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  • Thank you, Detroit

    I’m not going to lie to you – this isn’t easy. This week, the final City Slang local music column will be published in the Metro Times (on hardcore band Final Assault), and I have just submitted a cover feature on the women of Detroit hip-hop, to be published next week (8/6). This blog that you’re reading now will be my last one as a regular MT contributor. I have a lot to look forward to. I’m going to be an associate editor at Yellow Scene Magazine in Colorado, a tremendous publication in a beautiful part of the country. But leaving Detroit will be incredibly difficult for me. I love the place. It’s been (amazingly) six and a half years since I arrived, a couple of cases in hand and not much of a plan in mind. I just knew, after three separate research trips for books and a magazine article, that I felt at home here. Metro Times offered me freelance work almost immediately, as did a new website called Metromix (whatever happened to that?) When I arrived here, I had been working as a writer in the UK for nine years, but the help and encouragement I received […]

    The post Thank you, Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Christmas in July, Jack White, and the Tigers

      We here at MT will be delighted when Mr. Jack White throws out a pitch at Navin Field (at least, we hope he will), but until then, we’ll be happy with his pitch to Santa this evening at Comerica Park.    

    The post Christmas in July, Jack White, and the Tigers appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Watch footage of the Gathering of the Juggalos dubbed with Morgan Freeman narration (NSFW)

      Footage from the Gathering of the Juggalos set to clips of Morgan Freeman’s narration from March of the Penguins? Kind of forced, but also kind of beautiful. As the AV Club reports: The oft-sought voiceover champion lends a touch of gravitas to the festival proceedings. Unfortunate scenes of barely clad people having various liquids dumped onto them now carries a quiet dignity as it’s all part of nature’s majestic plan that keeps the world spinning through this elegantly designed and truly wondrous universe. Also, the video is NSFW as there are boobs in it. Watch the clip below:

    The post Watch footage of the Gathering of the Juggalos dubbed with Morgan Freeman narration (NSFW) appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Turn to Crime debut chilly video for “Can’t Love”

    It seems like the polar vortex will never end: the weather phenomenon that brought us the most brutal winter on record this winter is to blame for this summer’s chillier-than usual temperatures as well. A couple of bands, though, made lemonade out of lemons (or snow cones out of snow?) by using the icy landscape to film music videos. 800beloved shot the video for “Tidal” in some sand dunes near Empire, Mich., and this week Turn to Crime debuted the video for “Can’t Stop,” the title track of their recently-released album. Even more piles of ice and snow might be the last thing Detroiters want to see right now, but the footage makes for some good visuals that mesh well with the song. Watch the video below:

    The post Turn to Crime debut chilly video for “Can’t Love” appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Duggan takes control of Detroit water department; says changes to approach on ‘delinquent payment issues’ needed

    Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr transferred oversight of the the city’s water department Tuesday to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in an order intended to refocus “efforts to help DWSD customers get and remain current on their water bills,” Orr’s office said today. “This order provides additional clarity to the powers already delegated to the mayor,” Orr said in a statement released Tuesday. “As the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department works to operate more efficiently and communicate more effectively with customers, it is important to ensure there are clear lines of management and accountability.” Duggan will have the authority to manage DWSD and make appointments to the utility’s board, according to a news release. In a statement issued Tuesday, the mayor said he welcomed Orr’s order, adding that officials will develop a plan that “allows those who truly need to access to financial help … to do so with shorter wait times.” “We need to change a number of things in the way we have approached the delinquent payment issues and I expect us to have a new plan shortly,” Duggan said. “There are funds available to support those who cannot afford their bills — we need to do a much better job in […]

    The post Duggan takes control of Detroit water department; says changes to approach on ‘delinquent payment issues’ needed appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Rovers Scooter Club Celebrates 10 Years

    Rovers Scooter Club, a local gang dedicated to celebrating and riding motor scooters, will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary this week with a very special ride. Motor City Shakedown, the annual birthday party for the club, will commence this Friday, August 1 at New Way Bar. DJ Grover from Cincinnati will be spinning northern soul, reggae, and ska, according to club member Michael Palazzola. Saturday will feature a ride from Ferndale to Detroit, starting at noon at M-Brew. Palazzola says this is where most bikes will congregate before taking the ride to the city and folks will be prepping by getting some grub starting at 10 a.m.  Detroit’s Tangent Gallery will host the after party,  a special event that will feature performances by several bands as well as Satori Circus. That portion of the event will commence at 8 p.m. with performances starting at 9 p.m. It’s free to riders, but the public is welcome to join the party with the mere cost of a door charge. Come midnight, the club will raffle off a vintage Lambretta LI 150. Sunday morning will end the weekend of festivities, with brunch taking place at the Bosco in Ferndale.   

