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  • 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.

  • 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

Jenny take a ride

After an almost leadership-free stint in office, Granholm departs

Flashback to a cold New Year's Day in Lansing two decades ago, where newly elected Gov. John Engler has just been sworn in after winning the upset of the century.

Old George Romney, a trailblazing governor from the 1960s, sweeps up, grasps his hand, and offers two words of advice: "Be bold."

Many people would have given Engler, who won by less than 1 percent of the vote, very different advice: Be careful, move to the center, be moderate, woo Democrats in the Legislature.

John Engler didn't listen.

Instead, he was bold. Though Democrats solidly controlled the House when he arrived, he pushed through an agenda that sent Michigan government barreling far to the right.

True, he was able to do so in part because he knew the Legislature better than the back of his hand; he had spent his entire adult life in it before being elected governor. But he was also forceful, and decisively. Politically, I was strongly opposed to virtually everything he accomplished. Nor did I like his brutal style. But he was a very successful governor.

Jennifer Granholm's positions on most issues are much closer to mine — and, I would guess, to those of most readers of this column. Yet two weeks from now, when she leaves the governor's office for the last time, the verdict of history is likely to be harsh. Not because she was governor during a terrible recession; that certainly wasn't her fault. And not because she was in the least bit corrupt in any way — everything I know indicates she is squeaky clean. But she was a howling disaster as a governor, for three reasons.

Nobody knew what she stood for, really, especially as far as the big picture went. Nobody in the Legislature feared her, and as time went on, fewer and fewer even respected her.

But to me, Jennifer Granholm's biggest failure as a leader was simply this: She was anything but bold. Instead, she was weak, vacillating, indecisive and nearly always ineffectual.

We are paying a heavy price for that. The baffling tragedy of all this: It didn't have to be that way. Here's one story that illustrates that, from the long-vanished era of ... December 2006.

Four years ago, soon after her landslide re-election victory, Dan Mulhern, aka the "First Gentleman," called out of the blue and asked if I would have dinner with him in Detroit. That mildly surprised me. After all, I had sometimes been critical of our governor — and even of Mulhern himself.

My questioning of the propriety of some of her husband's consulting gigs caused Granholm, not yet governor, to call up and literally scream at me, an act which made me suspect (correctly) I was unlikely to make the media Christmas Party list if she was elected.

But now, four years later, her man wanted to dine with me. What was this all about? I asked while munching something bland at the Traffic Jam. "The state is really in a mess," he said.

He meant, primarily, state government, which wasn't taking in enough money to pay for the things it needs to do, such as educating our children and fixing Michigan's crumbling infrastructure.

"You are one of the few people who really understands that," Mulhern said. He added that while he thought I had been unfairly critical of the governor and of his own gentlemanly self, they, or at least he, wanted my advice as to how to get this across to the people.

Simple, I said. There's nobody in politics today better at directly communicating with the voters than Jennifer Granholm.

Here's what she needs to do: Ask for, or buy if necessary, a half-hour of television time to lay it all out for the citizens of Michigan. You know, sort of a modern-day "fireside chat." Tell the citizens where the state really stands, perhaps with the aid of a few charts and graphs. Tell them how this massive "structural deficit" gradually evolved, and that none of the politicians, including you, have been completely honest with them.

Then tell them what has to happen now — and that it will cost them. That Michigan has to be fixed so your children and grandchildren can have a future. Tell them it will cost them more now, how you expect to pay for it and why it will be worth it, to everyone. Then be prepared to launch a campaign to get the public behind you, and to push the Legislature to back you.

That's what I told the First Gentleman, in so many words.

"Well, we thought we'd do something like that in the State of the State speech," he finally said. I stared at him. No one listens to or reads the governor's annual state of the state speech except the reporters who have to cover it — and not even all of them. In the end, Jennifer Granholm didn't even do that.

Timidly, she instead had her budget director offer a proposal to increase the sales tax or extend it to services a few days later. The Legislature contemptuously ignored it.

With the passing of years, the governor became less and less relevant to the budget process. She kept busy running around the globe, bringing promises of a few handfuls of jobs. But she never tried to achieve any of the sweeping, massive changes state government needs. Never took the system on.

Which is sad, baffling — and utterly inexcusable. Here's why: Jennifer Granholm had the political capital to make something happen in January 2007. Remember, she had just been re-elected governor by a landslide. Yes, Republicans controlled the state Senate. But their leader was the pipsqueak Mike Bishop, who represented a small district centered in Rochester Hills.

Jennifer Granholm really could have blown him away. She had a rare opportunity to put it on the line and make things happen.

Why? After her huge landslide, she had political capital and nothing to lose. Thanks to term limits, she couldn't run for governor again — or for much else. Democrats held both seats in the U.S. Senate. Nor could she run for president or vice president.

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