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  • Detroit area code 313 may be phased out

    Hey, everybody from the 313, start thinking of new numbers to rally around– the longstanding Detroit area code may be phased out. Our friends over at the Detroit News report that pending a revised estimate next week, the North American Numbering Plan Administration will stop handing out 313 telephone prefixes on new phone numbers. Detroiters with existing cell phone lines would be able to keep their current area codes, while those with land lines would change. via Detroit News: The venerable 313 will ultimately become overtaxed. Even as Detroit’s population has fallen, cellphone usage has accelerated like one of those smoldering SRT Vipers that Dodge has been bolting together at Conner Avenue Assembly — which is, of course, comfortably within the confines of 313. … When the first five dozen area codes were assigned nearly 70 years ago, says NANPA’s Tom Foley, “that was expected basically to last forever.” Instead, somebody invented fax machines, and then somebody else came up with cellphones, and lots of somebody elses decided to give them to 10-year-olds, and meantime the population grew to 300 million. Now every telephone carrier is required to submit twice-yearly forecasts of its needs in each area code, factoring in […]

    The post Detroit area code 313 may be phased out appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council

    Unfortunately, we were unable to attend last night’s Neighborhood Advisory Council, which, in case you were unaware, is a 16-member board established to weigh in on the new Red Wings arena near downtown. About three dozen residents and property owners cast ballots by the 8 p.m. deadline on Wednesday inside the Block at Cass Park, The Detroit News reports. It’s the culmination of a handful of community meetings which began weeks ago. Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda Lopez facilitated the meetings, but emphasized at previous meetings that it’s up to the community to conduct business. According to the News, the 12 candidates selected include: Michael Boettcher, Richard Etue, Jason Gapa, Francis Grunow, Steve Guether, Paul Hughes, Ray Litt, Warner Doyle McBryde, Karen McLeod, Delphia Simmons, Melissa Thomas and Anthony Zander. Joel Landy, a land owner in the area, lost his bid. The City Council appointed four candidates last month. As we reported in this week’s issue, the Neighborhood Advisory Committee was negotiated after Olympia Development of Michigan, Detroit Red Wing’s owner Mike Ilitch’s real estate arm, balked on a proposed community benefits agreement.  The committee is charged with the task of offering input on the arena’s design, parking security and more.

    The post Final members selected for Red Wings arena Neighborhood Advisory Council appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag

    The Magic Bag in Ferndale will host James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets on Thursday, May 28, at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. A press release reads, “James McMurtry recently signed with the bourgeoning Los Angeles record label Complicated Game. The legendary songwriter will enter the studio later this month to start working on his first album in six years. “I’ve got a new batch of songs, organic and with no added sulfites, aged in oak for several years,” he says. “Francois Moret at Complicated Game seems to like these songs and (producer) C.C. Adcock thinks he can turn them into a record. Good times fixing to roll.” Label head Moret agrees. “In March 2013, when C.C. Adcock told me we were going to see James McMurtry at the Continental Club in Austin, I expected to see a good show,” he says, “but what I saw left me mesmerized! I immediately knew I wanted to sign him. As a European, it is an amazing opportunity to work with one of the most talented American singer-songwriters.” Evidence: McMurtry’s Just Us Kids (2008) and Childish Things (2005). The former earned his highest Billboard 200 chart position in nearly two decades and notched […]

    The post James McMurtry and The Bottle Rockets coming to the Magic Bag appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit

    The Dead Kennedys, still with local boy Klaus Flouride in the ranks, will play St. Andrew’s Hall on Tuesday, June 24. Alongside Flouride and fellow original members East Bay Ray and DH Peligro, the current lineup includes singer Ron “Skip” Greer, taking the place of Jello Biafra. Downtown Brown will open that show, which starts at 7 p.m., with tickets priced $20-$25. Give Klaus a hero’s hometown welcome. Just over a week before that, strangely enough, Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine will play at the Magic Stick. It’s a weird coincidence, but one that DK fans should be happy to embrace. That show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $17-$19. Local hardcore vets Negative Approach play before Jello, with the Crashdollz opening the show. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Dead Kennedys to have a holiday in Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain

    The Planet Ant Theatre in Hamtramck will present a police drama called A Steady Rain May 2 through 24. Planet Ant veterans Ryan Carlson and York Griffith will star in the play, written by House of Cards and Mad Men co-writer Keith Huff. Tickets ($10-$20) are on sale now at PlanetAnt.com. According to the press release, “A Steady Rain by Keith Huff focuses on Joey and Denny, best friends since kindergarten and partners on the police force whose loyalty to each other is tested by domestic affairs, violence and the rough streets of Chicago. Joey helps Denny with his family and Denny helps Joey stay off the bottle. But when a routine disturbance call takes a turn for the worse their loyalty is put to the ultimate test.First produced at Chicago Dramatists, A Steady Rain appeared on Broadway featuring Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig. The Planet Ant production of A Steady Rain is directed by York Griffith featuring Ryan Carlson and Andy Huff. This marks the return of two of Planet Ant’s founding members. Carlson and Griffith. Griffith has served as the theatre’s Artistic Director where he directed the critically-acclaimed productions The Adding Machine and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? […]

    The post Planet Ant presents A Steady Rain appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face

