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  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • 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.

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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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