Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Donald James
Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013 was a bittersweet day for Joyce Hayes Giles, assistant to the chairman and senior vice president of public affairs for DTE Energy. On one hand, she was retiring from DTE after 35 years and looking forward to the perks of freedom that most retirees treasure. On the other hand, she was leaving a company that has become a major part of her adult and professional life, and has allowed her to become a friend and change agent to the community.
As Giles looks back over a three decade-plus career at DTE, she has every reason to be proud of her time and contributions to the company and community. Over the years, she has served DTE in numerous senior executive and directorship positions, including such areas as customer relations, material management, administrative services, customer information and physical assets.
Giles remembers her first day on the job in 1978 when she joined the company as its manager of compensation. DTE was known as MichCon. at the time.
“I didn’t plan on being with the company more than maybe three years,” said Giles, who previously worked for the Automobile Club of Michigan and Chrysler Corporation. “Someone at my previous company told me that I would be bored working for MichCon because it was just a sleepy utility company. That person was wrong, as I was given some great challenges and opportunities. When I started working in human resources, I realized that this company was different. DTE treated its employees and customers very well. It wasn’t a perfect culture, but it was evolving.”
In her time with DTE, Giles said there are many memorable moments.
“I loved when DTE became laser-focused on improving its customer service and really valuing its community involvement at a very high level,” Giles said. “I appreciate that the company developed a strong passion for serving the community and allowed me to create and design programs that helped those who needed help. I will greatly miss that part of what I loved doing for the community.”
Over a significant part of her career with DTE, Giles was the face of the company.
“I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, ‘thank you for being so passionate about helping our community,’” Giles said. “For a long time people in the community didn’t know who our officers were. It was important that we came out to be a valuable part of the community. While it’s true that companies are in the business to earn money, there’s more to it than just making money, it’s about caring about people and their communities as well.”
Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, Giles was taught at an early age to care about people. She also learned that education would be her passport to prosperity and the world. As a youth, she had career aspirations of becoming a psychiatric social worker.
After high school, she went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Knoxville College, a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Detroit, and a law degree from Wayne State University Law School.
Since arriving in Detroit in 1972, Giles has been a true Detroiter.
“This is home for me,” said Giles. “I love the city and its people.”
After she retires on Dec. 1, she has plans to travel. She knows that Los Angeles will be a frequent destination for her because both of her adult daughters live there; one is an aspiring actress, the othe a screenplay writer.
For Giles, total retirement is out of the question. One look at her biography shows a multiplicity of civic and community affiliations — too many to list — that only begin to define her dedication to making life better for others. For her professional and personal efforts, she has received dozens of local, regional and national awards and honors that speak volumes to her leadership and humanitarian acumen.
While Giles won’t reveal all of her post-DTE plans, she did share that she is not leaving her love for serving the community; she will surface again will goals of empowering the people and communities of Detroit on some level.
In addition, Giles will become an adjunct professor at Wayne State University next year, where she will teach business ethics in the school’s MBA program. Also, she is getting married next fall.
“For those who know me, they know that I’m not capable of just riding into the sunset and sitting down” said Giles, with a laugh. “I have to have purpose. I have to continue to do something meaningful to help improve people’s lives in and around Detroit.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 December 2013 10:11
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Donald James
He has been called a musical genius, a dream weaver, an international pop culture icon, and a pioneering entrepreneur, all of which only begin to define Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Record Corporation, perhaps the world’s most beloved record label in history.
As the mastermind behind the Detroit-born hitmaking “Motown music machine,” Gordy launched the careers of such greats as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell, Mary Wells, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 and many more. From these artists came hundreds of hits, described by Gordy as “The Sound of Young America.”
On Saturday, Dec. 7, in the Grand Ballroom of Cobo Center, the Michigan Chronicle will honor Gordy, a native Detroiter, with its Lifetime Achievement Award at the Legacy in Motion event. While he has received a litany of awards and honors over the last seven decades, this one, according to Gordy, will be special.
“I could not be more excited than to be honored by the Michigan Chronicle, because the newspaper represents my roots,” said Gordy, during a phone interview from Southern California. “Selling the Michigan Chronicle was one of my very first jobs that I ever had when I was around 12 or 13. The newspaper represented hopes and dreams for me. I outsold everybody because even then I wanted to be the best. I credit some of my successful Motown marketing strategies to what I learned from selling and marketing the Michigan Chronicle to both Black and White customers.”
