Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year, Detroit

2013 is the year when I met some truly amazing people. I gave my first Pecha Kucha Night presentation and published The Roswell Chronicles. It's also the year when I got re-acquainted with so many of old friends from high school.

It was the year of the Duct Tape Fire Hydrant and other truly strange things.

It was the year when Detroit began the long, painful journey through bankruptcy and when some truly amazing Detroiters got elected.

2013 could have been better, but it also could have been a lot worse. Thank you, everyone, for being a part of this adventure with me.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Happy 100th birthday to the Michigan Central Station

Michigan Central Station, circa 2009
Photo by Frank Nemecek
Michigan Central Station, formerly the main train station in Detroit and one of the most famous abandoned buildings in the world, turns 100 years old today. The first train pulled out of the station at 5:20 p.m. on December 26, 1913.

Across the internet, and in at least some the newspapers, one will find much written about the Michigan Central Station on this historic anniversary. My friend Dan Austin has a column about it in this morning's edition of the Detroit Free Press here. Tom Zoellner also has piece about what the place would be like if it were a part of a high-speed rail network here.

I would simply like to add my own birthday wish for the Michigan Central Station. I hope that the new year brings a new owner for the station; one who will give it the love that this historic landmark richly deserves.

Meet Detroit's new fire commissioner

Mayor-elect Mike Duggan has announced the appointment of Jonathon Jackson, a 25-year veteran of the Detroit Fire Department, to serve as his new fire commissioner. In an interview with WXYZ-TV, Jackson promised:
  • More arson investigators in Detroit;
  • More firefighters;
  • Better equipment for those firefighters; and
  • Better response times for Detroit Fire and EMS.
Jackson, in my opinion, clearly has the background and experience to make great things happen within the Detroit Fire Department. He is also saying all of the right things.

However, I hasten to add that there has been a parade of experienced professionals over the past several years with the right resumes saying all the right things before becoming Detroit's new fire commissioner. The results that they have collectively produced have, unfortunately, been disappointing.

In the coming months, we will know for certain just how effective Jonathon Jackson is a fire commissioner. Until then, I wish him the best.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ss. Peter and Paul Church goes all out with Christmas decorations

Christmas decorations at Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church
Photo by Frank Nemecek
This Christmas season, the folks at Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church (7685 Grandville Ave.) here in the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit have gone all out with their decorations. I think they did an awesome job. It's worth attending mass there just to see them.

Once upon a time, when I was growing up in the neighborhood and attending grade school there, their decorations were much simpler. There was a nativity scene and the altar was decorated. However, the rest of the church had few, if any decorations.

I particularly liked the decorated statues at the rear of the church - simple yet elegant, in my opinion. There are more photographs of the Christmas decorations at Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, including two panoramic shots, available on my Google+ page here.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Breaking news: Minivan catches fire on Greenview

I was on Faust, near Dayton, this evening when I heard a sudden bang that seemed to come from a couple of blocks to west. Being the curious blogger that I am, I went to investigate.

When I reached Greenview I saw that a minivan was engulfed in flames, just south of Dayton. I called 9-1-1 and was told by the operator that the Detroit Fire Department was already on their way. From that point, the only thing left for me to do was to step back and shoot some video with my cell phone.

The Detroit Fire Department did indeed show up promptly. I could hear their sirens within a couple of seconds of hanging up with 9-1-1. Once on the scene, the firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze. There did not appear to be any injuries associated with this vehicle fire nor was their any other property damage besides the minivan.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Read the "Roswell Chronicles"

UFO Crash - Roswell, New Mexico
On a personal note, my sci-fi novel Roswell Chronicles is being published in serial format by Juke Pop Serials. It tells the story of Samantha Haut and her cousins as they are caught between a greedy corporation and pissed off aliens from outer space.

The first chapter of my novel is available for FREE by clicking here. If you like it, please click the "+ Vote" button at the end of the chapter to keep "Roswell Chronicles" alive on Juke Pop.

Phil Robertson, Michigan Treasury, and Hamtramck

When Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty made remarks in an interview with GQ magazine that were critical of gays and lesbians, he was promptly suspended by the A&E television network. There has been much said elsewhere about Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, and the suspension - so much so that it almost seems pointless for me to comment further on it here.

Instead, I will simply say that it's interesting how the Phil Robertson situation was handled by A&E versus how the Michigan Department of Treasury handled allegations that their Emergency Manager in nearby Hamtramck Cathy Square made a series of inappropriate comments in the workplace. A&E promptly took disciplinary action whereas the Michigan Department of Treasury simply swept the entire matter under the proverbial rug.

With all of the commotion over Phil Robertson and his suspension, I cannot help but wonder what it would be like if the A&E television network ran the City of Hamtramck.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Winter craft projects at the Edison Branch Library

Snowy River - Photo by Garret Voight
The Edison Branch of the Detroit Public Library (18400 Joy Rd.) will host a winter craft project on Saturday, December 28 from 2 - 3 p.m. Children and tweens will be able to make a craft item that celebrates winter and snow.

Children will also be able to take the winter-themed craft item that they make home with them.

This is event, like most events at the Detroit Public Library, will be free and open to the public. All children and tweens in the Warrendale neighborhood and surrounding areas are invited to participate.

Monday, December 16, 2013

More than 6 inches of snow

Measuring snowfall
Photo by Frank Nemecek
According to the Official Warrendale Snow Gauge (a/k/a - a ruler stuck in my yard), we received 6 1/2 inches of snow over the weekend. This makes this one of the biggest snowfalls to hit the Warrendale neighborhood in several years. Plus, the forecasts call for even more snow to fall soon.

No matter what the calendar says, I think it's safe to say that it is winter in Detroit.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Detroit birth and death records transfer to Wayne County

Individuals will have to obtain Detroit birth and death certificates through the Wayne County Clerk’s Office beginning January 14. The Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion will close its Vital Records Division permanently at 4 p.m. on Friday, December 13.

During the transfer of services from the City of Detroit to Wayne County, birth certificates will not be available from December 16 – January 13, 2014. However, during the transfer period, funeral directors may file and obtain death certificates at the Wayne County Clerk’s Office in the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. Funeral directors, however, are advised to call (313) 224-7631 first because of Wayne County furloughs and the upcoming holidays.

In Person
Beginning January 14, 2014, individuals will be able to obtain Detroit birth and death certificates at 640 Temple Street, 6th floor with same-day service. Parking will be free.

