Friday, November 29, 2013

Will Rob Ford be able to visit Detroit?

Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto
Photo by Shaun Merritt
When it comes to news stories that never seem to end, there are few bigger than Mayor Rob Ford of Toronto and his public admission that he has smocked crack cocaine. There have been hundred of headlines devoted to it across the United States and even more in Canada. It has even become routine fodder for late night comedy shows.

This story hits home because Mayor Ford has announced that he intends to visit the Detroit area in the coming weeks. He intends to attend the NHL Winter Classic, where the Detroit Red Wings will host the Toronto Maple Leafs.

This is problematic because, as the Toronto Star points out, U.S. immigration law deems anyone who admits to using illegal narcotics to be inadmissible to the United States. This holds true even if no criminal charges were ever filed, as is the case with Mayor Ford.

All of this makes me wonder: will Mayor Ford be allowed into the United States? Should he even be allowed in?

I'm not sure on this one. Please feel free to share your thoughts on this one in the comments section below.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

On behalf of the entire Nemecek family, I want to wish the happiest of Thanksgivings to everyone in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood as well as to all of my readers no matter where you are. I hope you find yourself surrounded by the people that you are thankful to have in your life.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Christmas lights in Warrendale

Decorated home on Penrod Street - Photo by Frank Nemecek
I'm thrilled to see that some of the houses in Warrendale already have their Christmas lights up.

I saw this house on Penrod Street, just south of Paul Street, with their lights more than a week ago. I only get a chance to photograph it last night, though. I'm pretty sure they were the first family to decorate for the season.

And they did an awesome job at it.

If any Warrendale resident or business owner has their your home or business is decorated for the season, please feel free to mention it in the comments below or send me an email with your address. I would love to feature your home or business on this blog.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Follow me, please

There are many different ways in which one get content from the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog. Since this is a slower, shorter week, I wanted to take a moment to review all of them for the benefit of my newer readers as well as those we aren't familiar with their options.

My favorite option is to receive email alerts when a new article is posted. To take advantage of this option, all one has to do is enter one's email address in box marked "receive email alerts" in the right-hand column of this blog. The folks at FeedBlitz will then, depending on one's personal preference, either send a daily digest of everything posted here or an alert for each article as soon as it's posted.

Another popular option is to subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog. The Warrendale (Detroit) Blog supports Atom, My Yahoo, and Netvibes. This is a great option if there are several different blogs that one wishes to follow. For those not familiar with RSS feeds, Wikiepedia has an article about them here that is both in-depth yet not overly technical.

For those who prefer to receive this content as part of their social media news stream, this blog has a page on both Facebook and Google Plus. I invite my readers who actively use those social media services to "like" or "follow" this blog there as well.

Regardless of which method one uses to keep up with the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog, I want everyone to know that I appreciate each and every one of my readers.

Patience, Please

Ever since my two posts about the ethical shortcomings of Hamtramck's emergency manager (online here and here), I have been inundated with voice mail and email messages. I have recently finished all of my freelance projects.

All of this, of course, is in addition to the people who reach out to me regarding life in the Warrendale neighborhood itself. Over the next day or two, I will reply to each and every one of the people who contacted me. Until then, I simply ask for a little bit of patience.

I post this message here, of course, because a couple of people have actually sent me multiple messages, inquiring why I haven't gotten back to them.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Improvements coming to Rouge Park

Rouge Park on a Foggy Day
Photo by Frank Nemecek
According an announcement that was made at the Friends of Rouge Park meeting this past Tuesday evening, some improvements will soon be coming to Rouge Park as a result of the State of Michigan taking over operations of Belle Isle. The change to means that some of the resources previously allocated to Belle Isle will instead be allocated to Rouge Park.

It's not clear, as of this writing, exactly how much of the $4 million that the City of Detroit used to spend on Belle Isle will be coming to Rouge Park nor is it clear exactly what it will be spent on. The details, it would appear, are still being worked on.

Regardless of that uncertainty, I have to say that I'm glad to know that these improvements are coming.

