Friday, November 29, 2019

"War on police" - rebuttal

Police car - Photo by Free Photos/Pixabay
I posted earlier this week about a Detroit police officer who was tragically killed in the line of duty approximately four miles north of the Warrendale neighborhood. My intention was simply to memorialize an individual who lost his life while heroically protecting our city. I had absolutely no intention of dragging partisan politics into this or causing any type of debate. I simply wanted to memorialize a fallen hero.

When I shared that post on Facebook, the majority of people reacted in much the way that I expected. There was shock and outrage as well as praise for the fallen officer and prayers for his family and all other police officers. This is great and pretty much what I expected when I shared my post.

However, there’s always that one guy.

One individual in particular was rather vehement in his opinion that former President Barack Obama had started a “war on police” and this was the latest example of it. This was followed by repeated usage of Blue Lives Matter hashtag and insults directed toward those who disagreed with him. When I pointed out that a thread dedicated to memorializing a fallen officer wasn’t the best place for partisan politics, he only seemed to double down on his attacks.

This prompted me to do a little bit of research. Here’s the big headline that I want everyone to remember: a carpenter in the United States today is approximately 30% more likely to be killed on the job than a police officer.

In spite of this, no one claims that there is a war going on against carpenters. There has also never been a Carpenters Lives Matter hashtag trending on Twitter or any other social media platform.

As for the numbers, there is an estimated 950,000 carpenters working in the United States, according to official statistics. On average, one out of every 10,000 carpenters died at the workplace each year. In contrast, with an estimated 850,000 police officers in the United States, there are 0.7 out of every 10,000 who die a violent death on the job each year. This translates into a carpenter being 30% more likely to die on the job than a police officer.

Oh, and the reason why I chose carpenters for this comparison is simply because my father, grandfather, and many of my uncles worked in carpentry. I’m the misfit in my family who chose to earn a living with a cell phone and a laptop.

I suspect that much of the reason for this has to do with the fact that police officers expect to encounter danger on the job. As a result, they train and prepare for it. This training and preparation helps them to mitigate the danger and bring the number of deaths down dramatically. Carpenters, in contrast, do not expect to die on the job so they don’t take anywhere near the precautions that law enforcement officers do.

But still, I cannot help but feel that if there was a war going on against police officers - regardless of whether Barack Obama, George Soros, Hillary Clinton, or whoever else was leading it - the result would not be that they would be less likely to be killed on the job than carpenters.

As further evidence that there isn’t a war on police that Barack Obama, George Soros, Hillary Clinton, or whoever else are responsible for, I would simply point out that line of duty deaths for police officers are largely unchanged with them out of office and someone who is the polar opposite replacing them.

It’s a sad fact that I will one day again have to memorialize the tragic death of another police officer or firefighter on this blog. I dread this prospect.

My only hope is that when that tragic moment comes, I won’t have to also worry about someone hijacking the issue with partisan attacks. It is much better, in my opinion, to keep the focus on the fallen hero and the grief that his or her family and friends are going through.

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.

Please follow this blog on Facebook for more great content. I'm also on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Detroit police officer killed in the line of duty

Officer Rasheen McClain - Photo by the Detroit Police Department
Officer Rasheen McClain was shot and killed in the line of duty last night while responding to a call on the west side. He was a 16-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department.

The Detroit Free Press reported that the suspect who is accused of shooting McClain had a lengthy criminal history. The man in question was also described as having a death wish. Their full reporting on this story is available here.

I'm thankful that the alleged shooter is currently in police custody.

On a personal note, I would like to join my fellow Detroiters in saying that while the shock and sorrow of losing a hero like Officer McClain is powerful, I take comfort in knowing that all of the angels and saints in Heaven will join in welcoming him home today.

I pray that Saint Anne, the patroness of the city he served, brings comfort and peace to the friends and family that Officer McClain was forced to leave behind.

I pray also that the Saint Michael the Archangel and Patron Saint of Police Officers watches over, guides, and protects those who protect our city tonight.


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Another attempt at regional mass transit

Commuter train - Photo by Shutterbug75/Pixabay
 Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter, and Mayor Mike Duggan of Detroit annoucned a plan to put a new regional mass transit plan before voters Washtenaw Counties are going to try one more time to get voters to approve a regional mass transit plan. I've been listening to plans like this since I was in high school. I'm currently a few months away from my 50th birthday.

