Thursday, 13 September 2012 08:57
As Belle Isle floats on the brink of becoming a state park, it’s clear that there are big changes in store for the island.
One of the major changes will be a steep increase in law enforcement presence on the island not only by Detroit police and state police, but conservation officers working for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) making the island a safer place.
This reminds me of an interesting conversation I overheard between a DNR conservation officer and a man who was trying to sell roses in downtown Detroit at William G. Milliken State (the first ever urban state park in the country).
The officer was politely telling the man that he couldn’t sell stuff on state park ground without a permit. The rose vendor nodded, but before the officer turned to go he was offering flowers again, “for the pretty lady…”.
Then DNR officer firmly ordered the rose peddler out of the park. He obeyed, then asked the officer a key question: “Sir,” he said, “you’re a park ranger. You can’t tell me what to do when I’m not in that park, can you?” The conservation officer then explained the scope of his power: that he, in fact, had the same, if not more, power to enforce state laws than the state police.
“So you could arrest someone?” The rose seller asked. The officer’s answer was an unwavering “yes.”
So as Belle Isle becomes a state park, the public safety will increase just by having Michigan conservation officers on duty. Even though these DNR law enforcement officer’s primary job is to protect natural resources, they have the power to enforce all laws of the State of Michigan including laws for outdoor recreational activities such as off-road vehicle use, snowmobiling, boating, hunting and fishing according to the Michigan DNR website.
In other words, if a DNR conservation officer sees someone speeding, they can issue a traffic ticket even if you are nowhere near a state park.
Michigan Conservation Officers work with all law enforcement agencies including local police departments, sheriff’s departments, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs, U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Division.
The bottom line is that it’s important for people to know that state park rangers are law enforcement officers and deserve the same respect and obedience that a police officer does. Belle Isle will be a safer place with these law enforcers on board.
Tuesday, 11 September 2012 00:21
Minni's Morning Coffee: He's Making Me Look Bad:Kilpatrick, Drama, and Black Shame
Somewhere between hard news and nail-biting entertainment, there lies a blurry meshing point: It's there that you will find something called infotainment, a phrase coined in the 1980s that’s perhaps is more relevant today.
This is the age of Google, Reddit and Twitter. News media outlets are increasingly lodged at the mercy of clicks, readership and view numbers than ever before.
And while infotainment is arguably harmless and, in some cases, the only way to get a modern-fasted paced audience to pay attention, it’s a slippery slope.
We’re all guilty of falling for the infotainment trap. Whether it’s a psycho shooter in Colorado, a crazed gunman in West Bloomfield, or the high-profile trial of an infamous ex-mayor, we want to be the first to know.
Why? It’s a train wreck effect, so to speak: Just try to tune out of the sexy, fast paced coverage of the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trail. Try to focus, instead, on the Detroit Works Project’s large-scale plans to re-zone and redistribute resources to Detroit residents.
Click back to the Kilptarick trial. Wait, that juror said WHAT? OMG, time to follow the Kwame Trail on my Smartphone. And yes, there’s an app for that.
So why do I feel something turn in my stomach whenever I get a glimpse of the Kilpatrick trial coverage? It’s not the infotainment aspect. I love a good news drama, I am a political blogger, hello. And it's not that I think Kilpatrick's actual trial is unjust, but, there’s something different about this.
But it wasn’t until I gave it some serious thought that I figured out what irked me: I’m black. Kilpatrick is black. He’s up there making me look bad, making my sister look bad, making my baby nephew look bad, making some black Joe Shmo in Nigeria look bad. Let’s not forget whose world we live in. Another black man on trial. Another infamous black crook going down in flames to the I-told-you-so of the majority. Oy.
Maybe it’s just in my head. Or it could be that I’m too caught up in my blackness. But as I click on the images chosen again and again for the Kilpatrick trial coverage, I see a black man frozen for eternity with a stupid frown being referred to by is first name even in cases where AP style calls for a surname.
I can’t look away, but I think I just hurled in my mouth a little bit.
Monday, 03 September 2012 08:36
Labor Laws Stale? Detroit Could Redefine Labor Movement
There’s a famous slogan that goes: The Labor Movement “The folks who brought you the weekend.”
