Monday, November 27, 2017

Review - 100 Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula Before You Die

100 Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula - Photo by Frank Nemecek
I have made several trips to Michigan's Upper Peninsula over the years and those experiences have made me a huge fan of the new book 100 Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula Before You Die. It was written by Kath Usitalo, who authors the Great Lakes Gazette.

One of the things that I really like about this book is that not only does it cover some of the more famous destinations in Michigan's Upper Peninsula such as Mackinac Island, it also discusses the quirky, fun, and obscure. A few of my favorite items include the Junkyard Art Park in Lakenenland that I've never visited but of which hundreds of people have raved about on TripAdvisor as well as:
  • Seney National Wildlife Refuge, which is a 95,000-acre sanctuary where one can pick wild berries and mushrooms;
  • Copper Peak in Ironwood, which is the world's largest artificial ski jump;
  • Museum of Ojibwa Culture in St. Ignace; and
  • Riverside Pizzeria in Ironwood.
The one thing that I have to take issue with is that, on page 4, Usitalo discussed how there is a friendly debate among residents as to whether a pasty, the unofficial dish of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, should be topped with gravy, ketchup, or butter. Quite frankly, I cannot believe that there is even a debate on this one. Obviously, a pasty should be topped with gravy.

Obviously.

Anyway, it's almost impossible not to plan another trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula after reading this book. I highly recommend it and think it would make a great Christmas gift this holiday season.

100 Things to Do in the Upper Peninsula Before You Die by Kath Usitalo is published by Reedy Press. It's available in bookstores everyone as well as on Amazon.




Thursday, November 16, 2017

Michigan named top spot for photographing fall foliage

Fall foliage - Stock photo by John Kovavich
For the second year in a row, Nikon Inc. has named Michigan as the top spot for photographing fall foliage as a result of the brand’s third annual Fall Foliage competition.

After a month of submissions that nearly totaled 10,000 images, Nikon tallied up the photos from each state and identified the top five states as follows:
  1. Michigan
  2. New York
  3. Colorado
  4. Pennsylvania
  5. New Hampshire
In coordination with the Fall Foliage campaign, Nikon Ambassador Moose Peterson recently offered his tips on how to best photograph outdoor content.

Additionally, for those looking to learn more about photography, Nikon School just released their 2017-2018 curriculum this past Monday, which also includes online classes for all photography levels and backgrounds.

For more information on Nikon School offerings, please visit here.

Mayor Duggan to meet with community

Mayor Mike Duggan - Press photo
Mayor Mike Duggan of Detroit will hold a community meeting near the Warrendale neighborhood. This meeting will happen at Kadesh Baptist Church (20361 Plymouth Rd.), which is approximately a mile north of Warrendale. This meeting will happen on Tuesday, November 28 at 7 p.m. and is expected to adjourn at approximately 8:30 p.m.

This community meeting is an opportunity for residents and other community stakeholders to bring their concerns directly to the Mayor. These meetings happen once each year in each of the seven City Council districts and are mandated by Detroit's City Charter.

Free parking is available at the church. The venue is also conveniently along both the Evergreen and Plymouth Road bus routes.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Insurance reform defeated. What next?

Interior of the Michigan Capitol Building - Photo by Frank Nemecek

The State House of Representatives shot down a bill yesterday that would have lowered auto insurance rates throughout Michigan and in Detroit in particular. The reform bill was defeated by a vote of 45-63, in a sharp rebuke to Mayor Mike Duggan in lobbied strongly for it.

I have argued for years, on this blog and elsewhere, that finding a way to lower auto insurance rates in Detroit was crucial to this city's recovery. We simply cannot continue with so many residents being forced to drive illegally because they cannot afford to spend thousands of dollars for auto insurance nor can we continue to operate where a large portion of our residents live elsewhere on paper in order to get a somewhat normal rate on their insurance.

I give Mayor Duggan an enormous amount of credit for trying repeatedly to get some type of relief from the Michigan Legislature. Others have spent decades trying to get such relief and our mayor has gotten closer to success than any of them.

Still, after suffering under oppressive insurance rates for decades, I believe that it is time to try something different - even if that something might sound unorthodox at first.

It has become apparent that after decades of trying to reform insurance rates, Detroiters must reluctantly accept the fact that - in all likelihood - the Michigan Legislature will never allow auto insurance reform to happen. I could spend hours going over the various reasons why one group or another is steadfastly opposed to change. The bottom line, though, is that Detroiters need reform and Lansing is not going to allow that to happen.

Our only remaining option, therefore, is to bring about reform in a way that Lansing cannot easily interfere with. It is time, I believe, for the City of Detroit to set up its own insurance company - an insurance company that would be set up to deliver more affordable coverage to Detroiters.

It will not be easy or cheap for the City of Detroit to set up its own insurance company. There a multitude of licensing requirements to starting such a company, not the least of which is having an initial pool of cash on hand to pay any claims that might come about during the early days of the company's operations.

I will not sugar the size of those upfront costs. It will likely cost millions of dollars upfront to get such a new insurance company operating for Detroiters.

Instead, I will simply point out the following:

  • It took $416 million in 2016 dollars to build Comerica Park with much of that cost being born by Detroit's taxpayers;
  • Ford Field had a construction price tag of $666 million in 2016 dollars with Detroit's taxpayers paying much of that cost;
  • Taxpayers also spent $279 million to renovate Cobo Center in 2010; and
  • More recently, the Little Caesars Arena was built at a cost of $826.9 million with Detroit's taxpayers covering a healthy portion of that cost.
While I do not mean to disparage the value of these project, I do mean to point out that Detroiters found a way to come with approximately $2.2 billion to cover their costs.

$2.2 billion.

Let there be no mistake, the City of Detroit could establish its own insurance company - one that would provide quality auto insurance to Detroiters at much more reasonable rates than we currently see - for far, far less than $2.2 billion.

Detroiters found a way to get it done for each of these projects, It's time to do it again and establish our own insurance company.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

PBS looks at rain gardens in Warrendale

Film crew from Detroit Public Television sets up - Photo by Frank Nemecek

I was interviewed yesterday by a film crew from Detroit Public Television, who was working on behalf of the show SciTech Now on PBS. An upcoming episode of the show will examine the four bioretention gardens in the Warrendale neighborhood as well as their impact on our neighborhood and the rest of Detroit. Barb Matney, president of the Warrendale Community Organization, was also interviewed for this episode.

The four bioretention gardens in Warrendale were designed by researchers at the University of Michigan. They are designed to soak up and help treat some of the rainwater that would otherwise go into Detroit's sewage treatment stream. More information about these rain gardens is available from my friends at CityLab over on their site.

