Today is my four year Detroitiversary.
If you are in St. Louis, consider partaking in some of this on Saturday. Even in StL, how freaking often do you get to experience such incredible positive change like what’s going on in lovely, character-rich Old North St Louis?
“This Saturday is the last 2013 market day of the Old North Farmers Market. For those of you so atrophied and decrepit that you’ve mistaken the academic, rhetoric about immediate living for actual immediate living, here’s a defibrillator for your tired, tired heart. This Harvest Fest is scored by the Illphonics, with a cooking demo by Food Outreach, and Jamaican barbecue from Mi Hungry. Across the street is the first best historic soda fountain in St Louis, the Gateway to the West, Crown Candy, as well as the 5th Ward’s business of the year (and baked good blackbelts) La Mancha Coffee House. And then there’s the classic car show and skateboard event at Ye Ole Haunt where Stray Rescue will have the cutest damned dog there ready for adoption (make a good day perfect). Ask Ye Ole Haunt’s bartender about the hot wing challenge but you’d probably better not mention my name. Breath. And then stroll down Crown Square to where the 14th Street Artist Community celebrates their one year anniversary. THANK YOU 14TH ST ARTIST COMMUNITY!
as a 13th Street Gardener I can assure you that the harvest is bountiful. It’s been a good season for our farmers and our gardeners, and we are exhausted from our efforts. Please come and tell our growers, artisans and craftspersons that you love them. Tell Willie I said hi, and tell Armin you liked the beard. Tell Luz-Maria and Gloria you need in on some of them Ali Baba watermelons you keep hearing about. And tell your friends what you saw here.
Your Pal Thom”
Last week, I went to see a band from my hometown play here in Detroit. They play American music from past decades and are very good at it. When I was growing up, my parents’ friends were musicians who played the blues and 1920s music. So, the band the other night sounded like home in a way I at first couldn’t name: That’s what St. Louis sounds like. That’s the sound of having red brick and river mud running through your veins.
When I walked into the club, a man dressed like a dapper cowboy looked at me like he was trying to figure out if he knew me, but it was dark and I didn’t think I knew anyone who looked like that. When he came out onstage playing washboard and a harmonica with the band, I thought I know those eyes. He kept holding my gaze. It took me half the set to figure out: His piercings are still the same. Oh my god, we went to some of the same parties when we were teenagers. We both grew up in Tower Grove South.
People say that folks from St. Louis will inevitably ask you, “Where did you go to high school?” It’s thought that your high school determines your whole life forecast in parochial little St. Louis. And after the set, we talked. For the first time in a good while I got asked a permutation of that question: “Didn’t you go to Gateway?” My family moved to the Chicago suburbs before I started high school, but I would have gone to Gateway and it’s strange to think that information is still encoded into my DNA. I guessed: “You went to Central, right?” “Yes.” “Creative city kid. Makes sense.”
We talked about growing up in South City. We both attended summer school at Enright and then urban explored the school when it closed, startled to find artifacts from our era left in the abandoned building: names on chalkboards, the smell of the place unchanged. We both still have bowling balls we’d stolen from Western Lanes when it shut down—he mentioned his lucky bowling ball from Western and I responded, “I have one too! It’s outside in my car right now!”
I think the “Where did you go to high school?” question is almost always about Catholic and suburban high schools. I know characteristics of people who went to a certain Parkway school or who went to SLU High, but such jokes rarely mention the city high schools. It was neat not to get that rare-for-me little blast of shared heritage, but also to identify characteristics that mark someone as having grown up in St. Louis City and SLPS.
Relocating to Detroit was absolutely the right decision for me. I don’t know whether I’ll stay here beyond the next several years, but even if I move, it won’t be to St. Louis. But a flipside to the wonderful possibility and novelty of relocation is that you don’t have people around that you go back with. Nobody knows the things you were content to leave behind, but they also don’t know what you’re capable of and where you’re from.
I’d been vaguely meaning to get rid of that lucky bowling ball for a while, but I think I will hang on to it a little longer. I ought to take it bowling in Detroit.
So, I’m organizing this event tomorrow, and you should come.
Renowned urbanist, segregation expert, mensch, and five-generation Detroiter George Galster will speak about his new book, Driving Detroit: The Quest for Respect in the Motor City. The book draws together local history, the built environment, Detroiters’ attitudes, and the writings of locals to present thoughts about the perennial question, “What happened to Detroit?” As someone who has spent several years digging in and studying this city, I both learned new-to-me information and had things I’d observed on my own connected in ways I had not thought about. In other words: Thus far, very good.
I hope you will consider joining us. There will be wine and networking, to boot. The talk is on April 26th at 5pm at the McGregor Conference Center on the Wayne State University campus. The event is free and open to the public.
(And everybody loves disclaimers: Work didn’t ask me to write this. And the opinions on this blog still have nothing to do with my employers–this is allll me.)
POLETOWN: 30 YEARS LATER
Revisit the case with a presentation from Victor Papakhian, member of the legal team that represented the residents of Poletown.
Tuesday, March 19, 4-5pm
Wayne State University
Bernath Auditorium in the Undergraduate Library
Presented by Wayne State Student Urban Planners
Free and open to all–feel free to share with fellow Detroiters and Hamtowners, urban history geeks, curious people, etc!
