Nichols
Happy Cinco de Mayo to everyone in the Warrendale neighborhood and beyond. For those who aren't sure how to celebrate today, here is a quick rundown of your options.

Chick's Bar (18550 W. Warren Ave.) will have Cinco de Mayo specials all day long. Corona and Corona Light will be available for only $2. All tequila is half off. Plus, they are offering free homemade chips and salsa.

Tijuana's Mexican Kitchen (18950 Ford Rd.) will serve great Mexican food and beverages all day long, just like they always do.

Plus, D.J. Tony Toca will spin all of your Latin favorites tonight at J.S. Field's Pub & Grille (18940 Ford Rd.). You can expect lots of great merenge, bachata, salsa, and Latin freestyle with no cover all night long.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Detroit Housing Commission Employees Face Federal Corruption Charges

Special Agent in Charge Andrew G. Arena, HUD-OIG Deputy Special Agent in Charge Breck Nowlin, and U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, on behalf of the FBI-led Public Corruption Task Force, announced yesterday the filing of a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District court for the Eastern District of Michigan. According to the affidavit, Alisa Royster and Kim Walton were allegedly involved in the fraudulent acquisition of vouchers valued at more than $5,000 from an agency receiving more than $10,000 under a federal program.

From on or about July 2008 until on or about September 2010, both of these individuals allegedly conspired to fraudulently issue housing choice vouchers. Through their alleged fraudulent acts, they knowingly stole and obtained thousands of dollars from federal programs designed to help low income families.

The dedication, hard work, and collaboration of all those involved has already resulted in a countless number of violations exposed. The focus of the task force will continue to be on corruption at all levels of local, state, and federal government. With assistance and cooperation, the task force is rooted in its mission to end public corruption in our area.

The FBI-led Public Corruption Task Force consists of the FBI, Office of U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, Office of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, IRS-CID, HUD-OIG, EPA-CID, DOT-OIG, Michigan State Police, and Detroit Police.

If you have any information related to these crimes or other public corruption, please contact the FBI Detroit Office at (313) 965-2323.

A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. Trial cannot be held on felony charges in a complaint. When the investigation is completed, a determination will be made whether to seek a felony indictment.