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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

Detroit’s turning point?

Despite the consent agreement fight, something good could come of this

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When the Detroit Charter Commission convened a couple of years ago, they considered whether we should be in a strong mayor system or a weak mayor system. They considered how much power City Council members would have under the district system that Detroiters voted for. If they'd looked at the city's screwed-up finances, they might have considered that Detroiters wouldn't be calling the shots here anyway and saved themselves and the rest of us some time. 

Gov. Rick Snyder (the sly nerd) bent over backward with rhetoric that this is not a state takeover of the city, and there's wording in the consent agreement that obfuscates what it actually is: a state takeover. The mayor and City Council stay in place, but with a nine-member "advisory" board and the state Treasury Department peering over their shoulders. And while the governor doesn't have a representative on the board with veto power (as was the case with Gov. John Engler's Detroit School Board takeover in the 1990s), there is a de facto state veto because the Financial Advisory Board cannot spend any significant money without the specific consent of state Treasurer Andy Dillon. Maybe that's why they call it a consent agreement — our elected leaders won't be able to do anything without permission.

I didn't get mad when the feds used a consent decree to force changes at the Detroit Police Department a decade ago. So while I don't like what the state just did, I'd want to evaluate it with something of a cool head. We've seen some severe government bullying around here before. Remember Poletown? In the 1980s, the city pushed a neighborhood off the map to make room for a General Motors assembly plant. Then, in the 1990s, the county used the policy of "eminent domain" to take private property to make space for the construction of Ford Field and Comerica Park. None of those instances is of the magnitude of the entire city of Detroit, but it just goes to show that when big money and big government want something, they'll move mountains — or at least a neighborhood — to get what they want.

If the city had acted 20 years ago, or even 10, this might have been avoided. But once the state revenue-sharing money dried up in 2002 and the city didn't adjust its operations, we were headed for this. With the great recession of 2007, it became nearly inevitable. Not because consent agreements or emergency managers are inevitable during municipal fiscal crises, but that is the playbook the state has chosen to follow. I'd love to blame it on the corporate style of Gov. Snyder, but Gov. Granholm started this emergency financial manager thing and Snyder refined it to an emergency manager with seemingly unfettered power. In order to avoid the dreaded EM, the city went for the consent decree. 

These aren't new ideas. Former Detroit Auditor General Joe Harris pretty much recommended most of the financial plan we are now pursuing in a blistering critique of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and City Council in 2005. In 2001, Harris ran for mayor with the same message. At the time I thought his analysis of the situation was correct, but his total lack of charisma and a political machine to push his ideas doomed his ability to be effective.

"The City's current dilemma is not the result of a lack of information by City officials," Harris said in 2005. "The five-year forecast I provided Your Honorable Body two years ago, Mayor Archer's 10-year forecast provided to you five years ago, both pointed to the current financial crisis. ...

"It is noteworthy that no plans have been made to incorporate the structural changes recommended by the Auditor General to fix the Department of Transportation or the Law Department's Workers Compensation Division, or to upgrade the City's telecommunications network, or to reduce the City's risk management costs, or to modernize the Public Lighting Department's Mistersky plant — recommendations amounting to savings of more than $50 million annually."

Harris has since gone on to become emergency manager of Benton Harbor. In two years, he's fired a chunk of city personnel, suspended the decision-making powers of elected officials and allowed Whirlpool Corporation, Benton Harbor's main industry, to do pretty much what it wants. He's also cut the city deficit from $2.5 million to $650,000.

But there's even more than what Harris suggested in this consent agreement. Some of it's good; at least it looks that way on the page. How it actually plays out will be telling. For instance, there is a section related to Detroit-Focused Economic Gardening. It says the city will "use a comprehensive set of tools for accelerating entrepreneurship, business growth, access to capital, placemaking and talent enhancement."

But how will something like that actually play out? Will the city empower the small community and market gardeners to create a system of distribution and processing? Will it help them acquire land? I recently spoke with a market gardener who is trying to buy a lot he has been working, but he can't even find out who owns it. At the very least the gardeners are cleaning up vacant lots and clearing buried debris in addition to remediating the quality of the soil and eliminating garbage through composting. Or will the doors be opened only to large corporate operations such as the one first proposed by Hantz Farms a few years ago. Hantz has since become a partner with community groups on the east side and changed its focus to tree farming. Our post-consent "advisers" could well fixate on corporate agribusiness as the way to fill tax coffers as opposed to the slower, surer community-building process.

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