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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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Best of Detroit 2012

Public Square - Staff Picks

Our staff picks for Metro Detroit

Best Day to Be a Fish at the Belle Isle Aquarium

Shiver on the River

Though the Belle Isle Aquarium officially closed its doors to the public back in 2005, there's still one day a year when metro Detroiters can get their fill of early 20th century watery amusements. As part of Shiver on the River, Belle Isle's cold-weather celebration held annually in early February, the Belle Isle Aquarium opens for one day between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Visitors step through a Beaux Arts-style arched entryway into a veritable aquarium museum: When it closed, it was the oldest continuously operated aquarium on the continent. Though small by contemporary standards, the building pays homage to an earlier era in Detroit's history — and it still brings in the crowds. At this year's Shiver on the River, more than 2,500 people reportedly lined up for a look. Not so bad for an attraction that's officially closed for business.

Best Gardening Deal for City Residents

The Garden Resource Program

313-285-2300; detroitagriculture.net

A joint endeavor of such organizations as the Greening of Detroit, Earthworks Farm and the Detroit Agricultural Network, the Garden Resource Program provides seeds, plants, educational classes and more for new and existing urban gardens in Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck. Last year, the program offered resources to 1,351 urban vegetable gardens. The program dispensed 49,858 seed packs, and 230,296 transplants of more than 73 varieties of fruits and vegetables, encouraging a growing network of gardeners and urban ag advocates trying to ensure a thriving, locally based food system in the city. Neighborhood-based cluster groups allow growers to meet one another and share resources and opportunities, making them eligible for additional resources, such as tilling, compost, flowers, woodchips, weed fabric, volunteers, even a tool-sharing program.

Best Way to Build Community with Beer

Tashmoo Biergarten

Van Dyke between Agnes and Coe streets, Detroit; tashmoodetroit.com

Early last year, this corner of Van Dyke in West Village was an empty lot with an overgrown tree in the back. It was less a place for people to hang out than to cut through to the alley. It sure wasn't that way in the fall. It was fenced-in, filled with crowded, communal tables and benches, becoming for a few Sundays a place where revelers drank Michigan craft beer, listened to music, ate local food and played beanbag games. From old codgers to young kids, from locals to yokels, it was suddenly alive with chatter and mirth. The empty parcel had become a pop-up, open-air beer hall — the Tashmoo Biergarten — all the work of "Team Tashmoo." Tashmoo organizers Suzanne Vier, owner of Simply Suzanne granola company, and Aaron Wagner, a buyer for a purchasing company, pointed to the boost beer gardens had gotten since the late 1990s, when hipsters started crashing places like Queens' traditional Bohemian Beer Garden. The phenomenon there has grown to where even pop-up, temporary beer gardens spring up, which led Vier to propose one for the Villages neighborhoods. "In Eastern Europe, beer gardens are a place to come together. ... In Eastern European culture, it's not just about drinking; it's about food, music, families — it's an open and inviting place." They created it, and it was such a success they intend to bring it back this year, starting at noon on Saturday, May 19. Frankly, anything that can turn a vacant lot in Detroit into a gathering place demands attention.

Best Food Desert Fighters

Peaches & Greens

8838 Third Ave., Detroit; 313-870-9210; 10

a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m.

Saturday; centraldetroitchristian.org

As "food desert" becomes part of the local lexicon, awareness has grown that vendors of fresh fruit and vegetables underserve vast swaths of Detroit. Shunned by large chain grocers, these neighborhoods are places where residents, many of whom don't have cars, must shop for food at party stores and gas stations, which sell very little in the way of fresh produce. For local residents, this food crisis is a recipe for ill health, obesity and diabetes. As part of the Healthy Neighborhoods Initiative, the produce market, Peaches and Greens, opened in 2008, offers access to real, fresh food through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance. One of a variety of answers to the "food desert" issue, for almost five years now, Peaches and Greens has made it that much easier for city residents to get the life-giving food they need.

