Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Accident on Paul and more

In today's edition of the Warrendale neighborhood news roundup, there was a traffic accident on Paul, help for Detroiters facing foreclosure, and a discussion about Michigan's no-fault auto insurance law.

Traffic accident at Paul and the Southfield Fwy. | Photo by Frank Nemecek
Accident on Paul
There was a rather nasty traffic accident yesterday evening at approximately 6 p.m., which involved two minivans. One of the vehicles struck and knocked down a pole on the south side of Paul.

The Detroit Police and Fire Departments reponded quickly. None of the injuries were life-threatening.

Home | Stock photo from Pexels
Foreclosure prevention workshop this Saturday
The United Community Housing Coalition along with the City of Detroit Department of Neighborhoods will host a foreclosure prevention workshop this Saturday. This is a great chance for homeowners and tenants to get the help they need to keep their homes.

The workshop will start at 10 a.m. and run until 1 p.m. this Saturday, February 29. It will happen in the Adam Butzel Recreation Center (10500 Lyndon), which is in Detroit and approximately four miles northeast of the Warrendale neighborhood.

Residents are asked to bring a copy of their deed, land contract, or lease along with:

  • Drivers license or valid photo identification;
  • Recent DTE bill, phone bill, or other mail with your name on it; and
  • All correspondence received from Wayne County.
There's no charge to attend this workshop.

Corvette on the highway | Stock photo by Autos8/Pixabay
Whitsett to discuss auto insurance
State Representative Karen Whitsett, who represents the Warrendale and surrounding neighborhoods, will lead a discussion of Michigan's no-fault auto insurance laws and regulations. This will presumably include an update on efforts to make auto insurance more affordable for Detroiters.

This discussion will happen at the Greater Southern Baptist Church (8000 Fullerton), which is in Detroit and approximately three miles northeast of Warrendale. This will be on Tuesday, March 3 at 6 p.m.

Detroit area doctor charged with fraud after perscribing 2.2 million doses of painkillers

Statute of Justice | Stock photo by William Cho/pixabay
Francisco Patino, M.D., a physician from the Detroit area who was the top prescriber of oxycodone 30 mg in Michigan was charged in a superseding indictment unsealed today. He was allegedly involved in a health care fraud and money laundering scheme that brought in more than $120 million in illicit funds. As part of this plot, he distributed more than the alleged medically unnecessary distribution of over 2.2 million dosage units of controlled substances that were medically unnecessary injections and resulted in patient harm.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider of the Eastern District of Michigan, Special Agent in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono of the FBI’s Detroit Division and Special Agent in Charge Lamont Pugh III of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s Chicago Regional Office made the announcement this afternoon.

Patinowas charged in the superseding indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of money laundering. These charges are in addition to the two counts of health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and pay and receive health care kickbacks that was charged in the initial indictment. The case is pending before U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood of the Eastern District of Michigan. Trial is scheduled to begin on April 7 before Judge Hood.

The superseding indictment alleges the laundering of the proceeds of the health care fraud scheme to falsely portray the defendant as a legitimate doctor through the publication of a diet book and plan described as the “next Atkins,” paid-for appearances on a nationally syndicated television show, and the sponsorship of boxers, cagefighters and prominent Ultimate Fighting Championship world champions and hall of famers.     

Patino owned, controlled and operated numerous pain clinics and laboratories in Michigan – including Global Quality Inc., RenAMI, FDRS and Patino Laboratories – and was the top prescriber of Oxycodone 30 mg in Michigan from 2016 to 2017. From 2008 until his arrest, Patino induced patients to come to his clinics by offering unnecessary prescriptions for addictive opioids, of which he ultimately prescribed over 2.2 million dosage units of medically unnecessary controlled substances, including fentanyl, oxycodone and oxymorphone. Patino prescribed these opioids to Medicare beneficiaries, some of whom were addicted to narcotics.