By Mail
Individuals may also send requests for Detroit certificates by mail to:

Office of the Wayne County Clerk
City of Detroit Vitals
640 Temple Street, 6th Floor
Detroit, MI  48201.

All mail requests must be sent in letter form, and include the signature, return address, and phone number of the individual requesting a record. A photocopy of the requestor’s identification. must be included with all birth record requests. Payment by money order (payable to The Wayne County Clerk’s Office) must be with all requests. The cost for the first certified copy of a birth or death record is $22 and $7 for any additional copies.

Individuals may also obtain birth and death certificates through the State of Michigan Vital Records Office
by calling (517) 335-8666 by writing to Post Office Box 30721 in Lansing, MI 48909

For additional information on how to obtain a Detroit birth or death certificate via the Wayne County Clerk’s Office, visit www.waynecounty.com/clerk/birth_certificates.htm or call (313) 224-7631.

Warrendale to get new streetlights in 2014

Nightscene in the City
Photo by Dustin Steiner
According to a plan unveiled earlier this week by the Public Lighting Authority of Detroit, the Warrendale neighborhood is scheduled to get new streetlights next year. Other parts of the city will have a longer wait ahead of them. However, Warrendale and the surrounding neighborhoods will get new street lights in 2014.

There are several blocks in Warrendale where the street lighting is spotty at best, including one block that never had streetlights installed in the first place. All of this is in addition to the problems with streetlights along W. Warren Avenue, which is the main commercial thoroughfare for Warrendale.

My one hope is that state and local officials also do more to target metal thieves who steal the copper wiring from theses street lights, rendering them inoperable. That, however, is the subject of another blog post.

For the time being, I'm simply glad to know that the Warrendale neighborhood will finally get new streetlights within the next year.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Leland wins Detroit recount

The Leland vs. Bennett election recount for the Detroit City Council's 7th district is now over. Gabe Leland will still represent the district, which includes the Warrendale neighborhood.

The margin of victory, however, did change - by one vote.

Yes, it changed by one vote.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Recount begins today in City Council race

The Wayne County Board of Canvassers recently approved a request for an election recount from John K. Bennett, one of the three candidates who sought sought to represent Detroit's seventh district on the City Council. Former State Representative Gabe Leland was originally declared the winner of that race, but
Bennett is contesting those results.

The recount will begin at 9:30 a.m. this morning in Cadillac Place (3044 W. Grand Blvd.), which is in the New Center area of Detroit. I will have updates on the results of this recount throughout the day.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Twenty people charged in Medicare fraud

According to statement issued late yesterday, 20 Detroit-area residents have been charged for their roles in physician home visit, home health care, chiropractic, and psychotherapy schemes to submit more than $34 million in false billing to Medicare.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara L. McQuade, Special Agent in Charge Paul M. Abbate of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office, and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh, III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Chicago Regional Office made the announcement.

“Medicare fraud hits every taxpayer and harms so many who are in need of critical health care,” said Raman. “The defendants arrested yesterday and today include doctors, physical therapists, and home health care agency owners who were entrusted by Medicare to provide their patients with necessary care and services. Instead, they abused that trust for their own profit. The strike force’s operation reflects our continuing and unflagging commitment to put an end to these harmful fraud schemes.”

“These charges clearly send the message to criminals that committing fraud against government health care programs puts them squarely in the sights of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force,” added Pugh. “Taxpayers and patients should know that OIG with its Strike Force partners will continue to root out, expose, and hold accountable those who attack the Medicare program.”

Court documents unsealed this week in the Eastern District of Michigan charge defendants including physicians, owners, and operators of companies, office employees, and patient recruiters with submitting fraudulent claims for services that were never rendered and with paying kickbacks to obtain patients to be billed. Nineteen of the defendants were arrested or surrendered to authorities yesterday morning and this morning, and one defendant remains at large. In addition, law enforcement agents yesterday and today executed search warrants at nine locations and seizure warrants of 14 bank accounts related to the alleged fraud schemes.

The following charges were unsealed:

United States v. Goldfein, et al.
Two individuals, both medical doctors, were charged in an indictment with conspiring to commit health care fraud for their roles in a $5.4 million scheme to defraud Medicare by submitting fraudulent claims for physician home services that were not provided. The indictment alleges that the fraudulent claims were submitted by a physician clinic that provides both in-home and outpatient health care services. The clinic, with locations in Livonia and Swartz Creek is known as Tri City Medical Centers P.C.

The defendants charged in the indictment are Aaron Scott Goldfein, 49, of Bloomfield Hills and William Clay Sokoll, 58, of Royal Oak.

United States v. Elhorr, et al.
Three individuals, one of whom is a medical doctor and one of whom is a nurse, were charged in a superseding indictment with conspiracy to commit health care fraud for their roles in an $11.5 million scheme to defraud Medicare by submitting fraudulent claims for physician home services that were not provided. The superseding indictment alleges that the fraudulent claims were submitted by a home visiting physician practice. The practice, located in Allen Park was known as House Calls Physicians PLLC.

The defendants charged in the superseding indictment are Ali Elhorr, 44, of Dearborn, Lama Elhorr, 31, of Hollywood, Florida (formerly of Dearborn), and Kelly White, 44, of Dearborn.

United States v. Khan, et al.
Ten individuals were charged in an indictment with conspiracy to commit health care fraud or conspiracy to pay and receive illegal kickbacks for their roles in a $7 million scheme to defraud Medicare. The defendants include two medical doctors and three owners of home health care agencies, one of whom is also a physical therapist, as well as patient recruiters and office staff. The indictment alleges that the defendants caused the submission of fraudulent claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary home health care services and paid kickbacks in the form of cash payments and prescription narcotics to Medicare beneficiaries for the use of their Medicare beneficiary numbers. The indictment also alleges that physicians received kickbacks in the form of cash payments to certify Medicare beneficiaries for medically unnecessary home health care services. The fraudulent claims were submitted by two home health care agencies, Advance Home Health Care Services Inc. and Perfect Home Health Care Services LLP.

The defendants charged in the indictment are Walayat Khan, 65, of Ypsilanti, Adelina Herrero, 72, of Ann Arbor, Amer Ehsan, 44, of Canton, Haroon Ur Rashid, 47, of West Bloomfield, Mohammad Rafiq, 47, of West Bloomfield, Salman Ali Sapru, 51, of Ypsilanti, Farhan Khan, 25, of Ann Arbor, James Zadorski, 48, of Detroit, Cynthia Bell, 55, of Detroit, and John Sanders, 59, of Pontiac.

