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    Former American Idol contestant Vonzell Solomon weighs in on twerking, natural hair & CEO status. In 2005, recording artist Vonzell “Baby V” Solomon embarked on a journey that changed her life. At the age of 20, Vonzell made it to the top three on American Idol before she was eliminated. But that was not the beginning nor the end of her journey to stardom. Vonzell is one of more than two dozen artists on tour with YouTube sensation Todrick Hall, who is a former Idol contestant as well. Todrick gained notoriety for his fast food drive-thru songs and also for producing parody videos  —  based on popular Broadway musicals and songs. His tour, uniquely entitled Twerk Du Soleil (translation: twerk of the sun), is a combination of his popular YouTube spoofs. Both Vonzell and her ratchet alter ego,Boonquisha Jenkins, made an appearance in Twerk Du Soleil,which stopped in Detroit July 23 at Saint Andrews Hall. Boonquisha opened the show by facilitating a twerking competition among the audience. Next, Vonzell made a reappearance singing a fan favorite – Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” Later, Boonquisha came on stage screaming “It’s so cold in the D! You gotta be from the D to […]

    The post Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Poll shows Bob Ficano behind in Wayne County Executive race

    If a poll released this week is any indication of how the August 5 primary election will turn out, current Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano has reason to worry, Fox 2 reports. Ficano, who’s seeking a third term, polled in fourth place — behind former Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans, Westland Mayor Bill Wild and Wayne County Commissioner Phil Cavanaugh, according to Fox 2. The poll by Strategic Solutions LLC, showed 6.7 percent of respondents said they’d vote for Ficano, which isn’t so bad: He finished ahead of County Commissioner Kevin McNamara (who came in at No. 6) and someone literally described as “a candidate not named here” (who polled at No. 5.) If you’re planning to head to the polls — which you should! — and need some input on the candidates and ballot proposals, you can read for our election coverage in this week’s Metro Times.

    The post Poll shows Bob Ficano behind in Wayne County Executive race appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • A Mad Decent Mixtape

    Mad Decent Block Party will roll through town on Saturday, August 16, bringing to town artists like Dillon Francis, Diplo, Flosstradamus, RiFF RAFF, Keys N Krates, and Zeds Dead. Thugli, a Canadian duo, will perform on the Toronto leg of the tour and they put together a 45 minute mix that features songs by some of the tour’s featured artists as well as a host of others.  Listen to it here. 

    The post A Mad Decent Mixtape appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tangent Gallery to host Breaking Borders

    Detroit’s Tangent Gallery will host a special event this Saturday, July 26 in hopes of raising money for the local faction of an international nonprofit, Burners without Borders Detroit. Breaking Borders is a one-evening-only event that will feature live music, performance, and art. Satori Circus will perform along with spoken word artist ZakAndWhatArmy. Music by Tartanic, Dixon’s Violin, and Servitor. Fire dancers, hoop performers, and acrobats will provide a certain mysticism to the ambiance as old Victorian steampunk and tribal art is shown in the main gallery. There will also be a runway fashion show and the evening will end with a dubstep rave featuring DJ Forcefeed and Dotty. Truly, there’s something for everyone. Perhaps more importantly, there will be a full service bar. The event is open to those 18 and older and IDs will be checked at the door. Admission is $25 at the door, or $20 with the donation of a canned good. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the party goes until 2 a.m. A 20 percent commission will be taken from all art sold at this event and donated to Burners without Borders. The Tangent Gallery is located at 715 Milwaukee Ave., Detroit; 313-873-2955;

    The post Tangent Gallery to host Breaking Borders appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 48 to film — behind the scenes at the 48 Hour Film Project

    By Amanda Mooney There’s a lot that goes into producing a film, and unless you are a filmmaker you really have no idea. Writing, casting, finding a location, shooting, and editing; each step of the process can take days, months, and sometimes years to complete. Can you imagine doing it ALL in just 48 hours? The 48 Hour Film Project is an annual competition that takes place all over the world in various cities. According to Mike Madigan, head of the Detroit 48 Hour chapter, the city is one of the largest participating in terms of the number of teams. The competing teams go in blind as to what kind of film they will be producing, with no creative planning beyond getting a cast and crew together, Madigan explained. “They pick a genre out of a hat, and they get a line, a prop, and a character. And they have to incorporate that within a short film, that’s usually between 4 to 7 minutes long. And they have the timeframe of doing it all within 48 hours,” said Madigan, “So all the creative process of it all has to happen within that 48 hour–writing a script, putting it together, editing–to […]

    The post 48 to film — behind the scenes at the 48 Hour Film Project appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Passalacqua debut dark project ‘Church: Revival’ at new Hamtramck performance space

    Church: Revival is the new project by local rap duo Passalacqua (aka Bryan Lackner and Brent Smith), but it’s more than just a new Passalacqua release. The rappers teamed up with siblings Jax Anderson (frontwoman of rockers Flint Eastwood) and Seth Anderson, who together form the songwriting team called Syblyng (naturally). The result is a cycle of songs that promises to be darker than Passalacqua’s material so far. The project will make a live debut on Saturday, July 26 at a brand new venue space at the Detroit Bus Co.’s building Eight & Sand, and they will premiere the Right Bros.-directed video for the track “Baptism” as well. Other performances include Tunde Olaniran and Open Mike Eagle, and DJ sets by Nothing Elegant, Dante LaSalle, and Charles Trees. We met up the two duos at Eight & Sand to check out the new space and to talk about the project with all parties involved. Metro Times: How long have you been working together? Jax Anderson: Seth and I are constantly writing songs together. We want to push in the direction of becoming songwriters more frequently. This is our first project that we took on to co-write everything together. We’re basically just a songwriting entity. We won’t play live that […]

    The post Passalacqua debut dark project ‘Church: Revival’ at new Hamtramck performance space appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Cover Story

A highway runs through it

Is it really a good idea to spend $1.8 billion expanding a 6.7-mile stretch of I-94 in Detroit?

