Tag Archives: Michigan

Michiganders and their weather

Has anyone else noticed that Michiganders talk a lot about the weather?

I listen to a few different Michigan podcasts and I noticed that in each one of them, at one point or another, a guest or a host will open up their comments by talking about the weather.

Then I started thinking, I always talk about the weather when I call home to my family. Someone asks me how the weather is or I ask them how the weather is – or both.

Michiganders are just so used to horrible weather : We have some of the cloudiest weather in the country – 13 of the top 101 cities according to this site – and, in my hometown, some of the snowiest weather. I propose a hypothesis that we talk about the weather more than should be considered normal since we either talk about our horrible weather as a sort of therapy (“Well, at least summer’s only six months away”) or in pleasant surprise when we, on occasion, do in fact have nice weather (“Look! A patch of green is showing through the snow!”).

Has anyone else noticed this? Am I making this up?

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We are not all Detroiters

As nice a sentiment as it is, we are not all Detroiters.

For years, Michiganders have looked at Detroit as a “problem” that needs fixing. An inconvenience. An eyesore.

And now that the city of Detroit is declaring bankruptcy – at the behest of our Governor – we’re all Detroiters?

For too many people across the nation and across the world, Detroit has become a sort of apocalyptic Babylon – the image of a once mighty empire in ruins. Many people are quick to gawk and let their mouths hang open in disbelief at the city’s fall, but few people are willing to make any headway on the problem.

Detroit is not the problem, however. Detroit is the victim.

So-called “experts” across the nation are lining up to speculate on how this iconic American city could have ended up at this point and in this process, local officials have become an easy scape-goat for much larger problems.

Corruption on the part of certain elected officials could never be as damaging to the city as losing over 60 percent of the city’s population in fifty years. It’s a long way to fall from nearly two million to just over 700,000.

Corruption could never do as much harm as shipping jobs to other states and other countries. People – and tax dollars – go where there’s work available.

Corruption has done far less to harm the city of Detroit than urban sprawl. There are still over four million people in Metro Detroit – only their tax dollars are going to other city governments rather than to Detroit’s coffers.

The real Detroiters are the ones living in Detroit right now, the ones dealing with the consequences of White Flight, the ones coping with the aftermath of our manufacturing jobs getting shipped overseas.

And it should be noted that these Detroiters are remaking the city today in revolutionary ways that are showing what a post-industrial society looks like. Vacant fields are being turned into farms. Neighborhoods are being converted into art galleries. The people of Detroit are pulling together, reclaiming the city through ground-level organizing – from biking groups to networking for transplants moving to Detroit for work.

And Detroit is adding jobs: Entrepreneurs are moving to Detroit to start businesses. The tech industry is posting huge gains in Detroit. As Quicken Loans and other companies set up downtown, housing is in high demand. A new bridge connecting Detroit with Canada will expand trade and manufacturing possibilities.

The state of Michigan could best help out the city of Detroit by speeding up the blight removal, by using some of the $500+ million in our rainy day fund to invest in the city and speed up its recovering. The city’s layout is in desperate need of an overhaul since it’s a huge place. Detroit is roughly the same size as San Francisco, Washington D.C., and Boston combined (139 sq miles vs the combined area of these cities standing at 156 sq miles).

To go back to Detroit’s French roots, Dépenser plus pour gagner plus. Spend more to get more. For Detroit to become economically viable, we need to reverse the city’s hemorrhaging population. Restructuring the city, investing in infrastructure and police, and speeding up blight removal are all crucial components to this.

We need some action. Detroit’s recovery is Michigan’s recovery – but that doesn’t make us all Detroiters.

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Belle Isle BS

This is the sort of news story that you think must be some internet BS that should be easily debunked with a little research.

But, as far as I can tell, it’s true. A group of wealthy businessmen are trying to buy Belle Isle from the city of Detroit for $1 billion to create a ‘utopian enclave’. This commonwealth would be a low tax, ‘crime-free’ community without laws. Because we all know that our country’s wealthiest never commit crimes, right?

All of that for the low membership fee of $300,000.

How do we start addressing what’s wrong with this ‘libertarian’ vision for Belle Isle? Essentially, it’s White Flight on steroids. The 1% don’t like paying taxes so they need their own enclave where they can play by their own rules without interference from that pesky government of ours.

The project developers promise ‘spin-off’ investments that would supposedly benefit the city of Detroit. But you know what would really benefit the city of Detroit? Increased revenues. You know how you achieve that? Increase the city’s population. Bring more people in to live and work in Detroit. Make it an economic hub once more.

The sort of mindset that inspires this sort of deranged vision has no conception of what communitarian responsibility even means. What kind of society are you living in that it costs $300,000 to belong to at the same time that you set up shop next door to the most violent and one of the poorest communities in the entire United States? You can’t toss your scraps across the river and claim to be actively invested in Detroit’s well-being.