According the indictment, Patino forced patients to submit to unnecessary and sometimes painful back injections and other procedures in exchange for the opioid prescriptions as part of a scheme to defraud Medicare of over $120 million.  The superseding indictment alleges that Patino persisted with these unlawful practices even after Medicare informed him that the injections violated Medicare’s rules and after Patino entered into a consent order with the State of Michigan that his prescription of opioids “constitute[d] a violation of the public health code.”

Patino also ordered unnecessary urine drug testing in exchange for illegal kickbacks, the superseding indictment alleges. Patino was aware that his ownership structure and kickbacks were a violation of law and authored emails acknowledging that such ownership constituted  a “violation of the Stark and Anti-Kickback laws” and attempted to conceal and disguise the ownership structure and scheme in order to keep himself “out of federal prison & having all our assets seized to pay a $15 million fine.”

Patino also allegedly conspired to launder money in connection with the creation and promotion of the “Patino Diet” plan, which Patino described to others as the “next Atkins diet.”  In order to conceal and disguise his illegal health care fraud scheme, Patino allegedly paid for the authorship and publication of a book touting the diet plan, entitled The Age of Globesity, and paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to promote the diet plan and appear as the exclusive medical expert on a nationally syndicated television show.

In addition to concealing the scheme by paying money to falsely portray himself as a media personality and a legitimate physician, the superseding indictment alleges, that Patino laundered the healthcare fraud and kickback money by entering into sham contracts or employment relationships to pay others on his behalf to sponsor boxers, mixed martial artists and UFC combatants.

The charges against Patino are related to a broader investigation into the Tri-County Network of pain clinics in Michigan and Ohio, which involves over $300 million in alleged Medicare fraud and the alleged distribution of over 6.6 million dosage units of controlled substances.  In connection with the investigation, 22 defendants, including 12 physicians, have previously pleaded guilty or been found guilty at trial. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Closing in on one million page views

Million dollar view | Stock photo by Haidir Rais/Unsplash
I started the Warrendale Detroit Blog in December of 2005 almost on a whim. I new that there was a lot happening in our neighborhood but was frustrated that it never got any attention from the local news media. When a friend suggested over on the Detroit YES forum that I create such a blog, I jumped at it.

That was 14 years and three months ago.

As of this afternoon, Google Analytics tells me that this blog has received a total of 990,262 page views during its time online. I also continue to revieve 400 - 450 pageviews ever day.

Those two things suggest that the Warrendale Detroit Blog should cross the one million page view threshold within the next couple weeks. In fact, my best guess after combing through the data is that this blog should see its one millionth page view on or about March 17.

I feel that this milestone deserves somekind of commemoration. Something that will say to the world - quite literally - thanks a million. I'm just not sure what it should be.

If you have any idea what that something should be then please feel free to leave a comment below or on the Facebook page for this blog. I appreciate any and all suggestions.

Monday, February 24, 2020

4 things to give up for Lent 2020

Lent | Stock photo by Gaston Perez/Pixabay
Lent is upon us. It begins with Ash Wednesday, which is the day after tomorrow.

I know that many Christians - myself included - sometime wonder what they should give up for Lent. Sweets are an old standby but I always feel like it should be something a little less generic. With that in mind, I spent a couple of hours over the weekend searching for advice on what one should give up for Lent.

With that in mind, I want to share five Lenten sacrificss that I feel are worthy of special consideration this year.

1 - Get rid of 40 things over the 40 days
It's always amazing how much random stuff one accumilates over the years. Lent can provide one with an opportunity to reflect on all of that stuff and ask if it is truly worthy of a place in your life. I'm confident that many people would be able to find 40 things in their life that are simply cluttering your life.

Many of these things may have a value to others. In which case, I would suggest that rather than tossing your Lenten clutter into the trash, donating them a charitable thrift store or selling them and donating the proceeds to a worthy charity. For those in the Warrendale neighborhoood, I recommend the Salvation Army Family Store and Donation Center (8525 N. Telegraph Rd. in Dearborn Heights).

2 - Stop gossiping
Humans are social creatures. Sharing stories and information with our peers is a fundamental part of who we are. However, like most things, it can always be used in a destructive manner and that is something that one focus on during Lent.