Photo: Robert Nixon, License: N/A

Robert Nixon

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Robert Nixon

MDOT’s expansion plan calls for removing overpasses that link Midtown and New Center.

“We have been working really closely with the non-motorized folks too,” Stepanski says, pointing out the plan’s intent to include 2-foot-wide bike lanes and 6-foot-wide sidewalks along the service roads.

Michael Boettcher, project manager for the Detroit-based nonprofit group Transportation Riders United, agrees there are some benefits to be gained from the upgraded service drives, but is skeptical of the project’s overall worth.

“There are elements of the project we believe could benefit travelers as well as surrounding neighborhoods along the impacted corridor, such as the proposed continuous service drives at the I-94/M-10 interchange, and enhanced pedestrian crossings at other locations,” Boettcher says. “But the current $1.8 billion price tag outweighs the benefits of a project largely designed to get cars and trucks through, not into, the city of Detroit slightly more quickly.”

MDOT’s process for the project has already included multiple studies in preparation for beginning the work on the freeway. Stepanski says the department has commenced yet another one: this time, on the actual logistics of completing such a large-scale project in the extremely busy area.

“We completed a detailed engineering design – we got our environmental clearance [from the Federal Highway Administration] in 2005,” Stepanski says. The purpose of the current study is to put “meat on the bones of the conceptual plan.”

One of the biggest concerns about closing parts of the busiest stretch of a highway that cuts through downtown Detroit is the immediate travel problems presented for those who come into the city each day for work. Stepanski says MDOT’s doing what it can to minimize construction’s impact on motorists.

“We certainly don’t want to shut the city of Detroit down,” he says, adding that they’ve now invited contractors to offer advice on how to build the project in a timelier fashion.

The hope, Stepanski says, is to reduce the projected cost from its current $1.8 billion to $1.5 billion, and to slash the time frame from 20 years to just four, with the goal to begin work in early 2015.

“The reason the project was planned to take 20 years to build was not due to construction time frames, but cash flow,” Stepanski says. “Based on the amount of money that MDOT has to contribute to the project, it would take 20 years to pay for. MDOT is currently exploring ways to enhance the financing of the project and also the feasibility of using innovative procurement methods … that could result in drastically reduced time frames.”

But there is a huge “if” in all this: MDOT can’t actually start work until it can prove funding for the entire project is locked in. Stepanski says 90 percent of the costs would be covered by the federal government. Of the remaining 10 percent, the state would pony up most of the money, but the city of Detroit, by law, must cover 12.5 percent of the state’s cost (1.25 percent of the project’s total cost). Under current estimates, that puts the city’s share of the project at $22.5 million.

On the surface, the prospect of a city that has a projected budget deficit this year of nearly $350 million finding that sort of cash is something MDOT would have to consider in discussions regarding the project’s funding. “Public Act 51 of 1951 calls for the city of Detroit to contribute 12.5 percent of the cost of the state portion of the work,” Stepanski says. “It would take legislation to change that.”

But the city claims the problems it currently faces with its general fund won’t be an impediment to the project getting started.

“The city receives gasoline and weight tax monies annually through State Act 51 to maintain its roads,” says Ron Brundidge, director of Detroit’s Department of Public Works. “This funding source will be utilized to pay the city’s portion of the project. Therefore, the present financial challenges that exist will not prevent the city from being able to support this important infrastructure project.”

Of course, much has changed in Detroit since this project was first proposed nearly 20 years ago. Among other things is the resurgence of Midtown in recent years. The potential harm the project could have on this part of the city is just one of the reasons critics are calling into question the wisdom of MDOT’s continued support of the expansion.

Since the skeleton for the project was established two decades ago, MDOT has held more than 100 meetings to gather public input. As might be expected with any undertaking of this magnitude, not everyone is going to be on board, no matter what is done to mitigate concerns, Stepanski says.

“We’ve done the best job we could,” he said.

But it’s not just a few progress-hating cranks raising concerns.

Transportation Riders United, a long-established group dedicated to the cause of improving public transit, issued a scathing 53-page report in response to the environmental impact study completed for the project in 2004.

The group’s biggest concern is focused on the planned demolition of overpasses in the Midtown neighborhood, TRU’s Boettcher says.

“We’re very concerned about the removal of the Third [Street] and John R [Street] bridges … particularly given the growth in and around Midtown,” he writes in an email. “The fewer physical connections there are between those areas on both sides of I-94, the greater psychological barriers there will be to spin off development and the greater physical separation, making it harder for people to cross the interstate at all by car or on foot.”

So by widening the freeway, I-94 would creep deeper into Midtown, and, essentially, cap it off from the New Center district at a time when the area is about to enjoy a spillover effect from the economic upswing the former Cass Corridor is currently enjoying.

Stepanski says MDOT has taken note of the burst of economic activity in Midtown and says he has frequently been in discussion with Wayne State University, Henry Ford Hospital and the College for Creative Studies — all of which are located in the area.

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