I regard this as progress. At least we've recognized that Macomb County isn't going to be a part of it. I'm doubtful that Oakland County will approve it or - if they do - it will likely be so watered-down that it will be of minimal value.

My only hope is that regardless of whether Oakland County approves a watered-down version, Wayne and Washtenaw Counties move forward with a more comprehensive plan for their two counties.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Reconsidering AirBnB in Detroit

AirBnB, Detroit
Home - Stock photo from Pexels
For several months, the City of Detroit has been looking for ways to better regulate short-term rental housing. This includes popular options like Airbnb and Homeaway that have been achieving more and more success in our area.

Critics of short-term rentals point to negative the impact these services have on hotels, housing prices, and the community at large. A study published in the Harvard Business Review, for example, showed that as more Airbnb rentals happened in a given area, the local rent prices would increase proportionately. In some cities, that increase has made a difference in whether or not someone could afford to live there.

These rentals also have a detrimental impact on hotels in the area, as Forbes magazine pointed out. This is important because traditional lodging options pay more taxes and generate more jobs. If hotels are hurt too much, we lose the thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue that they create.

Supporters, however, point out that optins like Airbnb and Homeaway allow ordinary Detroiters to generate a few hundred dollars a month in extra income from an empty bedroom or two. That extra money can be invaluable to many families.

There is also the fact that when someone stays at a hotel by a large corporation like a Hilton or Marriott, much of the income generated from it leaves our state. In contrast, when money is spent with a small local person then, as a different study by Michigan State University pointed out, that money is more likely to be spent and reinvested locally.

Clearly, the ideal solution is to find some kind of balance that works for everyone. While I don't claim to have all of the answers, I do have a few ideas. For starters, let's talk taxes.

Taxes - Stock photo from Pexels
When someone rents a hotel room in Detroit for a night, they pay a 13% tax rate but when they rent an Airbnb for the same night, they only pay a 6% tax. The difference between the two tax rates is because, while both pay a 6% sales tax to the State of Michigan, short-term rentals do not pay either the 1% tax to Wayne County to support the stadiums nor the 6% tax to support the convention center.

This, I believe, is fundamentally unfair. There's no reason to tax one option for a night's lodging at one rate while taxing a different option at less than half that amount.

Therefore, I propose that we impose an additional 7% tax on short-term rentals in Detroit to even things out. I would further propose that most, if not all, of the revenue go towards improving mass transit. I say this because the stadiums and convention center are both doing just fine as is. Meanwhile, Detroit has what has been ranked as the worst mass transit system in the nation and could desperately use the extra revenue.

We could even add an extra 1 or 2% onto Lyft and Uber rides, while we're at it as well. This would bring them in line with the taxes that we levy on car rentals or taxi cabs. It would also generate even more revenue for mass transit.

The Detroit City Council looked into this issue in 2016; concluding that such a thing is indeed possible. We may have to put the question to a ballot referendum, much like we did with taxes for stadiums and convention center. However, I don't believe that would be a significant challenge.

Neighborhood - Stock photo by Pixabay
The next challenge is in terms of regulating how many Airbnbs can operate in the city. There was an efort by the City Council earlier this year to place a hard limit on the number of these rentals that could exist. This was intended to address the impact of these operation upon the housing market, which I mentioned earlier.

While that move was well-intended, I believe a better option would be to place on limit on the percentage of residential housing stock in a given area that may be used for such things. I believe it would be appropriate for a limit of 1 or 2% of the housing stock in any one square mile for short-term rentals.

In a place like the Warrendale neighborhood, with roughly 4,000 housing units per square mile, this would mean a limit of 40-80 homes that could be used for a short-term rental. As new housing is eventually added in, the limit would increase proportionately.

These, of course, are just a few ideas. I welcome feedback either in the comments below or by email.

This post is a part of the Warrendale Detroit Blog's Friday Focus series. The series endeavors to highlight news, events, and opinions that, in the view of this blog's publisher, don't get as much attention from the news media as they deserve.

Please follow this blog on Facebook for more great content. I'm also on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

District 7 holday party announced

Christmas | Photo by Larisa Koshkina on Pixabay
The District 7 team of Detroit invites everyone to celebrate the holiday season. They will host a holiday party on Thursday, December 5. It will run from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Brennan Pool House (21415 Plymouth Rd.), which is located at the northern end of Rouge Park.

All Detroiters are invited to attend this party. There is no charge for any residents to attend this holiday celebration.

