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Public Square - Staff Picks 

Our staff picks for Metro Detroit

Best Place To Turn if Facing Foreclosure or Eviction

Detroit Eviction Defense

detroitevictiondefense.org

Here’s the thing about Detroit Eviction Defense: They get the fact that neither the court nor the banks (especially the banks) can be counted on when it comes to helping people avoid foreclosure or eviction. Some members of this coalition — self-described as a “network of homeowners, union members, faith-based activists, and community advocates” — have been involved in this struggle for years, and they’ve learned that what does work is public pressure and resistance. Protesting in front of banks and blocking Dumpsters from being parked in front of homes and packing courtrooms — that’s what works. And their ranks continue to grow because those helped become part of the movement. But you don’t have to wait until the sheriff is pounding on your door to get involved. Contact them at DetroitEvictionDefense@gmail.com or call AJ at 313-429-5009.

 

Best Detroit Statue to Visit

Hazen S. Pingree

Grand Circus Park

The statue itself is just some old-timey-looking guy in a double-breasted frock coat leaning forward on a chair trimmed with fringe. He looks kind of mean, actually. The words on the plaque attached to the statue’s base are the really striking thing about this tribute to the man who served as Detroit’s mayor and then Michigan’s governor at the tail end of the 1800s.  A successful businessman and war hero, what made him the “Idol of the People” that the plaque describes him as was this: “He was the first to warn the people of the great danger threatened by powerful corporations, and the first to awake to the great inequalities in taxation and to initiate steps for reform.” He was a courageous visionary who looked out for the best interests of common folk, and Detroit could so much use someone with his heart and mind today.

 

Best Investigative Reporter on TV

Ross Jones

WXYZ, Channel 7

The flash might be over at FOX 2, but the real goods are delivered by the investigators at Channel 7, with Jones’ work at the forefront. He’s the guy who broke the severance-pay scandal that led to a (still ongoing) FBI investigation of Wayne County government, and his scoop about the illegal real estate dealings of Diane Hathaway is the reason she’s a former Michigan Supreme Court Justice who recently pleaded guilty to felony bank fraud. All his good work has been earning Jones (who, to top things off, is a certifiably nice guy) bundles of awards. The Detroit Society of Professional Journalists named him the area’s “Young Journalist of the Year” in 2012, and he’s a big part of the reason WXYZ recently brought home an ultra-prestigious Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award for excellence in broadcast journalism.

 

Best New Addition to the Detroit Media Scene

Deadline Detroit

deadlinedetroit.com

 

This online-only effort features both original reporting and comment along with a daily round-up of all the top stories in the local, state and national media about metro Detroit. With Bill McGraw, who worked for the Detroit Free Press for 32 years, and Allan Lengel, who worked for the Detroit News and the Washington Post, at the helm, the quality is first-rate. The work of the irreverent, sharp-witted Jeff Wattrick is consistently a kick, and the lineup of contributing columnists features, among others, MT alum Sandra Svoboda.

 

Best Nonprofit Anniversary To Celebrate

Motor City Blight Busters

17405 Lahser Rd., Detroit

313-255-4355; blightbustersdetroit.com

Come June, it will be 25 years since John George decided to address the decline of his Old Redford neighborhood on Detroit’s northwest side. He started by going over and boarding up an abandoned home that had been turned into a crack house. That act served as the starting point for what has become Motor City Blight Busters, one of the city’s most lauded — and downright effective — nonprofits. From that one-man crusade, the organization has become an institution that attracts some 10,000 volunteers a year who donate their time to, among other things, tear down or fix up abandoned homes. In this, its silver anniversary, Blight Busters is directing much of its effort into expanding its Farm City Detroit project from a pair of lots to two whole city blocks. They’d like nothing more than for you to come on down and help. Don’t forget to bring along your work gloves, because these folks are definitely focused on making many good things happen.