In addition to his early experience with the Michigan Chronicle, like many Detroiters, Gordy worked in the automobile industry in the mid-1950s. In his 1994 autobiography, “To Be Loved,” Gordy described how the automobile factories impacted the way that he would one day run Motown. His stint at Ford, however, was short-lived. Gordy’s experience at Lincoln Mercury Assembly Plant was much better.
“The minute I walked into the Lincoln-Mercury Assembly Plant and saw how cool it was — no furnaces, fire or hot metal — I knew this was going to be my home for a while,” Gordy wrote. “Little did I know when I started how important to my future that assembly line was going to be. All I knew was those slow-moving car frames were the loveliest sights I’d ever seen. There was a pleasing simplicity to how everyone did the same thing over and over again. I fastened upholstery and chrome strips to those frames being pulled down the line on conveyor belts. It was a snap. I learned it so fast. I could jump into each car as it arrived, do my job, get out and have time to spare. Before long that extra time was devoted to singing and writing songs.”
Gordy, however, wanted to start his own business, even though he was already an accomplished songwriter. A couple of years earlier, he had partnered with his brother, George, to open a jazz record shop in Detroit called the 3D Record Mart – House of Jazz. Not long after, Gordy closed the shop and worked as a salesman for Guardian Service Cookware. But after borrowing $800 from the family’s savings fund, Gordy, with the blessings of his parents and siblings, started Motown in 1959.
Barrett Strong charted the label’s first hit in 1960 with “Money (That’s What I Want)”; the Miracles gave the company its first No. 1 hit with “Shop Around.” From there, the rest is history as Gordy applied what he had learned while working on the assembly line: “Everyone doing the same thing over and over again.” For Gordy, that translated into Motown’s long assembly line, involving artists, musicians, songwriters, arrangers, producers and distributors, all “doing the same thing over and over,” which for Gordy and Motown meant making hit songs.
The company began churning out hit after hit at a high rate of frequency. Motown, and its various subsidiary labels, including Tamla and Gordy, produced well over 100 No. 1 hits and many Top 10 hits under Gordy’s skillful eye and ear from 1960 to 1988. Among the classic hits were “Please Mr. Postman” (the Marvelettes), “Reach Out I’ll Be There” (the Four Tops), “My Girl” (the Temptations), “Stop! In the Name of Love” (the Supremes), “For Once in My Life” (Stevie Wonder), “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” (Marvin Gaye), “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (Gladys Knight and the Pips and later Marvin Gaye), “My Guy” (Mary Wells), “Dancing in the Streets” (Martha and the Vandellas), “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell), “Where Did Our Love Go?” (the Supremes); “Baby I Need Your Loving” (the Four Tops), “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” (the Miracles), “The Way You Do the Things You Do” (the Temptations) and “I Want You Back” (the Jackson 5).
In addition to charting some of the best R&B and pop songs of all time, Gordy was influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and recorded several speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I had Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. under contract, which was strange,” said Gordy, with a laugh. “We did three albums with him, including ‘The Great March to Freedom’ which was his June 23, 1963 speech in Detroit. It was recorded several months before the historic march in Washington, D.C.”
Gordy recalled that Dr. King came to see him because the civil rights leader was impressed by how Motown’s music was about promoting emotional and social integration before political and intellectual integration could happen.
“He told me that he was out there and heard our music and it was always positive for all people,” Gordy recalled. “He was surprised that Motown’s music did not offend anyone, and he loved it. He said that he wanted to do something with Motown, if I was interested. I responded, ‘Are you kidding? I would love to do something with you on Motown.”
While Motown was doing extremely well, reaching audiences across broad social, cultural, and ethnic lines around the world, Gordy had some difficult decisions to make pertaining to expanding his portfolio. He began to look at opportunities in Los Angeles.
In 1972, amid criticism, some of which came from family members, Gordy relocated Motown to Los Angeles.