I realize that there is a fundamental political difference that separates my vision of society from the developers who are pushing for this Belle Isle enclave. The sort of ideology that lies behind this project says, in blunt terms, “I don’t owe anybody anything. I’m a self-made man. I worked hard all my life for my money and I don’t want to get taxed to death by the government. If only other people worked harder, they could have everything I’ve got. It’s not my fault that other people lack initiative.” That’s the idea in blunt terms. But no one lives in a vacuum. Somewhere along the line, you’ve gotten help from someone else whether it be your family or – God forbid – the government. Fortunes generally aren’t made solely on the hard work and initiative of a single person or even a group of people.

It’s in the interest of the very wealthy to have a large working class and a healthy middle class. Without a sizable working class, who is going to answer your phones? Who is going to make your latte at Starbucks? Who is going to check you out at Wal-Mart? Not all of us have been replaced by robots just yet, so in the meanwhile, our working class is still pretty essential. It’s also in the interest of the 1% to have a large middle class to buy their products. So I love it when I hear this whole spiel about how a little hard work and initiative is the only thing standing in the way of my fortune. I’m not complaining, personally. I’m pretty well off. And besides, you need me. You need me to buy cars from you, to buy computers from you, to buy books, CDs, coffee, food or whatever else it might be. So don’t act like you’re so great all on your own. You need us, too.

I would very simply like to suggest that it’s hypocritical of these very wealthy individuals to propose tax free enclaves when they already have so much. Yeah, I’ve heard it said that we need the wealthy because private enterprise means jobs. We need wealthy individuals to use their private capital to start businesses. I get it.

But it’s ironic that these same libertarian-leaning individuals, who so often decry the lack of responsibility on the part of our government for its deficit spending, so often connive to find ways to dodge taxes themselves. We not only need wealthy individuals to help create jobs, we also need them to pay their fair share so that we can have a strong education system, so that we can fund infrastructure, so that we can pay for military spending and pay off this debt we’ve accrued.

So of course there is a balance that we need to strike between respecting our obligations towards one another – which I very strongly believe in – and also allowing private enterprise to function without excessive taxation.

This BS vision for Belle Isle crosses the line. It violates our communitarian obligation to support our society – the same society which supports businesses like Chrysler and Cafe d’Mongo in Detroit whose former presidents and owners are pushing this idea. What’s your vision for this great country? Do you want to 1% to continue drifting off to sea with their off-shore bank accounts and tax-free enclaves while the rest of us work for, proportionally speaking, less and less? When you need your own island wedged in between Canada and the United States to protect yourself from taxes, you’re neglecting the very country that helped make you great.

I’m all in favor of you creating your own personal libertarian enclave. But only if you build your own cabin in northern Quebec with trees that you cut down yourself while wearing clothes that you sewed and raising your own crops and animals to slaughter yourself.

Until then, I’m tired of the very wealthy behaving so irresponsibly.

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Mark your calendars

There are two upcoming events you should mark your calendars for if you’re here in Michigan.

1. UAW will be protesting Rick Snyder’s State of the State address tomorrow in Lansing and at other locations across the state. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make it but I encourage everyone to make it out for an hour, two hours, or the whole time.

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2. On a lighter note, the 2013 Arab Film Festival is coming up in Dearborn, MI at the end of the month. I’ve never been, but I’m looking forward to going with my boyfriend. Tickets are $9 per showing.

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Today is the day

In a matter of a few short hours I’ll be down at the capitol building in Lansing, joining thousands of other protesters to let Governor Snyder and the Michigan GOP know how we feel about ramming through right-to-work-for-less legislation through out of the blue in the lame-duck session.

I’m trying out the Twitter thing – and I’ll be posting updates as often as possible on the blog. (Check out my feed on the sidebar.)

The plan is to take a lot of pictures, not get arrested, and scream until I can’t scream any more.

See you there.

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About time

Barack Obama was in Detroit today and he’s finally bringing the fight on union-busting legislation.

Not a second too soon.

Barack Obama was also in Michigan to announce new investments by Daimler here in Michigan.

And in case you weren’t looking, just when you thought this lame-duck session was jam-packed enough, both chambers voted to approve measures restricting abortion coverage on health insurance plans, leaving the decision up to the employer as to whether or not they want “elective” abortions covered (i.e. abortions not covering the mother’s life).

 

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SOS Michigan Pt. 2

12 hours later, my day’s not done as much as I’d like it to be.

I’ve arrived in the state capital of Pennsylvania after a much needed recharge with my neighborhood team from Obama for America.

If there’s ever a time we’ve needed organizing, it’s now.

Tomorrow: Another state capital. On to the mighty Wolverine State where I will be joining protests TUESDAY MORNING at 9.30 against “Right to Work” legislation that Michigan Republicans are sneaking through during the lame-duck session.

Term papers be damned!!! This is our state’s future.

I encourage you to be there with me at the capital, rallying for our great tradition of supporting workers’ rights.

If you can’t be there, I encourage you to SPREAD THE WORD.

I’ve started a petition on change.org – and there’s another petition on Democracy for America. Sign one, sign two, start a third.

Finally, here’s a video of Rep. Brandon Dillon of Grand Rapids speaking out against union-busting. You’ll have to watch it and tell me how it is, the internet at my Motel 6 is too slow to watch it besides in tiny 5 second bursts.

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