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  • The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues

    Ypsilanti police are still searching for the person dubbed the “mystery pooper.” Someone has been, as the Associated Press politely puts it today, “soiling slides at an Ypislanti playground over the last six months.” So, of course, someone purchased an electronic billboard along I-94 near Huron St. at exit 183 that delivers multiple calls for action: For instance,”Help us flush the pooper.” The company that purchased the billboard, Adams Outdoor Advertising, knows how to reach the world in the 21st Century, branding each billboard with a hashtag for the public utilize in its efforts: #ypsipooper. WJBK-TV says the billboard also toggles through other rich lines, such as: “Do your civic doody, report the pooper #YPSIPOOPER” “Help us catch the poopetrator #YPSIPOOPER.” You can have the runs, but you can’t hide. They’re still looking for you, Mystery Pooper.

    The post The Ypsilanti mystery pooper saga continues appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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.

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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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