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    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.

  • City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May

    Margaret Doll Rod will celebrate the release of her new EP, Margaret, with a show at PJ’s Lager House on Saturday, May 10. A statement reads, “The EP contains 3 new original songs and one Chrome Cranks cover with Italian actress Asia Argento singing background vocals. Margaret moved to Italy after the end of the Demolition Doll Rods where she still lives touring and performing festivals in Europe. The Dollrods were a Garage Rock force for over 20 years, opening for Iggy, Jon Spencer, The Scientist, The Monks and The Cramps. Margaret was the front person and principal songwriter for The Dollrods. Her chief musical foil was Danny Kroha, who joined the Demolition Doll Rods after the now legendary Gories called it quits. Margaret’s sister, Christine, on drums, rounded out the legendary trio. Margaret will do a special performance in the round that night with a 360 degree revolving stage and special guest DJ Adam Stanfel.” The bill will also feature the Stomp Rockets and the Volcanos. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

    The post City Slang: Music review roundup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

    The post Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Politics & Prejudices

Fix our highest court

The state's supremes work in 'needless secrecy'

Five months ago, when I was much younger and better looking, I wrote about the shenanigans at the Michigan Supreme Court. The news then was that Elizabeth "Betty" Weaver, who was roundly hated by her fellow Republican justices, had suddenly resigned, after working out a deal with then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Weaver, who had grown sick of the infighting, etc., would quit if the governor would appoint Alton Davis, a distinguished appellate judge from Gaylord, in her place. That meant that Davis had to immediately run in November, and the Democrats placed him on the ballot. I assumed he'd win easily, since the ballot identified him as a "justice of the Supreme Court." Voters normally re-elect judges.

But I miscalculated. To oppose him, the Republicans nominated a woman named Mary Beth Kelly. For whatever reason, Michigan voters are strongly drawn to judges with Irish names. Especially the name Kelly. Mary Beth cleaned poor Alton's clock, and Republicans were back in a 4-3 majority on the high court.

Yet we hadn't heard the last of Betty Weaver. Though elected as a Republican, she had an independent streak. For years, she feuded with the so-called "gang of four," judges appointed by or closely allied to former Gov. John Engler. They voted in lockstep. Weaver voted according to how she felt the rule of law should be properly applied. When she began speaking out, the gang attempted to slap a gag order on her, which she merrily ignored.

Three years ago, she got some revenge. Then-Chief Justice Cliff Taylor, her biggest enemy, was defeated for re-election in a stunning upset. Weaver then crossed party lines and voted with the Democrats to elect another Kelly, Marilyn Kelly, chief justice.

Yet the feud continued. Last October, now off the court, Elizabeth Weaver, who had been calling for more openness on the court, did something shocking. She released transcripts of deliberations she had secretly recorded years ago. They show embarrassing things being said by various judges, most notoriously, Robert Young Jr., who the new Republican majority swiftly installed as chief justice.

In the transcripts, Young, who is African-American himself, uses the N-word. He didn't deny it, but said he was making a point, and that the bigger outrage was that Weaver had taped her colleagues without their knowledge.

Even some people who had no use for the Englerites were shocked by Betty Weaver's actions; people don't like being secretly bugged. There were suspicions she did this for political purposes. Young, after all, was also up for re-election last year. But if the revelations were designed to hurt him politically, they backfired. He was re-elected easily (the Democrats didn't nominate anyone named Kelly to run against him). Five of seven justices, including Democrat Marilyn Kelly, then voted to censure Weaver.

Lots has been written about this, but most of those writing haven't bothered to talk to Weaver. So I did. She told me she couldn't care less about being censured, and that what she did has been grossly misinterpreted.

"A review of my record — rather than reading what has been written about me — reveals this," she said by phone from her home in Glen Arbor on Sunday afternoon. "My whole point was openness."

"This is the Supreme Court of Michigan. It exists to do the people's business. Yes, during the recent election, I revealed some of the court's inner workings. It wasn't a pleasing sight. ... And the response from those so revealed was so predictable." Look, she told me, "needless secrecy in Supreme Court justices' performance in the business of judicial government allows and encourages the abuse of the judicial powers. That can lead to violation of the rule of law, and unjust, unprofessional and unfair performance of the justices' duties."

Did that happen while you were on the court? I asked. "Are you kidding? Much of the time I felt like Alice in Wonderland."

But surely certain things have to be done in secret, don't they? I asked. "Yes, certain things. Employee issues, for instance. But far fewer things than those currently in charge would like concealed. Think about it. The Michigan Supreme Court does not deal with treason or national defense. Its docket covers people issues from A to Z — adoptions to zoning. This is the people's business, our business. And our responsibility is to all people, and not especially the partisan or special interests. The people should be able to see how these decisions are being made."

Weaver denied frequent charges that she was bitter because she wasn't re-elected chief justice after serving a single two-year term. "I could have had it again if I wanted it. I didn't."

What she does want to do is improve the court. Apart from opening deliberations to public scrutiny, she outlined a series of reforms, most of which make very good sense. For example, Weaver thinks the present system where the political parties select the nominees has to go. Instead, candidates would earn a spot on the ballot by petition, same as other judges.

She thinks the justices should be elected by district, to ensure some geographical diversity. Right now, every justice lives in Wayne, Oakland or Ingham (Lansing) counties. She said that's why she wanted Alton Davis on the court, not because he was a Democrat.

Former Justice Weaver also thinks Supreme Court campaigns should be publicly financed, or failing that, we should have complete transparency and immediacy in campaign finance reporting. She wants us to be able to see who is giving money to these birds and who hence wants to influence them — as soon as possible.

You can read her recommendations in detail at You know, for years, people told me Betty Weaver was crazy. They said she dressed funny, was sometimes hard to understand, and wasn't like the other justices.

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