3 - Say three nice things to your spouse and children daily
Family is the foundation of our society. Lent provides us with an opportunity to strengthen your family with a little extra positive energy. This idea, by the way, was inspired by YourModernFamily.com.

4 - Write 40 letters to people you've lost touch with
I saw this one on LifeTeen.com and love it. In the haste of modern life, it is all too easy to lose touch with people. Writing a letter to someone that you've lost touch with not only gives you a chance to re-establish those social connections but the fact that you do so in a letter forces you to put some extra thought into your words.

As a bonus, since letters have become so rare in the age of email and text messaging, an actual letter that shows up in the mail will stand out in mind of your recipient that much more.

There are, of course, many more things that one can give up or do as a Lenten sacrifice. I hope that these ideas spark some inspiration in your life.

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. The rest of the tips are are avilable here.

Please feel free to follow the author Frank Nemecek on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek for more great content.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Ducks Unlimited invests $2 million in Michigan

Wildflowers bloom on a Ducks Unlimited project in Michigan | Press photo
Ducks Unlimited and its partners are investing $2.3 million to protect, enhance or restore 2,100 acres of wetland habitat across 10 Michigan project sites in 2019. This will greatly improve water quality and wildlife habitat.

The milestones in 2019 added to a sizeable historical investment in Michigan. Over the last 30 years Ducks Unlimited has invested $46 million to protect, restore or enhance more than 85,000 wetland and grassland acres on more than 420 project sites across the state.

Partners included the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Six Rivers Land Conservancy, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, corporate partners such as Axalta Coating Systems, major donors and Ducks Unlimited members. Vital federal funding also came from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act.

“Michigan’s wetlands have a significant impact on Great Lakes and continental waterfowl,” explained Kali Rush, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist in Michigan. “But our wetlands are also crucial for water quality for drinking and recreation. Michigan has lost 50% of its wetland habitats, which filter rainwater before entering the Great Lakes. More wetlands mean cleaner water and less severe algae blooms and flood damage.”

The group highlighted three particular projects from 2019.

Upper Peninsula habitat revamped
Ducks Unlimited and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources enhanced water level management capabilities at Sturgeon River Sloughs State Wildlife Management Area in Baraga and Houghton counties. The Sloughs are one of the Upper Peninsula’s most productive wetland areas.

Major Monroe County marsh enhanced
Ducks Unlimited completed the third phase of a 900-acre coastal wetlands enhancement at Erie Marsh in North Maumee Bay of Lake Erie. This project will provide improved wetland habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds that depend on the western Lake Erie basin of Michigan.

Saginaw Bay donation ready for restoration
In 2019, James and DeAnn Sattelberg donated 250 acres of former farmland to Ducks Unlimited for wetlands restoration. Since then, Ducks Unlimited has secured funding to design water level management infrastructure which will produce healthier habitat for waterfowl and wildlife. When complete, the property will be transferred it to a professional conservation organization for permanent protection.

For a complete report of 2019 activities, and a look into what’s planned for 2020 and beyond, view the Michigan Conservation Report. For all Ducks Unlimited events and programs in Michigan, visit www.ducks.org/Michigan.

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, February 20, 2020

Warrendale students organize trip to Ivy League schools

Screenshopt of GoFundMe campaign
Students from the Warrendale Charter Academy in Detroit have organized a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds so they can visit Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. All funds raised as part of this campaign will go towards the travel expenses of these 26 middle school students.

Janae Anderson, the middle school dean at the Warrendale Charter Academy, described this campaign as follows:
Warrendale is a k-8 charter school in the heart of Detroit with a little over 750 students currently enrolled. WCA is a Title 1 school that has created a positive climate and culture that focuses heavily on student proficiency and academic growth. Most recently, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy recognized WCA as a top 200 school in the state, a top 50 school in the county, and a top 20 school in the city and gave an A letter grade for academic performance in context.
Part of our school's success comes from providing our students with unique opportunities that foster their thirst for learning and education beyond the classroom. For the past two years, our middle school students have had the opportunity to visit universities and historical landmarks in both Washington D.C. and Atlanta. This year is very special in that students will be taking tours of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, which are universities that do not have a heavy population of Black students. The goal of the college tour is to not only allow students to see and visit these Universities in person but to also learn what it takes to become a part of the student body.
Currently, there are 26 middle school students who are attending this wonderful experience. The money donated will be added to the funds that students have already raised individually and lower the overall cost of travel fees associated with visiting the schools. By making a donation you are helping our students learn about college early in life and set them on a path of success.
The Warrendale Charter Academy operates from the building that used to house Ss. Peter and Paul Grade School once upon a time. If you are interested in supporting this campaign, please visit its page on GoFundMe by clicking here.