“My mindset was that I wanted to seek my fortune,” said Gordy. “I wanted to make movies, I wanted to do television and I wanted my artists to have the opportunity to do movies and television and stage plays. I knew that the only place that I could do this was in Hollywood. My family tried to stop me because they told me in California I would be just one of many who were trying to make it in music, movies and television. In Detroit, they told me, I was king. However, I didn’t want any limits put on anything that I was doing with Motown, so I moved the company to Los Angeles.”
Gordy credits Detroit for being the strong foundation that has propelled him to high levels of achievement.
“Growing up in Detroit gave me the best foundation that I could have had,” said Gordy. “It gave me the grit, glamor, strong work ethic and the competitive spirit. The city prepared me for anything and everything that I’ve had to face in life. When I got to California, I had a huge advantage and was stronger than what competition was there because I was from Detroit. So everywhere I go, I always take Detroit with me.”
In 1988, Gordy sold Motown Records to MCA. Motown Records continues to exist with such artists KEM, India.Arie, Ne-Yo and Chrisette Michele, Gordy admits that he is still a supporter of the label. However, his energy these days is in other places, such as with the hit Broadway production, “Motown the Musical.” The play is based on the true story of Gordy and his rise from featherweight boxer to heavyweight music mogul and how he influenced the rise to stardom for a multiplicity of now legendary artists. Gordy wrote three new songs exclusively for the stage production.
“‘Motown the Musical’ is awesome,” said Gordy. “It’s the truth told in an entertaining way. People are loving it and I’m thrilled about that.”
Gordy is also working with a young female singer named Jadagrace. Hehe expects to release something on her next year.
“She has a very special vocal gift and is such a talent,” he said. “I believe she’s going to be a star. People are going to love her.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 05 December 2013 09:58
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Donald James
The days of Mayor Dave Bing’s administration are winding down. In less than six weeks, Bing, after serving a four-and-a-half-year stint as Detroit’s mayor, will pass the baton to Mayor-elect Mike Duggan. The transition of mayoral responsibilities will turn yet another page in Detroit’s long and sometimes controversial political history book.
Most will agree that the city of Detroit was in dire straits when Bing took office in May 2009, compounded by the prolonged trials, tribulations, and missteps of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, followed by the eventual appointment of an emergency manager and the filing for bankruptcy, all punctuated by rising crime, a steady loss of population, an eroding tax base, and escalating blight.
What did Mayor Bing accomplish during his tenure to improve Detroit?
In an exclusive interview with the Michigan Chronicle, Bing talked about his administration’s mission, goals and accomplishments during his time in office.
“What anyone would say is that my administration brought integrity back to the office of mayor,” said Bing. “I think it was important and was difficult. I think what my administration does not get is credit for the many other things that we’ve done.”
After taking office, Bing said that his administration’s strategies were to focus on stabilizing the city’s finances, improving the quality of life for all citizens, as well as repopulating Detroit. His mission centered on five key areas: public safety, public transportation, public lighting, neighborhood blight and recreation.
Public Safety — The mayor points to his administration’s role in opening the $60 million, state-of-the-art Public/Safety Headquarters that consolidated police, fire, Homeland Security, EMS and IT operations; the donation and deployment of 23 new EMS units and 100 police cruisers from the corporate community; the addition of 100 officers on street patrol or in investigations; and the opening of 14 police mini-stations.
Public Transportation — No city or region can be great without a great public transportation system. Thus, the mayor advocated for the outsourcing of city bus management operations and identified the team to manage related initiatives; Bing played a major role in obtaining $31 million in federal funds for a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and the future 3.3-mile M1 Rail system that will run along Woodward Avenue from downtown to Midtown.
Public Lighting — According to Bing, his administration pushed for the state legislature and Detroit City Council to approve his proposal to create a Detroit Public Lighting Authority to finance $160 million in new lighting and system upgrades; the plan to light Detroit is being implemented under the city’s emergency manager.
Neighborhood Blight — The Bing administration is on target to demolish 10,000 vacant houses and commercial structures he promised to take down by the end of this year; Bing’s quest to take down the dangerous structures was bolstered by funding solicited from HUD and other federal agencies. Bing’s team also released Detroit Future City, a bold and innovative strategic plan for transforming neighborhoods through the best use of city land. The plan also provided ideas for powering job growth. The strategic framework plan, published in 2012, is laid out in an impressive 347-page book.
