Category: Community Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
The 40th annual Noel Night will take place on Saturday, December 1st, 2012, from 5:00pm-9:30pm in Midtown Detroit's Cultural Center Area. Over 60 Midtown venues, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Historical Museum, and the Detroit Public Library, amongst many others, open their doors to the public FREE of CHARGE during this Cultural Center-wide holiday "open house." Activities include horse-drawn carriage rides, holiday shopping, family craft activities and performances by over 120 area music, theatre, and dance groups. The evening's festivities culminate with a community sing-along on Woodward Avenue led by the Salvation Army Band — a long-standing Noel Night tradition.
Noel Night activities take place in and around Midtown Detroit's Cultural Center institutions, primarily between Cass and John R and Kirby and Willis. Free shuttle service is offered between participating venues. Convenient parking is available in area lots. Noel Night is produced by Midtown Detroit, Inc., a nonprofit community development organization that supports economic growth in Detroit's Midtown district.
For more information click here
Last Updated on Friday, 30 November 2012 11:47
Category: Community Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
Wayne County Community College District, under Chancellor Curtis Ivery, is rolling out the latest of a series of new student service programs precisely where many of its more than 72,000 students look first — their smartphones and other mobile devices.
The new online service will allow current and prospective students, parents, community and staff to find accurate answers to questions about WCCCD or financial aid through an interactive question and answer tool. More expansive than “Frequently Asked Questions” and more targeted than online search tools, the new tool provides specific answers to questions through an extensive video library and smart operating software.
Students simply plug in a question, and software scours video transcripts to find related terms, delivering an exact match to the query within seconds, whether the student is working on a computer or a smartphone. Trying to navigate the federal financial aid system? There’s video for that. Want to know how the campus bookstore operates? There’s one for that too. Even subjects such as financial literacy are covered in the series.
The idea, said WCCCD District Dean of Student Services Mawine Diggs, was to get accurate administrative and financial aid information in the hands of students precisely when they needed it so that they could focus on achieving their goals, instead of paperwork.
“Our goal is to help everyone who comes through our doors create a better life,” Diggs said. “Providing accurate information and the most efficient service possible only helps them, and us, realize that goal.” The new online self-service tool is the latest in a series of student service initiatives the District has rolled out during the past 18 months as student enrollment has increased to nearly 73,000 credit and non-credit students.
The District Financial Aid Department recently launched an initiative to transition into “paperless processing”. The implementation of the Banner Document Management Suite (commonly known as Xtender) allows the department to collect, process, and store financial aid documentation electronically and link it directly to student accounts. “This has provided a more streamlined and efficient financial aid process which ultimately delivers better customer service to our students,” said WCCCD Executive District Director of Financial Aid Tamara Pruitt. Students also have the luxury of submitting their forms online through our website from their laptops, tablets and smart phones, Pruitt said.
The District last year introduced its Student Solutions Team, Financial Aid Hotline. The Student Solutions Team visits each of the District’s five campuses weekly to provide a face-to-face, one-stop option for students to get financial aid and administrative information, as well as help finding that information online. District call centers were expanded to provide fast information on financial aid and things like book vouchers to students who called the District hotline, and information about both was distributed across campuses through a steady stream of emails, newsletters and banners. Additionally, the District has hosted two Financial Aid Marathons this year which have provided students with one-on-one engagement opportunities with District Financial Aid personnel in the completion, submission and processing of financial aid documents.
“The goal is not only to make sure students can access the information they need in ways that are comfortable to them but to also ensure successful guidance through the financial aid process from start to finish,” said WCCCD District Dean of Student Services Mawine Diggs. “Whether they feel more comfortable sitting across the table from an advisor or dialing a hotline number or watching a video on their smartphone – we want to make sure we’re helping them navigate the college experience in ways that help ensure their success.”
Another benefit of the new array of services the District anticipates is lower call volumes to its financial aid and administrative offices, freeing staff to spend more time with students who need extra resources or unique situations. WCCCD is the largest urban community college district in the state with the goal of continuously expanding the reach of its administrators through the use of innovative technologies and person centered approaches. Providing resources to answer basic questions while freeing staff to tend to those students that need more in-depth attention means all of its students will be better served, Diggs said.
“We’ve expanded our student services significantly,” she said, “and we’ve done it in ways that allows every student an outlet at any time of day or night to get the help and information they need.”