Today is the day we have set aside to honor the American workforce. And since we all belong to the workforce in some way, it’s a time to honor ourselves. But before we get drunk on beer and silly-full on barbeque, let’s reflect on not just the history, but the future of labor, especially in Detroit, a city facing gigantic labor conundrums: our very own Detroit.
And it’s not just the weekend that the American labor movement created. Thanks to the workers who started organizing in the late 1800’s through the movement’s peak in the 1930’s through 1950’s, there are laws banning child labor, a mandated minimum wage, and a 40-hour week, among other protections.
Back then, organized labor was not presumed to be synonymous with unions. It was just workers banding together to demand better conditions and pay. Unions were the famous product of this, but as stated, not the only one.
In Detroit, people are divided over the importance of unions, as we know them. In the private sector, unions have diminished greatly since the peak in the 1930s and 1950’s. But in municipalities they have stayed mostly intact.
That’s a problem in cashed-depleted Detroit, where some argue that union wages and benefits are bleeding the city dry. Some would posit that if a labor union were a car, it would be an inefficient, obsolete “clunker” best scrapped for a newer design.
Unions, ironically, have been seen as big forceful machines rather than organized workers protecting their rights.
An opinion piece in the Statesman Journal this morning titled “Labor Day Not Union Day” stated:
Today, Detroit’s unions are stewing in the still before a storm. The storm being Election Day on November 6 when voters chose the fate of Public Act 4, legislation that could dissolve collective bargaining contracts and ultimately lead to the privatization of much of the municipal workforce in cities across the state, namely Detroit.
Now the question for all of us to ponder over our labor day fare is this: How can we keep fair conditions for workers while updating or removing the traditional union model?
The labor movement is still alive today, although perhaps people are more complacent now that they have weekends and minimum wage. But there’s a lot of work to be done in redefining labor in the 21st century.
The silver lining to the painful cuts Detroit workers have coming is that maybe it will force people to organize around designing a new labor model worthy of the 21st century.
Detroit is in a position to lead the nations union question, to take the hard times and demand new concepts, something that will work. Instead of complaining about cuts, and saying what doesn’t work, let’s focus on what does, what could, and what will.
One idea that comes to mind is the 30 for 40 movement geared to “reinvent” the workday. The idea is that people work 30 hours a week for 40 hours (or full time) pay. Because of the 6 hour workdays, people are more productive. At least that’s what Ron Healy, the man leading the 30 for 40 movement thinks.
An article on PBS.org highlighted this new concept and the man behind it:
"The trend in America is to work longer and longer hours. But Ron Healey, the Founder and CEO of 30/40, has convinced a growing list of skeptical CEOs that less is more. He's swayed a number of companies to switch to six-hour shifts and still pay workers for a full eight-hour day. Healey says the added expense of hiring more workers pays off because they're more productive, happier and -- most importantly -- loyal to the company."
Maybe Healy's onto something here. While it's by no means a perfect model that will solve the unions question, it's a step toward a new kind of thinking not forged in the fire of times long passed.
Monday, 13 August 2012 12:38
Last week on WDET (101.9 fm) radio, Craig Fahle made a good point. He had people call in to the Craig Fahle Show to sound off on the proposed slash of 80 percent of Detroit Water Department employees over the next five years.
Many callers were upset about the proposal and said that the city should not make these drastic cuts because people need jobs.
Then Fahle asked the million-dollar question: What is the water department’s responsibility? To employ people or to provide clean water in the most efficient way possible?
That’s a question many city departments have to ask themselves. When we talk about Detroit’s financial state, and cutting the number of employees to help curb spending, the uprising from people is that the city can’t keep cutting jobs. While unemployment is not good for the economy overall, it’s not the city’s job to keep people employed for employment's sake.
The proposals for these massive cuts came from consulting firm EMA Inc., hired by the water and sewerage department to study operations and map out a plan to cut costs. EMA conducted the study over three months. In addition to the job cuts, the plan calls for:
- Outsourcing 361 positions to low-cost contract workers in noncore functions, such as billing and mailing, grounds maintenance, office cleaning and facilities maintenance
- Outsourcing for large engineering projects and peak times
- Reducing job classifications from 257 to 31
The City of Detroit is not an employment service. It’s a service provider that should find the most efficient way to provide those services. Unfortunately that is going to mean a lot of jobs lost in the name of efficiency.
