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  • Once-controversial Diego Rivera murals now national landmark

    Oh, the irony — initially criticized as Marxist propaganda when Mexican muralist Diego Rivera painted them for the Detroit Institute of Arts in the early 1930s, Detroit Industry has now been designated as a a national landmark. The announcement was made Wednesday, according to the Detroit News by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis as part of National Park Week. The designation does not change the ownership status of the murals or grant any new protections or rights, leaving its place among the rest of the DIA’s art in possible bankruptcy negotiations in question. The work is considered the best of Rivera’s work in the United States (another mural Rivera had done in New York was destroyed by orders of Nelson Rockefeller). Rivera himself regarded Detroit Industries paintings as his finest work. In the midst of the McCarthy era, the DIA posted this sign outside the court: Rivera’s politics and his publicity seeking are detestable. But let’s get the record straight on what he did here. He came from Mexico to Detroit, thought our mass production industries and our technology wonderful and very exciting, painted them as one of the great achievements of the twentieth century. This came […]

    The post Once-controversial Diego Rivera murals now national landmark appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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 PlanetAnt.com. 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.

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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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