Shinola Hotel only hotel in Michigan to be named to "It List"

The Shinola Hotel | Photo by Wild Wind Studios
Earlier today, Travel + Leisure magazine announced its 15th annual “It List”. This is an editor-curated list of the best hotels in the world with only 72 new or recently renovated destinations in the entire world making the cut.

Only one of those 72 hotels to make the “It List” happens to be in Michigan. The Shinola Hotel in downtown Detroit has the distinction of representing not only the Motor City but all of Michigan.

“The beauty of staying at a hotel is that you can drop both your physical and emotional baggage and be the best version of yourself,” explained Jacqueline Gifford, editor in chief of Travel + Leisure in a prepared statement. “With over 70 honorees — including a Loire Valley ch√Ęteau and a series of lodges in Bhutan — our annual It List is packed with hotels that make you feel spoiled, nurtured, and seamlessly connected to the outside world.”

The Travel + Leisure 2020 It List includes 19 hotels across the United States including four in California, three in New York, and two in Hawaii, as well as in places such as Asbury Park, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, and Philadelphia.

Guest room in the Shinola Hotel | Photo by Nicole Franzen
The Shinola Hotel, which is a boutique property that opened in downtown Detroit in early 2019 from local companies with a love for the city, Shinola and Bedrock. It has become a meaningful gathering place for visitors and locals alike. With 129 rooms and suites, a thoughtfully curated art collection by Library Street Collective, and six restaurants and bars from award-winning Andrew Carmellini of NoHo Hospitality.

There are a lot of Detroiters who have worked incredibly hard and taken some big risks to make the Shinola Hotel a premiere destination.

The other 11 American properties that made Travel + Leisure’s It List this year are Asbury Ocean Club in Asbury Park, New Jersey as well as:

  • Four Seasons Hotel Lanai at Koele, a Sensei Retreat in Lanai, Hawaii;
  • Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection on the Big Island, Hawaii;
  • Soho Warehouse in Los Angeles, California;
  • Palihouse Miami Beach in Miami, Florida;
  • Maison de la Luz in New Orleans, Louisiana;
  • Equinox Hotel in New York, New York;
  • The Times Square EDITION in New York, New York;
  • Four Seasons Hotel Philadelphia at Comcast Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;
  • TWA Hotel in Queens, New York;
  • Santa Monica Proper Hotel in Santa Monica, California;
  • MacArthur Place Hotel & Spa in Sonoma, California;
  • Willow House in Terlingua, Texas;
  • Posada by the Joshua Tree House in Tucson, Arizona;
  • Blackberry Mountain in Walland, Tennessee;
  • The Lodge at Blue Sky, Auberge Resorts Collection in Wanship, Utah;
  • Captain Whidbey Inn in Whidbey Island, Washington; and
  • Canyon Ranch Woodside in Woodside, California.

The list of wonderful things in Detroit keeps growing. Each new development means more jobs and more tax revenue for a city that, quite frankly, is still in dire need of both things. The fact that a major media outlet like Travel + Leisure notices their work is always worth celebrating.

I congratulate each and every person who played a part in this accomplishment. I look forward to seeing even more great things in the near future.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Detroit police complete another week of targeted enforcement

Police officer | Stock photo by Coco Parisienne/Pixabay
The Detroit Police Department has completed a third week of targeted enforcement with the goal of decreasing violent crimes associated with the black market sale and purchase of marijuana and other illegal narcotics. Police precincts across the city began conducting targeted enforcement actions on January 27 in response to a spike in violent crime.

