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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 bcallwood@metrotimes.com. 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 buildingdetroit.org, 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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Stir It Up

Getting grounded

Hanging and chatting with Mulenga Harangua

Photo: , License: N/A

Take the DIA vote as a sign of regional cooperation?


The Detroit Food Policy Council will hold a listening session on the "Land Sale Process in the City of Detroit" at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 22, at the Gleaners Community Food Bank. Call 313-833-0396 for more information.

Mulenga Harangua and I sat on the back porch of the house where he's been squatting the past few years, watching the rain fall. It's been a hot, dry summer and a rainy day was welcome respite for me and for his big garden that stretched onto an adjoining lot. Raindrops pattered on the leaves of plants, making them dance like little waves across the yard.

"Man, I hope this storm doesn't get too bad," Mulenga said. "When we had that hail last month it really messed up my garden. Anything with a broad leaf got torn up and it broke off branches on a lot of my tomatoes and peppers. My lettuce was in really bad shape, but the good thing about that is it grows really fast."

"Tell me about it. I got a bunch of tiny dents on my car from that. But your garden looks pretty good now."

"One thing about nature, it will repair itself, just not necessarily on our schedule," he observed.

"Well, it seems to be recovering, and I've got to say that you have fixed this house up pretty good too. It's not the raggedy place you moved into."

Mulenga's smile was so big that it seemed the sun was cutting through all the gray clouds. "Yes, it's really feeling like home. I'm even thinking about buying the place."

"You got money?"

"I been hustling this summer, working with a guy collecting scrap metal a couple of days a week, and I have about 20 folks I'm delivering produce to. I got a few hundred dollars saved up for the first time in I don't know when. I'm thinking about going legit. I know I'll need more for the house, but I'm starting to think about it."

"This place looks like it's a part of the Detroit Works project. I saw a picture in the paper the other day. Everything looks so neat and green."

"Except I've been doing the work here, not the city," Mulenga said. "That's why I'm thinking about buying — before somebody else comes in and buys the place out from under me. It takes a couple of years just to get the dirt where you need it to be. Hantz Farms got all that land from the city for about $300 per lot. I thought I should get some myself. There is plenty of vacant land available."

"The difference is that you're not buying in bulk like Hantz. They bought some 1,900 vacant lots. Plus you've got a house on the property. But the biggest problem is that the city probably won't try to help you at all. I know a guy who's been farming several lots and doing pretty good. He's been trying to buy them all and he can't get the city to tell him who owns the land. He bought land outside the city because he doesn't want to build a business on land he doesn't own."

Mulenga frowned as deeply as he had smiled earlier, and the rain seemed to pelt down a little harder. "So it's the same old crap. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It's like that Romney Hood thing (Robin Hood in reverse) that President Obama was talking about the other day. If Hantz can get land from the city and the county, why can't folks who have been fixing up this place all along get a piece of the action too?"

"I don't know. Maybe when this Detroit Works thing gets going things will open up."

"I can't depend on that. Detroit Works got put on the sideline while the city got into this consent agreement thing with the state. Now that we're struggling with this Public Act 4 being set aside until the November election, who knows what's going to happen with Detroit Works? I think they're going to be spending a lot of time fighting about what the Public Act 4 thing means to the city."

"But the city is under a consent agreement, not an emergency manager," I reminded him.

"But the main reason they consented to the agreement was they were being threatened with an emergency manager. Snyder knew that if he appointed an emergency manager for Detroit that people were going to freak out. It's just a big mess — the public schools, the city and the water department under fire, everybody suing each other over technicalities in the law."

"Yep, it's a mess, but that's democracy for you. Everybody gets to be heard and everybody gets their day in court. Sounds like money time for the lawyers. I read something from Gov. Snyder's spokeswoman on Public Act 4 where she says the state expects plenty of litigation."

"Oh, there's going to be plenty of litigation going on no matter who prevails. The minute the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Stand Up for Democracy to put Public Act 4 to a vote, Roy Roberts went to court to keep his power over the elected school board. He's as bad as Bob Bobb was. And they both seem as ineffective as Gov. Engler's appointed school board back in the 1990s. As far as I'm concerned it's all about whose friends get the contracts from these institutions."

"Well, that plays into it."

"And we're just getting played."

The rain stopped and the sun began to peep through a few cracks in the clouds. We got up and walked around the garden. The eggplants glistened in the bit of light that hit them.

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