Monday, January 28, 2013

Fair Warning to All Guys on Facebook

Collection Agent - Photo by Summer Fisher
For my Tip of the Week feature this week, I must issue a warning to everyone who uses Facebook, especially guys. According to published news reports, there is a growing trend among collection agencies to create fake profiles that include a photo of an attractive young woman in a bikini.

The collection agency will then send targeted consumers a friend request on Facebook. Since most guys will (let's face it) accept any Facebook request that a woman in a bikini makes, the collection agent in disguise is almost always accepted as a friend.

Once this happens, the collection agency then has access to additional personal information about their intended target. They are also able, as their target's "friend," to begin posting collection requests directly on his target's Facebook wall where everyone else can see them.

This practice, I should point out, violates multiple points of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. It is legally defined as harassment. While the targeted consumer does have some legal recourse, it never fully undoes the potential damage to one's reputation nor is the personal information the collection agent has gathered ever deleted from their respective files.

While nothing reduces the legal and ethical hazards inherent in this type of activity on the part of the collection agent, I have to admit that - as a small business owner who is currently sitting on almost $30,000 in noncollectable invoices as well as two court judgments that aren't worth the paper they are printed on - there is a little part of me that appreciates the ingenuity of this tactic.

More Agents - Photo by Robson Oliveria
I have experienced collection agencies from both sides. I have been their intended target because not getting paid by my clients makes it hard for me to pay my own bills. I have also been the guy who hired a collection agency. I would never condone doing anything illegal because two wrongs do not make a right.

I'm just saying that I understand the creditor's motivation. I will leave the rest up to the lawyers and the government agencies that regulate collection agencies.

Still, my point in all of this is warn everyone on Facebook that not everyone who sends you a "friend request" is really your friend.

This has been your Tip of the Week from the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ralph Godbee Still Employed by the Detroit Police Department?

Charlie LeDuff of Fox 2 News broke a story late Wednesday night that Ralph L. Godbee, Jr., former Detroit chief of police, was still employed by the Detroit Police Department. This is more than four months after he retired he supposedly retired effective immediately as a result of a sex scandal.

It would be one thing if Ralph Godbee were simply collecting a pension. However, according to the pay stubs that Fox 2 News obtained and showed in this report, he is still be paid as a regular employee. He continues to earn vacation time and other benefits. This is highly unusual because it means that a city as broke as Detroit is essentially paying for two police chiefs: Ralph Godbee, the supposedly former police chief, and Chester Logan, our interim police chief.

Mayor Dave Bing and his press spokesman refused to comment on this story or explain why this supposedly retired police chief is still on our payroll.

Quite frankly, the worst part of this story, in my opinion, is how unsurprising it all is. When I first saw this story, I wasn't surprised by the revelation nor were any of the Detroit residents that I have talked to about it.

It is time, I believe, for a forensic audit of the City of Detroit's books. This simply should not be allowed to continue.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Vindication from 24/7 Wall Street

The Spirit of Detroit
The folks at 24/7 Wall Street, which provides analysis to equity investors, published a list of best and worst managed cities in the United States. I don't think it surprises very many people that Detroit came in at number four on their list of the worst managed cities.

Plus, the only reason why Detroit wasn't rated even worse than it actually is that Mayor Dave Bing has enacted at least some of the reforms that he opposed when he first came into office. Their full list of the best and worst managed cities in the United States is available here.

As someone who has spent more than 20 years following the financial operations of the City of Detroit, and who has submitted several proposals on how to improve the situation only to be ignored or ridiculed by those who were in power who insisted that they had everything under control, I have to admit that I feel a certain amount of vindication from this listing.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Free Building Rehabilitation Workshop

Tipperary Pub - Photo by Frank Nemecek
There are lots of buildings in the Warrendale and surrounding neighborhoods that could use a little tender loving care. Many of them are old enough that they can know be considered historic and thus potentially eligible for special tax credits and financing.

As such, I wanted to bring to everyone's attention a free workshop that will happen next Friday, January 25 from 3 - 5 p.m. that will focus on providing the owners of commercial buildings with an overview of federal historic preservation tax credit. This workshop will happen at the Southeast Michigan Office of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, which is inside Cadillac Place (3018 W. Grand Blvd., Suite 4-600 in the New Center neighborhood).

This workshop is presented jointly by the Michigan Historic Preservation Office and Technical Preservation Services Bureau of the National Park Service. Anyone interested in rehabilitating a commercial building that is at least 50 years old is invited to attend. Since most of the buildings in the Warrendale neighborhood were built shortly after World War II, most of our commercial buildings are eligible for these tax credits and special financing.

While there is no charge for this workshop, those wishing to attend are asked to RSVP by sending an email to preservation [at] michigan [dot] gov with their name, email address, and telephone number. Please put "Tax Credit Workshop" in the subject line of your email.

Additional information about these free workshop on financing the rehabilitation of historic commercial buildings is available in the flyer below.

I hope at least a few property owners in the Warrendale neighborhood will be able to make use of this workshop.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Cannon of Rouge Park

The Cannon in Rouge Park - Photo by Frank Nemecek
The folks at Preservation Detroit published a story about the history of the Warrendale neighborhood and, in particular, the cannon in Rouge Park. Our cannon appears to be almost 300 years old. More interestingly, it was originally used by to the Spanish Navy.

The full text of their article is available here. Please take a moment to check it out.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Future of Warrendale

Later today, the Detroit Works Project is scheduled to release its final plan for the adaptive reuse of the depopulated parts of Detroit. The Detroit Free Press published a summary of it, which is complete with a few maps.

Under this plan, the Warrendale neighborhood should see more small-scale community gardens and pocket parks that will take the place of vacant homes in the neighborhood. They also propose a few smaller ponds to capture rainwater and keep it from overtaxing our sewage system.
Excerpt of the Detroit Long Term Project
The report from The Detroit Free Press is available here.

Update @ 8:37 p.m. The Detroit News reports that the Kresge Foundation is going to support this initiative with $150 million. Their report is available here.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Benny Napoleon, Palmer Woods, and the Future of Detroit

Benny Napoleon - Press Photo
Wayne County Sheriff and mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon set off a flurry of controversy when he remarked to reporters that the Palmer Woods neighborhood isn't really a part of Detroit. His remarks were a not so subtle swipe at fellow mayoral candidate Mike Duggan who moved from his longtime home in Livonia to Palmer Woods so he could run for Mayor of Detroit. Sheriff Napoleon has since backpedaled, but that hasn't stopped the criticism of him.

With so many people rushing to criticize him for his comments about Palmer Woods, though, I think it would be a good idea to take a look at some numbers. In the past week, there was 1 crime reported to the Detroit Police Department in the Palmer Woods neighborhood. In contrast, during the same time period, there were 4 burglaries, 2 armed robberies, 1 larceny from an automobile, and 2 assaults near my house in Warrendale.

That is a dramatic difference in crime rates between the neighborhoods; one that is nothing if not statistically significant.

I don't want to belittle our neighbors in other parts of Detroit. We need them. However, the fact remains that life in places like Palmer Woods are very different from what they are in most of the city.

We need to find a way to move the entire city of Detroit forward. We need to respect and value every single person who lives here. Most of all, we need to have the courage to be honest with ourselves.

Life is different in Palmer Woods, the Villages, and Midtown. This isn't to vilify the people who live there, but we are doing ourselves a disservice if we ignore the reality of this situation.