Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Polish Dance Group to Sell Pierogi

Pierogi - Photo by Renata Szar
The Polish Alliance Dancers, who practice at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Warrendale, along with the Gen. Polaski Polish Language School and the POLANIE Song & Dance Ensemble, are kicking off their annual pierogi fundraiser. They offering a dozen homemade pierogi for only $7 with a different flavor available each week.

The group will make potato and cheese pierogi this week. Those ordering them can pick them up at the SSPP Activities Building on Saturday, November 3 or they will deliver them. Next week, they will make kraut pierogi, which will be available for pick up or delivery on Saturday, November 10. Potato and onion pierogi will follow after that, with a pick up or delivery date of Saturday, November 17.

Orders for pierogi may be made by calling Donna Kutylowski at 313.505.0057 or emailing her at donnakutylowski [at] gmail [dot] com. Checks, payable to the Polish Alliance Dancers, may also be mailed to 4542 Korte Street in Dearborn, Michigan 48126-2804.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Last Call Bar Re-Opens in Detroit's Warrendale Neighborhood

Last Call Bar - Photo by Dorn Zurawski
The Last Call Bar (19432 W. Warren Ave.) had a soft opening yesterday, just in time for patrons to enjoy game 1 of the World Series. There is still a little work that needs to be done. However, this place is shaping up to be a classic neighborhood bar and a good one at that.

Their drinks are cheap, their service is good, and the crowd is friendly. What else could one ask for?

Parking is available in a lot behind the bar (enter through the alley). For those who rely on mass transit, the Crosstown bus stops right by the Last Call as well.

Friday, October 19, 2012

5 Things Governor Snyder Should Do to Help Detroit

Governor Rick Snyder - Official Press Photo
Governor Rick Snyder has been an integral part of 3 initiatives that were intended to improve the lives of everyday Detroiters while stabilizing the City's budget. He has pushed for a regional transit authority, a new authority to upgrade and manage Detroit's street lights, and he tried to have Belle Isle managed as a state park.

Each of those 3 things has provoked a certain amount of controversy and none of them have been enacted. I won't discuss the merits of those 3 initiatives, at least not in this post.

Instead, I want to take the time to highlight 5 things that Gov. Snyder should do to help Detroit, which would not provoke the political stalemate that his other ideas have encountered.

It has never been more important to turn things around in Detroit. A recent poll by the Detroit News shows that 40% of Detroiters intend to leave the area within in the next 5 years. Crime, and the Detroit Police Department's inability to respond effectively to it, is the prevailing reason for their intended departure.

Detroit simply cannot afford to see that many residents leave that quickly. A 25% loss in population over 10 years is largely responsible for our current financial condition. A 40% drop within 5 years will drive both the City of Detroit and the Detroit Public Schools into bankruptcy, which will set off a series of events that will likely prove detrimental to all of Michigan.

If that happens, even if we do get those 3 things that the Governor is currently working on, the loss of residents and tax revenue and corresponding bankruptcy will mean wide-scale credit downgrades for cities and counties throughout the region. It will be harder for them to borrow the money they all need to borrow from time to time and it will cost them a lot more when they are able to borrow. That, in turn, will make many of the problems those communities are facing much worse.

With all of that in mind, I present 5 things that Governor Snyder should do to help Detroit. I believe an overwhelming majority of Detroiters will support these initiatives.

#1. Find a Buyer for the Rackham Golf Course
Stock Photo by C. Flart
The City of Detroit owns the Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods. It's a fantastic course; often ranked as one of the best public golf courses in the United States. However, because it's in the suburbs, very few city residents use it.

Kwame M. Kilpatrick tried to sell the Rackham Golf Course to private developers when he was Mayor of Detroit. No one in Detroit rallied in opposition to the sale nor complained that our jewels were being taken from us. Pretty much everyone in Detroit seemed okay with the idea of selling the course to private developers.

