Best of Detroit 2011
Photo: Marvin Shaouni
Public Square - Staff Picks
Super people, places and things, picked by our team of critics
Published: April 27, 2011
Best Detroit Headline to Recycle
"The Incredible Shrinking City"
Monthly Detroit, July 1979
Some 32 years ago, writer Kirk Cheyfitz laid out the then-vexing problems of a city whose revenues and political clout mirrored a population decline "from a high of 1.85 million to less than 1.3 million today." The article reminded readers that the city, in its time of largesse, had built the burbs, from supplying water and sewer lines, to for a time busing in and educating "at Detroit's expense" students from Harper Woods, East Detroit and parts of Grosse Pointe. Already in 1979, the concept was emerging of two Detroits, "a small private city and the larger public city," the former then epitomized by the Renaissance Center and the then-new New Center. Mayor Coleman Young may be remembered by some as divisiveness embodied, but his final words from the piece still resonate: "I think there is recognition in the area that the area cannot survive and prosper if Detroit does not survive and prosper. But we in Detroit must recognize that the surrounding suburbs have a key role to play and we must between us define those roles so we strengthen each other and don't tear each other apart."
Best Introduction to the City
Detroit Orientation Institute
3075 Faculty/Administration Bldg., 656 W. Kirby Detroit; 313-577-0171; doi.wayne.edu
There's no way to "get" Detroit in a day or two. But there is one intensive program to get any newcomer started and prod all but the most knowledgeable long-timer. Directed by Detroitist Ann Cuddohy Slawnik in conjunction with Wayne State University and Inside Detroit, the three-day Detroit Orientation Institute unpacks our epochs, delving into the history of the city, tracking how we got to where we are, while ferrying participants around town to talk to some of the most involved and informed folks around.
Best meme to kill
There are no supermarkets in Detroit
It's true that there are no major chain grocery stores in Detroit, but in the national media that fact has sometimes been simplified to no grocery stores in Detroit. Oops. And even the accurate "no major chain supermarkets" exaggerates the importance of major chains in a city with Eastern Market and independent grocers like Honey Bee La Colmena, not to mention affiliates of Spartan distributors and of the Aldi stores (a chain operated by the owners of Trader Joe's), etc. Detroit author James Griffioen laid it all out in detail at the Urbanophile website (urbanophile.com or tinyurl.com/4nb5o94 to go directly to Griffioen's piece). That's not to say that access to healthy food isn't a problem for many in this city without real mass transit. But let's keep things in perspective.
Best Detroit Rock Radio Recycling
He may have gone all Karl Rove on us as a "conservative political commentator," but J.J. has owned the best radio pipes in the city since he captained "The Morning Crew" on the old WWWW in the '70s. When he and Lynne Woodison were dumped by WCSX in 2008, it looked like he might go off to form his own Tea Party, but you can't keep a good voice down. While Johnson seemed like an obvious frontrunner to replace Dick Purtan last year when the morning legend laid down his headphones at oldies-rock WOMC-FM (along with fellow Detroit airwave faves Chris Edmonds and Kevin O'Neill), WOMC did the next best thing, installing him as its 10 a.m.-3 p.m. weekday host. Rock on, J.J.
Best Time to Appreciate a Detroit Radio Institution
"The Great Voice of the Great Lakes" has passed through more hands than Lindsay Lohan in recent years, but the latest WJR-AM (760) ownership change may be the most menacing. In February, WJR, as well as Detroit FM stations WDVD (96.3) and WDRQ (93.1), were sold by Citadel Broadcasting as part of a multibillion-dollar merger with Cumulus Media. Atlanta-based Cumulus, which built its fortune with broadcast properties in medium-sized Southern and Midwest markets, has a reputation for not valuing on-air talent, and the feeble economy could be an excuse for downsizing and cost-cutting. WJR morning monarch Paul W. Smith has discussed the sale and transition openly on his show. If he and the station's other high-priced personages are concerned, we may have reason to be.
Best Detroit TV Hair
Lauren Podell, WDIV
Who are we to argue with the opinion of experts? Earlier this year, David Humphries (aka "Hump the Grinder"), impresario of Detroit's "Hair Wars" stylist competitions, conducted an online poll to determine who possessed the most luscious locks among our city's TV heads. After the voting, mostly from hair care professionals, Podell, Local 4's blond traffic reporter, was judged a cut above the rest — by a mere .5 percent over her WDIV airmate, Rhonda Walker. At least for this year, blondes had more fun.
Best Blog for Bicyclists
The stated goal, says author Todd Scott, is to promote safe and convenient bicycling in metro Detroit. Whether it's announcements of community forums, analyses of master plans and their inclusion (or exclusion) of cycling, collections of media reports about cycling events and policies or just plain funny cycling tidbits, find it here.
Best Way to See the Great Lakes
On a freighter
And not necessarily as a stowaway. The freighters are normally only certified to carry customers and family members. But it turns out that various nonprofits raffle off tickets for cruise slots donated by the shipping companies. You can still get in on a raffle closing May 1 for a seven-day, six-night trip for two on one of the Great Lakes Fleet Inc. ships out of Duluth; $10 a ticket, three for $25. Check for details on that and other raffles at boatnerd.com, a source for followers of the big ships on the Great Lakes.
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