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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

Shared sacrifice?

Tough times at Detroit Rescue Mission, and Gannett's goofs

The staff at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries didn't need economists to tell them how devastating the lingering effects of this recession have been. They see them every day, in the faces of the people they feed, keep warm and to whom they try to give hope.

They see people who aren't like the clients they've had before. These are people who never imagined they'd be jobless, let alone homeless. "Recently, one of our volunteers saw a man standing in line for a meal with two children," Chad Audi, DRMM's president and CEO, told me the other day.

The day was bitterly cold; the man tightly gripped the hands of his kids. The volunteer suggested they come inside with him. No, the man said; he just wanted to wait in line like everyone else. They asked about his situation.

He had relatives he could stay with, he explained, but didn't want them to have to feed him too. The volunteers got him and the kids, who looked to be about 12, meals. DRMM has transitional housing available, but he politely said no. He just wanted to get his family some food.

"What we are seeing now is more and more of the working homeless," said Audi, who has a doctorate in business and gave up a high-paying job to do what he feels is the Lord's work.

"You have people who do work full time, but who can't afford somewhere to live. So we try to help them." That's been a special challenge this winter. The weather has been so cold, and money has been so short. But DRMM never turns anyone away who needs a safe and warm place to sleep.

"Sometimes, yes, we run out of beds. But we can at least put chairs together, and they can get some rest," Audi said, in the melodious lilting accent of his native Lebanon.

Money is, naturally, never in sufficient supply. "Because of all the bad economy we've seen, we're not able to get donations at the level we expected in the past, to sustain operations at the level we need," said Audi.

Yet something remarkable has happened. Large institutional donations have fallen off, true. But ordinary people have stepped up — big-time. "We're getting a much broader base at this point. They are actually covering what the bigger donations did in the past, or almost as much."

"But the demand is so much larger," he said. Every day, they serve, on average, 1,400 people. Five years ago, it was about 900. Then the economy tanked, demand exploded, and Audi and his troops have scrambled to keep up.

By the way, there are still those who think of DRMM, which has been around for more than a century, as a soup kitchen. Once it indeed was that, back in the Great Depression, when it was housed in the Jefferson Avenue Presbyterian Church, and the founder, David Stucky, used to bring in canned goods from his own shelves to keep people alive.

These days they have educational programs, transitional and some permanent housing, and an array of rehab facilities. They have recreation and camping programs for inner-city kids. They've opened a restaurant called Cornerstone in Highland Park — that city's only sit-down restaurant — where they are training people for jobs in the hospitality business.

They are a faith-based group, clearly Christian, but vow not to discriminate against those who aren't. They are nonpartisan, nonprofit, and are doing what Republicans say they want groups like this to do — helping people with voluntary funds provided by the private sector.

Yet Chad Audi is worried by the governor's budget, mainly because it proposes to end the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor. That, he fears, would cause a financial disaster for those working hard to keep heads above water, and create a new tidal wave of need.

The Michigan League for Human Services estimates ending the credit would tip thousands of children into poverty. Polls show most people are dead against ending the credit, but it's likely to happen anyway, unless people get to their lawmakers and register enormous disapproval.

Regardless of what happens, Audi is going to do his best. Fourteen years ago, he turned down a job paying three times as much to go to work for DRMM. He was young and single then; he's 41 and is raising four kids now, and has no regrets.

You'd think with all the stem cell research going on, somebody would have the decency to have him cloned.


Saving the newspapers:
Two weeks ago, the Detroit Media Partnership made an announcement that stunned even those used to the appalling idiocies of the Gannett-controlled newspaper agency. Having failed to stem either the flood of red ink or the steep decline in readership, the secretariat essentially conceded it was intellectually out of gas.

They are offering $5,000 a pop for the two best ideas "that help the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News better serve the community and help grow their audiences." You've got till March 31, Al Gore's birthday, to cash in.

Growing their audience is something they certainly haven't done. In 1985, before Gannett began destroying the News (and later the Free Press) the News sold 670,000 papers a day. The Free Press was close behind, with a circulation of 630,000. Know what those numbers are now?

As of last September, Free Press circulation had dwindled to 245,326. The News was a ghastly shadow of its former self, at 146,962. They've undoubtedly declined further since then.

Their grand experiment to convert readers to reading the things online four days a week has more or less failed. Now, they are doing what they first refused to do, allowing independent contractors to bring the papers to homes on days the mighty partnership declines to do so.

True, newspapers all across the country have lost readership. But none quite as disastrously.

My guess is that the "media partnership" would rather print the things in Old Church Slavonic than give me a prize, but as a lifelong reader of newspapers, writer and editor for newspapers, journalism professor and student of the industry, here's my two cents worth, absolutely free of charge: Try the radical step of putting out newspapers aimed at people who care about what's happening, and who like to read. That may be a smaller number than it once was, but still includes many people.

Gannett, which seems to have a kind of contempt for its readers, has been trying for years to produce papers for people who don't want to read. They haven't been very successful. Here's a secret, Detroit failing daily newspaper monopoly: People who don't want to read don't want a paper aimed at people who don't like to read. They want to watch television instead.

So let them. Devote your energies to putting out a well-written, intelligent newspaper for people who care. They may sneer and say that wouldn't work. They might even be right.

But it is hard to imagine that a really good newspaper could fail any more miserably than what they are doing now.

I'm not hopeful that my advice will be followed; the contest judges include the CEO of Domino's Pizza, a finance guy from USA Today and the former mouthpiece, now CEO, for the money-losing newspaper partnership. But, hey.

For those who still read, it was worth a try.

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