The District 7 is a part of the City of Detroit’s Department of Neighborhoods. It includes the Warrendale neighborhood as well as the surrounding ones.

There is ample parking near the Brennan Pool House. It is also along the D-DOT Plymouth Rd. bus route. One can download a schedule for the Plymouth Rd. bus route from the D-DOT website.

This is the first of several holiday parties that will happen in the area. When more of these events are announced, I will post them to this blog.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Friends of Rouge Park to meet this Tuesday

The nonprofit advocacy group Friends of Rouge Park will have their next general membership meeting this coming Tuesday, November 19. It will start at 7:00pm at the Westside Christian Academy (9540 Bramell St.).

Their agenda for that evening will include a report from Alisha Bell. She is the President of the Wayne County Commission President as well as the Commissioner for District 7, which includes the Warrendale and surrounding neighborhoods. There will also be an update on the master plan for the park as well as reports from:

  • City of Detroit;
  • Detroit Outdoors;
  • Elite Archery;
  • Buffalo Soldiers; and
  • Motor City Mountain Biking Association.

Everyone who is interested in the future of the largest park in Detroit is welcome to attend this meeting.

Will Detroit be able to sweep this street?

DPW says they're going to sweep this - Photo by Frank Nemecek
According to the signs that are posted from one end of Ashton Ave. to the other in Warrendale, the City of Detroit's Department of Public Works is supposed to sweep the streets today. I mean, that is what the signs say.

Personally, I wonder if they're going to be able to do it. What do you think?

I mean, maybe if they got the sweepers really, really hot or something.

Update at 8:07 p.m.
The "no parking" signs are now gone. The street, however, has not been swept.

I'm totally shocked.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Job readiness workshop to be held tomorrow in Detroit

Training workshop - Illustration by Mohammed Hasan on Pixabay
The City of Detroit will host a job readiness workshop to better prepare unemployed and underemployed residents for the career that they desire. This important event will begin tomorrow, November 12 at 6 p.m. and will run until 7:30 p.m. that evening. This will happen in the St. Suzanne Cody Rouge Community Resource Center (19321 West Chicago), which is approximately one mile north of the Warrendale neighborhood.

One of the things that this workshop will discuss is the Detroit at Work program. That’s a program that provides job training and job placement assistance to Detroiters. It focuses on growing sectors such as construction, healthcare, hospitality and retail, information technology, and manufacturing.

They will also talk about financial education for Detroiters. Finally, during this workshop they will  provide advice on two other important details that are essential for getting the job you want. This is advice on how to interview for the job you want and how to dress for that job interview.

The Detroit at Work program currently has 7,249 job available in our area. More job opportunities are added all the time.

There is no charge to attend this workshop tomorrow. However, those wishing to attend are asked to RSPV by either calling Eric Fowlkes at (313) 236-3516 or emailing fowlkese [at] detroitmi [dot] gov. His email address, of course, is presented in a way that humans should be able to understand but that spam robots should find difficult.

The job readiness workshop is presented by the City of Detroit and Huntington Bank.

Help is here to get your finances in order

Getting a hand up - Photo by Tumisu on Pixabay
If you look at the statistics, it's clear that most Americans are a financial mess. The typical American family today has too much debt, not enough savings, no financial plan, no life insurance, and is basically one hardship away from financial ruin. The one ray of hope in this is that, for Detroiters at least, the Financial Empowerment Center is here to help.

The Financial Empowerment Center offers professional, one-on-one financial counseling as a free service to Detroiters. They enable residents to address their financial challenges and plan for their futures. The FEC is a partnership between the City of Detroit, the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office, and Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency.

Residents receive free, one-on-one professional counseling assistance with their finances.The FEC's professional counselors can help Detroiters take control of their debt as well as:

  • Deal with debt collectors;
  • Improve your credit;
  • Build your savings;
  • Create a budget and create a plan to stick to it; and
  • Find safe and affordable financial products.

These professionally trained counselors support their clients in navigating complex financial challenges and choices. They help Detroiters identify and meet present challenges and future ambitions. Counseling services are integrated into other social services including housing and foreclosure prevention services, workforce development, prisoner reentry, and benefits access.

All of their counseling services, including credit report analysis, are availabel free of charge. There are no income limits or residency requirements. Interpreting and translation services are available upon request.

Detroiters are invited to schedule an appointment with a FEC counselor by calling (313) 322-6222. Appointments are available at the Wayne County Treasurer's Office (400 Monroe St.) downtown or at Wayne Metro Lakeshore (7310 Woodward Ave.), in the New Center area.