United States v. Hassan, et al.
Two individuals were charged in an indictment with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to pay and receive illegal kickbacks for their roles in a $4.5 million scheme to defraud Medicare. The indictment alleges that the defendants, the owner of a home health care agency who is also a physical therapist and a recruiter, caused the submission of fraudulent claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary home health care services and paid kickbacks in the form of cash payments to Medicare beneficiaries for the use of their Medicare beneficiary numbers. The indictment also alleges that physicians received kickbacks in the form of cash payments to certify Medicare beneficiaries for medically unnecessary home health care services. The fraudulent claims were submitted by Cherish Home Health Services LLC.

The defendants charged in the indictment are Zia Hassan, 47, of Saline and Nathaniel Miller, 52, of Detroit.

United States v. Minhas
Naseem Minhas, 47, of West Bloomfield was charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud and conspiracy to pay and receive illegal kickbacks for his role in a $5.7 million scheme to defraud Medicare. The indictment alleges that the defendant, the beneficial owner of a home health care agency, caused the submission of fraudulent claims to Medicare for medically unnecessary home health care services and paid kickbacks in the form of cash payments to marketers to recruit Medicare beneficiaries and to certify Medicare beneficiaries for medically unnecessary home health care services. The indictment alleges that the fraudulent claims were submitted by Tricounty Home Care Services Inc.

United States v. Lovett, et al.
The owners of a Detroit-area billing company were charged in a criminal complaint for their roles in a health care fraud scheme involving claims for chiropractic and psychotherapy services. The complaint alleges that the operators of ABIX LLC obtained the Medicare numbers of licensed medical service providers in and around Detroit and used this information to bill Medicare for chiropractic and psychotherapy services that were not provided.

The defendants charged in the criminal complaint are Elaine Lovett, 58, of Wayne County and Michelle Freeman, 54, of Livingston County.

An indictment or criminal complaint is merely an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The Medicare Fraud Strike Force operations are part of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team, a joint initiative announced in May 2009 between the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to focus their efforts to prevent and deter fraud and enforce current anti-fraud laws around the country.

These cases were investigated by the FBI and HHS-OIG and were brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. These cases are being prosecuted by Trial Attorney William G. Kanellis, Trial Attorney Matthew C. Thuesen, and Special Trial Attorney Katie R. Fink of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.

Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged more than 1,700 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $5.5 billion. In addition, HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with HHS-OIG, is taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.

To learn more about the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team, go to www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Police response time improves by 79.5%

Detroit Police Officer on Patrol - Photo by Frank Nemecek
While much of the news media has focused recently on the City of Detroit's on-going bankruptcy, there have been some very powerful developments that have gone almost completely unreported. For example, since Chief James Craig took command of the Detroit Police Department in July, the agency has seen a 79.5% improvement in its response time for priority one calls.

The Detroit Police Department was averaging 57 minutes to respond to emergency calls five months ago. Since then, according the Detroit Performance Dashboard, that response time has improved to an average of 11.67 minutes. This translates to a 79.5% improvement during that time.

Make no mistake about it: the Detroit Police Department still has one of the worst response times of any law enforcement agency in any major city in the industrialized world. There is still a considerable amount of work that needs to be done.

However, a 79.5% improvement in only a few months is dramatic progress. It also gives me confidence that even more will be accomplished in the not too distant future. I congratulation Chief Craig and everyone else who has been a part of making this progress.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Detroit moves forward with bankruptcy

The City of Detroit will be moving forward through the Chapter 9 Bankruptcy process thanks to a ruling issued this morning by Judge Steven Rhodes. The City will now have to negotiated a plan of adjustment with its approximately 100,000 creditors to whom it collectively owes $18.5 billion.

I have argued for years that the City of Detroit faced financial problems that were simply too big to be addressed anywhere other in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. While no one should be happy that we as a community are collectively in this position, I believe the fact that it is moving forward offers compelling hope for better days to come.

In a prepared statement, Mayor-Elect Mike Duggan said in part:
I'm going to do everything I can to advocate on behalf of Detroit's future in this process. We need to make sure the retirees are treated fairly on the pensions they earned and we need to make certain we come out of bankruptcy in a way we can afford to provide the quality of city services the people of Detroit deserve.
I believe this is the perfect balance between two competing priorities. We as a community have a moral obligation to ensure that pensioners and other creditors are treated fairly in the process. However, we also need to be able to improve dramatically the quality of city services that Detroit receive on a daily basis.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Michigan Treasury invites lawsuits

I posted previously about a series of inappropriate comments that the emergency manager of Hamtramck Cathy Square had said in the workplace; comments that would bring disciplinary action against any other employee in any other workplace in America. Since then, the Michigan Department of Treasury, which oversees emergency managers, released the following statement late last week:

Treasury staff has looked into the matter and discussed the allegations with Ms. Square. Ms. Square denies making any such offensive comments. No further action is expected at this point.

First, the fact that she denied everything isn't surprising. I suspect that if anyone asked her about it, Square would deny knowledge of the $1,000 that's reportedly missing from the city treasurer's office.

Second, I have to admit that I am even more troubled by this response from the Michigan Department of Treasury than I am by Square comments.

Kwame Kilpatrick
Photo by Frank Nemecek
Kwame Kilpatrick repeatedly denied any wrongdoing on his part. He denied it to the press. He denied to it to City Council and community groups. He even denied it under oath in depositions and at trial.

I mention this because Cathy Square is a close, longtime associate of Kwame Kilpatrick. She served as chief operating officer under him. She ran much of his operations.

It should not be surprising, therefore, that a close, longtime associate of Kwame Kilpatrick denied any wrongdoing when asked about it. What should be surprising, though, is that no one from Treasury spoke other city hall employees, offered them anonymity, and then asked them if they had ever heard Cathy Square say such things.

Instead, according the above statement and my conversations with current city hall employees, the investigation ended once Square denied everything.

This is important because if any current or former employees were to file a harassment lawsuit, they would have the right under Michigan Court Rules to subpoena every single city hall employee who interacted with Square on a regular basis. Those employees would then be legally required to answer questions under oath about what they saw and heard.

State Treasurer Kevin Clinton
Press Photo
This means that there is a realistic possibility that, if such a lawsuit were to ever happen, we could see dozens of current and former employees of the City of Hamtramck testify under oath that Cathy Square made a series of racially, ethnically, and sexually inappropriate comments in the workplace. This could then be further confirmed by the plaintiff requiring the City of Hamtramck to produce certain emails and other records in such a hypothetical lawsuit.