The District is providing consistent training for administrators and staff to make sure the new programs integrate smoothly with existing services, and tracking its progress to make sure all services are consistently improving.
“We’re tracking student satisfaction with our overall service periodically to make sure we’re providing the best platforms available to serve their needs,” Diggs said. “We don’t view student service as a fixed target, but something that we will consistently improve upon to make sure everyone who comes through our doors is having the best experience possible.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 29 November 2012 11:57
Category: Community Written by Minehaha Forman
DETROIT, MI—A special city council meeting scheduled for Monday afternoon was postponed after a last-minute warning from law department officials advising council members that the meeting violated the state’s Open Meetings Act.
Mayor Dave Bing called the meeting last week to pressure council members to reconsider a vote on a controversial contract with Miller Canfield, a private law firm. Bing has said a passing vote is necessary for the city to receive much-needed bond funds the state is currently holding in escrow.
A law department representative said the meeting violated the open meetings act due to improper posting. Posts to notify of the meeting were not visible to the general public, according to law department official Louis Smith.
Smith said the oversight was the law department’s responsibility, as the department did not properly notify Bing of all posting requirements.
Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis in statement said the mayor’s office consulted law dept officials before posting the meeting. It wasn’t until the meeting was ready to start that the law department brought up the oversight, he said.
“On Nov. 21, the City’s Law Department advised the Mayor's office on specific steps to take in calling a special meeting of City Council and notifying the public. We took those steps on Nov. 21,” Lewis said.
Last week the City Council delayed a vote on the Miller Canfield contract due to a number of concerns, notably a conflict of interest.
As part of the Milestone agreement between the Snyder and Bing administrations, the City must meet a number of benchmarks in before the State approves the contract in order to receive up to $30 million the State is holding in Escrow. One of the major benchmarks is the Miller Canfield Contract.
“Mayor Bing regrets that in the midst of a financial crisis, the City's most urgent business has once again been put on hold before the Detroit City Council, this time due to concerns raised by the City's Law Department,” Lewis said in a statement.
Council members said they were frustrated with the legal oversight that halted Monday’s special meeting.
Councilman James Tate said he was unhappy with the way business is being handled but that ultimately all parties want the same thing.
“What it builds to is a situation where folks are under the impression that it’s [the Bing administration] versus us and I don’t think that’s the case,” Tate said. “What we have is different ideologies to get to the same goal.”
City Council President Charles Pugh suggested the city should handle its own legal affairs without seeking advice from an outside firm.
“The reality is, we have a law department that is full of competent attorneys, we should not be spending any additional money on this, truth be told,” Pugh told reporters Monday after the meeting was cancelled. “It really should not be tied to whether we get $10 million or not.”
Meanwhile, the Mayor’s Office is preparing to instate unpaid furloughs for city workers if the benchmarks set by the state are not met, and the $30 million is not released.
“Mayor Bing is determined to bring the issues postponed today -- the Miller Canfield contract and a City pension fund matter -- back to City Council,” Leis said. “He will ask for a special meeting of City Council next week to resolve the City pension fund matter, which affects state revenue sharing.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 November 2012 11:45
Category: Community Written by Mark S. Lee
Do you wonder sometimes how out-of-town entrepreneurs view Detroit?
Small Talk recently interviewed Kevin Smith, a Chicago resident and entrepreneur who was in Detroit recently for a weekend event called Another Detroit. A program designed to show entrepreneurs all sides of Detroit — not just the negative.
Smith is the chair for the International Youth Board for Habitat for Humanity and an Executive Board member and owns the Kevin Smith Agency, a nationally recognized insurance agency known for its innovation and social media work. His State Farm agency has produced record numbers and has grown from 0 to over 1,900 clients in less than five years.
He is also the keynote speaker for his “Strategic Mess” events across the country and keynoted some of the largest conferences in the country. Additionally, he was in the Wall Street Journal and has the #1 bestseller and New York Times bestseller “The Orange Revolution” on creating great teams.
ST: How did you get involved with entrepreneurship?
KS: At age 18, I started my first charity and business. I have always been focused on both business and charity so entrepreneurship has always been the only option for me. The freedom that entrepreneurship gives me is one that I wouldn’t exchange for any dollar figure. Entrepreneurship to me is more about the freedom to create than it is about running a business.
ST: You recently visited Detroit as part of Another Detroit. What is it and please share your experiences.
