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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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Stir It Up

Our Bizarro Detroit

Is Dave Bing the invisible mayor?

It seems that Kwame Kilpatrick just won't go away. In the past few weeks, the former mayor has garnered more ink in local news pages than the current mayor. And given that the city of Detroit is in multiple crises that Mayor Dave Bing is supposed to be pulling us out of, it seems strange.

In the old DC comic books, there was a recurring storyline about Bizarro World where everything is done opposite of the way things are done here on Earth. In fact, it was also known as Htrae — earth spelled backward. The Bizarro Superman flew backward and said goodbye when arriving. Doing things the "right" way is considered a crime on Htrae.

Things may be generally bizarre in Detroit, but I'm actually thinking about Bing and Kilpatrick as polar opposites when it comes to style. Kilpatrick loved media attention; the camera was his friend, and making a public show of almost anything that came out of the mayor's office seemed de rigueur.

And when things went bad, the media couldn't get enough of him. Even now, he's in the news regarding the missing computer from his old office, money paid to the former federal police monitor Sheryl Robinson Wood, and alleged bid-rigging with his old pal Bobby Ferguson.

Bing, on the other hand, seems to be the invisible man; there is little flash or sparkle in his demeanor or way of doing things. Lately, if not for Free Press columnist Rochelle Riley, who seems to be smitten with Bing, we'd hardly know he's mayor.

In the past month Bing went to Turin, Italy, to study how that city downsized itself when business for the car company Fiat, its major economic vehicle, went flat in 1980.

Other than the Turin trip, most of what we've heard of Bing is that he accepted a $2 million donation from General Motors for a community center, that he was at the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and that he and City Council aren't talking to each other. Yes, he's putting together a strategic plan to revitalize the city, but he's not talking about that yet.

Outside of the Turin trip, mostly what he has had to say to the media is "no comment," at least that's what we hear from his spokesman Dan Lijana.

You decide which one is the Bizarro mayor.

"He has not been that sort of No. 1 citizen that people can rally around, that person who feels our pain and feels our joy," says Greg Bowens, a public relations professional and former mayor Dennis Archer's spokesman.

Kilpatrick certainly seemed to feel our pain although he eventually became the cause of it. And we haven't recovered from that yet.

I'm not turning against Bing's Detroit Works approach to setting a new course for the city. I believe the stated process of holding forums in the community to gather information and use it in creating a long-term plan is the right way to go.

However, I do find it amusing to ponder the contradictions of our body politic. For instance, the big knock against Ken Cockrel Jr.'s 2009 mayoral bid was that in about six months as interim mayor he had his chance and hadn't done anything significant — that he lacked urgency.

Well, we've had Bing for a year-and-a-half and I'd say he hasn't had a signature accomplishment yet. If urgency is where the bar is set, then where is Bing's urgency?

"I'm very careful to not be sour grapes about the mayor," says Cockrel. "I might comment about policy issues at the council table, but I'm not going to make it my career to criticize Dave Bing. All I can say is that I agree with that assessment. He said he was only going to be a one-term mayor. If so, he better pick up his program pretty quick. ... Regarding the Detroit Works stuff, I do support that process; the concept is great. He does have my full support."

But, at best, we won't see a plan for another year, more than halfway through Bing's supposed single-term administration. It better be a hell of a plan if he's going to see much of it through as a lame duck.

Of course, if he continues his invisible act, he'll have to remind folks who he is by the time he has the plan in hand.

Archer's former deputy mayor, Freman Hendrix, says that Bing has "few options" for some decisions he has to make. "My understanding is that he's held off on specific ideas until it's all together," Hendrix says.

"That's absolutely the right approach if he's going to do something as bold and unprecedented as we need. ... He's doing the kind of things he needs to do."

Hendrix, who first ran against Bing in the primary to complete Kilpatrick's term but supported him in the run-off and became a member of Bing's transition team, says he's been too busy to pay much attention to insider politics at City Hall lately.

Running a uniformed security guard company and sitting on the Greektown Casino board of directors, leave him watching from "30,000 feet" away as he put it.

But even those who are paying attention don't have much idea of what is going on. And the small group Hood Research has already started a recall petition drive because "Bing has plans for gentrification" and "Detroit deserves immediate relief."

I suspect that part of the reason Bing holds his cards so close to his chest is that, being a businessman, he has a natural disinclination to divulge his plans.

I also suspect that some of what he will have to present to Detroiters will be controversial, and he prefers to roll those things out in the context of an overall plan rather than piecemeal.

"People believed that the business acumen he brought to the table would help us get our finances in order, see us through the red into the black," says Bowens. "None of that has come to be and maybe it was too much to expect.

"Maybe the expectation was, 'At least he won't embarrass us.' If that is the expectation, then he is doing that job incredibly well with the exception of a few early gaffes. ... The energy that it takes for people to feel like they are a part of something really hasn't been there. And the mayor sets the tone for the rest of the city. We want something magnificent to happen to galvanize not just Detroit but the whole region."

Bing is involved in politics now. Despite the urge to run our governments like they are businesses, there is a whole other set of issues involved, especially public accountability. I still believe in the process that the mayor is pursuing to create a plan for the city's future. And if he sees the need to withhold details until it's done, then so be it.

However, it shouldn't be like pulling teeth to get the mayor to say anything about anything.

That's a bit bizarre — unless we really are living in Tiorted.

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