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  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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.



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Politics & Prejudices

Michigan slime time

Scheming and money-grubbing in Lansing

Photo: , License: N/A

The Ambassador Bridge is a monopoly. Matty Moroun wants to keep it that way.

Equal Justice Under Law. Those words are carved over the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., and when you see that majestic structure, and think of the great men once on the court, you can almost believe in that concept. Equal justice, under law.

Then there is Michigan. If our state government were to engrave a motto on the Capitol Building in Washington, it would take two lines. The first would say: Money Talks, We Listen.

Beneath that it would say, Screw Justice: We Protect Our Own.

We have a bunch of amoral hacks in this state, and a system that both rewards bad behavior and could turn Little Orphan Annie into a hardened cynic. Our Legislature is rapidly becoming both more corrupt and more and more irrelevant, which ought to worry you.

That's because for most people, state government is the branch of government that affects their lives the most.

Our lawmakers are supposed to act with the good of all the people in mind, study the issues, and look out for their interests. To be sure, some still do that. But not nearly enough of them.

Twenty years ago, we foolishly enacted a system of term limits, which have led to a vast increase in incompetence and corruption.

Lawmakers can stay in the state House for only six years and the Senate for eight, after which they are banned for life. This has meant three things: 1) There is no long-term memory of how to get things accomplished, 2) the special interests have far more power than they used to, since the lawmakers don't know as much, and at any rate, the lobbyists can wait them out, and 3) the legislators are even more prone to selling out, since they will need new jobs in a few years.

The best evidence of this is the well-documented case of Matty Moroun, the monopoly owner of the Ambassador Bridge. The need to build a new bridge over the Detroit River is perfectly clear.

It is essential for our long-term economic future. Canada will pay our share of the costs (we will pay them back later out of toll revenue from the new bridge, but only after it is constructed) and on top of that, we can use the $550 million from Canada to get $2.1 billion in federal matching highway funds from Washington. 

There is no downside, none. Except for Moroun, a man who is the moral equivalent of the spider Shelob in The Lord of the Rings. He is worth $1.8 billion, and is 85 years old, and wants more.

So to protect his monopoly, he has showered key legislators with lavish "campaign contributions" and managed to prevent the bridge bill from even coming up for a vote in the Legislature.

Never mind that Gov. Rick Snyder — whose party controls the Legislature — very much wants this bridge. Never mind that Ford, General Motors and Chrysler want the bridge, or that Jennifer Granholm, Brooks Patterson, Dave Bing and liberals and conservatives alike support the bridge. Money talks.

Matty bought the lawmakers; you can go to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network and look up who and how. In the end, Snyder went around them and found a way to do it anyway.

Even when lawmakers engage in even more blatant criminal-seeming behavior, the system, by and large, protects them.

Take the case of a particularly repellent creature, one state Rep. Roy Schmidt, from Grand Rapids. Schmidt was elected as a Democrat a few years ago, but his district has become more Republican. 

Lacking the loyalty of a sewer rat, Schmidt conspired with GOP Speaker of the House Jase Bolger to switch parties. 

While this was going on, Schmidt went right on raising money from his fellow Democrats. Lower than a snake's belly, yes. But that's far from the worst of it. He and Bolger wanted to make sure Schmidt had no real competition. So Schmidt not only waited to the last possible moment to switch parties, he attempted to offer what looked very much like a bribe to a phony candidate to run as a Democrat. 

His son offered Matt Mojzak, a store clerk he knew, $450 to file for the race. The idea, of course, was that he'd end up taking a fall. Mojzak, who didn't even live in the district, initially agreed — but then backed out. Desperate, the Schmidts offered him $1,000 instead, to be paid out of the lawmaker's campaign fund — money given to him by Democrats who thought he was one of them.

But Mojzak got scared or got a conscience — and stayed out of the race even after the legislator himself oozed into the store where he worked to try to get him to stay in. Schmidt then lied about even knowing Mojzak, a lie exposed when a prosecutor got hold of a long series of text messages. The state police were conducting an investigation, and Detective Robert Davis said in an affidavit that he believed both Bolger and Schmidt might have conspired to commit perjury.

I can think of a few other possible crimes as well. But not to worry, slime balls. Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth shut the investigation down, just before search warrants were executed. He said he concluded that none of his fellow Republicans had committed any crimes! Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, probably the most partisan AG in the office in my lifetime, was asked to reopen the investigation. He must have had to stifle his laughter.

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