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  • Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law

    Much has been made about Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s decision this week to transfer authority of the city’s water department to Mayor Mike Duggan. In what is the most interesting read on the situation, Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale, pens an analysis on Michigan’s novel emergency manager law on the New York Times Opinionator blog. Stanley deconstructs Michigan’s grand experiment in governance by addressing two questions: Has the EM law resulted in policy that maximally serves the public good? And, is the law consistent with basic principles of democracy? Stanley ties in examples of Plato, James Madison’s Federalist Papers, and Nazi political theorist Carl Schmitt. A short excerpt: Plato was a harsh critic of democracy, a position that derived from the fact that his chief value for a society was social efficiency. In Plato’s view, most people are not capable of employing their autonomy to make the right choices, that is, choices that maximize overall efficiency. Michigan is following Plato’s recommendation to handle the problems raised by elections. Though there are many different senses of “liberty” and “autonomy,” none mean the same thing as “efficiency.” Singapore is a state that values efficiency above all. But by no stretch of […]

    The post Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week

    Walking with Dinosaurs, a magnificent stage show that features life-sized animatronic creatures from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, will be in town next week. But to preview the show’s run at the Palace, a baby T-Rex will be making an appearance at four area malls to the delight and wonderment of shoppers. Baby T-Rex, as the creature is being affectionately referred to, is seven-feet-tall and 14-feet-long. He’ll only be at each mall for about 15 minutes, so while there will be photo opportunities, they’ll be short. The dino will be at Fairlane Town Center Center Court at 18900 Michigan Ave. in Detroit from 2-2:15 p.m. today, July 30; The Mall at Partridge Creek at 17420 Hall Rd. in Clinton Township from 5-5:15 p.m. today, July 30; Twelve Oaks Mall at the Lord & Taylor Court at 27500 Novi Rd., Novi tomorrow, Thursday July 31 from 1:30-1:45 p.m.; and Great Lakes Crossing Food Court at 4000 Baldwin Rd., Auburn Hills from 5-5:15 p.m., tomorrow Thursday, July 31.  

    The post Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations

    Interested in reading about what Detroit accomplishes on a week-to-week basis that’s produced by the city itself? Great. You can do that now, here, at the Detroit Dashboard. Every Thursday morning, the city will publish an update to the dashboard because Mayor Mike Duggan loves metrics, even if the data might be hard to come by. According to Duggan’s office, the dashboard will provide data on how many LED street lights were installed, how many vacant lots were mowed, how much blight was removed, and more. This week, the city says it has sold 13 site lots through BuildingDetroit.com, removed 570 tons of illegal dumping, and filed 57 lawsuits against abandoned property owners.  

    The post Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial

    We don’t know about you, but usually Nancy Whiskey and Long John Silver’s aren’t two concepts we’d place in the same sentence. However, the international fast food fish fry conglomerate made a nod to the Detroit dive in their latest YouTube commercial. LJS is offering free fish fries on Saturday, August 2, which is the promotion the commercial is attempting to deliver. But, we think we’ll just go to Nancy Whiskey instead.

    The post Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns transwomen

    We came across an interesting item this week: Apparently, a music festival with the name “Michfest” is quietly oriented as a “Women-Only Festival Exclusively for ‘Women Born Women.’” It seems a strange decision to us. If you wanted to have a women-only music festival, why not simply proclaim loud and clear that it is for all sorts of women? But if you really wanted to become a lightning rod for criticisms about transphobia, organizers have found the perfect way to present their festival. Now, we know that defenders of non-cisgender folks have it tough. The strides made by gays and lesbians (and bisexuals) in the last 20 years have been decisive and dramatic. But the people who put the ‘T’ in LGBT have reason to be especially defensive, facing a hostile culture and even some disdain from people who should be their natural allies. That said, sometimes that defensiveness can cause some activists to go overboard; when we interviewed Dan Savage a couple years ago, he recalled his “glitter bombing” and said it was due to the “the narcissism of small differences,” adding that “if you’re playing the game of who is the most victimized, attacking your real enemies doesn’t prove you’re most victimized, claiming you […]

    The post Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns transwomen appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Use this widget to find your polling place for Aug. 5 primary election

    Reminder: the August 5 primary election is coming up. Where do you vote? What’s on the ballot? All these questions can be easily answered by simply typing the address you are registered to vote at into this handy widget created by Pew Charitable Trusts and Google: You can embed this widget on your own website with the following code, and more information can be found at the Voting Info Project.: <script type=”text/javascript” src=”https://voter-info-tool.appspot.com/js/loader.js”></script> <div id=”_vit”></div> <script type=”text/javascript”>vit.load({‘election_id’:’4034′, ‘suppress_voter_id_rules’: true});</script> Read up on MT‘s election guide for Wayne county executive here.