Recreation — Bing created the Detroit Recreation Foundation to raise funds to keep city recreation centers and parks open; his Active and Safe Campaign has garnered $14 million from businesses and foundations to upgrade, maintain and operate recreation centers and parks.
In addition to the aforementioned accomplishments, Bing said that his administration was instrumental in keeping General Motors in Detroit when the automaker was threatening to move its world headquarters out of the city, and spearheaded a regional deal involving investing in Cobo Center to the tune of $300-plus million in upgrades and expansion, which paved the way to keep the coveted North American International Auto Show in Detroit and at Cobo for many years to come.
Bing also touts his administration’s proactive involvement in assisting the police department to reach 92 percent compliance with two federal consent decrees; the compliance rate was around 29 percent when he first took office. Bing spoke about his role in forming and maintaining a great relationship with regional political leaders in three surrounding counties, as well as forming an alliance with the Obama administration that was instrumental in delivering needed money to invest in Detroit.
“It’s important for my administration to get the credit it deserves,” said Bing.
“As I’ve always said, it’s not about me because I’m a team player; it’s about those who work in this administration. I want to make sure that the people in this city know what this administration did to help move Detroit forward.”
Bing, along with Gov. Snyder and Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein, recently announced a historic partnership that will bring Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business initiative to Detroit. The move will help create jobs and spark economic growth.
While Bing’s administration has reached other significant milestones, the mayor is aware that some people will say he could have done more. Bing, however, is unfazed.
“I’m a pretty optimistic person,” he said. “I always look at the glass being half full, not half empty. I believe there has been too much focus on what didn’t get done, or what we have to do, versus what was done. As tough as it is, I think we have to focus on the positives versus the negatives. The negatives are going to be there; we are not ducking or hiding from them.”
Bing said that his office has had positive conversations with Mayor-elect Duggan and the incoming mayor’s transition team to help in the changeover. The mayor’s efforts to help Duggan during the transition period is the opposite of what Bing received when he took office.
“I was voted into office on May 5, 2009 and started work on May 9,” recalled Bing.
“Because of what had transpired in the last administration, there was nothing for me to put my arms around. There were no plans, data or directions. I focused in the beginning on changing the mindset and culture within the organization (city government) because what was being done, in a lot of cases, we found out was illegal. We couldn’t continue down that road. Mike Duggan will not have that to deal with.”
“I’ve known Mayor-elect Duggan for a long time,” said Bing. “I served on the board over at DMC when he was there. We have different styles and different personalities. We have talked and I have given him a lot of information that will help prepare him for when he takes office. The biggest challenge that he will have is how to work with the emergency manager.
“My personal relationship with the EM is fine. I respect him. He’s smart and is an accomplished guy. But the disconnect has been in trying to run city government.
“When we first got together, it was intimated, discussed and agreed upon that his focus would be on the balance sheet to relieve some of the city’s debt.
“However, somewhere along the line, I think Lansing got too heavily involved and wanted him to take over and run city government.”
He continued, “Kevyn Orr is finding out that things don’t move as fast as he would like. He’s been here for nine months, with nine months to go. When people look at their quality of life, most would say it hasn’t changed that much since his arrival because the problems are so deep and so entrenched.”
Following the early January 2014 inauguration that will install Duggan as the city’s new mayor, Bing will explore numerous options pertaining to his future. He did not confirm or dismiss speculations that he will run for Wayne County Executive or U.S. Congress.
“First, I’m going to do something that I’ve never done before in my life,” said Bing, with a laugh. “I’m going to take about three to four weeks off in the month of January. When I come back, I want to be supportive and help clean up the city and help improve recreation services for our citizens.”
Bing admits has an affinity for the city’s recreation components, as well as with mentoring youth, especially inner-city youngsters. It was as a youth, while growing up in the inner-city sector of Washington, DC, that Bing learned the lessons of character and integrity from his parents and mentors. On the outdoor and indoor courts of DC’s recreation department, he also learned how to launch unstoppable jump shots. In high school, Bing excelled in basketball, while quickly learning that the game would be his passport to prosperity.