Once that were to hypothetically happen, Governor Rick Snyder as well as State Treasurer Kevin Clinton, and other officials within the Michigan Department of Treasury would be placed in the position of having to explain why they chose to end an investigation simply because a close, longtime associate of Kwame Kilpatrick denied any wrongdoing.

And that is a position I cannot imagine any public official wanting to be in.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Storm blows through Warrendale

Downed tree on Ashton - Photo by Frank Nemecek
A powerful storm blew through the Detroit area and the rest of the Midwestern United States last night. According to published news reports, this storm has left eight people dead across the Midwest, including two here in Michigan. More than 663,900 households across Michigan are without power at this moment.

In the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit, this damage appears to be confined to downed trees and tree limbs. Many homes in Warrendale had power outages during the storm. However, it would appear that most, if not all the homes and businesses in the neighborhood currently have power.

Regardless, DTE Energy advises anyone who encounters a downed power line to treat it as if it were dangerous. Individuals should not touch any power line nor anything that a downed power line is also touching, such as a metal fence.

Tip of the Week: DIY uses for scrap tires

There are more than a few scrap tires littered through the neighborhoods of Detroit; a fact that I have documented again, again, and again. I was pleased then when I found this idea for reusing an old tire online.

If one were to add legs to it, the result could serve as a coffee table. Without legs added, it would work as a footstool.

Personally, when I saw this, the idea that came to mind was to three or four of these scrap tires on top of one another to give it extra height without having to add legs. Once could then affix an acrylic sheet to act as the top. Although, I think it would also be cool to use some of the wood from discarded box springs as top instead.

One way or another, I think it's a cool idea to do something useful with all of the trash that gets illegally dumped in Warrendale and the other neighborhoods of Detroit.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Update on my Hamtramck story

I’m on deadline today for another project, but I wanted to share this. As I said yesterday, there would be more forthcoming about the Hamtramck EM situation. Word from inside city hall is that Cathy Square was on the warpath yesterday and I was informed that the State is calling her today to discuss the situation.

When they do, maybe they can ask her about more racist comments that are coming to light as current and former employees are sharing their experiences. For instance, did she really ask if an employee was a “Mexi-Can or a Mexi-Can’t”?

When I was told this is the ‘tip of a large iceberg’, I was somewhat skeptical. But after my post yesterday, people are coming out of the woodwork to share their stories. Large iceberg indeed.  A whole lot more to come! 

Duggan seeks volunteers for transition

Volunteers - Image by Hokuto
Mayor-Elect Mike Duggan is asking for Detroiters to volunteer to help with his transition in 12 key areas.

Those 12 areas include ethics, where volunteers will review current ethics policies and recommend improvements as well as:
  • Public safety. This will cover Police Department, Fire Department/EMS and Homeland Security;
  • Health. This will include the Department of Public Health and the Institute for Public Health;
  • Information Technology. This will include infrastructural needs as well as the use of technology to improve city services;
  • Quality of Life. This will include recreation, senior services, child services, arts and culture, disabled persons and education;
  • Public Services. This will focus on the Water Department, Public Lighting, and the Department of Public Works;
  • Neighborhoods. This will focus on the new Department of Neighborhoods, district manager, abandoned property reclamation/demolition, code enforcement, and vacant lots.
  • Transportation. This will focus on the Detroit Department of Transportation as well as the People Mover, Regional Transit Authority, and the M-1 Rail Project;
  • Economic Development. This will deal with both downtown and neighborhood development as well as job creation and training programs, City Airport, business licensing and permits;
  • Finance (Budget and Purchasing). This will deal with financial reporting processes as well as revenue generation opportunities;
  • Human Resources/Labor Relations. This area will focus on job classifications, civil service, and labor-management processes.
  • Law Department. This will deal with both legal issues and human rights.
Those individuals who are interested in helping in any of these key areas are asked to visit the Transition Detroit website. That website is available here.

Shooting on Brace Street

Fox 2 News Headlines

A woman was shot on the porch of a home on the 6200 block of Brace Street yesterday evening. This shooting happened at approximately 10 p.m., according to a report aired on Fox 2 Detroit. The victim is listed as being in critical condition at Oakwood Hospital.

The Detroit Police Department is investigating this shooting.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Duggan sits down with incoming council

I'm glad to be able to report that Mayor-Elect Mike Duggan has been sitting down with all of the new City Council members. This provides him with a chance to get acquainted with the new council and talk about what they should do once they are each in office. In fact, Mr. Duggan and Council Member-Elect Gabe Leland sat down yesterday at Gracie See Pizzeria (6889 Greenfield Rd.) in Warrendale to talk about the future of our city.

I hope this is sign of a productive relationship between the Mayor and City Council to come.

Monday, November 04, 2013

5 Tips for Better Blogging

Over the weekend, I had a rather lengthy conversation over the weekend with John Knappmann of the Downriver Homes and Real Estate blog about what it takes to run a successful blog in general and local or hyper-local blog in particular.

Many of the things that we talked about have been discussed in other articles by others people. However, there were a few things that I haven't seen addressed anywhere else. As such, I wanted to share them here as part of my weekly Tip of the Weekly feature.

Tip #1. Know Why You're Blogging in the First Place

This one is so basic that almost everybody forgets about it: I believe it's absolutely critical to know exactly what you hope to accomplish with your blog and to know it from the very outset. This motivation, in turn, becomes the standard by which every other decision that you make with your blog is judged.

When I started the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog back in the winter of 2005, I was frustrated with the fact that there was almost no coverage of the neighborhood in any of the major media outlets. I started covering stories that no one else would cover. As the years went on, though, the major media outlets have begun covering Warrendale and the other neighborhoods extensively and the reporters who cover the area are well-informed on what's happening here.

I'm not sure how much of this change is the result of my blog. Regardless, I'm glad to see it happen. The fact that it has happened has almost meant that my reason for blogging has changed. With my original mission accomplished, this blog is now a vehicle for effecting some sort of change in the neighborhood as well as at least a supplement to my monthly income.

Other people have used their blogs as a way to improve their credibility in a given field, to impact social change in some other setting, or simply because they regard it as a fun hobby. There are also those who have used their blogs to launch writing or social media careers. No matter what your reason is for blogging, I believe it's essential to have that reason at the forefront of your mind from the very beginning.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Ashley Madison offers $10 million for Belle Isle naming rights

Belle Isle in the Fall - Photo by Frank Nemecek
In one of the stranger stories to emerge in Detroit recently, Ashley Madison, the website that helps more than 22 million members find "discreet affairs" with married individuals, has offered to buy the naming rights to Belle Isle. According to an article published by Crain's Detroit Business, the company has offered the City of Detroit $10 million for the naming rights for the next ten years.