The courts, however, ruled that a deed restriction from the Rackham family prevented the City of Detroit from selling it to anyone other than another unit of government. The deal to sell the course died shortly after that ruling came down and the City of Detroit continues to own a valuable asset that does little for city residents.

Gov. Snyder could use his influence to persuade either the City of Huntington Woods or Oakland County to buy the Rackham Golf Course for a price that ideally is at least somewhat close to what those developers were willing to pay a few years ago. Failing that, the State of Michigan could step in to buy it. The purchase could be financed with the sale of bonds and those bonds repaid with revenue generated by the golf course.

As for how this would benefit Detroiters, the proceeds from such a sale would be enough to:
  • Replace our current fleet of ambulances that are simply beyond their serviceable life;
  • Reopen at least one of our closed police stations; and
  • Buy a couple hundred squad cards for the Detroit Police Department.
Being able to say that we own that golf course is nice. However, I think most Detroiters would vastly prefer the benefits of selling the thing.

#2. Takeover the Operations of Detroit's 9-1-1 Call Center
Officially, it takes the Detroit Police Department an average of 37.6 minutes to respond to an emergency, which is the worst response time of any major police department in the industrialized world. Most people who have had to make one of those calls, however, can attest to the fact that its true response time is much higher. Individual police officers have told me that they are on scene within a few minutes of getting a call, it just takes much longer for DPD to route those calls for service than it would for other departments.

Officials within DPD love to offer one excuse after another for their response time. None of them, in my opinion, hold any water.

No small part of the department's response time has to do with how those calls for service are routed within DPD's call center and dispatching. Therefore, I believe it would be prudent for either the State of Michigan or Wayne County to takeover management of Detroit's 9-1-1 call center and police dispatching.

Moreover, if Detroit were to combine its call center operations with the Cities of Hamtramck and Highland Park, the cost to each community would likely be lower than it is now. Faster response times at a lower cost is powerful thing that will do a lot to stem the exodus from Detroit.

#3. Takeover the Policing of Downtown Detroit
Detroit Police Officer on Patrol During Super Bowl XL
The unfortunate reality is that the Detroit Police Department has been mismanaged for so long, and is in such bad condition right now, that money cannot solve its problems.

It will take time to recruit, train, and deploy new police officers. Once new officers are deployed, they will still be rookies who will need mentoring and experience before they are able to maximize their effectiveness. Those things take time and, with the rate that Detroit is losing population, we simply do not have enough time.

Therefore, I believe that the best possible course of action at this time would be for the Detroit Police Department to hand the task of policing our central business distinct over to either the Wayne County Sheriff or the Michigan State Police. If those agencies are able to handle adjacent areas also, such as Brush ParkLafayette Park, or the New Center, that would be fantastic.

By doing this, we could redeploy hundreds of Detroit police officers into the neighborhoods where their presence is essential to stem our population loss and avoid a bankruptcy. Moving police officers into the neighborhoods is something that residents have been begging for for years.

As for the costs that the Michigan State Police and/or the Wayne County Sheriff would have to incur, at least a portion of them could be paid by asking the Detroit Tigers, Lions, and Red Wings to reimburse those agencies for the costs associated with directing traffic during their games.

The idea of professional teams paying for police services, by the way, is nothing new. It is something that former Mayor Kilpatrick proposed shortly before his scandals became public and he was ousted from office. No one voiced any objections to it then. It's doubtful that anyone would object today.

#4. Takeover the Collection of Detroit's Income Taxes
The City of Detroit is one of the few local governments that has an income tax for residents and non-residents alike. Unfortunately, Detroit does a really bad job at collecting on those taxes. Mayor Dave Bing has sent out thousands of letters to people who money, but has had only limited success.

When Ken Conkrel, currently the President Pro Tem of the Detroit City Council, was mayor on an interim basis, one of the reforms that he proposed was to have the Michigan Department of Treasury takeover collecting that tax revenue. It is one of many reforms that have been discussed in this town without being enacted. Regardless, there were very few people who spoke against that move back then and it's doubtful such a proposal would stir much controversy today.