During his senior year in high school, Bing was heavily recruited by numerous basketball powerhouse programs, such as the University of Michigan and UCLA. He chose Syracuse University where he went on to earn All-American honors. In 1966, Bing was drafted as the second overall pick in the NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. He would go on to play most of his outstanding 12-year career with the Pistons.
His commitment to playing the game at its highest level earned him inclusion as one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all time. Following his playing days, Bing could have lived anywhere in America or beyond, but chose to remain in this region, where he started Bing Steel in Detroit.
Bing was asked how he wants to be remembered after leaving office.
“I want them (Detroiters) to remember that I stepped up when leadership in this city was being questioned,” Bing said.
“I want people to know that I cared enough to come to the table during one of the most turbulent times in the city’s history and restored integrity, team spirit and hope back into the office of mayor.
“I didn’t do it for pats on the back or for credit because I’m very comfortable in my life and what I have accomplished. I did it because I love this city and wanted to be a part of its comeback.
“After I leave office, I will be around to help this city and its people move forward. I’m not going anywhere.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 December 2013 10:03
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Detroit Branch NAACP
DETROIT -- Today’s decision by United States Bankruptcy Judge Stephen Rhodes ruling Detroit eligible for bankruptcy begins a new chapter in Detroit history. As the bankruptcy pleadings head into their next phase the Detroit Branch NAACP continues to advocate and stand for what is best for Detroit, its residents and retirees.
“We continue to believe that more positive alternatives could have been implemented rather than a rush to bankruptcy accompanied by a rush to end democracy,” said Rev. Dr. Wendell Anthony, President, Detroit Branch NAACP. “Even Judge Rhodes agrees with us that the City did not negotiate in good faith. This is critical in understanding the consequences which has led to the erosion of the right to vote in the affected communities.
The City of Detroit and other communities around the state should not be placed at a constitutional disadvantage which takes away their fundamental voting rights. We will continue our appeal of PA 436 and its negative impact on Detroit and other cities across the state of Michigan." The Detroit Branch NAACP filed an appeal last week to Judges Rhodes decision to not allow the lawsuit brought by the Detroit Branch NAACP and the Michigan State Conference NAACP to proceed in U.S. District Court. This lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of Public Act 436 and argued that it violates the Voting Rights Act.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 14:02
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
DETROIT, Dec. 3, 2013 -- Emergency Manager Kevyn D. Orr today issued the following statement following federal bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes' ruling on the city's eligibility for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection:
“We are pleased with Judge Rhodes’ decision today, and we will continue to press ahead with the ongoing revitalization of Detroit. We look forward to working with all our creditors – pension funds, unions and lenders – to achieve a consensual agreement on a restructuring plan that balances their financial recoveries with the very real needs of the 700,000 citizens of Detroit.
“We are making good progress. In addition to today’s important decision, Detroit has transferred its electric operations and customers to DTE Energy and begun a program to improve City lighting. It has announced plans to privatize trash collection that will save $6 million a year while improving services and adding curbside recycling. It has invested in sorely needed equipment for its police, fire and other first responders. The City also has arranged, pending a court hearing later this month, $350 million of post-petition financing to improve its financial condition, lessen some of its debt obligations, and make much-needed investments. The City is also committed to the federal mediation already underway aimed at resolving disputes with its creditors and we fully support U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gerald Rosen’s efforts to find additive solutions, particularly from the philanthropic community, to the City’s financial issues.
“Time is of the essence and we will continue to move forward as quickly and efficiently as possible. We plan to submit a Plan of Adjustment in the coming weeks, file a Disclosure Statement early next year and work to exit Chapter 9 protection by the end of September. We hope all parties will work together to help us develop a realistic restructuring plan that improves the financial condition of Detroit and the lives of its 700,000 citizens.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 13:21
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
Federal court Judge Steven Rhodes ruled in a historic decision that the city of Detroit is eligible for Bankruptcy.
According to a live blog from Fox 2 News, Rhodes stated:
The City of Detroit is insolvent and bankrupt, and I find that Kevyn Orr and Governor Rick Snyder has successfully filed petition for Bankruptcy.
Several comment and statements are being made on the official judicial ruling.
Mayor Dave Bing made the following statement:
With the crisis we had this was inevitable, I don't think anyone wanted to go in this direction, but now that we are here, we need to work together...It's very important that we respect the fact that the emergency manager has the key to the city at this time. We don't agree on everything, but we do it in a very respectful way.