While Belle Isle is several miles from the Warrendale neighborhood, I'm confident that this is an offer that will have lots of Detroiters talking - which is probably why Ashley Madison made this offer in the first place.

The question that I keep wondering, though, is: should the City of Detroit accept their offer?

On one hand, $10 million for the naming rights to a park for the next 10 years is a good deal. The City of Detroit could use the money.

On the other hand, though, I worry about the impact accepting such an offer would have on the other corporate sponsorships that are in play on the island. Would, for example, sponsors for the grand prix or the boat races object to having their event on Ashley Madison Island? Could Detroit get a similar offer from a less controversial company?

These are the things that I wonder about as I consider Ashley Madison's proposal to buy the naming rights to Belle Isle. I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to share ideas in the comments below or on the Facebook page for this blog.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Tip of the Week: Listen to "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" - Image from Librivox
Halloween is only three days away. As such, I wanted to share with all of my readers one of my favorite personal Halloween traditions.

One of the many things that I love during this time of year is listen to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. It's a classic Halloween story about the quiet Dutch community of Sleepy Hollow, which lay in the Adirondack mountains on the western shore of the mighty Hudson River in America’s colonial period. The solitude of the woods was breathtaking, and not even a schoolmaster was immune from the eerie miasma which everyone knew permeated the dense forest.

Written in 1820, Washington Irving’s The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow has become a classic of American literature and, in my mind, almost synonymous with Halloween. This story has been retold in many different ways, but I believe there is something special about listening to the original as it is read by a talented orator.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is available to download for free on LibriVox.com. I invite everyone to download it and listen to a Halloween classic.

Listening to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is your Tip of the Week.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Abbate named head of FBI in Detroit

Earlier this afternoon, outgoing Director Robert S. Mueller, III announced the appointment Paul M. Abbate to be special agent in charge of the Detroit Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Abbate most recently served as special agent in charge of the Counterterrorism Division in the Washington Field Office, where he oversaw the Joint Terrorism Task Force and all FBI counterterrorism personnel, investigations, and operations in the National Capital Region.

Abbate began his career as a special agent in March of 1996. Upon completion of training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, he was assigned to the New York Field Office, where he worked in the Criminal Division and white-collar crime program. During his tenure in New York, he was also a member of the SWAT team.

In December of 2003, Abbate transferred to FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he served as supervisory special agent in the Iraq Unit within the Counterterrorism Division. Abbate provided program management for counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations and oversaw FBI counterterrorism operations and personnel deployments in Iraq.

In October of 2005, Abbate deployed to Iraq, where he served as the senior FBI liaison officer to the U.S. Department of Defense and led a group of specialized FBI personnel conducting counterterrorism investigations and operations in theater.

From February of 2006 to December of 2009, Abbate served as supervisory special agent on the Newark Division Joint Terrorism Task Force. He had responsibility for all international terrorism matters within the territories of Essex, Monmouth, and Ocean County, New Jersey.

In September of 2007, Abbate was temporarily detailed to the Directorate of Intelligence at FBI Headquarters, where he provided support in the implementation of several national-level, intelligence-related initiatives.

In February of 2008, Abbate deployed to Afghanistan and served as the FBI deputy on-scene commander, leading FBI counterterrorism operations and personnel in theater.

In December of 2009, Abbate returned to the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters, serving as assistant section chief in the International Terrorism Operations Section I, where he provided national-level oversight for all international terrorism investigations within the United States. During this assignment, he was member of a team that received the 2010 Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service.

In July of 2010, Abbate reported to the Los Angeles Field Office and served as an assistant special agent in charge for counterterrorism matters, overseeing the primary branch of the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force.

In August of 2011, Abbate was named section chief of the International Terrorism Operations Section II in the Counterterrorism Division at FBI Headquarters. In that position, Abbate provided national-level program management and oversight of all FBI international terrorism investigations and extraterritorial operations outside of the United States.

Job opening at Garden Ridge

The home decor superstore, Garden Ridge (5901 Mercury Dr. in Dearborn), is currently hiring. They have openings for managers as well as supervisors and associates.

Interested applicants are invited to apply either on their website or by visiting the store and asking for the manager on duty.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Detroit police officer dies from injuries

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Officer Patrick Hill of the Detroit Police Department died yesterday as a result of injuries that he received in the line of duty in April of this year. He was injured during a shoot out on the east side of the city.

WDIV-TV has more on this breaking news story above.

The family of this fallen officer will be in my thoughts and prayers today.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Update on the stolen and stripped SUV

Stripped Dodge Durrango - Photo by Frank Nemecek
I reported last week about a severely stripped, and presumably stolen, Dodge Durrango that was found in the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit. This vehicle was located on Kirkwood Street in between Rosemont and Penrod Streets. 

The vehicle was stripped of is engine as well as all of its doors and windows. In fact, pretty much anything else a thief could sell as parts was removed from the vehicle.

The rope that was tied to the front of its chassis would indicate that this vehicle was towed to that location. That tow-rope was then cut once they got it to its destination. All of this presumably would have been done by who ever stole it and stripped it of its parts.

Street in Warrendale - Photo by Frank Nemecek
I pleased to follow up with this story and say that this vehicle is no longer at that location as the photo at right clearly shows. I reported it on Monday. By the following Wednesday afternoon, it was already gone. One would presume that it was the Detroit Police Department who impounded and remove it before it could become a source of further blight in the neighborhood.

I'm happy that this problem has been solved.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Saul Green to discuss ceasefire initiative with WACO

Saul Green - Press Photo
Former U.S. Attorney, and former Deputy Mayor of Detroit, Saul Green will address the Warren Avenue Community Organization on Thursday, October 24 from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. His subject will be the Ceasefire Initiative of the Detroit Police Department. This is an effort that brings together law enforcement, social service agencies, and the community to impress upon young offenders the price that they will pay for criminal activity, the alternative paths that are open to them, and the negative effects their behavior has on their own communities.

This WACO meeting will happen inside the NFL/YET Boys and Girls Club (16500 Tireman Ave.). It, like all of their other membership meetings, is open to the public.

WACO represents that portion of the Warrendale neighborhood that is east of the Southfield Freeway.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Federal jury returns guilty convictions in carjacking ring

Two Detroit men and a Redford Township man were found guilty yesterday by a federal jury in Detroit on 20 counts in a case involving armed carjacking to support a chop shop, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced today.