While leaders should be looking for ways to employ people to get work done, the other side to that coin is making services efficient and keeping the city afloat.
Thursday, 09 August 2012 07:52
After the Detroit City Council decided not to allow a millage proposal on the November ballot that would cost property owners hundreds of dollars a year, a twitter storm broke out.
One Detroit pastor dug into City Councilman Kenneth Cockrel Jr. after Tuesday’s vote. The twitter spat seemed ironic coming from a pastor, whose faith, above all things, commands forgiveness and non-judgment.
The background of the dispute started on Tuesday when Police Chief Ralph Godbee and the Detroit Police Commission had the city council decide whether to ask voters in November if the city should put 8 mills on property tax and that could raise enough money to put 500 police officers to the street.
For people who own houses worth $50,000 the tax would be $250 a year on top of other city taxes and millages.
Cockrel went to twitter after the council voted 7-2 to strike down the ballot proposal, saying the police department financial problems should not be on the backs of the people who are already “taxed to the max”.
Cockrel criticized Police Chief Ralph Godbee in a tweet:
"I am not convinced that our problem is a lack of manpower issue. I'm convinced that our problem is a lack of an effective management plan issue."
That’s when J.A. Williams II, senior pastor of Spirit & Truth Christian Ministries and presiding prelate of Kingdom Builders Association jumped in to defend Godbee.
The following twitter spat ensued:
Williams: @kencockreljr2, @Ralph_Godbee is a much more efficient administrator of DPD than you've been as a councilman or mayoral fill-in. #ijs
Cockrel: @BishopJawill @Ralph_Godbee Both crime stats and word on the street suggest otherwise.
Williams: @KenCockrelJr2 @ralph_godbee On the other hand sir, the City was in the black when you first took your seat.
Cockrel: @BishopJawill @ralph_godbeeUntrue. It was my admin that actually uncovered the extent to which city's budget books hadn't been maintained.
Williams didn’t stop there. He continued:
Williams:…We meant every word. We continue to pray for you, our city & other leaders - even Ken Cockrel. Lol.
Williams:Detroit City Council = cowardly. @Ralph_Godbee = courageous. I normally don't express these positions publicly but WE DESERVE SAFE STREETS!
Was Pastor Williams being fair or should he been more of a twitter diplomat?
Tuesday, 07 August 2012 08:48
It’s expected to be a tight race in the new 14th Congressional District primary today. Local politics got wacky when Detroit lost a congressional seat due to low census numbers and the republican legislature got to design their dream districts, consolidating densely democratic areas into the 14th and 13th and pitting good leaders—who are otherwise colleagues— against one other in the August 7 primary.
The tension between promising democratic candidates running the new 14th district has become more obvious in the weeks before Election Day. It’s been called a “two man race” between Congressman Gary Peters and Congressman Hansen Clarke who have run a civil race for the past months, that is, until now.
Clarke recently began running radio ads on local hip-hop stations targeting black voters, proclaiming to be "one of us" while insisting that Peters lives in Republican presidential candidate "Mitt Romney's old neighborhood.”
Meanwhile, Peters has accused Clarke of courting tea party members who want to impeach President Obama.
One a press release reads:
“Congressman Hansen Clarke is spending the day in Detroit with “Tea Party Hero” Congressman Tim Scott from South Carolina who suggested the possibility of impeaching President Obama during last summer’s debt ceiling debate.”
Both ridiculous claims: Peters is like Romney, Clarke is a tea party supporter… and the sky is red. The truth is, they don’t really have any real beef, just this congressional primary to get past.
But there are other contenders in the race, namely Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence and former State Rep. Mary Waters, who have both been out shadowed by the leading men.
The other Dem. contender, Bob Costello, is too far off his rocker to really take seriously. The man believes there is a government crusade against Catholicism in the form of birth control options. Please.
So in case you missed the chatter, here’s what some lesser known candidates and Facebook political enthusiasts are saying about this tightly contested race on the web:
Mary Waters decided criticize Clarke instead of Peters. In a Facebook status she wrote:
“Did Congressman Hansen Clarke just realize that there were literacy issues in Detroit, amongst African Americans and Latinos? I worked on literacy issues as a State Rep along with the Governor, a columnist for the Free Press and the National Black Caucus of State Legislators. His sudden revelation has prompted him to seek support from a black tea party republican Congressman Tim Scott of South Carolina who wants to impeach President Obama. Thank you Hansen Clarke for that one. Dunno.”
