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  • 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.

  • City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May

    Margaret Doll Rod will celebrate the release of her new EP, Margaret, with a show at PJ’s Lager House on Saturday, May 10. A statement reads, “The EP contains 3 new original songs and one Chrome Cranks cover with Italian actress Asia Argento singing background vocals. Margaret moved to Italy after the end of the Demolition Doll Rods where she still lives touring and performing festivals in Europe. The Dollrods were a Garage Rock force for over 20 years, opening for Iggy, Jon Spencer, The Scientist, The Monks and The Cramps. Margaret was the front person and principal songwriter for The Dollrods. Her chief musical foil was Danny Kroha, who joined the Demolition Doll Rods after the now legendary Gories called it quits. Margaret’s sister, Christine, on drums, rounded out the legendary trio. Margaret will do a special performance in the round that night with a 360 degree revolving stage and special guest DJ Adam Stanfel.” The bill will also feature the Stomp Rockets and the Volcanos. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

    The post City Slang: Music review roundup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

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  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Stir It Up

Arms around the city

Neighborhoods Day showcases a vibrant, positive, united Detroit

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Luther “Badman” Keith

"Could a dream rise up through onion fumes ... And yesterday's garbage ripening in the halls?"

—From "Kitchenette Building" by Gwendolyn Brooks


If you feel the city lift into the air sometime Saturday, don't worry. It's not aliens transporting us to some distant planet. If the city begins to hover, it will probably be due to the efforts of ARISE Detroit! and some 170 organizations participating in its fifth annual Neighborhoods Day, a celebration of the groups and unsung heroes who work throughout the year to make Detroit a better place.

The Mighty Motor City Blight Busters, one of those organizations, is anchored in the Grand River Avenue and Lahser Road area. The group has been around for 24 years and been a part of Neighborhoods Day from the beginning. Over the years, the group has leveraged hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours to renovate houses, paint houses, secure abandoned houses and build new houses.

"It's a pretty tough area, but we never give up," says John George, founder of the organization. "It's our goal to save the world and we're starting with Detroit." 

Blight Busters will host a community cleanup followed by arts and music events at the Artist Village and the Java Café, which was founded on an Angels Night long ago.

"We have been at this for 24 years," George says. "We don't need any more planning. We don't need any more maps with circles and arrows. We need action. We need people on the front line to eliminate this negative energy. ... People of good will can always find common ground. Let's work on the things we can agree on. It's really in everyone's best interest to work together. We can put our petty differences aside. There are only so many hours in the day and I think those hours should be focused on solutions, giving people a vested interest in our community. That's what's going to turn around Detroit, create ownership."

The kind of energy that George exudes is endemic among the participants in Neighborhoods Day. Those include such diverse community nonprofits, churches, arts groups and businesses as the Heidelberg Project, 2:1 Gallery, Ravendale Community, Bethel Baptist Church East, Habitat for Humanity, Gratiot McDougal United CDC, Good People Popcorn, Arts League of Michigan, and the list goes on. With all of the people and organizations out there working to make things better, it seems strange that they're not gaining more traction in their efforts.

"That's exactly why ARISE Detroit! came into being," says Luther Keith, founder and executive director of the five-year-old nonprofit. "I looked around at all these community organizations and saw they were all working like crazy. We have a holistic approach to the community. What we do is connect people to the programs. We ask how can we get our arms around Detroit, get people to network, build collaborations and share resources. That is what has made us grow. Our role is to champion the cause and be helpmates for people across the city."

Keith worked at The Detroit News in various capacities for 30 years and he is also the bluesman known as Luther "Badman" Keith.  Both of those personas come in handy as he works to revive this sleeping giant of a city.

There are others working with similar intentions, such as Grace Lee Boggs, whose Boggs Center  (housed in her east side home) is the hub of numerous organizations, artists and intellectuals fighting to create meaningful ways of living in the face of the turmoil of industrial decay. Boggs, along with artist Tyree Guyton, creator of the Heidelberg Project, and Eleanor Josaitis, co-founder of Focus: HOPE, are the honorary chairs of Neighborhoods Day. They will be honored during the day's closeout events at Hart Plaza during the Ribs and R n B Soul Fest.

It's indicative of the high aspirations of Neighborhoods Day that Handyman Ministries, Habitat for Humanity and the EACH outreach network have teamed up to renovate all 20 homes on the 400 block of Tennessee Street near Conner and Jefferson. Aug. 6-14, volunteers will work with those organizations to repair and paint the homes, plant flowers and trees, and remove debris from the block. 

Detroit has had citywide coordinated events such as Angels Night and various cleanups, but the sheer breadth of groups and events involved here may make it the Super Bowl of community-based organizations. While there are plenty of cleanup and bricks-and-mortar activities, some Neighborhoods Day participants will be serving up food for thought.

For instance, the Center for Literacy and Creativity, a west-side charter school, will feature a Knowledge Bowl quiz, with prizes for youngsters in the neighborhood. Community United for Progress has partnered with Rose of Sharon Church and other organizations for a Back to School Rally at the Belmont Shopping Center. It will include health screenings, backpack giveaways, pony rides and a Detroit Fire Department tug of war contest. 

The Arts League of Michigan hosts a Paradise Valley Festival Aug. 5-6 at the Carr Center in Harmonie Park with the Black Story Teller's Association, exhibiting work by muralist Hubert Massey and giving free tours of the area, along with dance music from DJ Frank on Friday and DJ Sabor featuring salsa on Saturday evenings. Paradise Valley was Detroit's black entertainment and business neighborhood from the 1930s to the 1950s. 

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