McQuade was joined in the announcement by Acting Special Agent in Charge John Robert Shoup of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Chief James Craig of the Detroit Police Department, Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue of the Michigan State Police, and Special Agent in Charge William Hayes of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

The jury convicted Frank Harper, age 29, of Detroit, Phillip Harper, age 25, of Detroit, and Bernard Edmond, age 46, of Redford Township. The three-week trial was conducted before U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh.

The evidence presented at trial established that the defendants conspired with several others to steal high-end vehicles, many by committing armed carjacking, and then to retag the vehicles for sale. Edmond would purchase the stolen vehicles from the Harper brothers and others after the thefts. He would then alter the vehicle identification numbers of the stolen vehicles to conceal the fact that the vehicles had been stolen. Edmond would also create false documents to file with the secretary of state and then sell the vehicles to unwitting buyers in Michigan and other states. Edmond created a market for the stolen vehicles by informing the Harpers and others of his desire to buy these stolen vehicles.

The Harper brothers committed several carjackings and other auto thefts. For example, on October 14, 2010, Phillip Harper and others brandished firearms to steal a Cadillac Escalade, a GMC Yukon, a Chyrsler Aspen, and a Mercury Milan from the Elysium Night Club in downtown Detroit. On January 25, 2011, Frank Harper and others carjacked a Mercedes S550 from a person at the intersection of Atwater and Joseph Campau streets in Detroit. On January 31, 2011, the Harper brothers and another used a firearm to carjack three vehicles from a person on Joseph Campau Street in Detroit. On February 22, 2011, the Harper brothers and others carjacked three high-end vehicles from the valet at Opus One restaurant in Detroit. On March 20, 2011, Philip Harper and others carjacked a Lexus 460 near Club Vain in Detroit. Many of these and other vehicles were intended for Bernard Edmund to retag and sell.

Co-defendants Justin Bowman, Stratford Newton, and Darrell Young have each pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing.

Phillip Harper faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 80 years in federal prison, and Frank Harper and Bernard Edmond are facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 55 years in federal prison. A sentencing date will be set by the court.

In a prepared statement, McQuade said, “Armed carjacking poses an unacceptable danger to public safety and creates a climate of fear for residents in our community. Although these convictions bring with them severe sentences, we think they are appropriate for such serious and pervasive crimes. We hope that these convictions will deter others from committing similar crimes that wreak havoc in our neighborhoods.”

Acting FBI Special Agent in Charge Shoup added, “This case stands as a superb example of the fine collaborative work being done by the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Detroit Police Department. FBI thanks the Assistant United States Attorneys who handled this case for the excellent work that they did in bringing justice to those who would prey on our society.”

Chief Craig thanked all law enforcement agencies involved by saying, “Thank you to all involved who dismantled this Detroit carjacking ring. This is another opportunity for the Detroit Police Department to work with our partners to help reduce carjacking crimes, which is one of the department’s top priorities.”

The case was investigated by special agents of the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations as well as officers from the Detroit Police Department and Michigan State Police.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pilgrim statue to visit the Warrendale neighborhood

Mr. Jose Robert Dias Tavares - artist of Our Lady's Image

An important Catholic statue, the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima, will visit Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church (7685 Grandville Ave.) in the Warrendale neighborhood next month. This statue will be on display on Sunday, October 6, starting with a living rosary at 11:30 a.m.

The Statue of Our Lady of Fatima last visited SS. Peter and Paul Parish on November 27, 1968.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Bombing victims receive a Congressional Gold Medal

Congressional Gold Medal - Image from the U.S. Mint
Earlier this week, a Congressional Gold Medal was awarded posthumously to Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley. They were the four young black girls who lost their lives in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963.  The ceremony was held at the U.S. Capitol Building.

The senseless, premature deaths of these young girls as they prepared for Sunday school galvanized the civil rights movement and sparked a surge of momentum that helped secure the enactment of both the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The 16th Street Baptist Church remains a powerful symbol of the movement for civil and human rights, and the ultimate sacrifices made by these girls are emblematic of many others who have lost their lives for the causes of freedom and equality.

The United States Mint struck and prepared the Congressional Gold Medal as authorized by Public Law 113-11.  The medal's obverse (heads side) was designed by United States Mint Artistic Infusion Program (AIP) Master Designer Barbara Fox and sculpted by United States Mint Sculptor-Engraver Jim Licaretz.  The design features the silhouette of four young girls, representing those killed on that fateful day.  The victims' names are inscribed around the border of the design, with the quote, "Pivotal in the struggle for equality." Additional inscriptions include "September 15" and "1963," which are incised across the silhouettes. 

The medal's reverse (tails side) was designed by AIP Master Designer Donna Weaver and sculpted by Sculptor-Engraver Joseph Menna.  The design depicts a view of the 16th Street Baptist Church with the quote, "Killed in the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church" to the left of the image.  Additional inscriptions are "Act of Congress 2013" and "Birmingham, Alabama."

The public law that authorized the United States Mint to strike the Congressional Gold Medal also authorizes the bureau to strike and sell three-inch and 1½-inch bronze replicas.  These medals are currently available for purchase at the bureau's online catalog, http://www.usmint.gov/catalog. The medals also can be purchased by calling 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468).  Hearing- and speech-impaired customers with TTY equipment may call 1-888-321-MINT (6468).  The three-inch medals are priced at $39.95 each and the 1½-inch medals are priced at $6.95 each. 

The United States Mint was created by Congress in 1792 and became part of the Department of the Treasury in 1873.  It is the Nation's sole manufacturer of legal tender coinage and is responsible for producing circulating coinage for the Nation to conduct its trade and commerce.  The United States Mint also produces numismatic products, including proof, uncirculated, and commemorative coins; Congressional Gold Medals; and silver and gold bullion coins.  The United States Mint's numismatic programs are self-sustaining and operate at no cost to the taxpayer.

Publisher's Note: The Friday Focus series seeks to highlight interesting stories, in my opinion, simply have not gotten as much attention in the news media as they deserve.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Send Miley Cyrus to Syria

I believe that, rather than bombing Syria over the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons, the United States should send Miley Cyrus over there instead. In fact, I started a petition on the White House web site, asking President Barack Obama to do just that. If you are so wiling, I would appreciate it if you took a moment to sign my petition on We the People.