    There is no easy answer to the question regarding what should be done with Detroit’s abandoned homes. However, an Eastern Market company has a solution that could reflect Detroit’s possibly bright future. Homes Eyewear has set out to make the city a little more stylish, and do their part in cleaning it up by repurposing select woods from neglected homes for sunglasses. All of the wood that Homes uses is harvested from vacant houses with the assistance of Reclaim Detroit. A lot of work goes into prepping the wood to be cut and shaped into frames. Homes goes through each piece to remove nails, paint or anything else detrimental to their production (it’s a bit strange to think that your wooden sunglasses could have had family portraits nailed to them). In order to produce more durable eyewear, they salvage only hardwoods like maple or beech, which are difficult to come by as most of the blighted homes were built with softer woods like Douglas fir and pine. If you’re worried about looking goofy, or shudder at the thought of salvaged wood resting on your nose, you can rest easy. Homes currently offers frames in the popular wayfarer style and are developing their unique spin on the classic aviators. For as […]

    The post You can wear Detroit’s blight on your face appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Politics & Prejudices

Save our schools

The unusual idea that schools are for children

A few years ago, a woman I knew moved into Detroit and decided to try putting her son, a slow learner, into a public high school.

She had been warned that the schools were impossible. However, she was somewhat of an idealist who believed public schools were essential to our democracy. So she felt it was important to at least give them a try. She thought the horror stories had to be exaggerated.

They weren't. The district put her son, for whom graduating would have been a challenge in any case, into all Advanced Placement classes. There was no way he could pass those classes. She called the office. Sorry, they said.

Those are classes where we have empty desks, so that's where we put him. He dropped out, and I lost track of them. Other educators have told me that stories like that are common.

But Detroit's wretchedly dysfunctional schools aren't the main issue. What really matters is the impending failure of all our state's public schools. Michigan, once a high-income state, is now headed for the cellar, thanks to the collapse of our old brawn-based economy.

In terms of per-person income, we are now 37th or lower, and on a rapid transit ride to the bottom. Tom Watkins, perhaps the most thoughtful state superintendent of schools in recent times, says our system of public education is "bankrupt — fiscally, morally and academically." Watkins was our state's top education official until 2005, when he challenged the prevailing orthodoxy.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm then promptly forced him out of office. Watkins is a man of integrity; when the Toledo Public Schools offered him the top job this year, Watkins asked for unanimous support of the board, so that he could make the hard and necessary changes that urban school district needs to make to survive. They wouldn't give it to him, and so he declined to take the job. Now, he works as a business and education consultant here and in China, a nation he tells me, is getting the better of us in both arenas.

The biggest trouble with education in this state, he says, is not the amount of money we are spending. It is that we aren't thinking about it in the right way. "Conservatives" are all about slashing teacher salaries, benefits and pensions, which account for the vast majority of education spending. So-called liberals want to protect our teachers' standards of living. Neither camp thinks much about the only thing that matters — educating our children.

We have other things to worry about than the "brain drain," of graduates fleeing our state for jobs in Chicago. "We need to be equally concerned about the uneducated and undereducated ones that stay behind," Watkins notes.

You'd never know from the newspapers what happens to the hundreds of thousands of dropouts and barely literate high school "graduates" the system churns out, year after year. Many, maybe most, will eventually become an expensive drain on society. The bottom line is that our education system is clearly not designed for the benefit of the person who is supposed to be its focus: the student. Six years ago, realizing this, Watkins took on the education establishment. He posed, in various ways, the question he asked in a guest column in the Dearborn Press and Guide last week: "Would our schools exist for teaching, learning and children, or exist for power, control, politics and adults?"

Watkins soon found out that, as he puts it, "the latter won." Outgoing Speaker of the House Andy Dillon found out much the same when he suggested that, in a state with shrinking resources, teacher pensions and health care benefits couldn't stay the same as in the good old full-employment-at-high wages days.

The angry teachers' union bureaucrats did their best to destroy his candidacy for governor. Meanwhile, Watkins knows better than most people that "unless we reinvent our schools, and have the imagination to do so, we will fail as a state and a nation."

How to do that is tricky — but not the hardest part. "Clearly, I do not have the answers," Watkins told me last weekend. "But we are at a period where if we are going to forge meaningful change in our society, this is it."

Though a lifelong Democrat, he is hopeful Gov.-elect Rick Snyder will really be willing to think outside the box and revamp education. Otherwise, it won't make a damn bit of difference if they cut our tax rate to zero. New economy, high-paying jobs and businesses aren't coming. Devising a new, student-centered statewide model for education may be challenging, but is certainly doable.

Watkins is a fan of the WAY Program — Widening Advancement for Youth, a personalized learning experience for students who haven't done well in traditional high school. WAY is being tried in the Washtenaw Intermediate School district this year.

Regardless of method, what's really needed here is what amounts to the equivalent of a World War II-style, full-mobilization attitude. Michigan needs to make properly educating our children our top priority, period. We shouldn't even be thinking about the costs until we find out what we need to do to get the job done.

For Tom Watkins, that means reinventing education, as a step in reinventing and reviving our state. "We must substitute brain power for brawn power. Quality education, from the womb to the tomb is the foundation a repowered Michigan needs."

"The only question that remains is will we commit ourselves to it?" We haven't so far. With a new governor, a new Legislature and a huge new deficit, we have a new chance to find out.


Justice for Debbie:
For years, right-wing blogger Debbie Schlussel has whined a lot, in an apparent attempt to convince the metropolitan area she is some sort of local Ann Coulter, and/or an expert on Islam. She's done about as well with both goals as Rodney Dangerfield did with being universally respected.

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