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.