This initiative’s third week ran from February 10 – 17. During this time period, police officers reported the following preliminary results across Detroit:
  • 78 felony arrests were made;
  • 36 misdemeanor arrests were also made;
  • 21 firearms were seized , which includes 16 handguns and five long guns;
  • 918 citations were issued;
  • 68 vehicles were impounded; and
  • Two stolen vehicles were recovered.
Police officers also confiscated a variety of narcotics. This included 54.5 grams of cocaine, 307 pills of various types, 151.5 grams of marijuana, and 18 grams of heroin.

"Our goal is to keep our communities safe, and this effort is to focus on the buyers and sellers who are illegally carrying guns," explained Chief James Craig of the Detroit Police Department. "I am thankful for the good work my officers are doing to rid our streets of illegal weapons associated with the sale of illegal narcotics so law-abiding residents can go about their lives free from fear."

While these operations are by no means confined to the Warrendale neighborhood, it is afterall a citywide operation, the fact that so many felons and firearms are off the streets of Detroit is a promising fact, in my opinion.

As the Detroit Police Department continues this initiative, additional details will be reported on this blog and on its Facebook page.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Learn a Martial Art on Vacation

Kung fu master silhouetterd at sunset | Photo by Mohammed Hasan/Pixabay
Have you ever wanted to learn a martial art but couldn’t find the time? Is a vacation the only time you can ever get a break? Consider combining martial arts training and a vacation for an unforgettable experience.

Most people think of going to Disney World or visiting the Grand Canyon for a vacation. That’s nice, but what about something different?

Vacations focusing on experiences are all the rage these days. From motorcycle tours to surfing, you can find a vacation in which you are actively engaged in something instead of just visiting site to site.

What types of martial arts are best to learn while on vacation?
Just about every martial art has a vacation experience. You really can’t go wrong. You can learn kung-fu in China, or train Brazilian Jiujitsu in Thailand. Make sure to use a well known booking vendor such as StudyMartialArts.org to find the type of martial art and camp that is best for you. It's important that you get independent travel advice so that you can get the best experience possible.

Keep in mind that although most martial arts camps will welcome beginners you should double check before you book as each vacation/camp provider is different. Usually absolute beginners are welcome, but make sure that each location offers such services.

Why learn a martial art on vacation?
Martial arts can be great fun and exercise. Combine that with an exotic location, such as Thailand or Brazil and you have the recipe for a great getaway. Beyond the physical and mental benefits, learning a martial art on vacation is a great way to connect with your family and create international friends.

Perhaps the best reason to study a martial art on a vacation is that it can make for a great travel story for years to come. Who wants to hear about the canal tour you took? A story about how you kicked through 5 layers of bricks in Japan is way cooler.

You might be asking, is learning a martial art in a foreign country safe? The answer is that martial arts entail physical activity and contact so there is some inherent risk to injury. That said, martial arts are quite safe when practiced properly. Everything will be fine as long as you follow the rules and are respectful of others.

What else should be kept in mind?
Before you go, make sure you check visa and travel requirements. Also, make sure that you check which accomodations your camp may or may not provide. This includes any special training equipment you might need. Also, don’t forget to buy appropriate travel insurance in case you need to go to a medical provider.

If in doubt call the vendor to confirm. Most of the time everything you need to know is on the website, but you should get the advice of your booking company in case you have doubts.

Forget the beach, get on the mat for your next trip!

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. The rest of the tips are are avilable here.

Please feel free to follow the author Frank Nemecek on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek for more great content

Friday, February 14, 2020

Former Detroit police officer pleads guilty to accepting bribes

Bribery | Stock photo by Pixabay/Pexels
Former Detroit Police Officer Michael Mosley, age 48, pleaded guilty today before the Hon. George Caram Steeh to bribery for taking $15,000 in cash bribes from a drug trafficker, announced U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider.  The guilty plea announced today is the result of an idictment that this blog reported on last August.