Sending Miley Cyrus to Syria would accomplish what I believe are four important objectives for American foreign policy in the 21st century.
  1. Her endless, overdone twerking will punish President Bashar al-Assad and his regime for their apparent use of chemical weapons against dissidents within Syria;
  2. It will provide an adequate deterrent against Iran, North Korea, or any other rogue nation from using weapons of mass destruction against unarmed civilians;
  3. It will rid the American people of the Miley Cyrus menace once and for all; and
  4. It will accomplish all of this with minimal risk of American causalities - other than Miley Cyrus, of course.
There are those who argue that this is an extreme measure. Some of my friends have even argued that it might be considered a war crime for the United States to do such a thing. However, after a great deal of reflection, I believe that it is a risk we as a nation must take.

I hope that you will join me in encouraging President Obama to send Miley Cyrus to Syria than bombing them. My petition to the White House is available on-line here.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mike Duggan releases 10-point plan to rebuild neighborhoods

Mike Detroit - Photo by Detroit Free Press
Mayoral candidate Mike Duggan released a 10-point plan Tuesday evening that outlines his proposed strategy for rebuilding neighborhoods in Detroit. Quite frankly, I like his plan. There is only one thing about it that I would change about it.

Before I discuss the one change that I would make, though, here are the 10-points to Mike Duggan's plan to rebuild the neighborhoods in Detroit.
  1. Establish a single Department of Neighborhoods;
  2. Base the Department of Neighborhoods in seven neighborhood district offices to create true partnerships with neighborhood groups and block clubs;
  3. Seize abandoned houses and drug houses through a nuisance abatement program, similar to the one Mike Duggan started when he served as Prosecutor for Wayne County;
  4. Create positive incentives to move families from sparsely-populated areas into to stronger neighborhoods. This, presumably, would include most of Warrendale as one of the stronger neighborhoods;
  5. In order to rebuild neighborhood business districts, he would seize abandoned storefronts and move in entrepreneurs;
  6. Streamline demolition process and strategically target neighborhoods;
  7. Create much tougher code enforcement;
  8. Require banks to participate in neighborhood redevelopment;
  9. Clean up vacant lots; and
  10. Reform the Detroit Land Bank so we can re-use vacant land.
Mike Duggan's plan for a Department of Neighborhoods sounds a lot like the Neighborhood City Halls that used to exist in Detroit until Mayor Dave Bing eliminated them as part of his budget cuts. Regardless of what one calls them, though, I believe that having such an office in each of the districts is a good idea.

The one thing that I would change about Mike Duggan's plan to rebuild neighborhoods would be to substitute a vigorous deconstruction program instead of streamlined demolition process. In neighborhoods throughout Detroit, there are lots of blighted buildings that I need to removed and Warrendale is no exception to that, as I have pointed out before.

The tragic fact is that Detroit has far more blighted properties than it has resources to deal with them adequately and that, in turn, means that we need to be more innovated in how we respond to blight in our neighborhoods. Moving from a conventional demolition process to a deconstruction model is, in my opinion, a huge part of that innovation.

With a conventional building demolition, a couple of workers and some heavy equipment come to a location, and smash everything. They will then haul what used to be a building away to an ordinary landfill.

In contrast, under a deconstruction model, a half dozen to a dozen workers are on site for a week or more. They take the building down piece by piece, salvaging everything that can be salvaged, and then recycling what is left. The only things that ever go into a landfill are pieces of hazardous waste (e.g., asbestos or lead paint) and those things will go to a special landfill that is designed to accept hazardous materials properly.

Even in places like Detroit, and even after scrappers have already attacked a vacant home numerous times, a deconstruction crew can still salvage thousands of dollars worth of materials from it. Because of that, it is almost always cheaper in the end to deconstruct a blighted property than the $12,000 - $14,000 that the City of Detroit currently pays to have one demolished.

Moreover, because it's ultimately cheaper to deconstruct a blighted property than to demolish it, the City of Detroit would be able to remove more of these dangerous buildings from our neighborhoods through a deconstruction model than it currently can under its old model. I argue that anything that enables us to remove more of these dangerous buildings from our neighborhoods is a good thing and a change worth making.

In addition to that, because deconstruction relies on people more than it does heavy equipment, switching to a deconstruction model for removing dangerous buildings would also mean the creation of thousands of new jobs. This is important in a city like Detroit where so many adults are without jobs and have been without them for quite some time.

Finally, because almost nothing from a deconstructed building goes into a landfill, it is also much better for the environment.

Mike Duggan's plan doesn't specifically call for the use of conventional demolition instead of deconstruction. However, I believe his plan would be much better if it did specifically call for deconstruction.
  • More blighted properties removed from the neighborhoods of Detroit;
  • Thousands of new jobs created for Detroit residents; and
  • Better for the environment with less trash going into a landfill.
It's hard to argue with something that can deliver results like that. I hope Mike Duggan incorporates deconstruction in plans for Detroit.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Michigan housing official sentenced on bribery and fraud charges

A former employee of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority was sentenced this afternoon to a year in prison after her conviction on charges related to bribery and fraud. Angela Reed, age 42, of Detroit, pleaded guilty on November 6, 2012, to one count of conspiracy to accept bribes and make false claims to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development before U.S. District Judge Julian Abele Cook, Jr., who imposed sentence today.

Reed was the waiting list coordinator for the Homeless Assistance Recovery Program, a HUD program established to give homeless persons preference in the awarding of housing vouchers. Reed and other co-defendants devised a scheme to have persons on the voucher waiting list improve their chances of getting their vouchers much more quickly by creating false document so that they would receive certification even though they were not homeless. At the direction of Reed and her co-defendants, applicants made false entries in their applications. The scheme also involved the forging of signatures of employees of homeless shelters. In return, Reed received cash from the persons who fraudulently received homeless vouchers

In addition to Reed, four other persons have been convicted for their participation in this scheme.

“The defendant abused her position of trust to divert benefits intended for people who are homeless,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said. “Prosecutions like this one are necessary to ensure the integrity of programs to help those in true need.”

The case was investigated by special agents of the FBI and the HUD Office of Inspector General with the assistance of Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shinola in GQ magazine

Shinola's two page spread in GQ - Photo by Frank Nemecek
I was flipping through this month's issue of GQ over lunch when I noticed that the folks at Shinola have a two page advertising spread in it. The company is located several miles outside of the Warrendale neighborhood in Midtown, but they have embraced Detroit in their marketing efforts more than almost any other company around. (They don't have a Super Bowl ad yet, but give them time.)