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.

The $4 million that had to be kept a secret in Detroit

The City of Detroit may pay Barclay's, a London-based bank, as much as $4 million in fees as part of a $350 million loan deal, according to published news reports. These fees are in addition to the interest that the City of Detroit would also pay to Barclay's.

The details of this deal were originally intended to be kept secret. However, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes ordered all of the relevant loan documents to be made public yesterday afternoon.

Quite frankly, I'm not sure which part of this deal I find to be more ridiculous: the $4 million in fees or the fact that Kevyn Orr agreed to keep these details secret. Either way, I want to thank Judge Rhodes for making sure that the relevant details were made public.

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.

Friends of Rouge Park to meet tomorrow

The Friends of Rouge Park will have their next general membership meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, November 19 from 6:00-7:00 p.m. The group will meet inside the Don Bosco Center (9357 Westwood St.), which is north of the Warrendale neighborhood at W. Chicago Rd.

The agenda for this meeting will include:

  • Upcoming Volunteer Work Day in the Rouge Park Prairie on November 21 at 3:30 p.m.;
  • Progress on the development of a Master Plan for Rouge Park;
  • Additional updates and news about Rouge Park.
Everyone who is interested in the future of the largest park in Detroit is invited to attend this meeting.

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.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Big Trouble in Little Hamtown

Hamtramck, Michigan - Photo by Andrew Jameson
I have recently spoken with current and former employees of the City of Hamtramck. Three reputable sources have told me that the State of Michigan’s Emergency Manager, Cathy Square, has made a series of highly offensive remarks about race, ethnicity, age, gender, and sexual orientation while in the workplace and that she continues to do so.

Those sources have also told me that the incident was reported up the chain of command.

Cathy Square, for those who do not remember her name, was a long-time close associate of Kwame Kilpatrick. She served as his chief operating officer towards the end of his administration. As such, she ran much of his operations.

Here are a few examples, each of which was confirmed by current and/or former employees and described by one as “the very tip of a large iceberg.”

During a meeting where the possibility of bike lanes in Hamtramck was discussed, Square stated, “Seriously, how am I supposed to deal with these crazy ass Bengali drivers. We can’t have bike lanes with these Bengali drivers - they'll kill everyone.” This in a city with a large population that is of Bengali descent.

Not to be outdone by that, in a different meeting when the possibility of greater collaboration between the Cities of Hamtramck and Highland Park was suggested as a way to save money and also to qualify for more funding from the State’s Economic Vitality Incentive Program, she vetoed the idea. When asked why, Square (who is black) reportedly launched into a lengthy diatribe:
You know, I used to work there. You think it's crazy here? Highland Park is all crazy ass black people. Do you know what is wrong with most black people? Don't be telling people I told you this, but sometimes I need to pinch myself, 'Am I really black?' Crack was the fall of the black community. And no one wants to read or work. That's what ruined the black community.
As for the long-term prospects of the City of Hamtramck, Square does not appear to hold much confidence. She reportedly told one employee, "It doesn't matter what I do here. These white people are crazy. There is going to be another EM in a few years because the same crazy residents are just going to vote in the same crazy council members again."

I spoke to another employee on condition of strict anonymity. When I asked why no one else had come forward or reported anything, they reported to me that “Everyone is afraid for their jobs!” and that after the firings everyone saw how complaints would be handled. “It reinforced that she (Square) has complete autonomous power and no one up there (in Lansing) cares.”

There are many things about this matter that bother me.

First and foremost, there are the utterly offensive and inappropriate comments that have no place in 2013 America. It was simply wrong for Square to make such comments about “crazy Bengalis” in Hamtramck or black folks in Highland Park.

I am also troubled by the disparity in how similar situations were handled in two different cities under state-control. When reports were made that Jim Bonsall, the former chief financial officer for the City of Detroit, made similar comments in the workplace an investigation was conducted and Bonsall was quickly fired. When Square says such things in Hamtramck, though, no action is taken even months after it gets reported directly to the State Treasurer.