I am personally glad to see some of the vacant lands in Detroit put to a productive use. These rain gardens improve the local environment. They also make it less likely for flooding to happen in our neighborhood and improve our overall quality of life.

The four bioretention gardens in the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit are located at:

  • 8027 Greenview Ave.;
  • 8287 Evergreen Rd.;
  • 8084 Stahelin; and
  • 8091 Vaughan St.
SciTech Now air regularly on PBS (channel 56 in Detroit) and online. The producers were certain when the episode focusing on Warrendale's rain garden will air. As soon as I learn the date that it will air, I will share it here and on this blog's Facebook page.

All of this is why PBS and their look at the bioretention gardens in Detroit are my Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week for this week.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Cybersecurity tips from the FBI


In conjunction with National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is re-iterating the growing concern of cybercriminals targeting unsecure Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The number of IoT devices in use is expected to increase from 5 billion in 2016 to an estimated 20 to 50 billion by 2020. Once an IoT device is compromised, cybercriminals can facilitate attacks on other systems or networks, send spam e-mails, steal personal information, interfere with physical safety, and leverage compromised devices for participation in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

IoT refers to a network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings, and other items (often called “smart devices”) embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity enabling these objects to collect and exchange data. Below are examples of IoT devices:
  • Home automation devices (e.g., devices which control lighting, heating and cooling, electricity, sprinklers, locks);
  • Security systems (e.g., alarm systems, surveillance cameras);
  • Medical devices (e.g., wireless heart monitors, insulin dispensers);
  • Wearables (e.g., fitness trackers, clothing, watches);
  • Smart appliances (e.g., refrigerators, vacuums, stoves);
  • Office equipment (e.g., wireless printers, computer mouse, outlets, interactive whiteboards);
  • Entertainment devices (e.g., DVRs, TVs, gaming systems, music players, toys); and
  • Hubs (devices that control other IoT devices through a single app).
As more businesses and homeowners use Internet-connected devices to enhance company efficiency or lifestyle conveniences, their connection to the Internet provides new vulnerabilities for malicious cyber actors to exploit. In 2016 and 2017, cyber actors have demonstrated the ease in which IoT device vulnerabilities can be compromised and leveraged. Deficient security capabilities, difficulties in patching vulnerabilities, and a lack of consumer security awareness provide cyber actors with opportunities to exploit these devices.

In September 2016, cyber-actors using the Mirai botnet infected IoT devices—including routers, cameras, and digital video recorders—for the purpose of conducting DDoS attacks. The actors exploited openly accessible devices via the Internet with common default usernames and passwords.

In February 2017, a hacker compromised more than 160,000 printers with open connections to the Internet by scanning for those with specific open ports. The hacker claimed the devices were part of a botnet and sent print jobs to the affected printers.

In August 2017, a cyber actor released a list of over 33,000 usernames and passwords for IoT devices, including cameras, DVRs, and routers. While the majority of these devices were located in Asia and China, many of the devices were also found in the United States. A researcher conducted a test against this list and discovered many of these devices were almost instantly exploited, often taking less than two minutes between discovery and infection.

Unsecured or poorly secured devices provide opportunities for cybercriminals to intrude on private networks and gain access to other devices and information attached to these networks.

Cybercriminals often take advantage of default usernames and passwords to merge IoT devices with others into a large botnet. These botnets can facilitate DDoS attacks against popular Web sites or network resources. These attacks cause Web sites to run slow, prevent users from being able to connect, or potentially take down multiple Web sites associated with the network under attack.

Consumer Protection and Defense
It can be difficult to determine if an IoT device has been compromised. However, there are many reputable resources and tools available that search for vulnerable network devices. The following recommendations can be implemented to help secure IoT devices from cyber attacks.
  • Change default usernames and passwords. Many default passwords are collected and posted on the Internet. Do not use common words and simple phrases or passwords containing easily obtainable personal information, such as important dates or names of children or pets.
  • If the device does not allow the capability to change the access password, ensure the device providing wireless Internet service has a strong password and encryption.
  • Isolate IoT devices on their own protected networks.
  • Configure network firewalls to block traffic from unauthorized IP addresses and disable port forwarding.
  • Review and implement device manufacturer security recommendations, if available. Consider turning devices off when not in use.
  • Research your options when shopping for new IoT devices. When conducting research, use reputable Web sites that specialize in cybersecurity analysis, provide reviews on consumer products, and support consumer advocacy.
  • Look for products from manufacturers with a track record of providing security to their Internet-connected products. Look for companies that offer firmware and software updates, and identify how and when these updates are provided.
  • Identify what data is collected and stored by the devices, including whether you can opt out of this collection, how long the data is stored, whether it is encrypted in storage, and if the data is shared with a third party. Also, identify what protections and policies are in place in case there is a data breach.
  • Ensure all IoT devices are up to date and security patches are incorporated when available.
  • Use current cybersecurity best practices when connecting IoT devices to wireless networks and when connecting remotely to an IoT device.
  • Invest in a secure router with robust security and authentication.

Most routers will allow users to whitelist, or specify which devices are authorized to connect to a local network. Whitelisting can be used to identify malicious network traffic from unauthorized devices and prevent them from making a connection.

Additional Resources
For additional information on cyber threats to IoT devices, please refer to "Internet of Things Poses Opportunities For Cyber Crime," available at https://www.IC3.gov/media/2015/150910.aspx and "Internet-Connected Toys Could Present Privacy and Contact Concerns for Children," available at https://www.IC3.gov/media/2017/170717.aspx.

Victim Reporting
If you suspect your IoT device(s) may have been compromised, contact your local FBI office and/or file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

These tips are brought to you by the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog as part of our Tip of the Week feature. Please check back next week for more advice for your home, money, and life. Please be sure to check out the rest of our tips by clicking here.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Michigan's namesake ship arrives in South Korea

USS Michigan arrives in South Korea/Photo courtesy of the US Navy
The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan arrived at Busan, South Korea on October 13 for a routine visit during a regularly scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific. During the visit Sailors will experience the culture and history of the Republic of Korea (ROK), as well as foster outstanding relations between the U.S. Navy, ROK military and the local Busan community.

“The U.S. and ROK navies have always enjoyed a strong relationship. Today, our relationship is stronger than it has ever been and our ironclad partnership is further reinforced by this visit from Michigan," said Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea. “Michigan Sailors were warmly welcomed by the ROK Navy today and I know they’ll receive the same wonderful welcome from the local community during their visit to Busan."

USS Michigan is one of four Ohio-class guided-missile submarines.  The Navy’s guided-missile submarines provide the Navy with unprecedented strike and special operation mission capabilities from a stealthy, clandestine platform. Armed with tactical missiles and equipped with superior communications capabilities, guided-missile submarines are capable of launching missile strikes and supporting Special Operation Forces missions.