    The post Rovers Scooter Club Celebrates 10 Years appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Politics & Prejudices

Charting a future

Restarting Detroit from scratch — with a new attitude

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Sheila Cockrel paused thoughtfully over dinner last week, considering something she's realized in recent years.

"Today's young adults — those in their 20s and 30s and 40s — have grown up with a Detroit in decline. They've never known anything else." That's sad, especially to someone old enough to remember the excitement of shopping downtown.

Yet she finds something positive about that, when she is talking to the young adults she teaches and mentors at Wayne State University, or the people she meets during the CitizenDetroit community workshops she runs for WSU's Forum on Contemporary Issues in Society program. Most young Detroiters, she finds, aren't tied to the battles of the past. 

"They want things fixed. They want a city that is run properly," with streetlights that work and cops that come when you are being robbed or murdered. They aren't especially interested in fighting old battles and even less in being part of the "victim culture." Detroiters want a city that works. But how do they get there?

The former councilwoman and I talked at length about the city we were born in, just a few hours after a circuit judge finally ended Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon's kamikaze charge, tossing out her misguided challenge to the consent agreement.

Had that not happened, the city would have swiftly run out of money, its politicians committing suicide by emergency manager.

But, once the judge ruled, things seemed to come together amazingly quickly. Not only was a program manager finally hired, but the city council finally and swiftly (!) named their two appointees to the financial advisory board, and appeared willing to work. Except, that is, for the three irreconcilables, Kwame Kenyatta, JoAnn Watson and Brenda Jones, who went off to sulk, or maybe wait for Lyndon Johnson to come back and give them federal billions to spend.

But assuming — and this is a big assumption — that everybody continues to work together — how can Detroit get out of its hole? Across-the-board slashing may possibly balance this year's budget, but is bound to leave the city even weaker than before.

Nobody knows what to do about the mountain of unfunded future obligations. So I decided to ask Sheila, who probably knows Detroit deeper and more intimately than nearly anyone else. 

Born in Corktown into an Irish family named Murphy in the fall of 1947, she was interested in social justice from the start, organizing her fellow girls in Catholic school. She defied her parents at age 19, when she went out to help those injured in what history called the Detroit riot. Eventually, she worked for and later married the great black radical firebrand Ken Cockrel (father of the present councilman), an attorney who served one term on council and left because he was frustrated over how little he could do.

Sheila worked successfully to have her husband's law partner Justin Ravitz elected to the old Recorder's Court bench. Meanwhile, her husband grew steadily more popular. Polls eventually showed that he could have been elected mayor whether or not Coleman Young ran again.

Ken Cockrel Sr. was thinking about such a run in April 1989, when his aorta suddenly burst, and he died on his kitchen floor. Sheila was a widow with a 3-year-old. She worked for the city, then served four terms on council, eventually chairing the budget committee.

She knew there is a time for fighting the system, a time for fighting for change from within — and a time when the system just doesn't work anymore. Three years ago, Cockrel saw where things were, and decided not to waste more of her life fighting ignorant and possibly unbalanced people. (See Conyers, Monica, et al.)

Now, she's fighting for a new Detroit. There isn't a white person in this state who has done more to prove their colorblindness and willingness to stand with those who struggle. But there is a time for common sense. "Even I know you have to keep your books in order." She doesn't think having an emergency manager means fascism.

"It is a management and accountability tool," she said. Like everyone else, she hopes the consent agreement succeeds. But she's not tremendously optimistic. Those who say they want reform aren't looking deeply enough. Doing across-the-board layoffs by seniority makes little sense in a time of extreme crisis, she told me.

"You have workers bumping into complex jobs in complicated departments they know little or nothing about."

When I said I thought it made no sense to lay off cops, she startled me. "Well, we really don't know if we can. We can't really tell how many police we need till we study what they do," she said.

Firefighters, she added, operated under a series of arcane manning rules that probably made sense in 1890, but may not now.

What those now trying to fix things really need to do is start from scratch. Examine what the city does, what it needs to do, and make the rational, tough and difficult decisions required.

But even if that happens — what about the billions in pension obligations that the city realistically never will be able to pay? "Well, you have to find some way of figuring things out," on what may amount to something of a needs basis, Cockrel said. 

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