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  • The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues

    Ypsilanti police are still searching for the person dubbed the “mystery pooper.” Someone has been, as the Associated Press politely puts it today, “soiling slides at an Ypislanti playground over the last six months.” So, of course, someone purchased an electronic billboard along I-94 near Huron St. at exit 183 that delivers multiple calls for action: For instance,”Help us flush the pooper.” The company that purchased the billboard, Adams Outdoor Advertising, knows how to reach the world in the 21st Century, branding each billboard with a hashtag for the public utilize in its efforts: #ypsipooper. WJBK-TV says the billboard also toggles through other rich lines, such as: “Do your civic doody, report the pooper #YPSIPOOPER” “Help us catch the poopetrator #YPSIPOOPER.” You can have the runs, but you can’t hide. They’re still looking for you, Mystery Pooper.

    The post The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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.



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Stir It Up

Countdown for Detroit

Beyond census figures: The hard data that we need to know

The numbers are in. The 2010 census sets Detroit's population at 713,777, about a 25 percent drop. The only other big city to lose a higher percentage of its population is New Orleans, which clocked a 29 percent loss with the help of Hurricane Katrina.

We are now the 18th (formerly fourth) largest city in the United States, checking in between Columbus, Ohio, and Memphis, Tenn.

The population drop from 951,270 in 2000 means more than just fewer people in the D. We'll probably lose millions of dollars in revenue sharing funds doled out by the state; we'll have fewer representatives in Lansing, and lines for congressional districts will be redrawn in a way that gives the city less political clout.

City politicians bemoaned the numbers, claiming that the census undercounted Detroiters, and vowed to appeal the result. City Council President Charles Pugh said that he thought the count was about 100,000 short, saying that thousands of Detroiters use suburban addresses in order to get lower car insurance rates and that there are thousands of Detroiters in prisons who will return to the city when released from custody.

Well, that's one way to embrace our high percentage of ex-felons. But it seems he's grasping at straws, which wouldn't be unusual around here with the various crises the city faces.

Adding to those problems is the fact that about 100 state laws specifically targeting Detroit will probably have to be rewritten because they are tied to the size of its population.

That's because state laws can't name a specific city, so population has been used to single Detroit out from every other city in the state, none of which has a population of more than 200,000. Now it looks like the magic number of 750,000 will need to be lowered if the city is going to be able to continue taxing at current levels, for example, or run a health department. The ability to license casinos is another issue that's tied to population.

Kurt Metzger, director of the nonprofit Data Driven Detroit, says, they'll have to "get legislation changed to cities of 500,000 or more. When Detroit's population dropped under 1 million they went to the 750,000 standard."

Metzger doubts that any appeals will make much difference. "The city didn't get prepared for the census," he says. "The city didn't have the resources to do that. There might have been an undercount. ... There is a specific process to the challenge, and after the fact it's very difficult to change the results. They're never going to find another 40,000 people through the processes that are open to them."

Here's another hard fact from the census numbers: Detroit's population loss wasn't just a matter of city dwellers fleeing to the suburbs; Michigan was the only state to lose population over the past decade — many of them young, well-educated people who view their home state as a rust-belt relic with little to offer in a high-tech future.

"The census confirms the data that we've been looking at. It's confirming, but not surprising," says Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future Inc., a nonpartisan think tank based in Ann Arbor. "Compared to the rest of country, we got substantially poorer, more aged and less educated."

Among other things, that data should wake up the state to the fact that we are all facing big problems together. Gov. Rick Snyder has acknowledged this in general, and his response to the census results echoes that. "Michigan will not succeed if Detroit and other major cities don't succeed. We all must be partners in Michigan's reinvention," he said.

The people at Michigan Future agree with Snyder's analysis of the situation but disagree with his strategy to fix the state's economy, which first and foremost has been to cut business taxes. That's a strategy that Paul Hillegonds, a former politician who's now senior vice president of corporate affairs and communications for DTE Energy, once supported but now calls into question.

In a February address to students at Grand Valley State University, he said, "In the past dozen years, state and local taxes have been reduced by what is now over $6 billion annually, moving Michigan to a tax burden below the national average ... and state general fund revenues 42 percent less in inflation adjusted dollars than when I left the state House 14 years ago. Yet lower taxes and spending have been accompanied by slower economic growth in Michigan than in the rest of the nation."

That's a data driven assessment from someone who should know. Hillegonds served as a Republican in the state House of Representatives from 1979 to 1996 and as president of Detroit Renaissance from 1997 to 2005. He currently sits on the board of Michigan Future and the Center for Michigan.

"When I was in the Legislature, I was a part of creating the problem," Hillegonds told me over the weekend. "I made the mistake. Having worked for 15 years in the city of Detroit, through my experience at Detroit Renaissance and DTE, you realize that a cornerstone of urban revitalization is K through 12 and higher education. You need educated twenty- and thirtysomethings who want to live in the city. You can't sustain that growth without some public investments. It's not that taxes are unimportant to the business climate, but a more highly educated workforce is more important."

Hillegonds has turned around on some issues because he paid attention to the facts rather than ideology. He pointed out some revealing statistics in his GVSU address.

"In 2008, of the 55 U.S. metro areas with populations of 1 million or more, Detroit ranked 33rd in knowledge-based industries concentration, 36th in per capita income and 37th in college attainment. Metro Grand Rapids lagged even more, ranking 54th in knowledge-based industries concentration, 53rd in per capita income and 45th in college attainment. Over the past 10 years, state funding for higher education has been cut by 27 percent. Michigan is now 42nd among the 50 states in per capita support, reflecting the fact that higher education has been a less important state priority than prisons and tax cuts. ... Michigan Future's analysis of extensive tax and economic data found that the most successful states are not characterized by low taxes. If anything, they tend to be more high-tax states than low. On the other hand, states with the lowest taxes tend to have lower per capita incomes, lower concentrations in knowledge-based enterprises and lower proportions of adults with four-year degrees or more."

Former Gov. John Engler played the west side of the state against Detroit. Apparently that didn't work, and the whole state is worse off for it. Grand Rapids could be a big-time place, but apparently Detroit-hating, tax-cutting and sending a lot of people to jail isn't the way. Gov. Jennifer Granholm wasn't much better.

I know it's hard to read through a bunch of numbers, but therein is the hard data that we need to know. And the bottom line is results. I'll leave you with a question that Hillegonds posed at GVSU.

"We all would like Mississippi's taxes and Minnesota's social and economic infrastructure, but there is no state in the nation that has both. Which fiscal strategy will we choose?"

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