The Detroit Financial Empowerment Center is funded by the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, JPMorgan Chase, Wayne County Treasurer’s Office, and the Skillman Foundation.

These tips are brought to you by the Warrendale Detroit Blog as part of our Tip of the Week series. Please check back next week for more advice on your home, money, and life. In the meantime, please feel free to follow the author Frank Nemecek on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek for more great content.

Review - Killng Quarry

Killing Quarry by Max Allan Collins - Cover art by Paul Mann
Who put Quarry in the crosshairs?

That’s the question that drives Killing Quarry by the bestselling author of Road To Perdition, Max Allan Collins. It hits bookstores tomorrow but I got a chance to take a look at it ahead of time.

The titular character Quarry is a Marine sniper turned hitman. He has spent the past decade killing for money; first for an agent known only as The Broker and now as a freelance hitman. His one redeeming quality is that he has always been on the right side of those contract kills.

All of this changes while he is on an assignment. Someone tries to kill him. Quarry needs to find out who and why fast.

One of the things that I find to be very impressive about Killing Quarry is how Collins managed a very successful balancing act. This is his 16th Quarry novel, which means that his character has a lot of backstory already built up.

In this installment, Collins was able to remain consistent with the legacy yet not get so caught up in it that readers who never read any of the previous installment could still understand and enjoy his story. He carefully drops enough details about the character in the first couple of chapters that a first-timer could feel caught up yet not so many details that returning readers feel weighed down.

“The Quarry books are some of our most popular and been too long since readers have had the pleasure of a new one,” explained Charles Ardai who founded and edits Hard Case Crime, which publishes the Quarry novels. “We’re thrilled to bring this classic antihero back to put him through the wringer like he’s never been before.”

One other thing that I liked about this book is the way Collins handled turning the proverbial tables on his main character. It felt authentic and engaging. In my experience, very few novelists can maintain that sense of authenticity and engagement after this many stories. Even Ian Fleming only managed to hold it together for 12 James Bond novels and two collections of short stories.

For all of those reasons, I’m proud to recommend Killing Quarry by Max Allan Collins.

Killing Quarry by Max Allan Collins is available for pre-order now on by clicking here or on the graphic below. It is also available at fine bookstores everywhere.

The Warrendale Detroit Blog is proud to offer occassional reviews of books that we enjoy.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Community-wide meeting this Wednesday

An avenue - Photo by Peter H./Pixabay
Over the past nine months, residents and community  groups throughout Warrendale have come together and worked with the City of Detroit’s Planning and Development Department. They are going to propose a series of projects for the built environment of this neighborhood. This includes improvements to our streets, our houses, our parks, our businesses, and more.

After all of this work, it’s time for everyone to come out and see what these groups have come up with. The City of Detroit and others are eager to get feedback on everyone who lives or works in Warrendale. This is an essential part of building a community.

To that end, there will be a community-wide meeting this Wednesday, November 13 at the Dick & Sandy Dausch Campus NFL/YET of the Boys & Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan (16500 Tireman Ave.). Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Presentations will start at 6 p.m.

In addition, childcare will be provided on site for this meeting. If you have young ones that won’t sit through a presentation and you don’t have someone else to watch them, those facts should not be an excuse for not participating. Your voice is an important part of this meeting and that’s why there will be someone there to watch young kids while the adults talk about the future of our neighborhood.

Refreshments will also be provided for those attending this meeting.

Parking is available for this meeting in the lot at the Boys & Girls Club. If that lot fills up, additional parking will be available at the O’Live Church of God in Christ (16601 Tireman Ave.). The church is basically across the street from where this meeting will happen.

There is no cost or commitment for anyone to attend. I hope to see a lot of my neighbors in attendance this coming Wednesday evening.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Detroit is the worst city in the USA for veterans

Veterans | Illustration by tammyatWTI/Pixabay
Dear Detroit,

We need to talk.

Veteran’s Day will be upon us soon. I know this because I’ve already gotten announcements from a few different restaurants announcing specials for active and former members of the military. It won’t be much long until a series of talking heads fill our television screen talking about the debt that we owe veterans and how great our country is because of them.

That’s nice and all. But here’s the thing: Detroit was just named the worst city in the United States for veterans. At first, I thought this was just another case of some media outlet back Detroit. Again.