 “Throughout this deployment, the crew has been extremely professional and dedicated,” said Capt. Gustavo Gutierrez, Michigan’s commanding officer. “Everyone on board is mission ready, and I’m proud of being their commanding officer.”

Measuring more than 560 feet long and weighing more than 18,000 tons when submerged, Michigan is one of the largest submarines in the world.

“We are looking forward to working with our [Republic of Korea Navy] partners and experiencing the Korean culture, which is a first for many of us,” said Gutierrez.

Michigan is the second submarine of the Ohio-class of ballistic missile submarines and guided missile submarines, and the third U.S. Navy Michigan to bear the name. Michigan is homeported in Bremerton, Washington and is forward deployed from Guam.

Editor's note: This post is a part of this blog's semi-regular Friday Focus series, which endeavors to highlight news and opinions that, in my opinion, don't get as much attention as they deserve.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Keeping contaminants out of Detroit's recycling


To increase recycling rates, the City of Detroit created a single-stream recycling system a few years ago. They thought it would be easy. However, over the last five years, the value of recovered waste has plummeted while the effort to extract it has risen. One of the major challenges in single-stream recycling is contamination.

Contaminants - or those dirty, rotten scoundrels - are what happens when non-recyclable items are mixed with recyclables. Innocent papers smeared with food or grease, paper towels, paper plates, napkins, the dreaded Styrofoam - these are some of the reasons that tons of recyclables are rejected from Detroit's recycling system each year.

There’s a general rule of thumb we use to help those who are not sure if something is recyclable or not recyclable: When in Doubt, Throw it Out.

Contaminants pickup by season too. In the spring there will be garden hoses and plant containers. During the holidays, there will be broken Christmas lights and foil wrapping paper. So let’s take a look at the top three most common contaminants found in recycling today. Keep in mind that every community is different and some accept things curbside where others do not so check with your municipality for a current list of what can be recycled. For the most part, here are the top three things that material recovery facilities do not like:

Plastic Grocery Bags.  Number one thing facilities pull out during hand sorting. These bags can muck up the machinery and close it down. Grocery Bags can be taken back to your local grocer to be disposed of properly.

Speaking of plastic grocery bags: do not put recyclables in them and then into your cart. These would be automatically pulled and sent to a landfill. Workers should never open plastic bags to sort through recycling due to safety reasons.

Pizza Boxes. Some municipalities will allow these to be picked up curbside if you take the insert out and throw it away, but the truth of the matter is that a pizza box can ruin an entire batch of slurry. The delicious cheese that we love on our pizzas is greasy. That grease permeates the cardboard. Cardboard is mixed with water and squeeze-pressed to make new paper and that grease will cause holes in paper.

It’s really that simple. Oil and water do not mix and the facility will generally pull pizza boxes out during hand sorting.

Styrofoam. Expanded polystyrene, more commonly known as Styrofoam, is problematic to recycle. The problem is the weight. The exact reason that makes Styrofoam so attractive to be used in packaging is the same reason it is difficult to recycle.

Profits from recycling are calculated per pound. With material so lightweight, it takes more money to cover the cost of transportation, handling, and processing. To process it so that it is cost efficient requires costly equipment. While it can be recycled, it isn’t accepted curbside because it is not cost effective to do so. Your best bet is to avoid Styrofoam when possible.

Other contaminants include food, trash, hardcover books, light bulbs, electronics, cookware (ceramics, plates, cups), window/mirror glass and construction debris.

These tips are brought to you by the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog as part of our Tip of the Week feature. Please check back next week for more advice for your home, money, and life.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Wendy Hilliard returns to Detroit for National Gymnastics Day

Children learn gymnastics through the Wendy Hillard Gymnastics Foundation - Press photo

World-class gymnast and Detroit-native Wendy Hillard is returning to Detroit to celebrate National Gymnastics Day with a special event at the Joe Dumars Field House (1120 W State Fair) on Saturday, September 16 from 10 am until noon. Hilliard was the first African-American to represent the United States in rhythmic gymnastics in an international competition, including three World Championships (1979, 1981, and 1983).

At this event, aspiring local youth will experience a free gymnastics lesson from elite athletes, parents can sign their children up for the new classes, and attendees can hear from Wendy Hilliard about her experience as a gymnast. These free and low-cost gymnastics lessons are presented for urban youth by the Wendy Hillard Gymnastics Foundation.

Brenda Jones, President of the Detroit City Council, will also attend this event. She is expected to present Hillard with the Spirit of Detroit award.

National Gymnastics Day is an annual celebration of the sport that is currently in its 19th year. It is sponsored by Gymnastics USA. It is also celebrated in Australia, the Philippines, South Africa, and the United Arab Emirates.

Editor's note: This post is a part of this blog's semi-regular Friday Focus series, which endeavors to highlight news and opinions that, in my opinion, don't get as much attention as they deserve.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Chris Polite releases new indie album


Detroit is a town that is famous for cars and music.

Detroit-native Bill Haley ushered in the rock and roll era in 1955 with "Rock Around the Clock."

In 1959, Barry Gordie created a "Motown sound" that embodied the streets of Detroit into the music of local artists like Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye.

Techno was born here.

Artists from Detroit have reached the top in every music genre from gospel to rock to hip hop.

All of this is why I'm excited that Warrendale resident Chris Polite has released his newest indie album Death in Disguise EP. It is produced by Herschel Boone.

Death in Disguise features the new single from Chris Polite "Think It Thru." The video for that song was shot in Detroit by Diego Cruz and is embedded above.

You can find the Death in Disguise EP for purchase on iTunes and Google Play. It's also available on all of the major music streaming services.

Death in Disguise EP from Chris Polite - it's your Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week for September 5.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Flying over the Warrendale neighborhood in Detroit


One particular YouTube user flew a drone over much of the Warrendale neighborhood. The resulting video shows our section of Detroit from Ford Road north to Warren Avenue and from the Southfield Freeway east to Evergreen Road.

I have never seen the Warrendale neighborhood from this vantage point before. I have to admit that Detroit looks good from the air.

In fact, when I first saw what it looked like to fly over Detroit, I knew that I had to publish his video here so that everyone else in Detroit and beyond could see it.

And so I am.

Ladies and gentlemen, flying over the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit is your Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Review - "Forever and a Death"

Forever and a Death  by Donald E. Westlake (Hard Case Crime)
Cover painting for the novel by Paul Mann

Like so many great novels, there is a story behind Forever and a Death by Donald E. Westlake that rivals the suspense of the fictional prose itself.

Donald Westlake had long ago established himself as one of the grandmasters of the suspense novel. Newsweek proclaimed him to be, "one of the great writers of the 20th century" while the San Francisco Chronicle observed years ago that "Westlake's ability to construct an action story filled with unforeseen twists and quadruple-crosses is unparalleled."