There will be alot of negotiations yet to come, I don't think we have final conclusion to what all the elements will be in this process. But we have to take care, because there is going to be pain for alot of people.
But in the long run, I think the future of the city will be bright.
Mayor-elect Mike Duggan made the following statement:
This is a day in Detroit's history that none of us wanted to see. Now that Judge Rhodes has ruled the city eligible for bankruptcy, we are about to move into the Plan of Adjustment phase that is likely to define our city government for years to come.
I'm going to do everything I can to advocate on behalf of Detroit's future in this process. We need to make sure the retirees are treated fairly on the pensions they earned and we need to make certain we come out of bankruptcy in a way we can afford to provide the quality of city services the people of Detroit deserve."
Although the 140-page ruling by Judge Rhodes was very detailed, speculation of several appeals from retirees and creditors are expected.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 14:09
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by CNN News
Washington (CNN) -- Battered by two months of bad publicity over the Obamacare website, the White House is going on the offensive to tout what it sees as the good news about the President's signature health care reforms.
President Barack Obama will launch a three-week campaign intended to highlight the benefits of the 2010 Affordable Care Act with a White House event at 2:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, a White House official told CNN.
The event comes a day after the problem-plagued Obamacare website handled more than 1 million visitors with no major problems, according to administration officials, who provided no other details such as how many of the users were able to fully enroll.
After the botched website launch on October 1, the administration hopes the ability of HealthCare.gov to handle heavier than average volume signaled a major step forward in getting people to sign up for health coverage now required by law under the reforms.
However, officials warn glitches will persist and describe the website as an ever-evolving work in progress. In addition, insurance companies say some "back-end" aspects of the HealthCare.gov system continued to malfunction.
In particular, insurers say there are problems with applications from people who signed up through the website, including erroneous or missing information.
Critics led by conservative Republicans trying to dismantle the health care reforms known as Obamacare say the website problems foreshadow deeper failings of the law that passed with no GOP support.
"It's not just a broken website; this bill is fundamentally flawed," House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday, later adding that "when you look at Obamacare, what you see is a government-centered health care delivery system."
Americans don't want that, the Ohio Republican insisted, declaring they instead they "want to be able to pick their own type of health insurance, they want to be able to pick their own doctor and they want to be able to pick their own hospital."
At the White House, the focus is on emphasizing how Obamacare has helped people in the three years since it became law.
"While work continues on the website, we think it is important that proponents of health reform undertake a renewed effort to refocus the public on the benefits of the law that have already been implemented," said the White House official who spoke on condition of not being identified.
Obama's remarks Tuesday "to discuss the health care law's benefits already in place for millions of Americans and make the case for why we need to move forward to make sure the law is a success" is the first wave in a tsunami of information the administration plans to unleash.
Daily events will occur December 23 as the administration tries to shift attention away from the website woes of the past two months to take on Republican foes attacking the law.
Over the weekend, officials announced they had met their self-imposed November 30 deadline for getting the site working for the "vast majority" of users, saying response times and error rates had been slashed while capacity increased.
Jeffrey Zients, a former administration official brought in to oversee the website fixes after its launch, compared the hardware upgrades so far to widening a highway on-ramp from two lanes to four.
That means chronic breakdowns, error messages and delays users experienced two months ago when the website went live have mostly disappeared, he said, noting the average response time was less than 1 second and the system's "uptime" -- a measure of system stability -- was consistently surpassing 90%.
It all means that HealthCare.gov can now handle its original intended volume of 50,000 concurrent users for a total of 800,000 visitors a day, according to Zients.
A new component that put users in a waiting queue during periods of high volume provided a better-managed delay than the site freezes and error messages of October.
Three CNN journalists who attempted to sign on Monday ended up in the new queue around midday and then two hours later. Their wait lasted a few minutes before they received a prompt on their screen to proceed with enrollment.
Later in the day, users proceeded directly to enrollment without waiting, indicating reduced volume at the end of the afternoon, as officials had predicted.
White House spokesman Jay Carney noted any major website has periodic problems that must be addressed.
