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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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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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