    The post Use this widget to find your polling place for Aug. 5 primary election appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Stir It Up

Local food for thought

We’re No. 1 — in community gardening!

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Detroit is home to more community gardens than any other city in the United States. With more than 1,200 gardens, we have more per square mile — nine-plus — and more per capita than our closest competitors, according to numbers generated by the Greening of Detroit's Gardening Resource Program. Our closest competitors, Cleveland, New York City and a few others, have at best four per square mile, and our per capita numbers are twice the closest competition. 

That burgeoning production is one step in an urban agriculture movement that is about more than just growing and selling produce. Last weekend's Detroit Food Summit, Powering Up the Local Food System, held at the Focus: HOPE Conference Center, brought together about 150 local foodies to discuss and plan a potential food system driven by local enterprises and entrepreneurs. 

Community gardens are gardens worked by neighborhood residents or church members or some kind of group that decides to garden together and share whatever they reap. The Feedem Freedom Growers, Georgia Street Garden and Pingree's Potato Patch are examples of these. 

Often these gardens are on vacant lots that community members have taken over to fight blight, and the supply of fresh fruits and vegetables is an extra benefit. Some gardens are started specifically for the food. Other gardens are backyard family affairs. And there are market gardens created specifically to provide local produce markets or for restaurants. A couple of gardeners make their living providing niche products. Numerous others pull in $3,000 to $5,000 in profits each year. Not enough to live on, but enough to collectively impact the food supply.

"The food system is a rich, complex beast that needs attending to," said Phil Jones, chair of the Detroit Food Policy Council, which put on the summit.

It's a beast that local food activists intend to tame by tying together food processing and distribution, culinary arts careers, restaurants, institutions such as hospitals and schools, markets, consumers and, well, farming and farming equipment. The food system encompasses everything that happens to food from growing to eating and even composting the remains. 

"It's a big circle," said Ashley Atkinson of the Gardening Resource Center. "If we all help each other out, we all rise together."

One of the weekend's sessions, Planting Seeds for a Good Business Ecosystem, highlighted ways for entrepreneurs to balance the profit motive with concern for community and the environment. Jess Daniel of Foodlab Detroit and Tawyna Clark of the soon-to-open Batata Shop focused on the relationships that a new business owner has to develop — a system-oriented approach, if you will. Using Clark's development of the Batata (a waffle or pancake made with sweet potatoes) from a family recipe to a commercial product, they showed how the process includes a series of relationships from a flour supplier to computer technicians to property owners to packagers to customers to waste processing and myriad others. In a discussion of working with a flour supplier, they pointed out the impact that each has on the other. The Batata Shop's needs might help the supplier develop a whole new line of products, or open them up to a new market.

Urban Agriculture Policy in the City of Detroit focused on another key area. In Detroit it's not exactly legal to farm, but it's not exactly illegal either. One of the questions here is: At what point do you designate something a farm as opposed to just a big garden? If an industry built around agriculture is going to be a major player in the city, it needs to be regulated in a way that works for all residents. Another question is zoning: Not everybody wants a farm next door. 

Kathryn Lynch Underwood, from the City Planning Commission and chair of the Urban Agriculture Work Group (an entirely different kind of UAW for these parts), provided an overview of proposed land use policy. The proposals discussed included things like what animals, if any, should be allowed and under what conditions? The prevailing sentiment is to allow chickens (but no roosters), rabbits and bees, but goats (there are some out there already) and creatures such as pigs and cows would not be permitted. Of course, that leads to questions of how many would be allowed and how far from the neighbors they would have to be? And what kind of facilities do you keep them in? I know a woman who lives on farmland near Fowlerville who lets her chickens wander through the house. I don't think that's going to fly in Detroit.

The UAW's proposed definition of a garden is contiguous lots comprising as much as one acre; that would be a little more than 12 standard city lots of 30 feet by 115 feet each. A farm would be more than an acre of contiguous or noncontiguous lots. That's a lot of space for the average gardener, but not much for a commercial operation.

Other issues include defining a farm stand and deciding where growers can sell produce, not to mention rainwater catchment systems, composting operations, greenhouses (which seem to be cropping up all over town), property maintenance, noise issues, pesticide use and more. Underwood emphasized that she was discussing pilot policy, "We will change things as we learn," she said.

This is something of a brave new world for Detroiters, although agriculture was big around here before the auto industry took over. A friend's mother used to tell me about a family farm that was located near McNichols Road and Pennington Street as recently as the 1940s. On the south side of McNichols there are plenty of vacant lots that could be farmed today.

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