Joining Schneider in the announcement was Steven M. D’Antuono, Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Mosley was a 19-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department. In April 2019, he was a member of the  Department’s Major Violators Unit.  On April 3, 2019, Detroit police officers, including Mosley, searched a drug trafficker’s house pursuant to a search warrant.  The search uncovered two kilograms of heroin, one kilogram of cocaine, and six firearms.  The drug trafficker confessed to owning the three kilograms of drugs to Mosley, and the trafficker signed a confession.  After the April 3 search, Mosley remained in contact with the drug trafficker in an effort to secure the trafficker’s cooperation concerning other criminal activity.
Subsequently, the drug trafficker offered Mosley a cash bribe of $15,000 in exchange for not pursuing criminal charges based on the three kilogram drug seizure and he agreed to the deal.  On May 2, 2019, Mosley collected $10,000 in cash that the drug dealer left for Mosley in the backyard of an abandoned house in Detroit.  On May 23, 2019, Mosley accepted another $5,000 in cash left for him by the drug trafficker at the abandoned house.  In exchange, he gave the drug trafficker the original copy of his confession. 
In addition to pleading guilty to one count of bribery, Mosley will be forfeiting the $15,000 he took in bribes.
U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider commended the outstanding work of the FBI in conducting this criminal investigation of a corrupt police officer.
“It’s rare that a police officer commits a crime, but in this case Officer Mosley betrayed his oath as a police officer, and he betrayed the citizens of Detroit and the vast majority of his fellow officers who seek to protect and serve with integrity,” stated Schneider.  “This prosecution demonstrates that we will not tolerate public officials who abuse their authority and seek to use their power to line their own pockets.”
 “The citizens of Detroit deserve better from their public servants. Wrongdoing by police officers undermines the public's trust and confidence in law enforcement officers who are sworn to defend and uphold the law,” said D’Antuono. “The men and women of the Detroit Police Department are dedicated to serving this community and misconduct by one of its officers is not a reflection of the entire force. However, the FBI will do everything in its power to bring corrupt police officers to justice and to restore faith in the integrity of law enforcement throughout the city.”
The investigation of this case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah Resnick Cohen, David A. Gardey, and Shankar Ramamurthy.

Monday, February 10, 2020

5 ways to stretch your tax refund

Both the Michigan Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service are busy these days processing tax returns and issuing refunds to millions of Americans. The average federal refund last year was $2,869 according to an analysis of data from the IRS.

It’s a sad reality that bars, restaurants, and casinos all get busier when tax refunds arrive. For those who want to use that refund to make a long term difference in your family’s situation, I offer five ways in which you can stretch your tax refund.

Making a payment | Stock photo by StockSnap/Pixabay
Switch to annual payments
Your auto, home, and life insurance premiums. Subscriptions to one streaming service or another. These are just some of the bills that most Americans have that offer a discount if you can pay them on an annual or semi-annual basis instead of paying them monthly. You can save hundreds of dollars by switching to an annual basis and this is one discount that companies are thrilled to give you.

For most Americans most of the year, they simply don’t have enough cash on hand to take advantage of these offers and realize the savings. Your tax refund, however, provides an opportunity to break out of this cycle and start saving money.

I recommend starting with your insurance premiums. Talk with your insurance agent to see what kind of a discount you can get by switching to an annual or semi-annual payment.

Paying | Stock photo by Quinn Kampschrorer/Pixabay
Pay down debt
This one is kind of a no-brainer. The average American has four credit cards and carries a balance of $8,640. If you only make the minimum payments, it will take decades for you to pay that off. Paying down your debt means huge savings in interest charges.This is especially true with high-interest credit cards.

Your tax refund provides an opportunity to pay down some debt. This can either be by taking money directly from your refund check and paying it down or by taking some of the money that you saved from switching to annual payments and adding a few extra bucks to each month’s payment.

For Detroiters looking to get a handle on their debts, help is available through the Financial Empowerment Center. I wrote about this program last November and details about it are available here.

Boost savings | Stock photo by Manuel Alejandro Leon/Pixabay
Boost savings
If you don’t have a savings account, now is the time to start one. If you don’t have at least six months worth of basic living expenses in your savings account, now is the time to make a deposit.

