Most Read
  • Detroit area code 313 may be phased out

    Hey, everybody from the 313, start thinking of new numbers to rally around– the longstanding Detroit area code may be phased out. Our friends over at the Detroit News report that pending a revised estimate next week, the North American Numbering Plan Administration will stop handing out 313 telephone prefixes on new phone numbers. Detroiters with existing cell phone lines would be able to keep their current area codes, while those with land lines would change. via Detroit News: The venerable 313 will ultimately become overtaxed. Even as Detroit’s population has fallen, cellphone usage has accelerated like one of those smoldering SRT Vipers that Dodge has been bolting together at Conner Avenue Assembly — which is, of course, comfortably within the confines of 313. … When the first five dozen area codes were assigned nearly 70 years ago, says NANPA’s Tom Foley, “that was expected basically to last forever.” Instead, somebody invented fax machines, and then somebody else came up with cellphones, and lots of somebody elses decided to give them to 10-year-olds, and meantime the population grew to 300 million. Now every telephone carrier is required to submit twice-yearly forecasts of its needs in each area code, factoring in […]

    The post Detroit area code 313 may be phased out appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council

    Unfortunately, we were unable to attend last night’s Neighborhood Advisory Council, which, in case you were unaware, is a 16-member board established to weigh in on the new Red Wings arena near downtown. About three dozen residents and property owners cast ballots by the 8 p.m. deadline on Wednesday inside the Block at Cass Park, The Detroit News reports. It’s the culmination of a handful of community meetings which began weeks ago. Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda Lopez facilitated the meetings, but emphasized at previous meetings that it’s up to the community to conduct business. According to the News, the 12 candidates selected include: Michael Boettcher, Richard Etue, Jason Gapa, Francis Grunow, Steve Guether, Paul Hughes, Ray Litt, Warner Doyle McBryde, Karen McLeod, Delphia Simmons, Melissa Thomas and Anthony Zander. Joel Landy, a land owner in the area, lost his bid. The City Council appointed four candidates last month. As we reported in this week’s issue, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee was negotiated after Olympia Development of Michigan, Detroit Red Wing’s owner Mike Ilitch’s real estate arm, balked on a proposed community benefits agreement.  The committee is charged with the task of offering input on the arena’s design, parking security and more.

    The post Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag

    The Magic Bag in Ferndale will host James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets on Thursday, May 28, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. A press release reads, “James McMurtry recently signed with the bourgeoning Los Angeles record label Complicated Game. The legendary songwriter will enter the studio later this month to start working on his first album in six years. “I’ve got a new batch of songs, organic and with no added sulfites, aged in oak for several years,” he says. “Francois Moret at Complicated Game seems to like these songs and (producer) C.C. Adcock thinks he can turn them into a record. Good times fixing to roll.” Label head Moret agrees. “In March 2013, when C.C. Adcock told me we were going to see James McMurtry at the Continental Club in Austin, I expected to see a good show,” he says, “but what I saw left me mesmerized! I immediately knew I wanted to sign him. As a European, it is an amazing opportunity to work with one of the most talented American singer-songwriters.” Evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched […]

    The post James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit

    The Dead Kennedys, still with local boy Klaus Flouride in the ranks, will play St. Andrew’s Hall on Tuesday, June 24. Alongside Flouride and fellow original members East Bay Ray and DH Peligro, the current lineup includes singer Ron “Skip” Greer, taking the place of Jello Biafra. Downtown Brown will open that show, which starts at 7 p.m., with tickets priced $20-$25. Give Klaus a hero’s hometown welcome. Just over a week before that, strangely enough, Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine will play at the Magic Stick. It’s a weird coincidence, but one that DK fans should be happy to embrace. That show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $17-$19. Local hardcore vets Negative Approach play before Jello, with the Crashdollz opening the show. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain

    The Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck will present a police drama called A Steady Rain May 2 through 24. Planet Ant veterans Ryan Carlson and York Griffith will star in the play, written by House of Cards and Mad Men co-writer Keith Huff. Tickets ($10-$20) are on sale now at According to the press release, “A Steady Rain by Keith Huff focuses on Joey and Denny, best friends since kindergarten and partners on the police force whose loyalty to each other is tested by domestic affairs, violence and the rough streets of Chicago. Joey helps Denny with his family and Denny helps Joey stay off the bottle. But when a routine disturbance call takes a turn for the worse their loyalty is put to the ultimate test.First produced at Chicago Dramatists, A Steady Rain appeared on Broadway featuring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. The Planet Ant production of A Steady Rain is directed by York Griffith featuring Ryan Carlson and Andy Huff. This marks the return of two of Planet Ant’s founding members. Carlson and Griffith. Griffith has served as the theatre’s Artistic Director where he directed the critically-acclaimed productions The Adding Machine and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? […]