"It does not mean that there will be no problems with the website going forward," he said Monday when asked by reporters if HealthCare.gov was truly fixed or merely functioning at a minimal level.
Vocal throughout the launch of the program and the successive problems, the GOP stayed vigilant with its critique.
"President Obama and his administration repeatedly claimed the Obamacare website would be fully functioning by the end of November, but this has proven to be just another broken promise," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. "The Obama administration had over three years to build HealthCare.gov, and all they've produced is a non-functioning website, wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars."
In October, the first month of a six-month enrollment period, just over 106,000 people signed up for Obamacare. Less than 27,000 of them did so through the HealthCare.gov website, which was supposed to be the main enrollment portal.
An administration official familiar with the matter told CNN that about 100,000 people signed up for coverage last month on the site. The official cautioned the number was preliminary and final numbers would be released in mid-December.
Joanne Peters, a Health and Human Services spokeswoman, said enrollment through alternate channels and successful exchanges in 14 states would help bolster November figures.
Marilyn Tavenner, the official charged with implementing Obamacare as director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told a congressional hearing last month that the administration initially hoped to enroll 800,000 people by the end of November. The overall enrollment target by the March 31 deadline for 2014 is 7 million.
A properly functioning HealthCare.gov is crucial to implementing the most vital provisions of the health law that require people to have health coverage.
The coming months will show if it was successful.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 11:31
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by News One
If Attorneys Mark O’Mara and Don West have anything to say about it, getting away with the murder of Trayvon Martin is going to cost George Zimmerman $2.5 million dollars.
And to paraphrase a JG Wentworth commercial: It’s their blood money and they want it now.
Zimmerman was acquitted on all charges in Martin’s shooting death, even though he got out of his vehicle, followed and ultimately shot the unarmed teen through the heart after a scuffle on Feb. 26, 2012.
O’Mara and West took on the case in April 2012 — after Zimmerman’s first legal team quit — and each attorney has billed Zimmerman about 3,000 hours.
See how it all adds up via The Orlando Sentinel:
O’Mara took on the case in April 2012, saying he would represent Zimmerman at no charge. Then he discovered that Zimmerman and his family were raising funds via a website and that money was pouring in, at least initially.
Throughout the case, even after the trial, O’Mara said he and West had not been paid a dime, although they hoped to be someday.
In an interview this week, O’Mara said Zimmerman paid them “a minute amount” after the trial.
O’Mara is still hopeful, he said, that there might someday be money he and West can collect.
In truth, they have already benefited financially from Zimmerman’s legal-defense fund. Several months ago, O’Mara reported spending $52,550 on “law firm support and infrastructure.”
O’Mara and his spokesman never provided a detailed accounting as to what that included, but they said it was such things as more computers, upgraded software, new phones and improved office security.
West and O’Mara also formed a private partnership, Timber Run Enterprises LLC, and bought the building next door to O’Mara’s Concord Street office in downtown Orlando. That building, like O’Mara’s office, is a former single-family home for which the lawyers paid $270,000.
[Zimmerman] contributors gave more than $400,000 to his legal-defense fund, money that went toward case expenses and supporting Zimmerman and his wife — not paying O’Mara and West for the hours they were working.
O’Mara charges $400 an hour, West $350 an hour, rates that area attorneys describe as reasonable, given their years of experience and skill.
Though Orlando criminal-defense attorney Richard Hornsby said $2.5 million in legal fees is “mind-numbing,” NewsOne contributor, Attorney and Legal Analyst Eric L. Guster believes the bill is appropriate:
“I totally understand why the bill is so expensive. Being that this was a high profile case, they had to totally shut down their law practices in order to defend Zimmerman. They had a full team of investigators, lawyers and paralegals working on his case around the clock.
“With Zimmerman having potential book deals, NRA endorsement, websites raising money for him among other things, he can afford to pay something, for sure.
“Freedom ain’t free; it costs money.”,
Wherever one falls on the issue, one thing is clear: To the Sanford Police Department and a jury of 6 women — 5 of them White — Trayvon’s life wasn’t worth one day in jail. But to O’Mara and West, Zimmerman’s freedom is allegedly worth $2.5 million.
That’s American justice math.
