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  • Once-controversial Diego Rivera murals now national landmark

    Oh, the irony — initially criticized as Marxist propaganda when Mexican muralist Diego Rivera painted them for the Detroit Institute of Arts in the early 1930s, Detroit Industry has now been designated as a a national landmark. The announcement was made Wednesday, according to the Detroit News by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis as part of National Park Week. The designation does not change the ownership status of the murals or grant any new protections or rights, leaving its place among the rest of the DIA’s art in possible bankruptcy negotiations in question. The work is considered the best of Rivera’s work in the United States (another mural Rivera had done in New York was destroyed by orders of Nelson Rockefeller). Rivera himself regarded Detroit Industries paintings as his finest work. In the midst of the McCarthy era, the DIA posted this sign outside the court: Rivera’s politics and his publicity seeking are detestable. But let’s get the record straight on what he did here. He came from Mexico to Detroit, thought our mass production industries and our technology wonderful and very exciting, painted them as one of the great achievements of the twentieth century. This came […]

    The post Once-controversial Diego Rivera murals now national landmark appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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 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? […]

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Stir It Up

Sticky thicket

The Hantz Farm proposal has already raised a bumper crop of controversy

Photo: N/A, License: N/A

Last week Craig Fahle devoted a segment of his show on WDET-FM 101.9 to the controversial proposed Hantz Woodlands project near the Indian Village neighborhood. His guests were Hantz Woodlands CEO Mike Score and Malik Yakini, director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. I met Score briefly last winter when he attended the meeting that rolled out of the Lower Eastside Action Plan, an ambitious, long-range effort to revitalize the southern part of the east side. I've been acquainted with Yakini for nearly 30 years, going back to my days with the Cass Corridor Food Co-op.

Score is the pointman for financial adviser John Hantz, whose Hantz Farms/Woodlands proposal is getting a lot of attention lately. Although Hantz has changed the original plan from farm to woodlands, if you search Hantz Farms on the Internet it pops right up top with the words: "Hantz Farms is our dream to rejuvenate our city by returning to our agrarian roots, by creating the world's largest urban farm right here in Detroit ... "

From my perspective, if Hantz wants to convince people that he is sincere in his stated plan not to farm, then he should take that terminology off his website.

During his interview with Score, Fahle stated that he has nothing more to go on than what Hantz and his people have said about the project. I've given Fahle credit for bending over backward to be a fair and impartial interviewer over the years. Myself, well I try to be fair but I'm generally not so impartial. And there are other things I will take into account when looking at this issue. For instance, during the interview Score said, "The primary purpose of the investment is to make neighborhoods more livable."

If that is true, then there are plenty of ways to do that. I know a lot of people who do that in their own neighborhoods. They mow overgrown lots. They put in gardens. They clean up lots and board up houses. Check in with the Motor City Blight Busters to find out about the work they've been doing in the Redford area for the past 20 years. There is a house on my block that was empty for nearly a decade. The woman who lives next door to it has mowed the lawn and kept the area clean with help from others on the block. Our neighborhood association has held clean-ups where a blighted house is chosen and a bunch of people show up one day to clear out the debris, cut down bushes and mow lawns. There is a woman who walks three miles a day through the neighborhood and voluntarily picks up trash while she's doing it. She's done this for years.

Now that's commitment to making the neighborhood more livable.

Hantz lives in Indian Village. He could hook up with community groups in his area and do the work. He could donate a little cash to the effort to spread the fixing-up around. Maybe Hantz thinks in bigger terms than I do. But I think Score's use of the word "investment" is telling. It's about future returns. Now there is nothing wrong with that. I have made my peace with capitalism. That is the system we have going here, although I believe there must be rules that everybody adheres to — unfettered capitalism is not my thing. And Hantz has a right to make money; but he should be honest about what he is up to.

Score made another telling remark. He said that Hantz will, "Forgo the right to recover expenses over time through agricultural production." 

So he has a right to recover expenses. That's OK. But he's not necessarily going to do it through agricultural production. That means he'll be looking for other ways to recover expenses. During the interview Score admitted that there are "some parcels that we would put back into the marketplace. We would not expect that to happen anytime soon."

That bespeaks land banking. That's how it works for people of great means. If I were to invest in land, I'd need to make the money back fairly quickly. I don't have money to live on while I wait out the market. When wealthy people invest in land, it just becomes part of the estate. You hold onto it until values go up, whether it's in three years or three generations. In fact, during Yakini's portion of the interview, he said that in a conversation with Hantz, the financier said that he intended to leave the property to his daughter. Hantz is a money guy. He thinks like a money guy. He may be totally sincere in his stated objective to make the neighborhood more livable — but he's going to make money along the way.

That's fine. But let's all be honest about it and evaluate the sale based on what it really is. 

Now there is plenty of land in the city to go around. Although Fahle and Score fell into the oft-repeated-but-wrong assertion that there are 40 square miles of vacant land available in Detroit. (Gee whiz, don't they read my column?) Data Driven Detroit long ago showed (and I reported on it) that the 40 square miles figure includes Belle Isle, Palmer Park, Rouge Park, Howell Park and the surface area of all the streets. The amount of vacant land actually available to use is closer to 20 square miles.

One of the reasons Yakini and others oppose this sale of land to Hantz is that many of them have been involved in urban agriculture over the past 20 years. Some of them have tried to buy vacant lots from the city to no avail. One guy who has a profitable garden in Detroit (yes, making a profit!) says he's buying land outside the city because he can't even figure out who owns some of the lots he's been working. When the Detroit Food Policy Council held a listening session at Gleaners Food Bank in August, there were a few people who told tales of woe about trying to buy land from the city in order to farm it, but got nowhere. One church had been trying to buy adjacent lots for some 15 years.

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