It was with that as background that United Artists Studio in Hollywood commissioned Donald Westlake to write an original screenplay for an upcoming James Bond movie. What Westlake eventually produced for them was a thrilling tale of a businessman who seeks revenge against the entire island nation of Hong Kong.

Unfortunately, the studio was nervous about the political implications of his story. They stuck his screenplay on a shelf and largely forgot about it.

Not wanting to waste what he thought was an exceptionally good story, Westlake converted this tale into a novel with a protagonist other than James Bond. The result of that was this novel, Forever and a Death.

Unfortunately, Donald E. Westlake died on December 31, 2008, before this book could be published. After two decades of delay, this story is finally available for readers to savor - complete with an afterword by Jeff Kleeman, one of the producers who helped to connect Westlake with the James Bond project in the first place.

One of the things that impressed me about this novel is that, even though Westlake wrote it decades ago, time did not dull its heart-pounding edge. The reader will no doubt notice something that places it as having happened in the not too distant past - with its references to pay phones, fax machines, and other things that have largely disappeared from everyday life - but there is still a thrilling quality to Westlake's writing that is as timeless as ever.

The characters are vivid. The dialogue is sharp. The way police inspectors are skeptical at first but eventually swayed into action by the evidence of our villain's plot rings amazingly true.

James Bond illustration by Tumisu/Pixabay
I highly recommend Forever and a Death by Donald E. Westlake for any reader who enjoys James Bond stories, devours the original works of Tom Clancy, or simply loves a good thriller.

Forever and a Death by Donald E. Westlake is available from Amazon.com or from your local bookseller.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Loud explosions in Rouge Park today - don't worry

Bomb squad vehicle - Photo by Raymond Wamsgans/Flickr
The Detroit Police Department has announced that their bomb squad will perform training exercises in Rouge Park this afternoon. Residents and visitors are cautioned that they may hear loud explosions but there is no cause for alarm - it's only a training exercise.

According to a statement from the Detroit Police Department, these exercises will happen at the archery range in Rouge Park, which is near Joy Rd. and Spinoza Dr. This is expected to begin at approximately 1:30 p.m.

Residents and visitors are also asked to avoid the area around the Rouge Park archery range while this training exercise is happening.

All 5 endorsed candidates move on to November

The primary election was this past Tuesday across Detroit and the rest of Michigan. It narrowed the field from dozens of contenders to the top two candidates who will move on to the general election in November for the offices of mayor of Detroit, members of the city council, and city clerk.

This blog made a total of five endorsements for these important offices in Detroit. I am thrilled that all five candidates have made it past the primary and will move on to the general election, which is set for Tuesday, November 7.

Congratulations and best wishes, therefore, go out to:
  • Mike Duggan for Mayor of Detroit;
  • Gabe Leland for City Council (District 7);
  • Brenda Jones for City Council (at-large);
  • Janee Ayers for City Council (at-large); and
  • Garlin Gilchrist for City Clerk.
I wish each of these candidates the best of luck as we move forward the election season in Detroit.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Detroit Police President Condemn President's Trump call for mistreatment of prisoners

President Donald J. Trump - Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr
During a speech to police officers in Long Island, New York, President Donald J. Trump called for a harsher treatment of prisoners who are taken into custody. "Please don't be too nice," the President pleaded to law enforcement. In response, the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners passed a resolution last week that condemned his remarks.

The Police Commissioners in Detroit stated in their resolution that rough or abusive treatment of prisoners is not only contrary to the Constitution, it is also counterproductive to efforts of community policing. They also remarked that, "along with (President Trump's) actions through the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, continue to roll back police practices to a rudimentary era of physical abuse, unlawful confinement, and wholesale discrimination that endangers all of our human rights."

Their resolution also condemned President Trump for using "an ethnic slur in his speech, a stark reminder of how ingrained discrimination has been in law enforcement and how some officials have used police powers systemically to intimidate people based on their skin color, religion, sexual orientation, or heritage, as Irish immigrants once experienced. It was especially disturbing that President Trump’s audience included Suffolk County police officers, whose former chief right now faces prison for beating a man."

President Donald Trump has not responded to the Police Commissioner's resolution as of today. If he does have a response at some point in the future, it will be reported on this blog.

The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners consists of seven individuals who are elected by district as well as four members who are appointed by Mayor Mike Duggan. They are mandated by the City Charter set policy for the Detroit Police Department, help to set the budget for the department, and other relevant matters for our police.

More details about the President Trump's speech - as well as a video of it - are available here. The full text of this resolution from the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners is available here.

Review: "Two Lost Boys" by L.F. Robertson

Courtroom - Photo by Faye Rollinson/Wikimedia
Two Lost Boys is the stunning debut crime novel by LF. Robertson. The characters are thoroughly captivating. Her dialogue rings with the kind of truth that only an author who had spent the past two decades in the trenches as a defense attorney can muster.

It tells the story of Janet Moodie, a death row appeals attorney in California who was recently widowed. Her client is Marion ‘Andy’ Hardy who was convicted along with his brother Emory of the rape and murder of two women. Emory received a life sentence while Andy got the death penalty; labeled the ringleader despite his low IQ and Emory’s dominant personality.

Convinced that Andy’s previous lawyers missed mitigating evidence that would have kept him off death row, Janet investigates Andy’s past. She discovers a sordid and damaged upbringing, a series of errors on the part of his previous counsel, and most worrying of all, the possibility that there is far more to the murders than was first thought.

There is never any doubt that Andy is guilty. However, by the end of this story, I feel that even those most jaded of us would find themselves if this character deserves to die.

Two Lost Boys takes the reader behind the scene to offer a look at a part of America's criminal justice system that few ever see. It does this without losing the reader. In doing so, I could help but think that this novel should be a serious contender for the Silver Gavel Awards.

I highly recommend Two Lost Boys by L.F. Robertson for anyone who enjoys crime stories or simply loves a really good story that is well-told.

Two Lost Boys by L.F. Robertson is available on Amazon.com.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Remembering the Twin Pines Dairy


The Twin Pines Farm Dairy used to have one of their main production facilities near the Warrendale neighborhood. It was on Greenfield Rd. north of Tireman in Detroit and produced milk for much of the region.

More than a few people ask when did the dairy close or whatever happened to it. The dairy itself is still operating at the same location. Although, the Twin Pines brand was absorbed into the C.F. Burger Creamery on May 1, 1986 according to filings with the State of Michigan.

As a matter of full disclosure, I should mention that once upon a time, this dairy supplied my grade school with milk for our lunches. I used to volunteer to get said milk for my classroom, mostly because it enabled me to get out of class a few minutes early.

