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  • 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.

  • 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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Stir It Up

Game-changers ahead

With labor challenged, where will tomorrow's radical awakening come from?

As I wandered around the house setting my clocks forward this past weekend, I contemplated Republican-led efforts to turn the clock back on collective bargaining rights across the nation.

The big deal that most folks have been focused on is the protest in Madison, Wis., where as many as 100,000 union supporters reacted to Gov. Scott Walker's signing of a bill that stripped almost all collective bargaining rights from state workers. Walker claims that it's necessary to balance the state budget, although the budget seemed to be balanced before Walker cut corporate taxes. State worker unions agreed to all the economic rollbacks Walker sought, but the governor insisted that removing collective bargaining rights was key to his budget needs. In the final maneuver, after Democratic legislators fled the state to keep the fiscal bill from coming to a vote, Republicans removed the fiscal provisions of the bill in order to be able to vote on the law without needing the Democrats to be present.

In other words, Walker and his right wing co-conspirators removed the legislative fig leaf to get what they really wanted: union-busting legislation.

It seems that a conservative Republican cabal, with ideological and financial leadership from the billionaire Koch brothers and others, is making an effort to stamp out union power. Public sector workers have the highest concentration of union representation today; so if you can crush public unions, you deal a crippling blow to the union movement and its ability to support the political opposition. The Midwest, traditionally an area of union strength, is the focus of that offensive. In Ohio, the SB 5 law that strips most collective bargaining rights from public workers recently passed the Senate by a one-vote margin, though it has yet to be passed by the state House. In Indiana, where Gov. Mitch Daniels stripped collective bargaining rights from state workers by executive order in 2005, some 20,000 pro-union activists rallied last week in opposition to HB 1216, which would exempt most public building projects from being subject to construction wage rules requiring that all workers on site be paid the locally prevailing wage and benefits, and prevent companies from having to sign project labor agreements that guarantee a certain percentage of union jobs.

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder hasn't taken on unions head-on, but many are wary of his Emergency Financial Managers legislation, which would grant new wide-ranging powers to EFMs, including the ability to dissolve local governments and school districts, and to void contracts. The law has been passed and awaits the nerd governor's signature. The state has begun training 175 EFMs in anticipation of Snyder's draconian budget measures taking effect. As municipalities and school systems buckle under the state cutbacks, he'll be able to deploy EFMs across the state. Anti-EFM activists held protests in several Michigan cities on Tuesday.

"I assume Rick Snyder is Scott Walker with a worse haircut. There isn't any significant difference between Walker and Snyder policies. It all comes from the Koch brothers," says Frank Joyce, a political activist and writer who formerly headed UAW public relations. "Snyder wants to distinguish himself with some of his taxes, shifting the tax burden from business to retirees. And the EFM is a thinly disguised union-busting scheme; anybody pretending to be a neutral observer looking at the Detroit Public Schools as an example of how the EFM works would not be expanding the program. None of this is about fixing any real problems, this is about consolidating power.

"This war on unions and war on working people has been quite explicitly waged for 30 years. The working people of the United States have not had a raise in 30 years. Incomes are stagnant or in decline despite the fact that productivity has increased dramatically. A single breadwinner in most houses then was bringing in more real money than multiple breadwinners do now. Every household is up to their eyeballs in personal debt. The significant thing about Madison, Lansing and some other places is that now there is some pushback, resistance. People are saying enough is enough, and that's pretty significant. This is way bigger than Scott Walker."

But given the steady erosion of union memberships over the decades and the current economic atmosphere, is it too little too late? Or is that even the right question? Joyce and others, including political philosopher and activist Grace Boggs, who I'll be talking to for my next column, would agree that we are entering a new economic age where the questions and answers on the right and left are changing, and the struggles we see today are more about what the next economic order will be. Boggs' new book, The Next American Revolution, establishes that point, and moves forward from there to ask how progressive forces are organizing themselves in this new, technologically shrunken world.

One possible outcome is that "This is the beginning of a much more radical awakening of consciousness about the building of power," says Joyce, who hosts an hour-long Sunday afternoon segment as part of Sirius radio's weekly Land of Hopes and Dreams program. "Things are much different, and the issues we're facing call for a radical re-examination of problems and what the solutions are. It's not all that clear what direction we'll go.

"We're in a systemic breakdown now; capitalism as we know it is coming to the end of the arc of its growth development and legitimacy. ... There are shifting demographics and attitudes about marriage and family, even mental health. These are game-changing evolutions that we have seen before in human history; get used to the simultaneous crises. Libya, Japan, Madison — these are big, unwieldy events. It's going be like this for a while. There are going to be lots of surprises and manifestations.

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