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    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

Shaming our state

Instead of making hard decisions, our pols just kick it down the road

When the wimps running the British government sold out Czechoslovakia to Hitler, Winston Churchill, not yet in power, reportedly growled that they had been faced with a choice between war and shame.

"They've chosen shame. They'll get war later."

Last week, the Michigan Legislature did much the same thing in passing a budget. They faced a choice too. What they should have done — what they were elected to do — was, simply, to make the tough choices they were elected to make, and chart a difficult path to a somewhat more hopeful future for Michigan.

We should have seen a principled war over two different versions of what government should look like. The choice is very clear. Choose one way, and those of us who are working will have to pay somewhat more in taxes to fix our roads and bridges, invest in education, and give our children a shot at a better future.

We can either do that, or we accept becoming a backward, Third World sort of state, where the rich eventually live in gated communities, the intelligent young leave for other states, and the poor live increasingly impoverished and desperate lives.

That's the choice. Our lawmakers, of course, avoided making any hard decisions. They threw together a document that was "balanced" only on paper, throwing vast federal sums into the deficit hole, and scuttled out of town.

They chose shame, but sadly, most of them won't pay for it later. We will. Most of the lawmakers, and every single member of the leadership, are term-limited. They've gone off to run for other things, or to seek jobs from the special interests they've been protecting.

Some are still doing it. Our senate majority leader, Mike Bishop, possibly the most appalling creature in the Legislature, and his pet imp, state Sen. Alan Cropsey (R-DeWitt), deserve cushy jobs from Ambassador Bridge owner-troll Matty Moroun. Bishop is still working hard — even against fellow Senate Republican Jud Gilbert — to prevent a vote that would allow work to proceed on a new publicly owned bridge over the Detroit River.

Everybody in government and industry wants and needs this bridge, but, as noted here before, Matty has deep pockets.

Beyond that, however, the lawmakers passed, almost at the last moment, a spending blueprint that will blow up in the new lawmakers' faces next year, when the stimulus money is all gone.

Next summer, the experts expect the state to be looking at a deficit of $1.6 billion. There is very unlikely to be any more stimulus money, regardless of which party controls Congress. A brand new Legislature and a brand-new governor will have to deal with the crisis.

The choices ahead will be that much more difficult because they've been put off, time and again. Unless we raise taxes considerably, the state will have no choice but to make appalling cuts to education, especially perhaps higher education, to Medicaid, to whatever social services are left.

What is going to have to happen is that for a good long time, we will have to pay more — those of us, that is, who are still lucky enough to have a job — and get less. State workers, whose contracts were modeled on those of the auto workers in the flush times, are going to get less pay, less pension, less benefits.

Ironically, our only hope for a decent future may lie in the willingness of those who are better off to pay more in the short run — more to fix up our roads and bridges and schools.

Investing more in higher education is, in fact, our best hope of all. I don't say that because I teach at Wayne State University, by the way; this is something everyone who has looked at the figures knows is true. We are paying the price now for being a state where too many mommies and daddies thought high school was all the kids needed.

Our lawmakers did very little to get us ready to face the future in the last two years. They did reform the teacher retirement and health care system in a sensible way, and did a weaker version of the same for state civil service employees. Our speaker of the house, Andy Dillon (D-Redford), did try to put all state workers on the same health care plan; he accomplished little, except his own political destruction.

And, oh, yes — our wonderful elected leaders did do a little something for all of us, right at the end of the session.

They voted to legalize the sale of alcoholic drinks, in bars and at the supermarket, on Sunday mornings. Damn nice, since thanks in part to what they failed to do, many of us may well need it.


Worth reading:
�Regardless of your politics, here's something undeniable: You can't figure out where you are, or where you are going, till you have some idea where the hell you've been.

Two new books coming out this week are worth the time of anyone who has the faintest interest in the history of this state. Wounded Warrior (MSU Press; $39.95) , by Lawrence Glazer, a former circuit judge from Lansing, is the tragic story of a man who beat the odds to be elected Michigan's governor exactly half a century ago.

Nobody in politics today has endured anything like John Swainson, who sadly has been almost totally forgotten. Not only was he only 35 when he was elected governor, he shouldn't even have been alive. When he was a 19-year-old soldier in World War II, a German land mine ripped off his legs, shattered his jaw and sent pieces of metal through his body. He survived all that, put himself through college and law school and launched a meteoric political career. He nearly got comprehensive tax reform though the Legislature, something that's as badly needed today.

But he couldn't get re-elected, and ended up being convicted of perjury in federal court, then losing himself for a while to alcoholism. Judge Glazer, who compiled a distinguished record on the bench, concluded after studying the trial transcripts that Swainson was guilty of bad judgment, but probably otherwise innocent.

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