Around 11:15 each morning, a milk truck would pull into the school parking lot where it would deliver crate after crate of regular and chocolate milk for my classmates and myself. I dutifully lugged our milk back to my classroom content that this was a thousand times more enjoyable than listening to some nun drone on about whatever our lesson was that day.

As a sidenote, I used to wonder what was wrong with any kid who ordered regular milk when they could have gotten chocolate milk. I mean, really. Everyone knows that chocolate milk is the best milk.

I was intrigued, therefore, when I found a video from 1957, which I embedded above. It documents both the work that the City of Detroit Health Department used to do to ensure the milk was safe as well as Twin Pines Farm Dairy itself.

This was produced more than a dozen years before I was even born. Regardless, I could still taste the milk from my childhood as I watched it.

And now, I have this sudden desire to haul a somewhat heavy crate up a flight of stairs. Some memories never die.

I hope you enjoy this Warrendale Memory as much as I do.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Rooster in Warrendale?

The rooster in question
Photo by Paula Sharpe
Is anyone in the neighborhood missing a rooster?

I ask because one has shown up in the vicinity of Paul and Warwick Streets. It does seem a bit odd.

Yes, I did say a rooster. Yes, it is here in Detroit.

This, by the way, isn't the first time that a rooster has been seen in the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit, although the last time was almost 11 years ago. The folks over at Animal Corner tell me that the average lifespan of a chicken is only 5 -7 years so I doubt it is the same bird returning for another photo op.

Still, it is most unusual to see a rooster wandering free in the streets of Detroit. I'm just glad that someone sent me a photo of it while he's here.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

City of Detroit releases water quality report

Water
The City of Detroit released their annual water quality report for 2016 earlier today. It documents that the water coming out of our taps meets or exceeds all state and federal standards. A copy of this eight-page report is available on-line here.

Copies of their previous water quality reports from 2008 - 2015 2006 are also available on-line as is their report from 2007. All of these reports can be viewed or downloaded here.

These reports document the quality of tap water throughout Detroit and its surrounding suburbs that are serviced by the Great Lakes Water Authority.

Update @ 2:53 p.m.
After I posted this article, I realized that this is the 2,000th post that I have published on the Warrendale (Detroit) Blog since its inception in December of 2005.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Dixon is demolished

Remnants of Dixon Elementary School - Photo by Frank Nemecek
All that is left of the long-shuttered Dixon Elementary School is a large pile of rubble and overgrown grass. The building itself has been demolished.

The demolition crews will remove the remaining rubble in the coming days. Hopefully, the grass will also get cut sooner rather than later.

The bigger question is: what will happen to this property once demolition is completed?

Whatever happens, it will be covered in this blog.

Additional photos of the site are below.

Some of the remnants of Dixon Elementary - Photo by Frank Nemecek

Tall grass at the site of Dixon Elementary - Photo by Frank Nemecek

Monday, June 19, 2017

Your children and their smile

Dr. Jamie Reynolds
Braces are often a rite of passage for middle school students with overbites or crooked teeth. However, the oral problems those braces are solving likely started way back in elementary school – possibly as early as the first or second grade.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that the American Association of Orthodontists recommends children make their first visit to an orthodontist no later than age 7.

“That doesn’t mean they are going to get braces,” says Dr. Jamie Reynolds, an orthodontist, national and international lecturer and author of World Class Smiles Made in Detroit. “In fact, it’s pretty unusual to put braces on a child that young.”

But with those early visits, the orthodontist might be able to head off problems before they get worse. Reynolds says these are a few of the things an orthodontist would be checking with your child:

  • Are the jaws growing properly? You would think the upper jaw and the lower jaw grow pretty much in tandem, but you would be wrong. The upper jaw stops growing around age 8 while the lower jaw keeps on growing like the rest of the body. That means orthodontists can spot problems with the upper jaw earlier and recommend treatment if it’s needed, Dr. Reynolds explains.
  • Is there enough room for the teeth to grow in? Sometimes permanent teeth don’t have enough room to grow in properly, possibly because a baby tooth is in the way. Generally, baby teeth fall out on their own, but occasionally a stubborn one needs to be pulled so that the permanent tooth doesn’t start growing in an awkward direction and become impacted. “Removing a misbehaving baby tooth is often the simplest and best solution to a problem that could become much bigger,” Dr. Reynolds adds.
  • Are there too few or too many teeth? One of the things an orthodontist would do when examining a young child is to make sure the correct number of permanent teeth are forming. Extra teeth can be removed, but if a child is a tooth or two short the orthodontist will wait until all the permanent teeth are in before starting any treatment. “Before I went to dental school, I assumed everyone had the same number of teeth – 32,” Reynolds says. “But it’s not unusual at all to see people with missing teeth or with extra teeth.”
  • Does the child snore?  Snoring is a potential sign of sleep apnea, a condition in which a person stops breathing while sleeping. It can cause serious health problems and has been diagnosed in children as early as 4 or 5 years old. One common and treatable type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, in which the airways become partially or completely blocked by the tongue or fatty tissues of the throat. An orthodontist can widen the child’s palate so the upper jaw expands, and that expands the nasal passages. It also provides more room for the tongue so it rests on the roof of the mouth and not the bottom.

“Usually, orthodontists offer complimentary exams so it really is a good idea to have your child checked out by an orthodontist at age 7,” Reynolds says. “The odds are that no treatment will be necessary. But if problems are starting to develop, early detection could make a big difference.”

Dr. Jamie Reynolds is recognized on an annual basis as one of the top orthodontists in metro Detroit. His book, World Class Smiles Made in Detroit, puts an emphasis on the many benefits of having a great smile. Reynolds – who is a national and international lecturer on high-tech digital orthodontics and practice management – attended the University of Michigan for both his undergrad education and dental studies, and did his orthodontic residency at the University of Detroit-Mercy.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Rollover accident on Southfield Freeway

Rollover accident on the Southfield Freeway
Photo by Frank Nemecek
There has been a rollover accident on the southbound Southfield Freeway at Paul Street. The Detroit Police Department and the Michigan State Police are on the scene. They have the freeway blocked to only one lane on the southbound side.

While the northbound side is open, there are gawker delays in both directions of the freeway. These delays appear to stretch for at least half a mile and include the service drive.

Motorists are advised to avoid the area.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Demolition begins on Dixon Elementary

Demolition work on the former Dixon Elementary School
Photo by Frank Nemecek
Demolition work has begun on the former Dixon Elementary School on Tireman at Minock Street in the Warrendale neighborhood in Detroit. The long-vacant school building will be entirely gone in the coming days.

As of right now, it's not clear what will happen to the underlying land once the vacant school is removed.