Last Updated on Monday, 02 December 2013 15:57
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by News One
Instead of finally offering an alternative plan to the Affordable Health Care Act versus fruitless attempts at repealing it, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH, pictured) has continued to make a spectacle over the debate on how to best help the tens of millions of Americans that live without health insurance. His most-recent act of foolishness is signing himself up for Obamacare — while snapping shots to the press — in order to get the last laugh at how expensive and complicated the ordeal is. Maybe that sounded like a good idea to him in theory, but like many of his past attempts at mocking President Barack Obama, reality smacked him upside the head.
Speaker Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, has confirmed to CNN that the Republican leader will take thousands of dollars in government support to help with the costs of the new healthcare program. But, but, but…what about the nanny state? Government sugar daddy? All those pestering poor folks looking for “government handouts?”
Steel told CNN that “Washington Democrats chose not to make that change.” However, as the news organization points out there are “several other members of Congress who chose to return their premium support to the Treasury.” So why not you, Mr. Speaker?
Nonetheless, Boehner described the process as “pretty frustrating,” but all and all he got a better deal for an individual plan that mirrored the Blue Cross Blue Shield one he currently has as a part of the federal employees health package.
On the differences:
The current cost for Boehner and his wife? They “pay a monthly premium of $433,” said Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck.
The new plan for the two of them?
It “would cost $802 per month in premiums,” Buck said.
That is an 85 percent leap. But, Boehner’s wife is about to go on Medicare, so he will get an individual plan. That cost? $449 a month.
Boehner’s office notes he will now be paying more for one person in the Obamacare exchange than he was for two people in the federal employees plan. Deductibles for the Boehners will jump from $700 to about $2,000.
Boehner’s age along with being a smoker is being cited as a reason for the higher costs, though there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to his jump in premium.
Salon’s Brian Beutler writes that “these numbers actually prove the law is working very well in Washington, D.C. — but that reality is obscured by the fact that Boehner has been benefiting from a hidden, expiring government entitlement for the past several years.”
Boehner does not provide intel on what plan he chose on the site, but Beutler did a generic profile based on his age and income (without noting he was a smoker) and found that Boehner was eligible for a “bronze” plan with a $6,000 annual deductible for $372.14 a month. That is, as the Los Angeles Times‘ Michael Hiltzik notes, only 2 percent of Boehner’s wages. Moreover, ”A gold-level plan including dental coverage and no deductible would set Boehner back about $700 a month, or 3.8 percent of Boehner’s wages.”
Hiltzik goes on to make the important note:
Obamacare rules typically allow for a premium to cost no more than 9.5 percent of household income for lesser “silver” plans. That limit comes from premium subsidies granted to households earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line. In other words, Boehner would be way ahead of most Americans.
So Boehner is not getting a bad deal in the least, and if anything, only further proves that he and his fellow Republicans share a large share of the blame of their own “nightmares” about the program. After all, it’s Senate GOP members that called on legislators and their staffs get their insurance from the individual exchanges in the first place. The move was an attempt to undermine passage of the Affordable Health Care Act. It didn’t work, and now the end result is Boehner is going from one great health care plan to another…with subsidies.
As for those website headaches Boehner complained about, again, look at your party. Those are the people responsible for purposely sabotaging the rollout of the site. It’s not their entire fault, but they were a huge impediment all the same.
Now that we’ve gotten another publicity stunt out of the way, can we finally move to something more substantive, Mr. Speaker?
Last Updated on Monday, 02 December 2013 15:44
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
According to reports from WSJ, Detroiters will find out on Tuesday, Dec.3rd if Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy:
If Judge Rhodes decides the city is eligible for bankruptcy protection, Detroit officials are expected to present a plan by mid-December for cutting Detroit's debt and reinvesting in depleted municipal services.
Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history in July, citing roughly $18 billion in debt. The bankruptcy filing was made by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr
Last Updated on Monday, 02 December 2013 09:39
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!
- Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy, pension cuts (2)
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network among lowest priced health plans on Michigan’s ACA health insurance marketplace (1)
- WIGS 4 KIDS HOSTS TENTH ANNIVERSARY FUNDRAISING GALA (6)
- Charles Barkley ‘Agrees’ With GZ Verdict, Says ‘Black People Are Racist Too’ (2)
- Why France’s lens is focused on Detroit (1)