Still, it makes me quite happy to see a company like Shinola moving more and more onto the national stage; taking Detroit with them as part of their marketing effort. I look forward to seeing what they do next.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Guilty plea in the Gardenview Estates project

Construction at the Gardenview Estates site in July, 2006
Photo by Frank Nemecek
The former vice president of a Detroit based construction management firm entered a plea of guilty today as part of the ongoing federal investigation and prosecution involving the Gardenview Estates public housing project in the Warrendale area of Detroit, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced this afternoon. The Gardenview Estates project was built on the site of the former Herman Gardens public housing project.

McQuade was joined in the announcement by Robert D. Foley, III, Special Agent In Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); Randall Ashe, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division (EPA-CI); and Barry McLaughlin, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-Office of Inspector General (HUD-OIG).

Calvin Hall, 45, of Detroit, entered the guilty plea in U.S. District Court before Judge David M. Lawson.

According to court documents, Hall and others prepared and submitted a proposal for XCEL Construction Services Inc. that included false information. Based upon the false documents, XCEL Construction Services Inc. was awarded a contract worth more than $11 million to act as the construction manager of the infrastructure phase of the Garden View Estates public housing project, which was funded by a $24 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. At the time, Hall was the vice president of XCEL Construction Services.

During the plea hearing, Hall stated that he conspired with Michael Woodhouse, the president of XCEL Construction Services Inc., and Bobby W. Ferguson, the founder and original owner of XCEL Construction Services Inc.

U.S. Attorney McQuade said in a prepared statement, "We hope that this conviction will deter people from committing fraud against public housing programs, which are intended to provide housing to needy people in our community.”

FBI Special Agent in Charge Foley added, "Those who use false documents to receive millions of dollars in government contracts will face severe consequences for their illegal acts. The FBI will remain committed to pursuing and prosecuting such criminals."

HUD-OIG Special Agent in Charge McLaughlin said, “The funds for this project were dedicated to improve the quality of life for Detroit’s neediest families. Working with our law enforcement partners, the Office of Inspector General for HUD will redouble our efforts to combat the fraud that limits that opportunity.”

Under the plea agreement, Hall faces up to 18 months of imprisonment as well as a fine of up to $40,000. In addition, Hall agreed to forfeit more than $2.2 million in assets, including multiple bank accounts and certificates of deposit seized from XCEL Construction Services Inc. during the course of the federal investigation.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Michael Buckley, Bruce Judge, and Rita Foley.

10 tips for amending your federal tax return

If a taxpayer discovers that he or she made an error in his or her federal tax return, and discovers this fact after filing said return with the Internal Revenue Service, it is generally best to file an amended return. The IRS will automatically correct simple mistakes involving errors in arithmetic without any action from the taxpayer. However, any other mistakes should be corrected with an amended return.

With that said, here are 10 tips from the Internal Revenue Service about amending one's federal income tax return:

  1. When to amend a return. You should file an amended return if you need to correct your filing status, number of dependents, total income, tax deductions or tax credits. The instructions for Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, list additional reasons to amend a return.
  2. When NOT to amend a return. In some cases, you don’t need to amend your tax return. For example, the IRS usually corrects math errors when processing your original return. Also, if you did not include a required form or schedule then the IRS will send you a request for whatever is missing.
  3. Form to use. Use Form 1040X to amend a previously filed Form 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. Make sure you check the box to show the tax year that you are amending on the Form 1040X. You cannot e-file an amended return. You must file an amended tax return on paper.
  4. Multiple amended returns. If you’re filing an amended return for more than one year, prepare a separate 1040X for each return. Mail them in separate envelopes to the appropriate IRS processing center.
  5. Form 1040X. Form 1040X has three columns. Column A shows figures from the original return. Column B shows the changes you are making. Column C shows the corrected figures. There is also an area on the back of the form where you should explain the specific changes and the reasons for the changes.
  6. Other forms or schedules. If the changes involve other tax schedules or forms, attach them to the Form 1040X. Failure to do this will cause a delay in processing.
  7. Amending to claim an additional refund. If you’re expecting a refund from your original tax return, don’t file your amended return until after you have received that refund. You may cash the refund check from your original return. The IRS will send you any additional refund you are owed.
  8. Amending to pay additional tax. If you’re filing an amended tax return because you owe additional tax, you should file Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible to limit any interest and penalty charges.
  9. When to file. To claim a refund, you generally must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original tax return or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
  10. Processing time. Normal processing time for amended returns is eight to 12 weeks.

One can obtain a copy of IRS Form 1040X by visiting the IRS website here.

How to amend a federal income tax return is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Commission turns down demolition of State Savings Bank

My thanks go out to everyone else who came out to the Historic District Commission meeting this evening. I'm thrilled that we were able to block the unnecessary demolition of the State Savings Bank Building in downtown Detroit. The Detroit Free Press has more on this story here.

Next up?

Developing and implementing a comprehensive plan to meet the need for parking in downtown Detroit that doesn't involve acre upon acre of empty asphalt. Tonight, though, we shall celebrate.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Toy Chest Bar looking to hire a cook

Chef - Illustration by Julien Tromeur
The Toy Chest Bar (18728 Ford Rd.) is looking to hire a qualified cook to work for them on a part-time basis. Interested applicants should apply for this job in person at their location.

Questions about wages, hours, and benefits can be discussed with the bar's management at the time of application.

Toy Chest Bar bills itself as "where adults come to play." Additional information and photos regarding the bar is available on their website.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Predictions for mayor and city council elections in Detroit

Today is the primary election for mayor and city council in Detroit. Two candidates will advance to the general election in November in the mayor and city council district races; while four candidates will compete this fall for two at-large seats on the city council.

The polls in Detroit are open for another nine hours. Regardless, after consulting my crystal ball, my predictions for the outcome are as follows:

1) Benny Napoleon;
2) Tom Barrow; and
3) Mike Duggan.

City Council - 7th District
1) Gabe Leland;
2) Dustin Campbell; and
3) John Bennett.

City Council - At-Large
1) Saunteel Jenkins (incumbent);
2) Roy McCalister, Jr;
3) Brenda Jones (incumbent); and
4) Jessica Rayford-Clark.

There are only two candidates running for the Detroit Police Commission in the 7th district. Therefore, both of them will automatically move on to the general election in November.

Update @ 11:16 p.m.
Results are still coming in. Regardless, I think it's safe to say that my predictions for today were seriously wrong.

I'll have more to post tomorrow. For now, just know that my crystal ball has a serious crack in it.