Just like when it came to paying down debt, you can boost your savings directly from your income tax refund or by using the money that you saved from switching to annual payments and/or paying down debts.

Also, remember that you have until April 15, 2020 to make a 2019 contribution to your IRA.

Saving energy | Stock photo by PIRO4D/Pixabay
Energy saving improvements to your home
For most Americans, your home is your single biggest investment by far and utilities are one of the biggest expenses for that investment. By making a few improvements, you not only lower your energy costs but also boost the resale value of your home.

Plus, making energy savings improvements to your home today can also mean a bigger tax refund next year in addition to lower energy bills.

Having fun | Stock photo by Free Photos/Pixabay
Have a little fun
While I believe that the bulk of your tax refund should go towards improving your family’s long term financial strength, there’s nothing wrong with having a little bit of fun along the way. Dinner and a movie with your spouse is a classic option.

For those who want something a little different, websites like Groupon offer deals on all kinds of fun things to do.

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. The rest of the tips are avilable here.

Please feel free to follow the author Frank Nemecek on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek for more great content.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Boxing class at the library and more

There are several challenges to running a hyperlocal blog like this one. For example, Google’s search rankings tend to rank sites lower if most of their articles are less than 500 words. That might not be a problem for those blogging about some topics. When one is blogging about one particular neighborhood, though, there are a lot of stories that I simply cannot stretch out that long without becoming redundant or boring.

Therefore, I’ve decided to start merging some of these stories into longer posts; creating one long post that the internet search engines like rather than three or four shorter articles that they rank lower automatically.

Boxing | Stock photo by Harut Movsisyan/Pixabay
Boxing classes at the library
The Edison Branch (18400 Joy Rd.) of the Detroit Public Library will host a boxing class this coming Saturday, March 8 from noon to 2 pm. This event is open to all ages. It’s a great way to build self-esteem and physical confidence.

More details about this class are available on the library's website, which is located here.

Pizza | Stock photo by Igor Ovsyannykov/Pixabay
Free slice of pizza
This Sunday, March 9 is National Pizza Day, which is one of those social media holidays that is near and dear to my heart. I look forward to celebrating at Sbarro's inside Fairlane Town Center where you can buy one New York slice and a beverage and get another slice of New York cheese or pepperoni for free.

Details and coupons are located here.

Rouge Park | Photo by Frank Nemecek
Rebirth of the nature trail?
The Friends of Rouge Park are exploring the possibility of reestablishing the original Wild Nature Trail. This trail was constructed in Rouge Park in the 1930s but has been in a general state of disrepair for quite some time.

I will have more on this story as it develops, especially if the nonprofit group decides to push forward with it.

Girl in a garden | Stock photo by Rudy and Peter Skitterians/Pixabay
Community garden launches fundraiser
The In Memory of Community Garden (6551 Minock St.) is attempting to raise $500 to support their ongoing operations. If you are willing and able to so, please consider making a donation over on this website.

The garden will provide children and families a place to learn about nutrition and the benefits that fruits, vegetables and exercise provide. Community gardening is a healthy, inexpensive activity for youth and adults that can bring them closer to nature and allow them to interact with each other in a socially, meaningful and productive way. Produce from the garden will help supply nutritious locally grown produce to low-income families in need and all surplus will be donated to our local food banks and pantry's. The Garden will add beauty to the community and heighten people’s awareness and appreciation for all living things.


Detroit police release new recruiting video
The Detroit Police Department, like most police departments in this nation, has more openings for police officers than it does people applying for those jobs. In order to boost its numbers, they have released a new recruiting video for social media and television.

Quite frankly, I think this video is kind of badass. It’s embedded above. I encourage everyone to watch it and share with anyone who you think would make a good Detroit police officer.

Interested parties can also get started on their career pathway by clicking here.

Please subscribe to the Warrendale Detroit Blog by entering your email address where is says “receive email alerts” in the upper right hand column of this page.

