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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

Postcards from the ruins

Rush of referendums is bad news for representative government

For weeks now, everyone believed it was curtains for the emergency manager law rammed through the Legislature last year.

We were just waiting for the state to certify that its opponents had, in fact, collected enough signatures to get a measure to repeal it on the November ballot.

Once that happened, the law would be suspended until after the vote. Which probably meant forever, since virtually nobody thought the thing had the ghost of a chance of surviving a statewide vote.

And indeed, last week word finally came that enough signatures had been certified, and the repeal was good to go ...

But not so fast. The Board of State Canvassers last week refused to put the emergency manager repeal on the ballot! Why? Seems that the style of the letters on the petitions wasn't quite right.

The two Democrats on the board said that didn't matter, that the intent of the voters was clear. But the two Republicans said no. Stand Up for Democracy, the group that busted their butts collecting the signatures, cried foul, and headed to court.

They may still win there, but don't count on it. If they do, the case will undoubtedly be appealed up the line to the disgracefully partisan Michigan Supreme Court, where Republicans currently have four of the seven justices. How do you think they will rule?

Outraged workers are howling that what the Republicans did was thwart the will of the people, and they are right.

But Stand Up for Democracy is every bit as much to blame. Normally, every serious group seeking to get something on a ballot brings their petitions to the board of canvassers first, to get their wording, type style, etc., approved. This year, groups as diverse as the ones fighting to save collective bargaining and the one trying to preserve Matty Moroun's stranglehold on trade have done so.

If Stand Up had done that to begin with, they'd be on the ballot today. They didn't, and have paid a heavy price.

Michiganders, however, may end up paying a heavier one, not just with this issue, but when it comes to democracy itself — for other reasons. The attempted emergency manager repeal was a case of frustrated voters attempting to counter an insensitive Legislature.

But more and more, powerful interest groups are also trying to sabotage representative democracy by sticking things on the ballot that would take power out of our elected representatives' hands.

Matty Moroun, no surprise, is in the game. He is attempting to get an amendment on the ballot to effectively prevent any new bridge from ever being built. Unlike the grassroots volunteers of Stand Up for Democracy, his forces are expected to pay to get the needed signatures, something that is, bizarrely, fully legal.

But that's not the scariest prospect. A group called Michigan Alliance for Prosperity wants to essentially take much of the Legislature's power away. They are trying to get something on the ballot that would ban any state tax increases whatever, unless approved by a statewide vote, or something even harder to achieve, a two-thirds majority in both houses of the Legislature.

This group sounds suspiciously like the group Americans for Prosperity, which has been funded by the infamous ultra-right wing oil billionaire brothers, David and Charles Koch. If that is the case, they can probably buy their way on to the ballot too.

Indeed, if all the different petitions out there do get certified, it may take people an hour to vote in November. The unions are trying for a constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining. Another group wants to make marijuana legal for everyone.

There may also be others floating around. Some ideas I like; some I don't. But the problem is this: The more laws we make by popular vote, the weaker our Legislature becomes.

That's bad, because we have representative democracy for a reason. The Founding Fathers knew most of us would be too busy to see the whole picture, so they set up a system where we elect legislators to do it for us. But now that is being eroded.

We could easily fix this by passing just two more amendments. One, to repeal term limits. The other, to make it harder for special interests to amend the state Constitution.

Otherwise, we could end up with the worst government that money can buy. 

Fantasy Land: There's increasing speculation that longtime Wayne County political boss and fixer Mike Duggan is fixing to run for mayor of Detroit next year. Nolan Finley, editorial page editor of The Detroit News, recently approvingly quoted folks like radio talk show host Mildred Gaddis and former Detroit Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel as saying they "wouldn't rule out," the possibility that Duggan could win next year.

C'mon, people. True, Duggan is apparently in the process of leaving his longtime Livonia home and moving into Palmer Woods.

But does anyone on the street really think a majority of the poor black people of Detroit will vote for a white machine politician for mayor?

These are folks who are resentful now at the state's involvement in trying to steer their dysfunctional and near-bankrupt city.

They are sure to be whipped up by hotheads in the next election — if the next election means anything. There's no guarantee the "consent agreement" won't fall apart, which means Detroit could have an emergency manager by then.

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