    The post Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face

    There is no easy answer to the question regarding what should be done with Detroit’s abandoned homes. However, an Eastern Market company has a solution that could reflect Detroit’s possibly bright future. Homes Eyewear has set out to make the city a little more stylish, and do their part in cleaning it up by repurposing select woods from neglected homes for sunglasses. All of the wood that Homes uses is harvested from vacant houses with the assistance of Reclaim Detroit. A lot of work goes into prepping the wood to be cut and shaped into frames. Homes goes through each piece to remove nails, paint or anything else detrimental to their production (it’s a bit strange to think that your wooden sunglasses could have had family portraits nailed to them). In order to produce more durable eyewear, they salvage only hardwoods like maple or beech, which are difficult to come by as most of the blighted homes were built with softer woods like Douglas fir and pine. If you’re worried about looking goofy, or shudder at the thought of salvaged wood resting on your nose, you can rest easy. Homes currently offers frames in the popular wayfarer style and are developing their unique spin on the classic aviators. For as […]

    The post You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Politics & Prejudices

Emergency manager for Detroit?

Talking with Joe Harris about the city, its problems and a persistent lack of vision

There was something poignant about the scene last week at City Hall, aka the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, when the council, mayor and other Detroit city leaders huddled around a podium.

They all expressed solidarity. We can fix our problems. We don't need any emergency manager. We can do it, honest, mon.


Just days before, they'd been nastily bashing each other. The mayor's budget didn't cut enough, the council said. After turning the other cheek for months, Dave Bing finally lost it.

He shot back that Council President Charles Pugh couldn't even manage his own finances, so how could he know how to fix the city? He accused Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown of being a triple-dipper who, thanks to a salary, police department pension and successful lawsuit, was sucking more money from Detroit than his share. As for Councilman Ken Cockrel Jr., who served as interim mayor for seven months: "What the hell did you achieve for the time that you were here?"

Nothing like money troubles to turn tempers ugly. But now the threat of an emergency manager suddenly is real. The governor has ordered a review of the city's finances, usually the first step. Whatever they think of each other, neither the mayor nor the council wants to lose their powers. Nor do the city unions want a situation where an emergency manager can void out their contracts.

Yet is it too late to avoid that?

Last weekend, I talked to a man who may have the best grasp of the situation — Joe Harris, now the emergency manager in tiny Benton Harbor, off in the southwest corner of the state.

Harris, a certified public accountant in private practice for many years, was Detroit's auditor general for a decade, from 1995 to 2005, and afterward served as the city's chief financial officer during the seven months Cockrel was mayor. 

I asked him: Do you see any way the city can avoid having an emergency manager and losing control of its own affairs?

"Truthfully, no," he said — and paused. "Well, there is a way for the mayor and council and the unions to get together and order some draconian changes in labor contracts," he said.

"They'd have to do that quickly, and the mayor needs to understand he can't maintain the same public safety force the city has had." While both mayor and council agree that city positions have to be eliminated, council wants to eliminate far more – including 500 police and firefighters, something the mayor has refused to do.

There really isn't any choice, the former auditor said, and even that doesn't solve the city's bigger problems. What, I asked him, did he think the odds were that the city leaders could come together?

"Well, let's put it this way. I wouldn't bet the ranch on it."

Harris may feel he has to be somewhat circumspect. He was, after all, briefly, Detroit's chief financial officer before being replaced by Bing, and doesn't want to look like a vindictive ex-employee.

He is also now an emergency manager in another city, and might risk being seen as speaking out of turn. He's also aware that he has also been mentioned as a possible EM for Detroit, and might not want to be seen as campaigning for the job.

Yet, blunt, plain-speaking honesty has always been Joe Harris' style. When I asked him how Detroit ended up in this mess, he didn't hesitate to answer: "You have to start with a plan. What the city has is a long-term problem, and it takes a strategic plan to try to address it.

"But Dave Bing doesn't have a plan. Matter of fact, that's the same as the last four mayors. Not one has presented a viable plan."

"When Mayor Bing ran for office," observed Harris, "he said he would bring in a team of experts and straighten out the city's finances.

"But he didn't know anything. When you took a look at his team of experts, they didn't have the qualifications. I'm sure they were all good and respected in their fields, but they didn't understand ...

"After that, it turns out [Bing's] plan, such as it was, was to sit down with department heads and find a way to work together to solve the problem." 

But these were people who had grown up in the system. They couldn't see outside their own closed universe, Harris said, with an air of regret. He has been predicting for years that would happen. "I thought it would have happened already.

"But they helped Bing get a quarter-billion-dollar loan, and instead of using it to help reorganize, they just went on doing the things they were doing," making a failed ship float a little longer.

What's important to keep in mind is that the city's real problem is not the current budget deficit. Far worse is the fact that the city has $5 billion — billion with a capital B — in unfunded pensions and other liabilities, according to the respected, nonpartisan Citizens' Research Council. How can the city ever hope to manage that?

"The tragedy is that this would be the time to borrow and refinance that," Harris said. Interest rates are near historic lows. "But the city has maxed out its credit cards." 

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