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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 bcallwood@metrotimes.com. 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 buildingdetroit.org, 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

Save Freedom House

After losing major grant, local do-gooders imperiled

I've often written about Freedom House, the nonprofit, nonpolitical place that exists to provide shelter for those victims of persecution seeking political asylum in the United States and Canada. There is nothing else quite like it.

Over the years they've saved hundreds, maybe thousands, of victims and help them start new lives in this country and Canada.

But now they are in bad shape financially. They unexpectedly lost a major grant, and Deborah Drennan, the executive director, is worried they may have to close. "I've laid off six of my eight staff members, and both myself and the other two are working without a paycheck," Drennan told me last weekend.

"As you know, sending people away from Freedom House is in many cases a death sentence. I can't let this happen," she said.

If Freedom House did close, it would be a mini-global tragedy. People come here, somehow, from all over the world. Rwanda, Cameroon, Libya, Russia. When they arrive at this century-old, redbrick house (a former convent) in the shadow of the Ambassador Bridge, they are often a malnourished, dehydrated mess. Most have been tortured, physically and psychologically; many have been raped.

Though we tend to forget, these are the kind of people for whom this country was founded. In fact, victims of political and religious persecution started coming here long before it was a country. (Think Puritans.) Because of that, the United States has, in principle, always been open to provide asylum for legitimate victims.

Trouble is, it often takes some time for asylum seekers to be able to prove they have been persecuted. Many of those fleeing for their lives aren't able to bring all the necessary documentation. Some have nothing at all.

Increasingly, first the U.S. and now the Canadian governments have been clamping down on asylum requests. The average bedraggled victim can't find and engage a top-notch immigration lawyer, much less pay one. Nor are they often ready to adjust to a life in a strange new world.

Which is where Freedom House comes in. It was established by a group called the Detroit-Windsor Refugee Coalition to meet the needs of Central American refugees in the 1980s. But the founders soon realized that there was a lot more need out there — and that most of those arriving needed more than three hots and a cot.

Today, they try to provide everything from a temporary home to transitional housing, once the refugee gets asylum. "Our services include medical services, mental health care, education, job training, recreation and legal aid," Drennan said. In recent years, they haven't lost one asylum case in the courts. Several former clients are now living in Detroit, working energetically to help bring the city back.

But asylum cases take a long time — typically eight to 12 months, sometimes years. The refugees are not legally allowed to work while they wait. So they help where they can. Some have been working with Ron Quick, a Freedom House board member who has a building firm, to rebuild the shelter's ancient kitchen.

Some work hard to learn English. Freedom House used to pay for classes, but they've lost other federal and state funding, and, thanks to the economy, charitable donations are down.

So they are scrambling to just keep afloat, while they reapply for the grant they lost and try to come up with other sources of funding.

Personally, I think the best thing that could happen would be for Freedom House to be able to expand its operations, and work to settle many more deserving asylum seekers in Detroit. Those are precisely the folks who could rebuild the devastation into a city.

But for now, it is important they stay alive. Anyone wanting to help can send money or contact Drennan at Freedom House, 2630 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit 48216, or call: 313-964-4320. Incidentally, they also would be grateful for in-kind donations — paper goods, supplies, etc., all of which are fully tax-deductible.


Mackinac Center's McCarthyism:
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a sort of odd think tank based up in Midland, also known as Dow Chemical land. Normally they crank out "free-market" analysis and policy prescriptions, most of the sort that crazy old Ayn Rand would love, if she didn't happen to be dead.

This is all harmless enough, and occasionally they even have made some sense on an issue or two. But now they are selling out to the right-wing thought police. Last week, the Mackinac Center filed Freedom of Information Act requests asking for all the e-mails sent by labor studies professors at Michigan's three major universities — Michigan State, the University of Michigan, and Wayne State — including such key words as "Scott Walker" and "Madison."

All the e-mails, that is, these professors sent regarding the Wisconsin clash, where the governor is out to destroy public employee unions by taking away their right to collectively bargain.

Mackinac won't say why they are doing this, but it is clearly a thuggish attempt to intimidate professors and cast a chilling effect over what should be uncensored academic debate.

I was stunned that the Mackinac Center would do this ... until I learned, via Mother Jones magazine, that past major donors to the center have included the Charles Koch Foundation, established by the family that exists to make Satan look moderate.

They also take money from the family that owns Wal-Mart, the DeVos family, and, best of all, a family that includes the founder of Blackwater, the infamous private security force.

Whether any of these groups leaned on the Mackinaniacs is unknown, as are the center's intentions. They may be seeking, I suppose, evidence professors are using university resources for improper political activity.

What the Mackinac Center is really doing, of course, is just trying to intimidate them. Actually, this is likely to backfire.

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