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  • 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.

  • Blowout 2014 schedule available to view now

    The schedule for Blowout 17, taking place Wednesday April 30 to Saturday May 3 in Hamtramck, Detroit and Ferndale, is available to see now. Visit MtBlowout.com to see the schedule and plan your festival. Follow @City_Slang

    The post Blowout 2014 schedule available to view now appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Trash Brats get sleazy at Small’s

    The Trash Brats hardly ever play live anymore, so each show feels like an event. Wandering around Small’s in Hamtramck late Saturday night, there’s a near-carnival atmosphere in the air. The Brats were never supposed to be taken seriously, but years on-and-off the radar have given the band the gift of respect born out of longevity. We’re not being dismissive at all. In fact, no amount of kooky faces from guitarist Ricky Rat and bassist Toni Romeo can hide the fact that these boys can play and the band writes killer bubblegum sleaze-rock tunes. The fact that the venue was packed compared to, say, a recent show by internationally known punk icons Sylvain Sylvain and Glen Matlock (which you would think would attract a similar audience) is testament to the fact that, in Detroit, the Trash Brats command a certain reverence. Before the Trash Brats took to the stage, local punks The Dives kicked off the night with a set of sincere, energetic and well-performed, if standard, punk rock. No frills (besides frontman Ron McPherson’s dapper suit), the band features members of the Junk Monkeys, the Black Mollies and the Joint Chiefs, and it drives through a set of catchy, […]

    The post City Slang: Trash Brats get sleazy at Small’s appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Cycle 7 opens at the Red Bull House of Art

    By: Ayana Bryant-Weekes The Red Bull House of Art, a multidisciplinary and collaborative art project, relieves the stress of financial limitation or lack of tools and space so budding artists can manifest their creative dreams right here in Detroit. Six artists are selected for a three-month residency where they are provided individual studio space and materials, allowing their artistic concepts to flow freely. At the end of each residency is an unveiling and public display at the Red Bull House of Art Gallery. As show curator Matt Eaton told us in a 2013 interview, “The selection process for the current crop of artists was just the same as every round. The goal is not to find the hippest, coolest artists (though I think they are all very cool), but to find the people who may not typically have a voice.” This year, for the first time, Red Bull House of Art will showcase more than just Detroit artists. National artists from across the country in a special artist-in-residency program will have the opportunity to showcase their work to a much broader audience, and bring a national art stage to the Motor City. Since opening, 54 Detroit-based artists have been given the […]

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Stir It Up

Heavy lifting

Hard work in Detroit revising a charter, rethinking jobs

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One thing is clear after reading the eye-glazing proposed charter revision for the City of Detroit — we're rolling in sevens.

In 2009, Detroit voters approved Proposal D, which mandates that City Council members be elected in a hybrid system of seven districts and two at-large seats. One result of that is that in the revised charter almost every commission that represents citizens will have seven members either elected or selected from those districts. The number seven appears so many times in the text, I thought I was in a craps game. The charter calls for a seven-member Board of Ethics, Transportation Advisory Board, Board of Zoning Appeals, Historical Commission — you get the idea. If you roll a seven in craps, you're a winner, but it is not so clear if this charter will be a winner when Detroiters vote on Nov. 8. It may be a roll of the dice, but I'm inclined to go for it.

The charter is the basic framework for how city government runs — our Constitution so to speak. The revised charter we're considering now, Proposal C on the ballot, addresses three broad areas — ethics, council by districts and green initiatives — in addition to several smaller changes and numerous tweaks. The smaller changes may not have less impact; they just don't seem to fall into any larger categories. 

However Tom Barrow, a Detroit accountant who ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 1985, 1989 and 2009, sees a theme for many of the smaller changes. His organization, Citizens for Detroit's Future (CFDF), calls them "numerous and humiliating modifications which would fundamentally alter our political structure, diminish the power of our city council and the city's residents, and more closely make Detroit look like a suburban community."

"They're using these little titillating things like green initiatives and recycling, but we can already do that under our current charter," Barrow says.

Objections by CFDF and other community groups, such as We the People, Hood Research and Bagley Community Council, seem to fit into some well-worn Detroit paranoia about power and self-governance in the city. John Bennett, a Detroit Police officer who runs the website Detroit Uncovered, also opposes the revised Charter. 

"Early on, it looked like they were headed in the right direction, but I think they got political in the end," says Bennett. "They caved in to pressure from outside the commission. They had an opportunity to shrink city government and they didn't take the opportunity."

Last week City Council President Charles Pugh urged voters to reject Proposal C because it doesn't give council enough power. However Charter Commission Chair Jenice Mitchell Ford, an attorney, chided Pugh for releasing his statement on city letterhead, saying it's against state law for public officials to take a position on a candidate or ballot question using taxpayer funds.

Council member Kwame Kenyatta is more evenhanded on the charter question. "I think it's inappropriate for me or any other council member or the mayor to crusade one way or the other," he says. "It's a conflict of interest. The people have to weigh in as to whether they think it's a benefit for them."

The revised charter does give City Council a little more power than it currently has while retaining a strong mayor system. For instance, under the current charter, the only mayoral appointments the council confirms is the corporation counsel. Under the revised charter, the council has power to approve the chief of police, the fire commissioner, director of planning and economic development and director of human resources.

But the charter gives the council no role in choosing department heads and bars members from directly requesting services from departments. Meanwhile, the idea behind a council elected by districts is to make members more accountable in neighborhoods. Holding members accountable while curbing their influence on services like this puts them in a bind. (By the way, since voters mandated council by districts in 2009, there'll be districts whether Proposal C passes or not.)

Another CFDF claim is that the revised charter gives the mayor a veto over referendums initiated by citizen petitions. Barrow says that Sections 12-107 and 4-117 add up to veto power. But Lamont Satchel, Charter Commission general counsel, says no. "Initiatives and referendums are regulated by state law," he says. 

Satchel also refutes another claim from the Barrow camp. In regard to the budget process, Section 8-205 of the current charter reads in part, "The city council may request supporting data for each appropriation as it deems necessary." That sentence has been removed in the revised version. 

"That denudes [sic] City Council from getting the information it needs," Barrow says. 

Satchel counters that requesting data is "an inherent power that City Council has," and the wording was removed to clean up the document. 

The CFDF claims section 9-801, "City Sponsored Insurance Assistance," which requires the corporation counsel to advise city council and the mayor on legalities regarding a possible city-sponsored auto and property insurance system within 60 days of the effective date of the charter, is bait to get voters to support a bad charter. In the end, CFDF says, "the framers know well that it is settled that a municipality violates state law by owning an insurance company."

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