TARDIS comes to Detroit

Will the Doctor mind if I borrow this?
Photo by Dan Zemke
The TARDIS has landed in Detroit. It's currently in the Woodbridge neighborhood - at the northeast corner of Vermont St. and W. Warren Ave. - not far from Warrendale at all.

Fans of Dr. Who already know that the TARDIS is time machine/spacecraft that allows the Doctor to travel to any point in space or time in the universe. Its exterior appearance merely resembles a British police call box from the 1960s.

What many don't already know is that the TARDIS is also a free lending library that serves Detroiters. Anyone in the area is welcome to stop by and open its doors. One can then either take any of the books inside or leave a book for others to enjoy.

There are more than 100 books inside the TARDIS already. These titles range from non-fiction to most genres of fiction. Anyone could find a book they might enjoy inside of it.

TARDIS, of course, is an acronym for Totally Awesome Reading Dispensary In Society. There are some fans of the Dr. Who show believe that it stands for something utterly ridiculous like Time And Relative Dimension In Space. However, as I have already alluded to, such theories are utterly ridiculous.

Interior of the TARDIS
Photo by Frank Nemecek
I have been authorized to reveal that the current Time Lord who pilots this particular TARDIS uses the name Dan Zemke while he is occupying our current segment of time/space. His precise relationship to the Doctor is not known at this time.

For those who are interested in making a road trip this fall, the TARDIS is scheduled to make an appearance at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids. If all goes according to plan, it will land at the corner of Monroe and Pearl Streets in front of the PNC Building.

Of course, knowing how the TARDIS moves through time and space, it may already be there. That, however, is a subject for another blog post.

Anyway, more information is available on the Time Lord-approved Facebook page for this library here.

I simply want to add that the TARDIS is the Cool Warrendale Thing of the Week, even those it's located outside of the Warrendale neighborhood. After all, anyone who has ever watched an episode of Dr. Who knows that time and space are relative concepts.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Mayor Duggan joins in supporting the Paris Accord

Mayor Mike Duggan of Detroit
File photo
In response to President Donald J. Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, a total of 211 mayors of American cities - representing a combined population of 54 million Americans - have pledged publicly to meet the environmental goals of the accord in their respective cities. Mayor Mike Duggan of Detroit was one of 11 Mayors from Michigan to join this coalition.

Mayor Duggan is joined by fellow Michigan Mayors Christopher Taylor of Ann Arbor, Brenda Hess of Buchanan, David Coulter of Ferndale, Karen Weaver of Flint, Rosalynn Bliss of Grand Rapids, Karen Majewski of Hamtramck, William Sprague of Lapeer, Daniel Guzzi of Rockwood, Jim Carruthers of Traverse City, and Amanda Maria Edmonds of Ypsilanti. The full list of mayors from across the United States who have made this pledge is available on-line here.

The fact that Mayor Duggan has joined in supporting the Paris Acord should not be surprising given his overall record of accomplishments as Mayor of Detroit. During his first term of office, he established a citywide curbside recycling program - something that Mayors of Detroit dating back to Coleman A. Young have talked about but failed to implement. He also:
  • Oversaw a citywide installation of new LED streetlights that are brighter and more energy efficient than the old ones;
  • Made significant improvements to mass transit in Detroit;
  • Included dedicated bike lanes for many streets in Detroit;
  • Worked with DTE Energy to bring a solar energy facility to Northwest Detroit; and
  • Supported bioretention gardens in Warrendale that capture excess stormwater before it enters our sewer system.
I want to thank Mayor Duggan and the other 10 mayors from Michigan for their leadership on this issue. I hope that as the days and weeks go on, more mayors will join them.

Update @ 4:25 p.m.
Since sharing this post on social media, I have received several comments about what the Paris Agreement does or doesn't do. Almost none of them are accurate.

Therefore, in the interest of promoting an intelligent, civil dialogue, I want to add that the full-text of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is available here.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Stay sober this Memorial Day weekend

Tequila - Photo by Miguel Prado
Here comes the summer drinking season—Memorial Day, June graduations and weddings, Fourth of July, the beach, and barbecues!

What could go wrong?

Plenty, if you don’t have a plan for getting through the summer sober.

In Alcoholics Anonymous, we call the period from Thanksgiving through Christmas and New Year the "Bermuda Triangle" of sobriety—many alkies come in, but not all make it through.

If anything, summer is more dangerous for people in recovery, because there are so many social cues to drink.

What’s a recovering alkie or addict to do?

Here’s some kitchen-tested advice that gets passed along the Twelve Step meetings as holiday periods approach.

No. 1: Have an exit strategy.

Even before you get to the event, whether it’s a barbecue, a wedding, or holiday party, have a plan for leaving as soon as you feel uncomfortable. When everybody’s drinking, the pace of conversation and behavior, in general, seems to suddenly accelerate.

This is an extremely uncomfortable moment for people newly in recovery, and sometimes for people who have been clean and sober a long time.

When that moment arises, you want to have a plan for leaving. Did you come in your own car? Can you call an Uber or a cab? Will public transportation work? Or can you just walk out of there? Determine your exit strategy even before you enter. Don’t stick around once the drinking heats up. You won’t be missed. Everyone else will be too drunk to remember whether you stayed or left.

No. 2: Get a drink.

As soon as you get to the event, go to the bar or beverage area and get yourself a soft drink or juice—and carry it with you everywhere. People are far less likely to offer you a drink, or force a drink on you if you’re already holding a drink.

If people ask you what you’re drinking, tell the truth. The more insistent they get that you should be drinking, the more likely it is that they need a program, too.

If you put your drink down, even for a microsecond, it’s no longer your drink. Go back to the bar or beverage area and get a new one. That’s because alkies have this very slick trick of switching out their beverage "accidentally on purpose."

"I thought it was my Coke!" we exclaim pitifully. "How could I have known that it was actually someone else’s rum and Coke?"

It doesn’t even matter if you are maintaining visual contact with the drink—once it hits the table, it’s no longer yours. Go back and get a fresh one.

No. 3: Remain anonymous.

You don’t have to tell people that you are now sober in Alcoholics Anonymous or clean in another Twelve Step program. It’s nobody’s business. Sometimes, the newly sober tend to "overshare" with people in our lives. You are not in a Twelve Step meeting when you are at a party featuring alcohol (or other substances). You are out in the big, bad world, where no one cares that you are clean.

You do not owe anyone an explanation for your choice not to drink. Your sobriety is, in fact, none of their business. You do not need to share that vital information with anyone. Remember that the last name of every Twelve Step program is "Anonymous."

No. 4: Stay home.

There is no law that says that newly clean and sober people must test their sobriety or abstinence at every family or social event that comes along. If you’re feeling shaky about your recovery, don’t tempt fate. We love to do it, but ultimately, it could be a self-defeating choice.

