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  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Politics & Prejudices

A map to our future

New governor faces stiff challenges; luckily, there's a handbook

The thought that life could be better is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains.—Paul Simon

There's a great scene in the movie Enemy at the Gates, about the Battle for Stalingrad. The Nazis are winning, and the Soviet leaders are desperate to find a way to make their troops fight better. What about shooting cowards to make an example of them? Tried that. Hmmm. Threaten their families? Tried that too.

Finally, a junior commissar musters the courage to speak up: "We could try giving them hope!"

What? Give the men hope for a better future? What an extraordinary thought! However, they've run out of other ideas, and have little left to lose. They try it, and it works.

That wasn't the case in the election campaign that just ended. Nobody really offered us very much hope. Stripped of all the fancy graphics and rococo bullshit, the slogans for both parties really came down to something like, "Vote for me. The other guys are worse." I'll bet that got a lot of people really excited about voting.

Three days before the election, I found myself squatting in an emergency veterinary clinic in Madison Heights, after my Australian shepherd puppy helped their economy by eating a large zinc screw.

While waiting for vomiting and my bill, I talked to the some of the other two-legged clients. They were worried about the future, about educating their kids and getting or keeping a job themselves. None of them mentioned politics, the candidates, the president, anything. They were merely trying to scratch out decent lives.

My sense was that, whether they voted or not, they saw politics and politicians as largely irrelevant to their everyday existence.

Well, we've just voted, a scattering of us anyway, and we've picked a new crowd of leaders. Thanks to the Metro Times' deadlines, I had to write this before knowing who they would be. But what I do know is that when the new governor takes over on Jan. 1, he will be faced with a huge looming deficit in next year's budget — at least $1.6 billion. Worse, he will have made promises that, if he sticks to them, will send that deficit even higher.

Plus, the current year's budget will turn out to be really out of balance — and money will have to be found to close that gap too. There's no more stimulus and no more "fat" to cut. The new governor is going to have to make some hard choices, and do it fast, without any time for a learning curve.

What's even harder is that no governor can do this alone; anything has to be passed by both houses of the Michigan Legislature. Next year, this will be amateur hour. Thanks to our moronic system of term limits, the majority of the lawmakers who take office in two months will be new. Depending on final tallies, as many as 100 of our 148 lawmakers may be new to their jobs.

None of the "experienced" ones will have been there more than four years. They will face a series of hard choices. Ultimately, they can choose to raise taxes on those still working, and/or extend the sales tax to services in what has become a largely service economy. The new lawmakers could raise fees for things like hunting licenses, and boost the beer tax for the first time since they lowered it in 1966.

They could revamp the prison system, saving hundreds of millions by releasing or tethering inmates who are no longer any threat to society. Or they could slash road repair and education, crippling our state's ability to reinvent our economy and compete.

Figuring out both budgets and trying to plan coherently for the future in a complex society isn't easy, even if you aren't blinded by ideology. It's especially hard when times are tough and you've never done this before. Plus, the new lawmakers are certain to encounter all sorts of helpful lobbyists eager to persuade them that the future hinges on protecting some particular special interest.

Fortunately, there's a new road map available to help. Michigan State University Professor Charley Ballard is that rarest of economists — one who is also an excellent writer.

He's just published a short new book which is the best thing there is on our state's economy: Michigan's Economic Future: A New Look (MSU Press, $19.95) ought to be required reading for everybody in state government, as well as for every intelligent citizen.

Ballard knows this state exceptionally well. Born in Midland into a Dow chemical family in the 1950s, he grew up mainly in Texas, after his father was transferred there. He came back in 1983 to teach at MSU, and has been there ever since. He's a personable man, neither an elitist ivory-tower type nor a tax-and-spend liberal.

What he mainly is selling is common sense. He quotes approvingly the report the governor's emergency financial advisory committee issued three years ago: "Solving the state's budget crisis requires a combination of revenue increases, spending cuts, and reform of how public services are delivered.

"No single silver bullet incorporating only tax increases, only spending cuts or only government reform will work."

Those words are truer than ever now. Ballard's book is valuable in part because it shatters lots of myths. We are in fact paying far less in taxes than we once did. Local governments are especially tax-starved. The money in the state's general fund, which pays for higher education, prisons, social services and Medicaid, has declined by an astonishing 40 percent in the last decade. "The tax system is being slowly eaten away, like a house full of termites," Ballard says.

His book lays out the problems in less than 250 pages, and offers possible solutions. Extending the state sales taxes to services would help. Repealing the state constitutional ban on a graduated income tax would be even better.

But regardless, the state needs more revenue to do its job. Ballard notes that he himself would be certain to pay more, as a highly educated economist with a good job.

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