Best Inner-City Duck Farm

Laid in Detroit

4121 Neff Ave., Detroit;

East side Detroiter Suzanne Scoville wasn't always crazy about raising fowl. But when the opportunity to raise ducks for eggs — for culinary use at Detroit's Woodbridge Pub — came her way, she turned the yards of the properties she owns on Neff Avenue into a haven for a brace of ducks. Affectionately dubbed "Mother Nature" by some neighbors, she took to urban duck farming like, well, a duck takes to water. Though you'd think her busy enough already (she supports herself with a day job as a building contractor), Scoville says raising ducks isn't a whole lot of trouble. She says the animals possess an "unreal immune system," handle cold well, and are also more docile, smarter and more resilient than chickens. And the eggs? She says, "They're buttery, very rich, a bit fattier, higher in protein content. The whites come out a little stiffer, which causes baked goods to rise higher, fluffier. That's why bakers like them so much." See Laid in Detroit's Facebook page for more details. 

Best Vision for 

Mass Transit 

Freshwater Railway

FWRail.org.

Here's your transit map for a 14-county area, including: Detroit, Windsor, Lansing, Port Huron, Toledo and more. Six rail lines, 71 rail stations, 82 buses, 90 railcars, 25 locomotives and an easy-to-navigate website (unlike those for the problematic services of DDOT). Sound too good to be true? Well, Neil Greenberg — who refers to himself as a "renegade transit planner" — intended it to be that way. Although Freshwater was simply an idea he drummed up last fall to warp the vision of mass transit from "why can't we" to "how can we" — as he described the process to Model D Media — it serves as a contrast to where we are with mass transit today, with fragmented, often shoddy service and no certainty that improvement plans will come to fruition. Greenberg, though, is plowing ahead. His newest project, Momentum, is a plan to help improve the proposed Regional Transit Authority (currently in the legislative process).

Best Detroit Asset  

to Protect

Water & Sewerage Department

If Detroit should fail to abide by the terms of its consent agreement with the state and lose complete control of city government, don't be surprised if city jewels start to go on sale. We can think of nothing as valuable, or more in need of remaining in public hands, than the third-largest water and sewer utility in the United States. As the problems of climate change continue, and water shortages in other parts of the United States grow more severe, privatized water corporations will be salivating over the prospect of getting their claws into something as essential as Detroit's Water Works Park, which has the potential to produce up to 320 million gallons of drinking water a day. If you want an idea of how the public will react if there are attempts to give a profit-driven company control of something as essential as water, check out the excellent documentary The Water Front, which chronicles the fight that ensued when an appointed manager attempted to sell off Highland Park's water system.

Best Public Project 

to Push Through

New International Trade Crossing

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is in favor of building a new publicly owned bridge across the Detroit River. So are his four gubernatorial predecessors, ditto the governments of Ontario and Canada (willing to pay Michigan's share of the project), the U.S. government, automakers, labor unions, chambers of commerce far and wide. Two key entities are against. There's the Detroit International Bridge Co., owned by the Moroun family, which is willing to spend vast amounts of money and say just about anything in a desperate attempt to stave off the competition the new bridge would offer their near-monopoly. And then there's the Michigan Legislature, under the sway of the Moroun family's largesse. If the Legislature can't be convinced this is the best interest of the region, state and nation, then Gov. Snynder needs to employ one of the options he says are available and get the job done by taking executive action. No other single action can provide this struggling state with the economic benefit the NITC does.

Best Way for Matty Moroun to Improve His Public Image

Give Detroit the Ambassador Bridge or ... 

The 84-year-old billionaire Moroun has already recouped his shrewd investment in the Ambassador Bridge many times over, having leveraged the value of the bridge with duty-free operations and the tax-free truck fueling stations at the Gateway Plaza and all sorts of other businesses. So why not make a grand gesture and give back to the city that has given so much to him? Generating an estimated $60 million to $100 million in revenue annually, the bridge could immediately go a long way toward solving Detroit's financial crisis and put it on a sound footing from which to begin growing again. Matty would immediately go from being a despised villain to a sainted hero remembered for all time as the man who helped save Detroit. ... OK, we're dreaming. But he could at least drop his opposition to the NITC and free the legislators under his sway to do the right thing.

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