In a separate status post, Waters attacked Clarke again:
“Hansen Clarke started the racial issue himself. He introduces himself as Bangladeshi at meetings outside of Detroit. Detroiters you are the ones who want him to be Black. For those concerned about voter’s rights issues, Hansen does not fit the bill and that's the record that should be checked. The issue is not race.”
But in another post, Waters protected Peter’s integrity. She wrote on her FB status:
“I am in the 14th Congressional race because I decided to run. To mention Congressman Peters "paying me to run" is an insult to his character and integrity. People stop spreading such hateful lies.”
More FB chatter:
Detroit political enthusiast David Stephen wrote in his status post:
“Gary Peters earns the endorsement of the Michigan Bangladeshi American Democratic Caucus. But Hansen Clarke is Bangladeshi, right?”
Commenter response to Stephen's post:
"Ouch. The REAL shame, however, is because ppl allowed the Repubs to take over the legislature and re-district, we have to choose one over the other. We need them BOTH in Congress. Think about THAT next time you think your 1 vote doesn't count in local elections.”
Brenda Lawrence has not gone very negative in her campaign. Instead, she is counting on women voters for her support. One her radio adds and campaign literature, she promotes female power (or the lack thereof) in congress.
One of Lawrence’s FB statuses reads:
“Ladies, sorors, my sisters, as a public servant, there are so many times I look around a room and I am the only woman seated at the table. It is not a mystery why there is a 'war on women' and we find our rights to make our own health care decisions chipped away. It is because we are not there. I know there are so many of you in your careers that are fighting that glass ceiling. We balance wife, mom and caregiver with careers. I support you in your challenge and I need your support in mine. Ladies, I need you to vote on August 7 and I need you to bring as many as you can with you. We must fight for our voice!!!”
Whoever you vote for today doesn't matter. Do your own research. The important part is that you vote! Excerise your power. Remember, all these people want to work for you!
Monday, 06 August 2012 07:48
The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday ruled that PA4, the state’s controversial emergency manager law, be put on the November ballot for Michigan voters to decide it's fate in the November election.
But now that the law has been put to a vote of the people, it is technically not a law (quite yet) anymore until the people decide. So the emergency manager law may be suspended until November, although lawsuits are set to fly on whether it should be.
Gov. Rick Snyder has said that everything done thus far under PA4 will not suddenly be erased, but no new developments cannot be made until the November vote. Current emergency managers will have to take a demotion for a few months and go back o the the powers they had under the former emergency manager law, passed in 1990.
The 1990 law does not give emergency managers as much power. One key difference is that it forbids an E.M. to shape collective bargaining agreements.
The Detroit Free Press report quoted one lawyer, John Philo, legal director of the Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice in Detroit saying:
“…Going forward, anything under the consent agreement that is ostensibly under Public Act 4 can’t be taken – anything that’s clearly a Public Act 4 power is suspended. It raises serious questions about any continuing powers for the Financial Advisory Board and some of the powers granted to the program management director.”
There are other lawyers like Donato Lorio, a lawyer for the Detroit Police Officers Association, who believe city’s recent pay and benefits cuts imposed on city labor unions are now “null and void.”
Whatever the case, Detroit is in for another round of turbulent debates and Michiganders will face a big decision come November. No more bickering from the sidelines, people get a chance to once and for all put this controversial law to rest.
But it does raise the question: If there's no strong emergency manager law, then what's in store for DPS and other cities facing financial crisis?
Thursday, 02 August 2012 16:01
Does Benny Napoleon Want to be Sherriff or Mayor?
Wayne County Sherriff Benny Napoleon has a lot on his plate. As sheriff, he serves a county with one of the highest crime rates in the nation. Plus, in order to keep his job, he’s running for re-election in next week’s primary for a four-year term. But that’s not all. Napoleon is also considering a run for Mayor of the City of Detroit.
Has Napoleon bitten off more then he can chew?