Since this would likely generate more than enough money to wipe out Detroit current $40 million deficit, I believe it is something that should be done expeditiously.

#5. Takeover Billing for the Detroit Fire Department
Stock Photo - Jakub Krechowicz
The Detroit Fire Department bills for a variety of services. For example, insurance companies, as well Medicaid and Medicare, are billed for patients who need service from our EMS, DTE is billed when they have to guard a downed power line, and so on. The problem is that the fire department only collects on 52% of those invoices.

Very few enterprises ever collect on all of their invoices. Regardless, a 52% collection rate is really low. If one were able to bring it up to 2/3 of all invoices being collected, that would mean millions more in revenue for a fire department where, quite frankly, a lack of adequate funding is costing lives.

Since the State of Michigan does a much better job at collecting on moneys owed to it, I believe it would be appropriate for them to take this task over as well. The administrative costs associated with their collections could be deducted from funds they receive. It would still mean a substantial boost in additional revenue for the Detroit Fire Department.

These, of course, are my thoughts: 5 relatively simple and not very controversial things that Governor Snyder could to help the City of Detroit and minimize the chances that it will go into bankruptcy within the next 5 years. Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Detroit's Founder Died 282 Years Ago Today

Elizabeth Grutza with Antoine Cadillac - Photo by  David Yee
Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac passed away 282 years ago today in Castelsarrasin, France. During his 72 years on this Earth, he fathered 13 children with his wife Marie-Thérèse, served as the third French governor of Louisiana, and, in July of 1701, founded Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit, which later became the city of Detroit that we know and love today.

A statue of Cadillac stands today in Hart Plaza to commemorate his landing in Detroit. If he could see it, I think he would enjoy the photo that David Yee took of Elizabeth Grutza at his statue. I know I did.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Chene Modern Bakery in Detroit to Create Jesse Jackson's 71st Birthday Cake

Photo by Eric Bridiers/United States Mission Geneva
The Rev. Jesse Jackson will celebrate his 71st birthday on October 8 and the folks at Chene Modern Bakery (17041 W. Warren Ave.) in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood have been selected to create his birthday cake, according to a post on the bakery's Facebook page. This is the second time that this Detroit bakery has created a custom cake for Rev. Jackson's birthday.

Rev. Jesse Jackson could conceivably get his birthday cake from any bakery in the free world. The fact that he has chosen to get it from here only confirms something that those in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood have known for decades - Chene Modern Bakery is an amazing institution and a local treasure.

I hope that Rev. Jesse Jackson has an amazing birthday next week. I also hope that he and his guests enjoy every bite of their cake.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Sex Scandal Brewing with Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee at the Center

Stock Photo by Michal Zacharzewski
WXYZ-TV is reporting that a major sex scandal is brewing within Detroit city government and that Chief Ralph Godbee of the Detroit Police Department is at the center of it. Their full report is available on-line here.

The big question, in my opinion, is whether this is a purely organic thing or if those in Mayor Dave Bing's inner circle have realized that they don't have a snowball's chance in hell of keeping their jobs past next November unless they make drastic changes within DPD?

If it's the later option then that means they've likely planted this story, which, in turn, makes me wonder wonder what Chief Godbee will do in retaliation. He does not seem like the sort to go quietly into that goodnight, unless he collects a payoff that Mayor Bing's crew probably can't afford to pay him at the moment.

It will be interesting to see who backs off first. Do those in Mayor Bing's inner circle find a way to muscle him out in order to save their own jobs? Or does Chief Godbee manage to hold on for a few more months?

Update @ 4:28 p.m.
The Detroit Free Press is reporting that Chief Godbee has been suspended for 30 days pending the outcome of an investigation into his affair with another police officer under his command. Assistant Chief Chester Logan will assume the responsibilities of chief of police during the interim.