If you feel that a particular event may be too much of a test for your recovery, make up an excuse and go to a meeting instead. Give your own sobriety a chance.
So there you have it—four ways to stay clean and sober through the often treacherous summer holiday season. Come Labor Day, you’ll be sober as a judge…instead of having to appear in front of one!

Publisher's note: This guest commentary is presented by New York Times bestselling author Michael Graubart has published Sober Dad: The Manual for Perfectly Imperfect Parenting (Hazelden).

Monday, May 22, 2017

Volunteers needed to help Detroiters avoid foreclosure

Home in Warrendale - Photo by Frank Nemecek
Each year thousands of Detroit residents face property tax foreclosure. The United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC) will conduct door-to-door outreach for those Detroit residents facing foreclosure to direct them to resources, payment plans, and counseling services designed to save their home.

We are asking for volunteers to join UCHC and commit to five hours of door to door canvassing to help at risk Detroiters save their home. UCHC will provide all volunteers with training to be able to go out and canvas according to their own schedules.

Previous canvassing experience is preferred, but not required to volunteer. Interested candidates should email Michele Oberholtzer at moberholtzer@uchcdetroit.org by May 26 to sign up.

For more information on UCHC, please visit http://www.uchcdetroit.org/.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Police chase ends tragically in Detroit

Michigan State Police investigate a crash on Ashton
Photo by Frank Nemecek
What appears to have been a chase involving the Michigan State Police in the Warrendale neighborhood of Detroit has ended badly this evening. A white Chrysler 300 sedan hit two parked vehicles and crashed into a tree on Ashton, just north of Paul, at approximately 6:30 this evening.

Police officers on the scene declined to comment due to their on-going investigation. However, neighbors in the area reported that two individuals in a car being chased died in this crash.

Michigan State Police have Ashton, between Whitlock and Paul Streets, closed for their investigation. State troopers have canvassed the block asking residents about they might have seen and if they have any camera footage that might show details of the chase.

More news as this story develops.

Police cars block off Paul St at the Southfield Fwy.
Photo by Frank Nemecek
Update @ 9:14 p.m.
According to neighbors, it would appear that the Michigan State Police broke off their pursuit as soon as it headed into a residential neighborhood. The individuals that they were chasing, however, continued to flee and subsequently hit two other vehicles before slamming into a tree.

More news as this story develops.

Update @ 10:21 p.m.
This pursuit reportedly started on the Southfield Freeway when Michigan state troopers noticed that the driver was not wearing a seat belt and had tinted windows. They attempted to pull the driver over to issue a citation.

Unfortunately, the driver attempted to flee rather than pull over.

More news at this story develops.

Update @ 10:32 p.m.
The Detroit Fire Department is currently at the scene. They are cutting the mangled sedan open so the remains of the driver and passenger can be removed from this vehicle.

Update @ 10:39 p.m.
According to a neighbor who lives near the crash site, the impact was severe enough that the engine block of that car dislodged from the vehicle. It then continued traveling for a few more feet before landing on the ground.

Any additional updates will have to wait until tomorrow morning.

Update - Saturday, April 1 @ 10:59 a.m.
The crash site as of this morning - Photo by Frank Nemecek
The wreckage from this crash is largely cleared at this point. The yellow police tape has been removed. Ashton is once again one to vehicular traffic and residents are going about their daily routines.

The tree that the fleeing vehicle slammed into, however, still stands with obvious damage to its trunk - a reminder of the spot where two foolish individuals lost their life.

Debris is still littered along the road and sidewalks. I found pieces of the destroyed Chrysler 300 sedan as far as 60 feet from the crash site.

I suspect that residents who live near this spot will continue to find small pieces of that car for days or weeks to come.

Debris from the crash - Photo by Frank Nemecek
All of this will be a lingering reminder of why it's a terrible idea to flee from the police, especially over something as minor as a traffic ticket. The driver probably had some other reason for wanting to run - a warrant for his arrest, a suspended license, or some other reason that probably made sense to him at that moment.

The tragic reality, though, is that none of those things are worth losing one's life over nor are they worth jeoparding the lives of others for.

This, I'm afraid, is a lesson that the ill-fated driver learned too late.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Iveagh Gardens in Dublin, Ireland - Photo by William Murphy
I want to take a moment to wish a Happy St. Patrick's Day to everyone in Warrendale neighborhood and beyond. This is one of those instances when everyone is at least a little bit Irish, even if there isn't a drop of green blood in your veins those other 364 days of the year.

There are almost a dozen different bars in Warrendale neighborhood; almost all of them are doing something special for St. Patrick's Day. Whatever you do, I hope your holiday is a full-filled and safe one.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone!

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Fake cops shoot Warrendale resident


Three individuals who were dressed as police officers, but weren't really affiliated with law enforcement, broke into a home on Mettatal Street in Detroit's Warrendale neighborhood early this morning. A 35-year-old man who lived in that home was shot during the robbery.

The victim was originally listed in critical condition. However, updates indicate that he is expected to make a complete recovery.

According to investigators within the Detroit Police Department, this was not a random event. Detectives believe that this individual was targeted as a result of dispute that happened earlier in the week.

The mother and young child who were in this Detroit home at the time were not physically harmed. Obviously, they are emotionally shaken by this event.


Monday, March 06, 2017

Pocket park project coming to Warrendale

Area targeted for a pocket park - Photo by Barb Matney
Barb and Joe Matney, the dynamic duo behind the In Memory Of community garden here in the Warrendale neighborhood and key members of the Warrendale Community Organization, have launched a new project. They are working to create a new pocket park in our area.

The project will take vacant land in Warrendale and allow it to be used for recreation. They are trying to raise $10,000 through a GoFundMe campaign.

 Additional information about this project is available here.

Tip of the week: Nine common filing errors to avoid

It's tax season and the Internal Revenue Service has release their list of the nine most common errors in tax returns. It's my pleasure to share this with my readers as part of this blog's semi-regular Tip of the Week feature.

Without further ado, here are nine common errors to avoid when preparing a tax return:

1. Missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers. Be sure to enter each Social Security numbers on a tax return exactly as printed on the Social Security card.

2. Misspelled names. Spell all names listed on a tax return exactly as listed on that individual’s Social Security card.

3. Filing status errors.  Some people claim the wrong filing status, such as Head of Household instead of Single. The Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov can help taxpayers choose the correct status. E-file software also helps prevent mistakes.

4. Math mistakes.  Math errors are common. They range from simple addition and subtraction to more complex items. Transactions like figuring the taxable portion of a pension, IRA distribution or Social Security benefits are more difficult and result in more errors. Taxpayers should always double check their math. Better yet, tax preparation software does it automatically, so file electronically.

