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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 […]

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  • 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 PlanetAnt.com. 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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Higher Ground

Seeds of change

Legalization efforts grow from the bottom up

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Peeling back the layersof cannabis prohibition is like playing a game of three-card Monte. Now you see it, now you don’t. That seems to be the case with decriminalization efforts that won handily in five Michigan cities in November and energized activists. Now local officials are throwing up roadblocks along the route to instituting change.


In Grand Rapids, Proposal 2 amended the city charter to make possession of marijuana a civil infraction punishable by a $25 fine for a first offense. But in December Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth, whose jurisdiction includes Grand Rapids, filed a lawsuit against the city to stop implementation of the law. His argument, in part, is that the amendment is contrary to state law. (I guess he should talk to the folks in Ann Arbor, who have had a similar ordinance in place for a few decades.) Last week, Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sullivan began hearing arguments on whether to allow Grand Rapids to implement the law or not until the lawsuit is settled. No one knows when that will be. No matter which side wins in county court, the other side is expected to appeal the decision. So who knows when this will be settled?


It is interesting that Grand Rapids City Attorney Catherine Mish cited Proposal M’s route to the ballot in Detroit during her argument in favor of implementing the new law. The Detroit Election Commission refused to put Proposal M on the ballot in 2010, arguing that it was contrary to state law. Subsequently the state Court of Appeals ruled that the city had to put Proposal M on the ballot. It passed overwhelmingly in November.


Last week, a Detroit Free Press article reported that Detroit elected officials are “foot-dragging” about implementing Proposal M, which decriminalized possession of as much as 1 ounce of marijuana by an adult on private property. The article quoted City Council President Charles Pugh, who in December said, “I don’t think we can have a local law that is incongruous with state law.”


“The only way the city of Detroit wouldn’t be implementing the law is if they are charging adults who are on private property,” says attorney Matt Abel, executive director of the Michigan Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “If they are charging them on the city ordinance they can be beaten. I would handle that case pro bono. If they arrest someone under city law I think the city would get sued and lose. That is a false arrest. It is not a crime as long as all the conditions of Proposal M are met. They’re just woofing. They have nothing positive to say about it, and so they think they can get away with bullshitting the public with those kinds of statements.”


Regardless of negative reactions from authorities, activists are moving forward. They plan to introduce proposals in another handful of cities for this fall’s elections, including Highland Park and Jackson. It seems like their strategy is to chip away at opposition city by city until they believe they have enough support to make another statewide run. (A statewide petition to put the question on the ballot in 2012 garnered only about a third of the required number of signatures.) Allowing skeptics to see that legalization in one town or another actually works seems like a good way to eventually get statewide reform, although it makes for a convoluted mishmash of laws.


That is sort of what’s happening nationally as state after state legalizes medical marijuana, and now two states have legalized recreational use of the plant. An uneven patchwork of decriminalization has settled over the nation and there is an upward pressure on the federal government to make sense of it all. But we are getting mixed messages on that too. Last week Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske — aka drug czar — released a statement that said, in part, “it is clear that we’re in the midst of a serious national conversation about marijuana.”


What’s not clear is the nature of the conversation from the federal point of view, so it could be a very rude exchange. And Kerlikowske didn’t say anything substantive other than circulate a transcript of President Obama’s recent interview with Barbara Walters in which the president said, “It does not make sense from a prioritization point of view for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state law that’s legal.” He went on to talk about reconciling federal law with state laws.


All of this is very vague and noncommittal. However, in the past, Kerlikowske was not vague at all. He has said on a number of occasions that, “legalization is not in my vocabulary and it’s not in the president’s.” We still don’t know what new words they may have recently learned at the drug czar’s office, but the change in rhetoric makes me think that the feds are discussing some positive change in light of the public opinion that has swung more in favor of marijuana legalization.


“It’s a pretty stark shift,” says Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit focused on the message that support for marijuana legalization is a mainstream position. “Of course, what really matters is to what extent the administration actually shifts enforcement priorities and budgets, but I sure do like hearing the U.S. drug czar acknowledge the fact that marijuana legalization is a mainstream discussion that is happening whether he likes it or not.”


Hopefully that discussion leads to some well-defined policy that relaxes prohibition, because right now it’s hard to tell what is going on at many levels. For instance, Obama has said his administration would not go after medical marijuana facilities in states where those laws were in place. In 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said that there wouldn’t be any federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries unless they were breaking state and federal law. Yet there have been raids on large operations in California and Montana. Just last Wednesday, Jan. 9, there were federal raids on three Los Angeles area dispensaries. That same day Aaron Sandusky, who ran three southern California medical marijuana dispensaries known as G3 Holistics, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for operating the facilities.


So what is the deal here? Some activists have suggested that some Republican U.S. attorneys (held over from the previous administration) have gone rogue and are operating outside of Obama’s guidelines because the president does not have the political capital to stop them.


“Obama didn’t want to remove U.S. attorneys because Bush got into trouble for removing attorneys in such a political way, but they aren’t following his administration’s policy,” Abel says.


If that’s the case, it’s time to get everybody on the same page. We’ve got states where recreational use of marijuana is legal. Is some attorney in Washington or Colorado going to start arresting people? It’s getting to the point where people are playing municipal laws against state laws, and state laws against federal laws. It’s to the point where strong guidelines need to be defined. People’s lives are at stake. If people are operating in good faith within the provisions of local statutes, it’s neither fair nor just for another authority to swoop in and arrest them.


I’m hoping that this national conversation gets loud and clear very quickly.

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