Eyeing two public offices at once sure seems like it. How can he convince voters he’s committed to his job as sheriff if he plans to run for mayor in a matter of months after being elected?
Voters need to know that their county sheriff wants the job and isn’t distracted by another political race.
It’s not that Napoleon isn’t qualified for either job. It just seems like the honorable thing to do for voters and supporters is to stick to one goal. If he is elected as mayor next year, someone else will replace him as sheriff who was appointed and not elected into the position.
There are many who believe Napoleon could be a viable candidate in the 2013 mayoral race.
When asked who would be the next mayor of Detroit, Congressman Gary Peters had his answer ready: Benny Napoleon.
For voter’s sake, pick one public office to run for and commit to it.
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 08:28
What’s the big deal? If judges are going to dismiss legal challenges to the consent agreement so easily, why all the fuss?
Krystal Crittendon tried it. Then she tried it again—that is, filing a lawsuit deeming Detroit’s Financial Stability Agreement void according to her interpretation of the city charter due to some disputed revenue sharing dollars and unpaid bills.
Both times, an Ingham County judge tossed Crtittendon’s lawsuit without a blink.
But it was too late: at that point city’s top attorney’s legal argument had raised such a ruckus from the state and supporters of the agreement, that city bond ratings dipped along with other financial speculations, driving the city further into a financial hurricane.
With all that mess, it seemed like the Corporation Counsel’s lawsuit actually carried some water. Or, at very least, enough for a judge to consider it and not toss it out with the same knee-jerk revulsion reserved for rotten tomatoes.
Then three local AFSCME union leaders tried it. Detroiters Rose Roots, Yolanda King and Yvonne Ross filed a lawsuit making the same argument as Crittendon: the consent agreement is void per the City Charter due to debts the state owes the City.
Wayne County Circuit Judge Amy Hathaway swiftly ruled that the City had no proof that the State owed it any money, and that revenue sharing dollars that are not shared do not count as debts.
"'The revenue-sharing money ... is not a debt, and we all know it's not a debt because corporation counsel issued an opinion to that effect back in 2006,' Hathaway said, referring to an opinion by a former top city attorney in the administration of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick."
While the city charter has been revised since the Kilpatrick days, this ruling puts forth a solid reason not to appeal, or makes the chance of any appeal unlikely to succeed.
Crittendon still has time to appeal as well as the three AFSCME musketeers. But it would be silly to let these lawsuits send the city and it’s fragile finances into another tailspin. To supporters of the consent agreement: Don’t buy the hype and everything will be fine.
Wednesday, 25 July 2012 09:45
Is Mayor Dave Bing gearing up for another mayoral run? Or has Gov. Rick Snyder really crossed a line with his proposals for Detroit?
Up until now, Bing has been mostly supportive of input from the State of Michigan to support and control parts of the city that are failing under the financial crisis. He supported the consent agreement, he supported cuts proposed by the consent agreement's financial advisory board, and he condemned the city's Corporation Counsel when she tried to stall the consent agreement.
But at a meeting with Detroit NAACP members in Midtown Wednesday, Bing hotly expressed frustration with Snyder's proposals for the city using words like “hell” and “damn”, according to a report in The Detroit News.
Bing said of Governor Snyder:
“You can't come in here and think you can do any damn thing that you want.”
Bing added that he does not want the state to “impose” decision on Detroit:
"I have never in my 46 years in this city seen a governor of the state of Michigan involved in city politics like this one," he said.
But The state has been imposing a lot of things lately, so why has Bing turned on this one?
My first guess is that he’s lining up his ducks for another mayoral run and in order to get a good footing with his electorate he has to start standing up the governor.
I’m no political advisor, but I guarantee candidates who toss the term “union busting” around a few times and throw verbal zingers Snyder’s way are bound to rack up Detroit votes.
City Council President Charles Pugh, who also has expressed interest in a mayoral run, has essentially done the same thing. He supported the consent agreement up until now, when he suddenly is calling it “union busting” and blasting the state for wanting to take over Detroit.
Looks like Bing, Pugh and DMC front man Mike Duggan will be top mayoral contenders in 2013. And it’s clear that a successful run it will be a tight balancing act of who can keep in good with the State while giving Detroit voters what they want to hear.
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