KS: Another Detroit was a life changing experience put together by my good friend Nicole Patrice, a Detroit native. Nicole had the vision along with some other entrepreneurs to introduce the real Detroit to entrepreneurs around the world.
What was most inspiring was the fact that even if the hardest economically hit parts of Detroit you got the sense from the people living there that they not only had passion and faith in creating something better but everyone had a real sense of community.
ST: What were you expecting when you came for the weekend and were your perceptions changed?
KS: When visiting Detroit I was expecting to get the highlight reel of Detroit or see the most economically hurt parts. What I was most blown away by was the passion people shared who lived there. I don’t think there is a city in America with more passion. Passion is the key ingredient to great ideas and innovation so I am excited to see what comes out of Detroit next.
ST: What do you think about Detroit’s future?
KS: Detroit just has to realize what they have. Detroit is filled with some of the most exciting people in the world and has a landscape to create amazing things. Detroit has been through a lot and because of it it’s been exposed, and when I actually went to visit Detroit to see the exposure I was so impressed with what the people of Detroit have at their core.
ST: What about small business development?
KS: I am looking to Detroit to lead the country in innovation. After meeting the people of Detroit I am so excited to combine those people with the experience they have been through, that is going to result in some of the most innovative ideas our country will have seen in a long time.
ST: Detroit is reinventing itself as a technology hub. Thoughts?
KS: Technology is obviously the present and the future. Technology also takes a lot of innovation, creativity and passion to create something different and exciting. I think young people, the arts, music and entrepreneurship are going to take Detroit to the future tech capital of the world.
ST: You mention in a recent blog you would be willing to invest in the city. Why?
KS: I believe in investing in people not products, ideas or cities. Detroit has the people that I would be willin g to invest in. When you have been through what the city of Detroit has and you are filled with the people it is, you have the two most important ingredients to success — you are fighting for something much larger than yourself. I want to be a part of something that helps reshape our country and our world and Detroit is the place to make that happen.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 November 2012 15:34
Category: Community Written by Gary Brown
Detroit is not a broken-down city. We are not going to fall into the river. Let’s be clear on this fact. It’s city government that is broken.
The business and philanthropic communities are moving forward with significant investments. They are not waiting on the City of Detroit to fully address all our governance challenges.
Many business leaders envision a brighter future for our beloved Detroit and are moving with a sense of urgency. This is evidenced by the recent investments of Dan Gilbert and his Bedrock Real Estate Services organization, the progress in Midtown, and the 100-percent leased Broderick Tower near Grand Circus Park that opened two weeks ago for tenants.
The Cobo Convention Center will become a premier facility in North America that highlights its international location on the Detroit River. This would not be possible without a regional authority, independent of Detroit municipal government. I look forward to sharing more about Cobo’s impact as it completes the massive renovations.
Additionally, both the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) are thriving cultural institutions, experiencing record attendance during the last few years due to a tri-county millage and philanthropic support.
Furthermore, block clubs and community associations across the city are stepping up like never before to improve our neighborhoods.
This progress is happening with support from the City of Detroit, but is sustained mainly through regional cooperation.
As the City of Detroit works toward financial recovery, the Detroit City Council and the Bing administration stand together in repairing the finances and restructuring services for greater efficiency. All ten elected officials are passionate and committed to Detroit. Despite what many may think, we share an overall vision to make this city better, although it is clear that we may disagree on the steps needed to complete that journey.
Detroit’s legislative branch is sometimes erroneously viewed as a roadblock to progress. This impression could not be further from the truth, as 95 percent of the items brought by the Bing administration to the council table are quickly approved, mostly within one week.
The remaining items may require greater diligence before making a decision on behalf of the citizenry. Therefore, council must exercise its fiduciary responsibility of providing oversight to the City’s budget. This process gets all the public scrutiny and is a point of anxiety for some.
An example of recent cooperation is City Council standing with Mayor Bing in the adoption of a resolution on October 23 that I drafted to support state legislation in creating a Public Lighting Authority.
I will not rest until the streetlights are on in our neighborhoods.
I have believed for a long time and continue to stand on this point. We need to perform three things well as a city in order to retain and attract residents and businesses: First, improving public safety; a very close second is educating our kids; and thirdly, operating a fiscally responsible government that delivers quality city services to its residents, visitors and businesses.
Gary Brown is vice president pro tem of the Detroit City Council.
Last Updated on Monday, 26 November 2012 12:09
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!