Monday, February 03, 2020

GM announces $6 million donation to support Detroit schools

General Motor headquarters | File photo
Earlier this morning, General Motors announced a $6 million donation to Beyond Basics to support the Be the Solution literacy campaign. This investment will provide nearly 500 Detroit high schoolers the opportunity to participate in the nonprofit’s literacy program. It is also the largest single contribution ever to this program.

“Beyond Basics delivers outstanding results that are real, measurable and impactful,” said Mark Reuss, General Motors president. “At General Motors, we believe investing in Detroit’s children and families is an investment in the future – for them, and for all of us residing in southeast Michigan. Our team is proud to support Beyond Basics’ ambitious mission, and we encourage other companies to do the same as we work together to revitalize the city.”

General Motors’ donation is the largest single investment to Beyond Basics’ Be the Solution literacy campaign, to date, and marks the half-way point of this year’s $11 million goal. The $33 million, three-year campaign launched last summer with the endorsement of the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

This donation also comes on the heels of the $2.2 billion investment in Detroit and Hamtramck that GM announced last month.

Beyond Basics works closely with DPSCD and has already achieved tremendous success with 50 tutors at schools across the city — including Mumford High School, where today’s grant announcement was held. The number of trained, certified tutors is expected to jump to 300 over the next three years.

“This is not about throwing money at another problem. Beyond Basics gets at the heart of the challenges linked to reading below grade level and delivers a strategy that is coherent, comprehensive and truly research-based,” explained Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti, superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District. “With the support and leadership of General Motors and Beyond Basics, we will begin to address, at scale, high school literacy challenges so students can be on a college or career path. Due to the legacy of emergency management, too many of our high school students are behind.”

Today’s donation continues General Motors’ support of Beyond Basics’ results-driven work. In 2018, General Motors helped establish Beyond Basics’ first bricks-and-mortar space in Detroit at the Durfee Innovation Society in Detroit. The Beyond Basics Family Literacy Center provides literacy and workforce development services, including GED and SAT prep, with a large focus on reaching an adult population.

“Most Detroit public high school students are reading below grade level,” said Pamela Good, co-founder and CEO of Beyond Basics. “When students fall behind in literacy, they fall behind in every subject because curriculums assume children can read. With this generous $1 million donation from General Motors, Beyond Basics can pair even more trained tutors with struggling students who are eager to learn and need that extra boost.”

Providing a child with the tool of reading can change the trajectory of their life. It opens a world of possibilities that can give them opportunities that would be impossible without literacy. For over twenty years Pamela Good and the Beyond Basics team have been committed to giving children the chance to read and see the potential they have to succeed in the world. It is a mission that has helped thousands, but there are many more in need of help.

Update at 12:38 pm - An earlier version of this story listed GM's donation as $1 million when it's actually $6 million. This story has been corrected to reflect this.

Coffee and conversation with State Representative Karen Whitsett

Girl with cup of coffee | Photo by StockSnap/Pixabay
This coming Saturday, State Representative Karen Whitsett will host of coffee hour with her constituents. She represents the 9th state house district, which includes the Warrendale and nearby neighborhoods, in the Michigan Legislature.

This coffee hour is a chance for residents and other community stakeholders to get to know her and to hear her perspectives on what is happening in Lansing. It’s also a great opportunity to express any issues or concerns that you might have directly to her.

The next one of these coffee hours will happen on Saturday, February 8 at two locations in her district. She will be at McDonald’s (13676 Grand River) from 10 – 11 a.m. After that, she will be at Mary’s Grill (20804 Plymouth Rd.) from noon to 1 p.m. Both of these instances will allow residents to share coffee and conversation with Whitsett.

Longtime readers of the Warrendale Detroit Blog may recall that I supported Whitsett when she first ran for the Michigan House of Representative in 2018. I appreciate the work that she has done to reform auto insurance in our state as well as the rest of her in work in our community. I expect to support her again this November if and when she runs for re-election.

These coffee hours with Whitsett will continue to happen on the second Saturday of each month. They will continue to be at the same times and locations. If that changes, you will read about it on the Warrendale Detroit Blog.

I look forward to seeing some of my neighbors this Saturday.