 

Best Way to Ensure Patients Have Access to Medical Marijuana

Support House

Bill 4271

In 2008, 63 percent of Michigan voters declared that people suffering from certain ailments should be allowed to use marijuana as medication. The referendum they approved, however, failed to address the issue of dispensaries, and after the law was implemented, scores of these distribution joints began operating under a legal haze. In February of this year, the Michigan Supreme Court, in the case State vs. McQueen, essentially ruled that dispensaries were illegal. In terms of patient welfare, that was a horrendous decision. Instead of having safe and secure access to their medicine, patients were left hanging. Sure, they could grow it themselves (if health and living conditions permitted) or they could try and find a caregiver. But crops fail, and other things can go wrong. Which is why dispensaries are vital. Fortunately, state Rep. Michael Callton (R-Nashville) gets it. His solution is HB 4271, otherwise known as the Provisioning Centers Act.  It seeks to give municipalities the authority to permit and regulate dispensaries. It is an important piece of legislation, and the best thing you can do to help a very large number of truly deserving patients is to urge your legislators to support it.

 

 

 

Best New Job for Bill Schuette

Receptionist

Not a receptionist just anywhere, mind you. We think the state’s attorney general needs to go to work in a clinic that specializes in writing recommendations for prospective medical marijuana patients. That way, he would spend his days seeing the wide variety of truly suffering people who aren’t looking to get their party on, as BS surely believes, but rather just want some relief from their suffering. It would provide the sort of enlightenment that would make the state’s foremost anti-marijuana crusader see just how wrong-headed his attitudes are. At the very least, come 2014, we all need to make sure that Schuette is forced into a job-hunting mode.

 

Best Place to Turn If You’re Busted for Pot

Cannabis Counsel

2930 E. Jefferson Ave., Detroit

313-446-2235; cannabiscounsel.com

As the name suggests, this Detroit-based law firm specializes in marijuana-related cases. In recent years, they’ve been very active in the area of medical marijuana, representing patients, caregivers, clubs, collectives, dispensaries and others.  With attorney Matt Abel at the helm, it’s not just a business, it is a crusade. That’s reflected in the fact that Abel is also executive director of Michigan NORML, so the firm’s offices serve as a spearhead of the pro-marijuana movement in the state.

 

Best Thing to Look Forward to When Democracy Returns to Detroit

Council Election

by District

If there is still a Detroit City Council come November 2014, there’s going to be a real opportunity for voters to shake up things on that body in a big way. Because of changes made in the new City Charter, seven council members will be elected by district, and two will be elected the old way, at-large. Aside from preventing council members from being clustered in the tonier parts of the city, the move could open up the field to a whole new batch of contenders, especially those people who have labored away at the grass-roots level, establishing credibility and trust with their neighbors, instead of relying on name recognition. What’s more, council members elected by district will be responsible for certain areas of the city in a way at-large council people never were.

 

Best Longtime Attempt at Racial Healing

Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion

525 New Center One, 3011 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit

313-870-1500; miroundtable.org

The good folks at the Michigan Roundtable nonprofit have been working to overcome racism and discrimination since 1941. Crossing racial, religious, ethnic and cultural boundaries, they bring together community leaders and regular citizens from all areas of life in an attempt to help us all understand the perspectives of others. And then they look for ways to break down barriers and build unity. It is a beautiful thing. If you want to get involved to the organization’s website and check out the upcoming gatherings and ongoing projects, or just give them a call. They would love to hear from you — all of you.

 

Best Example of a Local Politician With True Populist Grit

Rashida Tlaib

The Democratic state representative from southwest Detroit first earned our admiration when she stood up to bridge baron Manuel “Matty” Moroun. Ever since, we’ve only seen her come down on the right side (which would be the lefty side) of the important issues facing Detroit, the metro region and the state. She’s also fiercely protective of her constituents’ interests. And she’s willing to lay everything on the line. Literally. There’s no better proof of that than the sit-down protest she led last year, blocking traffic along Fort Street as she and about 30 others showed their opposition to the planned closing of Southwestern High School. We love that sort of fighting spirit. The mainstream media has been pimping mayoral candidate Mike Duggan by repeatedly asking, “Is Detroit ready for a white mayor?” Here’s an even better question, “Is Detroit ready for a Muslim woman to be its mayor.” The answer should be a resounding yes, and we know just the person to fill the bill.

