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  • Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well

    By LeeAnn Brown Some people say that hip-hop is dead. Local ban Fderal Ground is proving that is not the case. The seven-member band, consisting of three lead vocalists, a DJ, bass, drums and guitar, plays what they call “living hip-hop.” Their music, peppered with multiple styles, covers all aspects of life from growing up in the D to playing with fire despite knowing you will likely get burned. Their undeniable chemistry and raw lyrics compose a music that is living, breathing, and connecting to their listeners. It has been nearly 11 years since Vinny Mendez and Michael Powers conjured up the basement idea that has flowered into the Detroit funk-hop band Feral Ground. Throughout high school the two wrote and rapped consistently, playing shows here and there. In those years they matched their rap stanzas with the animated, dynamic voice of Ginger Nastase and saw an instant connection. The now trio backed their lyrics with DJ Aldo’s beats on and off for years, making him a permanent member within the last year, along with Andy DaFunk (bass), Joseph Waldecker (drums), and newest member, Craig Ericson (guitar). We sat down with Feral Ground and their manager, Miguel Mira, in their […]

    The post Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law

    Much has been made about Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s decision this week to transfer authority of the city’s water department to Mayor Mike Duggan. In what is the most interesting read on the situation, Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale, pens an analysis on Michigan’s novel emergency manager law on the New York Times Opinionator blog. Stanley deconstructs Michigan’s grand experiment in governance by addressing two questions: Has the EM law resulted in policy that maximally serves the public good? And, is the law consistent with basic principles of democracy? Stanley ties in examples of Plato, James Madison’s Federalist Papers, and Nazi political theorist Carl Schmitt. A short excerpt: Plato was a harsh critic of democracy, a position that derived from the fact that his chief value for a society was social efficiency. In Plato’s view, most people are not capable of employing their autonomy to make the right choices, that is, choices that maximize overall efficiency. Michigan is following Plato’s recommendation to handle the problems raised by elections. Though there are many different senses of “liberty” and “autonomy,” none mean the same thing as “efficiency.” Singapore is a state that values efficiency above all. But by no stretch of […]

    The post Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week

    Walking with Dinosaurs, a magnificent stage show that features life-sized animatronic creatures from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, will be in town next week. But to preview the show’s run at the Palace, a baby T-Rex will be making an appearance at four area malls to the delight and wonderment of shoppers. Baby T-Rex, as the creature is being affectionately referred to, is seven-feet-tall and 14-feet-long. He’ll only be at each mall for about 15 minutes, so while there will be photo opportunities, they’ll be short. The dino will be at Fairlane Town Center Center Court at 18900 Michigan Ave. in Detroit from 2-2:15 p.m. today, July 30; The Mall at Partridge Creek at 17420 Hall Rd. in Clinton Township from 5-5:15 p.m. today, July 30; Twelve Oaks Mall at the Lord & Taylor Court at 27500 Novi Rd., Novi tomorrow, Thursday July 31 from 1:30-1:45 p.m.; and Great Lakes Crossing Food Court at 4000 Baldwin Rd., Auburn Hills from 5-5:15 p.m., tomorrow Thursday, July 31.  

    The post Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations

    Interested in reading about what Detroit accomplishes on a week-to-week basis that’s produced by the city itself? Great. You can do that now, here, at the Detroit Dashboard. Every Thursday morning, the city will publish an update to the dashboard because Mayor Mike Duggan loves metrics, even if the data might be hard to come by. According to Duggan’s office, the dashboard will provide data on how many LED street lights were installed, how many vacant lots were mowed, how much blight was removed, and more. This week, the city says it has sold 13 site lots through, removed 570 tons of illegal dumping, and filed 57 lawsuits against abandoned property owners.  

    The post Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial

    We don’t know about you, but usually Nancy Whiskey and Long John Silver’s aren’t two concepts we’d place in the same sentence. However, the international fast food fish fry conglomerate made a nod to the Detroit dive in their latest YouTube commercial. LJS is offering free fish fries on Saturday, August 2, which is the promotion the commercial is attempting to deliver. But, we think we’ll just go to Nancy Whiskey instead.

    The post Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns trans women

    We came across an interesting item this week: Apparently, a music festival with the name “Michfest” is quietly oriented as a “Women-Only Festival Exclusively for ‘Women Born Women.’” It seems a strange decision to us. If you wanted to have a women-only music festival, why not simply proclaim loud and clear that it is for all sorts of women? But if you really wanted to become a lightning rod for criticisms about transphobia, organizers have found the perfect way to present their festival. Now, we know that defenders of non-cisgender folks have it tough. The strides made by gays and lesbians (and bisexuals) in the last 20 years have been decisive and dramatic. But the people who put the ‘T’ in LGBT have reason to be especially defensive, facing a hostile culture and even some disdain from people who should be their natural allies. That said, sometimes that defensiveness can cause some activists to go overboard; when we interviewed Dan Savage a couple years ago, he recalled his “glitter bombing” and said it was due to the “the narcissism of small differences,” adding that “if you’re playing the game of who is the most victimized, attacking your real enemies doesn’t prove you’re most victimized, claiming you […]

    The post Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns trans women 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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