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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 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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Politics & Prejudices

The future of the fairgrounds

Well-connected developers eye old state fair site

Photo: N/A, License: N/A


For more than a century, Detroiters marked the end of summer with the Michigan State Fair, the only opportunity many urban kids ever had to learn something about farming, animals and agriculture.

It was as much a part of life as snow in the winter and the forsythia blooming along the highways in spring. You could see piglets and calves actually get born, eat maple sugar candy, and go on all the amusement park rides. There was the giant butter cow (and calf), handicrafts, lots of kitsch and the chance to earn a blue ribbon, even for city kids raising rabbits or chickens.

The fair ended every summer when Labor Day came and it was time to go back to school. Over time, fashions changed, attendance dwindled, and the fair began to lose money.

But hundreds of thousands of Detroit-area folks still went, every year, right up through the fall of 2009.

That’s when Jennifer Granholm, otherwise one of the most forgettable governors in our history, killed the Michigan State Fair. The state couldn’t afford the few hundred thousand it was losing on the fair, she sniffed.

That was too much even for the tight-fisted Republicans in the Michigan Legislature. They voted to restore the fair’s funding — and Granholm vetoed that bill.

She said the land could be better used in some other way. Michigan traditions didn’t mean anything to Granholm, who has since gone back to California, where she grew up.

At the time, I thought that her idea of a “better use for the land,” meant that she had a plan to turn it over to some rich developer with connections to the Democrats, or her campaign.

But nothing happened during the remaining year of her term. Gov. Rick Snyder, however, has a track record of making things happen, and never seeing a business plan he didn’t like.

Private enterprise, in his view, is the salvation of all mankind, and the more of the people’s property that can be turned over to private developers, the better.

After languishing abandoned for three years, the Legislature voted last year to turn the fairgrounds over to the State of Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority.

Curiously, virtually the only objections came from few purest conservative Republicans. State Rep. Tom McMillin of Rochester Hills, for example, said: “If the desire is to sell the land, then put it up for sale,” rather than “cut deals with select well-connected people.”

Poor Tommy! Cutting deals with the in-crowd is the name of the game in Lansing. The 163-acre fairground site was indeed conveyed to the land bank, where from the start, the fix seemed to be in for a group of investors called Magic Plus, LLC.

As the name suggests, the public face of the group is former basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson, though the real players seem to be Joel Ferguson, the Lansing-area developer, and Marvin Beatty, a former Detroit deputy fire commissioner who these days is a vice president of the Greektown Casino.

They say they want to invest $120 million in the project, to create “an economically transformative destination for living, shopping and entertainment in the city of Detroit.”

What that really means, however, is anything but clear, and that worries members of a group called the State Fairgrounds Development Coalition.

There’s Jim Casha, for example, a civil engineer who grew up in Detroit, and still lives here when he isn’t running his horse and chicken farm in Ontario. He appeared before the Land Bank last week to beg them to reconsider.

“Because the Magic Plus plan falls so far short of the people’s expectations and because of the recent passage of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) this proposal should be rejected and the process started over,” he argued.

What he’d like to see is a beautifully designed plan he and his allies call META – short for Michigan Energy Technology (and) Agriculture. They want to use part of the site as headquarters for the new metro-wide rapid bus service that seems likely to start up now that a Regional Transportation Authority has been created.

They’d also have room to bring the state fair back, plus a nice hotel, parks and plazas, green space and residential development. Their well-thought-out plan is beautiful.

On paper, it appears far superior to the shadowy plans of Magic Plus. The only problem is that META doesn’t have any money, as far as I can see, nor any major backers.

They have managed to raise some concerns about the Magic plan, enough so that the State Fairground Advisory Committee has expressed concerns about the fact that there is a lack of green space and no regional mass transit link.

Joel Ferguson found himself needing to proclaim that “we are not building a strip mall,” though it still isn’t clear what kind of “mixed use” structures will be built, even though last summer they were talking about doing the project in “specific and timely phases.”

Whatever that means.

Given that Detroit’s first Meijer store is being built next door, it wouldn’t seem that another strip mall is needed.

But this has been the people’s land ever since the founder of Hudson’s sold it to the Michigan State Agriculture Society, back in 1905.

Jennifer Granholm sold out Detroit children, three years ago, by killing the fair. Under my government, whoever finally gets this land would have to operate it with the public interest in mind, and in partnership with the Detroit Works plan for rebuilding Detroit unveiled a few weeks ago.

And provide space so that every year in the late summer, we could once again have an authentic, affordable state fair.

Republican treason? Last week, 13 Republicans in the Michigan State Senate took a stand similar to that of Southern slaveholders in the 19th century, who argued that their states had the right to “nullify” any federal laws they didn’t like.

What the modern nullifiers did was introduce a proposed “Michigan Firearms Freedom Act” claiming any new federal regulation of firearms would be null and void in Michigan.

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