5. Errors in figuring tax credits or deductions.  Filers can make mistakes figuring their Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit, the standard deduction and other items. Taxpayers need to follow the instructions carefully. For example, if a taxpayer is age 65 or older, or blind, they should be sure to claim the correct, higher standard deduction. The IRS Interactive Tax Assistant can help determine if a taxpayer is eligible for tax credits or deductions.

6. Incorrect bank account numbers.  The IRS strongly urges all taxpayers who have a refund due to choose direct deposit. It’s easy and convenient.  Be careful to use the right routing and account numbers on the tax return. The fastest and safest way to get a refund is to combine e-file with direct deposit.

7. Forms not signed.  An unsigned tax return is like an unsigned check – it’s not valid. Both spouses must sign a joint return. Taxpayers can avoid this error by filing their return electronically. Sign an e-filed tax return digitally before sending it to the IRS.

8. Electronic filing PIN errors. When e-filing, the taxpayer signs and validates the tax return electronically with a prior-year Self-Select Personal Identification Number. If they do not have or know their PIN, they should enter the Adjusted Gross Income from their 2015 tax return originally filed with the IRS. Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return.

Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return. Do not use the AGI amount from an amended return or a return that the IRS corrected.

9. Filing with an expired ITIN. A tax return filed with an expired Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) will be processed and treated as timely filed, but will be processed without any exemptions or credits claimed. Taxpayers will receive a notice from the IRS explaining that an ITIN must be current before any refund is paid. Once the ITIN is renewed, exemptions and credits are processed and any allowed refund paid. ITIN expiration and renewal information is available on IRS.gov 

Avoiding these common filing errors on your tax return is your Warrendale Tip of the Week.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Fish fries return to Ss Peter and Paul

Crowd at Ss Peter & Paul Church - Photo by Frank Nemecek
Lenten fish fries have returned to Ss. Peter and Paul's Activities Bldg. I'm pleased to report that they are as good as they have ever been. The food and comradeship are great as always.

Plus, it's nice to know that my dinner helps the church in some small way.

I hope to see lots of old and new friends there at future Fridays throughout Lent.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The City of Detroit has finished its reassessment of every residential and commercial property within the city limits. This means that the assessed value of our homes and businesses is now more in line with the fair market value of them.

This, by the way, is the first time in decades that the City of Detroit has reassessed all of our property values.

From my own personal experience, this updating of property values means that my property taxes has gone down by $294.

I want to thank Mayor Mike Duggan and his team for making sure that this happened.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tax help available for veterans

Tomorrow, February 15, select volunteer income tax preparation sites across Michigan will be celebrating all men and women who served in the Armed Service by offering free income tax preparation services. At sixteen locations across the state, any military veteran in Michigan will qualify to have their federal, state and city income taxes prepared and filed for free by an IRS-certified volunteer tax preparer. Sites will also provide information on different veteran services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Michigan Taxpayer Advocate Office and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Financial Counseling for Veterans initiative.

There will be two locations available within the city of Detroit. AAS Piquette Square (6221 Brush St. in Southwest) will be open from 10 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. Also, the Wayne Metro CAA/Michigan Veterans Foundation (4626 Grand River, just south of W. Warren Ave.) will be open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

“It’s hard to think of organizations who are as dedicated to helping my fellow veterans prepare and file their taxes and receive other important information on financial services and programs,” said State Senator David Knezek (D- Dearborn Heights). “Receiving quality, no-cost services like those offered by CEDAM members is a welcome gesture for the men and women who served our great nation.”

Every year, more than 100,000 Michigan taxpayers get their taxes prepared and filed for free at either a volunteer income tax assistance (VITA), tax counseling for the elderly (TCE) or AARP Tax Aide site. These sites are staffed with volunteers who have been certified by the IRS to prepare income taxes – a training certification that is not required of commercial tax preparers. Usually, there is an income limit of $54,000 to access this high-quality, free service, but on Wednesday, February 15 there will be no income limit for veterans in Michigan.

“As a veteran and former employee of the Michigan Department of Treasury, I understand the importance for taxpayers to receive all eligible and deserved tax credits,” said State Representative Tom Barrett (R – Potterville). “That is why I am so pleased that these free volunteer tax sites across Michigan are stepping up to the plate to give Michigan veterans a quality service and ensure they receive all their eligible tax credits.”
 
In addition to being trained on federal tax law, all VITA/TCE and AARP Tax Aide volunteer preparers are also trained to be sure that every eligible client receives Michigan tax credits like the Michigan Property Tax Credit (MPT) and the Home Heating credit (HHC). In 2016, more than 105,000 Michigan taxpayers used a free tax service, avoiding high-pressure sales pitches for high-cost tax loans and saving more than $14.6 million in tax preparation fees.

“I am pleased to join these IRS certified free tax sites in honoring the men and women who answered the call to serve our nation and protect our freedoms by helping to ensure they receive quality assistance in filing their taxes from highly-trained and IRS certified volunteers,” said Ross H. Yednock, program director of the Michigan Economic Impact Coalition (MEIC) at the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan (CEDAM). “I hope that by helping to serve those who served prepare and file their federal, state and city income taxes, we can make their tax filing season a little easier.”

The MEIC is a program of CEDAM and helps support organizations and local initiatives committed to supporting tax credit and asset building opportunities for Michigan families. All taxpayers are encouraged to go to www.MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org in advance of filing their taxes to receive valuable information regarding federal and state tax credits. The website is maintained by the CEDAM to help connect Michigan workers with free services and free tax sites which save working families money on tax preparation fees and connects them to other quality, low-cost financial services to help increase their financial security.

Taxpayers in Michigan have several options for free help determining their eligibility and claiming credits. They can go to a VITA, TCE or AARP Tax Aide site or prepare their own taxes using a free internet-based tool with assistance from a VITA volunteer either in person or over the phone.

To help accurately determine eligibility and prepare returns at a free tax site, individuals should bring photo proof of identification as well as:

  • Social Security cards for themselves, their spouse and dependents or Social Security number verification letters issued by the Social Security Administration;
  • Birth dates for all persons listed on the tax return;
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Forms W-2, W-2G and 1099-R from all employers;
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Forms 1099);
  • Copies of last year’s federal and state returns, if available;
  • Bank routing and account numbers for direct deposit of their refunds;
  • Other relevant information about income and expenses; and
  • Amounts paid for day care, if applicable and the day care provider's identifying number.

To electronically file their returns and get the fastest refunds, both spouses must be present to sign joint returns.

To locate a volunteer income tax assistance site in Michigan, or connect with volunteer assisted self-preparation tools, visit www.MichiganFreeTaxHelp.org or call Michigan 2-1-1.