 

Best Law to Strike Down

Emergency Manager

Oh, wait. We already did that, by a vote of 52 percent to 48 percent. But with Rick Snyder in the governor’s office and Republicans controlling both houses of the state Legislature, a lot of good it did. Just ask the people of Detroit how well the democratic process is working these days.

 

Best Emergency Manager for Detroit

Jesus of Nazareth

Why does the Son of God get our nod for the EM job? Given the intractable problems facing the city — too much debt, too much infrastructure to support, and not nearly enough people living in the city or local businesses providing taxes to pay for it all — it might just take a miracle will be able to save Detroit from bankruptcy. Absent the appointment of a loaves and fishes miracle-worker like JC, the fear is that whoever becomes EM is going to slash and burn, selling off irreplaceable public assets before seeking Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection, leaving the city even poorer in the long run. Instead, we need an EM who will toss those damn moneychangers from the civic temple known as City Hall.

 

Best Thing to Not Publicly Subsidize

New Hockey Arena

We love our Red Wings, but if billionaire Mike Ilitch and the rest of his clan want a new venue for their hockey team to play in, well, they can afford to pay for the whole thing themselves.  They’ve got all that Little Caesar’s dough, and if that’s not enough, Marian Ilitch owns MotorCity Casino, a place that mints money. Throw in all those Foxtown properties (which, like the publicly subsidized home of the Tigers, Ilitch also owns, and will benefit greatly from having a new hockey arena in the neighborhood) and its pretty clear: they have a hell of a lot more disposable cash than Detroit.

Best Example of Schizophrenic Radio Programming

WDFN — 1130 AM

By day, the Detroit-area radio station known as “The Fan” is sports talk through and through, with a mix of some local (you da man, Matt Shepard) and national programs. But come evenings during the week, the station is transformed into a place where left-leaning hosts talk politics and news. First there’s Jonathan Kinloch, who’s behind the mic from 7 to 8 p.m., and then Tony Trupiano takes over from 8 to 11. Trupiano, who tends to focus a lot on labor-related issues, landed at the Fan after Clear Channel completely shut down station 1310 AM, which featured the only all-progressive talk on the local radio airwaves.  On the other hand, WXYT/1270 AM has abandoned its experiment with right-wing radio talk to once again focus completely on sports. The only lamentable thing about that is the loss of Charlie Langton’s show, which — unlike some of the station’s other shows, which featured full-blown wingnuts as hosts — at least provided a forum for real debate.

 

Best Example of Radio Longevity

Nightcall on WRIF-FM, 101.1

Now in its 42nd year, “Nightcall” is billed as the “longest running talk show in U.S. radio history.” Hosted by the venerable Peter Werbe — a prominent part of the local lefty scene since the mid-1960s — and, since 2006, co-hosted by Juline Jordan, the program is a progressive touchstone that has more than earned its place in radio history. Werbe lives by the motto “Thou Shall Question Authority,” and he drives the hard-core right-wingers completely bonkers. Gotta love that. And for those who can’t keep their ears open long enough to catch a program that airs from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m., you can listen anytime via podcast.

 

Best Detroit Development Opportunity

Michigan State Fairgrounds

This venerable site — 157 acres of publicly owned land at the intersection of Woodard Avenue and Eight Mile has the potential to be so much more than the glorified shopping mall/housing development the state intends to have a private developer build there. The good news is, until the property actually changes hands, nothing is final. Activists see the site as the perfect spot for a regional transportation hub now that the regional transit authority has been established, and the potential for forward-looking, transit-oriented development could turn the property into the sort of showcase that could attract worldwide attention.

 

Best Planned Project to Abandon

Widening I-94 in Detroit

The state is look ing to spend $1.8 billion to expand a 6.7-mile stretch of I-94 in Detroit. As we reported earlier this year, critics describe the proposal as “a boondoggle that will do more harm than good, threatening the burgeoning recovery of areas such as Midtown while pouring public money into an outdated and ineffective 1950s-style auto-centric transportation model when it should be considering new ways to address a decades-old problem.” Enough said.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

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