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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

Screwing the future

In Michigan, slouching toward the Third World

Phil DiMaria isn't exactly Gov. Rick Snyder's biggest fan. "Shared sacrifice? He isn't going to share in any sacrifice with this budget," DiMaria snorts. "Cutting taxes on business the way he wants to is just going to make him richer."

DiMaria, who lives in Eastpointe, has had two careers, neither of which has made him rich. He spent 30 years as a cop in Troy, which overlapped some with the 20 years he has spent as a Macomb County Commissioner.

What bothers him most, however, is Snyder's proposal to tax pensions as income. The governor, he notes, is a multi-millionaire venture capitalist and former computer executive. "He's never going to know what it's like to be old and pinch pennies to buy bread, buy a quart of milk. We need to stop this, or there is going to be no middle class left in America."

DiMaria seems mad as hell, and he's doing something about it. He's leading a petition drive opposing any pension tax. He's sent blank forms everywhere from Chelsea to Petoskey, and says the response to what he is doing is overwhelming and enthusiastic.

His plan is a little fuzzy, but the goal is to get as many signatures as possible, and then, perhaps in May, take them to Lansing and present them to the governor and the Legislature, hopefully with as much fanfare as possible.

DiMaria, a Democrat, knows the governor is determined, and that he has huge Republican majorities in both legislative houses. He knows the odds are against his being able to change Rick Snyder's mind or completely preventing any pension tax, though he'd like to do both.

But he knows that many of the newly elected GOP legislators have to run again next year, and fear the wrath of vengeful seniors, who vote more faithfully than any other group. He figures that if the petition even persuades them to limit the pension tax somewhat, it will be worth it.

Nobody doubts DiMaria's sincerity. But what he doesn't mention is that he has a vested interest in this issue. He turned 60 last year, is already collecting one government pension as a retired Troy police officer, and will be eligible for another, as a longtime county commissioner.

DiMaria doesn't like Snyder's plan to severely cut spending for education either. "We are talking about creating jobs and businesses, but we are going to have to train people to work in these businesses and do these jobs," he said.

True enough. But why isn't he leading a petition drive instead at stopping the school funding rollbacks?

Why isn't anybody doing this?

The answer seems to be pure selfishness. Today's motto might be: Forget the America where people toiled hard so their children could have better lives. Forget the fathers and mothers who survived the Great Depression, returned from World War II, and then voted millages for new schools for their kids. Forget the era when states invested billions in colleges and universities and set aside funds so that kids could go to them who weren't wealthy.

We needed to worry about being beaten by the Soviet Union back then. That's over, and we have a new ethics and morality, that can loosely be summed up as: I got mine. I'm doing everything I can to keep it, and I don't owe nothing to society, or someone else's kids, or even my own.

That may not be how Phil DiMaria feels. But that's the real meaning of cutting aid to education.

Jan Scott gets that. She is 55, of the same generation as DiMaria, and, for that matter, this columnist. She's so angry that she can barely write without spewing venom. But she isn't concerned about her precious and too-small pension. Scott, who has taught in both public and parochial schools in Ohio and Michigan, is deeply worried about education and our future. "The real root of education problems is poverty — and parents not doing their part."

Yes, she knows there are "a few bad teachers. But there are ways administrators can terminate tenured teachers."

Perhaps this hasn't been done enough in some places — but Scott sees this as a distraction. She's convinced the real agenda is union-busting. "The GOP hates unions, and teachers are the scapegoats and the sacrificial lambs right now," she fumes. They aim to ruin schools as we know them to funnel taxpayer dollars to "for profit" charter schools. Naturally, these will then be run by their friends.

Whether or not that is true, it seems very odd that the governor, whose background is in high-tech businesses, isn't pumping vast new resources into education at all levels.

That's what the jobs of the future will demand. Scott, who has degrees in Spanish and French, teaches in mainly working-class Bedford Township, near the Ohio border.

Seventy miles north, Mike Simeck feels the problem even more acutely. He's the superintendent of the Berkley public schools, one of the state's best and most diverse systems. Newsweek rated Berkley High School one of the nation's best "public elite" schools. It has kids from upper-middle class Huntington Woods, mostly middle- and working-class Berkley, and a slice of Oak Park, which includes African-Americans and Orthodox Jews.

For years, they've had a tradition of spending wisely and getting results. Simeck, who came from Lansing four years ago to take this job, modestly credits "four past great superintendents." They watch every penny in Berkley.

They privatized food service years ago. The only bus service is for special education — "this is a walking district," he said. Employees already contribute to their health care.

Positions sometimes go unfilled for months until he is convinced they've got the right person. But the governor's proposed budget would destroy much of what Berkley built.

Snyder's suggested cuts would suddenly result in a $5 million deficit in Berkley, which has only 4,800 students. Since most of the budget goes for salaries and benefits set by contract, Simeck has very little room to maneuver.

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