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    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 make money 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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Politics & Prejudices

Detroit: Running out of time

$1 in assets for $33 in liabilities; push is coming to shove

You'd have had a hard time finding a politician in Detroit last week with anything good to say about the proposed "consent agreement" the governor offered the mayor and City Council.

"This proposal is a passive-aggressive power grab," state Rep. Shanelle Jackson proclaimed. Jackson, who is now trying for a Democratic nomination for Congress, added that it "will likely lead to privatization, collective bargaining elimination, higher costs and lower quality public services for people."

Anyone who has waited in vain for a Detroit cop to show up may well wonder how services could get worse ... but opposing the consent agreement was pretty much the party line. Mayor Dave Bing blustered, even appearing to channel Coleman Young when he heatedly said, "Why the hell would I sign it?"

The answer, Mr. Mayor, is pretty simple: Because you have no other choice, other than an emergency manager.

One of the few notes of sanity was struck by Sheila Cockrel, a longtime council member who voluntarily retired a few years ago.

"I think the city has bought all the time it can buy, and there's going to be a change," she told The Detroit News.

In other words, Detroit's soon-to-be powerless politicians need to lead, follow or get out of the way. The city is really out of options — and time. Gov. Rick Snyder has given Detroit until next week to decide whether to accept a consent agreement.

Sometime in April or May, Detroit officials admit, they will run out of money to pay their bills. When that happens, the governor will be legally obligated to act, which means an emergency manager.

There are some, however, who mistakenly think that a state takeover of the city won't happen because the emergency manager law itself may soon be suspended. A group has collected what are almost certainly enough signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot. If the state, as expected, certifies them, the law is put on hold till after the election. What happens then?

I asked Joe Harris, who was Detroit's auditor for a decade, Detroit's chief financial officer for a few months, and is now the emergency manager in Benton Harbor. "The law pretty clearly states that it then reverts to the old Emergency Financial Manager Law," he said. If the governor names one of those, it would still mean Bing and the nine city council members would lose all their effective powers.

True, the EFM would lack the ability to set aside contracts, etc., that emergency managers now have. But any emergency financial manager could ask the governor to allow the city to declare bankruptcy, which would end up having much the same effect.

For months, many people have expected the governor to name an emergency manager. But instead, he offered a consent agreement under which an appointed nine-person board would have huge powers to restructure city finances. Bing and the council would still retain some powers and have some role in appointing the board.

But they would give up a lot, and they certainly don't want to do that. Unfortunately, they really do not have any rational choice.

The city is beyond broke. For every dollar of assets, Detroit has $33 in liabilities. Yes, a lot of people are to blame for the city's plight. The whites fled to the suburbs and took their jobs and their money with them. Yes, the state owes Detroit about $200 million in unpaid revenue-sharing money.

But the city has had very poor leadership, and decades of mismanagement and corruption have drained the city's coffers and sold out the people's future. Even if the state paid the revenue-sharing money tomorrow, it would just postpone the collapse a few months.

Nobody, however, is going to trust Detroit's leaders with any more money — and there is no reason why they should. On the very morning Snyder announced his proposed consent agreement, we learned the city is forfeiting $72 million in federal money that was meant to help the poor. Why? Because Bing had to shut down the entire Human Services Department for incompetence and corruption.

Under the Bing administration, the highly paid creatures running the department — which is reportedly being investigated by the FBI — allegedly took money and bought presents for themselves.

Bing is now on a trajectory to go down as a tragic figure, like Rick Wagoner and Bob Stempel, the General Motors CEOs who tried to fix the company, but were incapable of making the really hard decisions and of moving quickly enough, and so had to be fired.

There still may be hope, however, that the city and the governor agree on some form of a consent agreement. I talked with Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr. one night last week.

Cockrel is a thoughtful man who served as mayor for seven months after Kwame Kilpatrick was trundled off to jail. When I asked what he thought the odds were of getting a consent agreement, to my surprise, he said, "I would say good — even pretty good," adding that it all depended on what happened over these next few days.

There isn't any magic bullet to fix Detroit, no perfect outcome. Detroit's leaders have to choose whether or not to pitch in and help clear the deadwood, and build something new.

Three and a half years ago, remember, General Motors was essentially given up for dead. GM is making billions now. Let's hope that Detroit can someday end up in a similar place. 

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