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  • Twerk du Soleil shakes up Detroit

    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; tangentgallery.com.

    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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Stir It Up

Are Bing and council playing politics over our budget crisis

Without a unified vision of where Detroit must go, we'll just get the unkindest cuts of all

I'm kind of clueless as to the reason for Mayor Dave Bing's big speech on the city's finances last week. Not that our cash-strapped situation isn't worth addressing. But immediately after the Nov. 16 speech, a City Council member disavowed it, saying the mayor's suggestions had not gone far enough in addressing the budget shortfall. The governor released a cryptic response, saying that he expected the city to submit to a "preliminary financial review" soon. A preliminary financial review is a step in the process of an emergency manager possibly taking over the city.

It seemed that the mayor was out there flapping in the wind alone. At a time when I expected a show of unity — after all, our current council is supposedly the one that was going to get along with the mayor — Bing was forging ahead without the support of council or the governor.

Was it ego that made him do it? Was it because his agenda is different than that of others? Has his impasse with police and firefighter unions become personal? Indeed, his unilateral decision to present the plan to the public is what you'd expect from the emergency manager he threatens is coming if we don't do his bidding.

Consider this: A committee made up of City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown, Councilmember Ken Cockrel and representatives from the mayor's office had been meeting for about three weeks to hammer out this plan. They met as recently as two days before Bing's speech.

But that night, "I was surprised to hear he was going to be doing this speech," Cockrel says. "We have all been participating in a joint committee to come up with a joint plan. Frankly I was surprised to hear on Monday night that he was giving the speech on Wednesday. The plan we have been working on has not been finished and the recommendations have not been finalized. That's the sort of thing his people should have brought to City Council. It was a little bizarre to me that he even did the speech, although some of it was along the line of things we've been discussing."

Two other council members didn't return my calls, although they all had plenty to say at a Monday morning council meeting. The biggest difference with Bing is the amount of layoffs necessary to achieve a balanced budget. In his speech Bing called for an unspecified number of city employee layoffs. Then, in the days following, he said there would be 1,000 layoffs by Feb. 1.

"Any plan that doesn't start with 1,500 layoffs is not going to get it done," says Cockrel. "It could go up to 2,300. He's got to come to grips with this. The other thing is that police and fire cannot be sacred cows. He didn't say there wouldn't be layoffs in those areas, but he came pretty damn close."

At Monday's meeting, council looked at how 1,700 or 2,300 layoffs would affect the budget and the city. In those scenarios they considered as many as 500 police and firefighter layoffs. And some questioned waiting until Feb. 1.

It may seem like a contest to see who can be the biggest Grinch, but council says that Bing's numbers don't add up. They say that 1,700 layoffs would balance the budget if police and fire unions accept 10 percent pay cuts and pay for 30 percent of their health care. If the city lays off 2,300, the budget would be balanced even if the pay cuts don't materialize.

"We have to adopt a strategy that is not dependent on getting givebacks from unions and retirees," says Cockrel. "It's better to just try to structure a strategy that says we're going to do this if we don't get anything at all from the unions. Then anything you get from them is just gravy."

One thing council agrees with, and something council member JoAnn Watson has been out front on, is going after the $220 million Bing said the state owes the city. 

"Us standing together with the mayor, that's a hallelujah moment," says Watson. "We missed it. We need to work out of the same playbook. The citizens need hope. ... We got the mayor putting it on the agenda. The city is still abiding by the agreement that the state has reneged on."

The $220 million stems from a 1998 agreement between the Archer and Engler administrations — Public Act 532, addressing revenue sharing, which was tie-barred to Public Act 500, addressing Detroit tax reductions. Essentially the city agreed to lower its income tax for residents by 0.1 percent each year from 1998 to 2007. That would drop the income tax from 3 percent to 2 percent. The state would in turn share a larger percentage of revenues from sales taxes. In fiscal year 1998 that amount came to $333.9 million for Detroit. However two things happened: A couple of months before Engler left office in 2003, the Legislature changed the revenue sharing formula so that Detroit got less; and the economy started tanking so the state had financial problems of its own, including lower sales tax revenue. Detroit got $220 million less than anticipated through fiscal year 2007.

Another piece of the argument is that Detroit's income tax never got down to 2 percent — it now rests at 2.5 percent. However, part of PA500 that said if Detroit could prove it qualified for three out of four provisions it didn't have to roll back its taxes. Those provisions are: If city unemployment exceeds the state average; if income tax collections are lower than the state average; if property tax collections are less than the state average; and if the city could prove it had no savings. We pretty much fit the bill on all counts.

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