But this time, they brought receipts. Out of the 100 largest cities in America, Detroit ranks 83rd in the percentage of homeless veterans. We also come in at:

Those are four very big categories that show we are failing the veterans that we are calling heroes. Oh, and, by the way, it gets worse.

This the third time that Detroit has held this dubious distinction. WXYZ-TV reported on it in 2018. The Metro Times reported on this 2017. This now makes three years in a row when we have been the worst city in the United States for veterans. None of the issues addressed in either of the previous years.

Another one of these lists will come out again next year. I would really like it if Detroit was not the worst city for veterans a fourth year in a row.

Can we as Detroiters all agree on that as a goal?

Whether it’s a love for our veterans, outright anger at this problem going on for so long, or just not wanting to be the target of another one of these lists – whatever motivates to get involved; that works for me.

What can you do? I’m not sure but I’m pretty sure that anyone of these eight veterans service organizations in Detroit will have an idea about what you can do to help if you reach out to them. If anyone else has an idea, please leave it in the comments below.

We need to do better, Detroit.

Monday, November 04, 2019

10 Tips for funding a major housing repair

Home repairs in progress - Photo courtesty of Pexels
Once you reach a certain stage in your life, you begin to plan for contingencies. In your early 20s, while you are finishing a degree or starting a career, you often live paycheck to paycheck. As you grow older and build savings, earn some credit and start a family, your financial responsibility starts to grow, too -- especially once you purchase a home.

For homeowners, keeping your property healthy will be one of your top priorities. Not only is your house your family’s haven, but it’s also an investment you want to protect. Staying on top of major and minor repairs can help you stay both comfortable and secure in your investment — but it can also be costly.

Many Detroit home owners qualify for an interest-free loan to cover the cost of repairing their home provided that they meet certain income requirements or live in qualified areas of the city. Warrendale is one of those qualified area so residents of our neighborhood are eligible regardless of their income. To get the process started, homeowners need to fill out this information packet.

For those who don't live within the Detroit city limits, here are some ways to help you plan so home repairs don’t cause an unexpected blow to your savings.

  1. Start saving early and add to it often. Even if you can’t put much into savings, commit to some amount every pay period. Over time, as your salary increases or your spending habits level out, begin adding more.
  2. Take time researching the right contractors. If you know in advance who to hire, you’ll be better able to budget for major home repairs. Ask neighbors and friends for recommendations; they are more reliable than online reviews.
  3. Know what your home insurance policy covers and your deductible. Keep track of your receipts and purchases in case you need to make a claim to help with a repair. Be sure your savings account always has enough to cover the deductible.
  4. Look into taking a cash out refinance to help pay for the costs of emergency repairs. A cash for remodel option allows you to use your home equity by replacing your current mortgage with a higher-balance loan, providing you with the difference between the two to use toward repairs and improvements, like replacing a roof or installing a new HVAC unit.
  5. Tackle easy, DIY projects on your own. Minor repairs like a squeaky floorboard or a loose railing can often be fixed quickly and with simple tools. If you need instruction, there are hundreds of high quality online tutorial videos to follow.
  6. Research home loans and grants that could be available to you. If you are a veteran or are making a modification to accommodate a disability, you may be able to apply for grants or loans with a lower percentage rate.
  7. Stay on top of upkeep and maintenance. It’s easier to keep your hardwood from getting scuffed than to refinish your floors. Focus on keeping your home’s elements in top shape.
  8. Share your space. You can make extra money by renting out an extra bedroom or guest house on a site like Airbnb and VRBO. Put this side income back into your home by funding repair projects and improvements.
  9. Get warranties to cover maintenance, upkeep and damage over the years, especially on big ticket items like roofing, plumbing and appliances. 
  10. Pay off your debt. Setting a budget and working on a plan to pay off your debt will free up your income for home improvement projects. For example, some people have had success paying off credit cards quickly by transferring a balance to a card that offers 0% APR. That way you don’t wind up spending the majority of your payments in interest.

Homeowners spend an average of 1-4% of their home’s value annually on repairs. While you can’t always be prepared for every kind of repair, having a financial safety net in place will help make paying for these situations much easier.

Rarely is it one solution, but a combination of two or more can help keep repair costs manageable. Home improvement projects can make your home more appealing and enjoyable, both as a place to live and an investment to rely on.

These tips are brought to you by the Warrendale Detroit Blog as part of our Tip of the Week series. Please check back next week for more advice on your home, money, and life. In the meantime, please feel free to follow the author Frank Nemecek on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek for more great content.