The whole thing simply seems wrong. It’s time for Governor Rick Snyder and our new State Treasurer Kevin Clinton to rectify this matter.

There will no doubt be additional twists and turns in this saga before it is played out. I will, of course, cover them here.

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 11, 2013

Headless body found in Warrendale

According to published news reports, Detroit police discovered a body at the vacant Ruddiman Junior High School yesterday afternoon. The remains were headless and severely burned; presumably in an effort to prevent police from identifying the body.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner is working to identify the remains. Anyone who has any information regarding this case is asked to call the Detroit Police Department.

9 ways to prevent identity theft

According to published news reports, there were as many as 12.6 million cases of identify theft in the United States last year. In order to keep you from becoming another statistic, as my tip of the week, I wanted to share the top ten ways that you can protect yourself from it.

My top nine ways to prevent identity theft are:
  1. Don't carry more information with you than you need. Don't carry your Social Security card in your wallet unless you know you you're going to need it that day. Also, don't write a PIN on a credit/debit card or on a slip of paper kept in your wallet.
  2. Watch out for "shoulder surfers." Use your free hand to shield the keypad when using an automated teller machine.
  3. Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home for more than a day or two.
  4. Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late then contact the sender. It's possible someone intercepted them and will use that information to steal your identity.
  5. Shred personal information. This includes receipts, credit offers, account statements and expired credit cards. This will prevent dumpster divers getting your personal information.
  6. Store personal information in a safe place at home and at work. Don't leave it lying around.
  7. Don't respond to unsolicited requests for personal information. It doesn't matter if that request comes in the mail, over the phone or online, simply do not respond to it.
  8. Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer. Individuals who use Microsoft Windows can get Microsoft Security Essentials for free here.
  9. Check your credit report once a year. The Fair Credit Reporting Act allows all consumers to get a free copy of their report once a year. You can get this, without any credit cards, through this website that was set up by the credit reporting agencies themselves. Check your report more frequently if you suspect someone has gotten access to your account information.
                Protecting yourself from identity theft is your Warrendale Tip of the Week for the week of November 11.

                Thursday, November 07, 2013

                Leland reacts to City Council win

                This past Tuesday was Election Day in Detroit as well as in several other cities across Michigan. Mike Duggan was elected Mayor of Detroit. Equally important, though, were all of the races further down the ballot.

                My friend Ricardo Moore was election to the Detroit Police Commission by an impressive margin. I expect to see great things from him in the coming years.

                Gabe Leland reacts to news of his victory
                Photo by Frank Nemecek
                In addition, former State Representative Gabe Leland was elected to represent District 7, which includes the Warrendale neighborhood, on the City Council. This was a much narrower win.

                I had the pleasure of joining Leland's family and fellow supporters at Starter's Bar and Grill (18426 Plymouth Rd.) for an Election Night celebration. The photo at the right captures Leland's reaction when he got the news by telephone that he had won.

                I congratulate his opponent, John K. Bennett, and his supporters on a hard fought campaign.

                I am confident that Moore and Leland will work with our newly elected mayor to accomplish some great things for Warrendale and the surrounding neighborhoods of Detroit.

                Tuesday, November 05, 2013

                Today is Election Day in Detroit

                Today, my fellow Detroiters, is Election Day. We will elect a new mayor, city council, and - for the first time ever - a police commission that is directly accountable to the residents. This will likely be one of the biggest and most important elections for community in a long-time.

                I encourage everyone to get out and vote. I will be at St. Thomas Aquinas Church (5780 Evergreen Rd.), which is also my polling location, to greet voters and distribute literature for City Council candidate Gabe Leland and Police Commission candidate Ricardo Moore.

                I'll be there from 7 a.m. until approximately 2 p.m. Please feel free to stop by and say "hello." Most importantly, don't forget to vote.

                I will also be tweeting about election day events. If you don't currently follow me on Twitter, my user name is @fnemecek, please feel free to do so.

                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.