I went to look up bus directions and got the following message:
“Sorry, we don’t have transit schedule data for a trip from Warren Ave W & Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48201 to Joy Rd & Dexter Ave, Detroit, MI 48206 at the time and date you specified.
Get driving directions from Warren Ave W & Cass Ave, Detroit, MI 48201 to Joy Rd & Dexter Ave, Detroit, MI 48206.”
It looks like no one at DDOT has sent in the new April 28 schedule data to Google Maps, thereby rendering them unable to provide transit directions for Detroit. This is the second time this has happened this year. Google transit is used by many people and transit agencies to help people quickly and easily make sense of transit schedules, versus slowly piecing together PDF schedules and system maps.
I e-mailed COO Bill Nojay and he responded promptly. He says he will check into it, and that they are looking at overhauling their info tech systems.
Hopefully this basic, widely used tool will be back up soon.
When I found out at the last minute on April 5 that the Detroit Department of Transportation was holding hearings about yet another round of service cuts later that afternoon, the fact that the hearings were scheduled for Tigers Opening Day did not strike me as the actions of a government that wanted the hearings to get much media attention.
But to actually get proof of that? Ouch.
@Detroit_DOT, a very funny and clearly satirical twitter feed posing as DDOT, posted what appears to be an e-mail written by Naomi Patton, Press Secretary for the Office of Mayor Dave Bing (Also visible here). Several DDOT employees and representatives of the Mayor’s Office are included in the thread. In the thread, they discuss the fact that April 5, when they’d planned to have public hearings, is Tigers Opening Day. Naomi Patton’s alleged e-mail reads,
“I dare say it’s the perfect day to have a public hearing if you want to avoid media.
“Having covered Tigers Opening Day on more than one occasion, I can guarantee you the people who would attend this hearing ARE NOT going to Opening Day, and the media will be primarily, otherwise occupied. The people will definitely still be there and they will still be upset, but you won’t have as much media attention as a slower news day would warrant.”
In fairness, the posted e-mail thread features new DDOT CEO Ron Freeland bringing up the schedule issue as potentially problematic, stating “this is not a good day to have a public event.”
What was the result of the Mayor’s Office and DDOT’s ultimate decision to host hearings on Opening Day? Word barely got out about the hearings. Six weeks prior, the DDOT hearing I went to was well-attended and quite angry. This time around, at the same location and time of day as before, the room was virtually empty. Transit wonks outnumbered people whose primary relationship to DDOT is simply riding it.
I will note that DDOT COO and conservative talk show host Bill Nojay took the opportunity to informally answer questions from the audience moreso than at previous hearings, but it was cold comfort in light of the absence of those who will be most gravely affected by these cuts.
DDOT’s previous round of public hearings regarding service cuts took place after new schedules had been printed, in blatant violation of legal requirements that public comments be taken into consideration. At the February 24 hearing I attended, they concluded the meeting by very abruptly letting us know that they’d go ahead with the cuts as planned. They weren’t even pretending that they were going to take our comments into consideration, which is legally required.
DDOT will host a follow-up meeting this week. From their website:
“DDOT has scheduled a follow-up meeting for the public hearings that were held on Thursday, April 5, 2012. The meeting will be held Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at the DDOT Main Office – 1301 E. Warren Ave, Room 107 for 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.”
Spread the word.
DETROIT – The Detroit Department of Transportation announced this morning that it will be making a radical reduction in service, indeed a reduction of all bus service. In lieu of providing transit service, the company will hold public hearings every six weeks announcing its latest cuts.
New DDOT CEO Ron Freeland told reporters at this morning’s press conference, “We are going through tough times in Detroit, and facing difficult choices. We decided to focus on what we’re good at.”
COO Bill Nojay cut in to explain, “The buses were getting so infrequent, who were we kidding? These service reduction meetings would’ve been more frequent than the service of most of our buses within the year anyway. They are already more punctual about taking place and ending at their scheduled times, versus your average DDOT bus.”
One former rider of the late Mack bus who asked not to be named commented, “At first, I was angry. I thought I might lose my job if I couldn’t get there. Then, I realized I already lost one job to DDOT. This won’t be different.”
These sentiments were echoed by other bus riders. A Wayne County Community College student told us, “Without the buses, I won’t be able to make it to class. With the buses, I don’t make it to class.”
With the pending sale of the bus fleet, now that DDOT has gotten out of the public transportation business, the budget at the agency is expected to be in fantastic shape. The layoff of virtually all of DDOT’s staff will provide another windfall. With this money, the agency plans to keep on as many as one full time employee.
Additionally, the Department of Transportation will continue its contract with Envisurage, the consulting firm brought on to manage it through tough times. Brought on board with contracts that reward them with bonuses for saving money, the consultants were unable to be reached at press time because they were busy swimming around in dollar bills.
Nojay urged Detroiters to take a positive view of things: “This is not a service cut. Just think of it as a really long headway. It’s an infinitely long headway.”
Edited 4/10 to add: This piece is satire. It’s a joke.
My apologies to anyone I frightened. It tells one a lot about the state of things that so many of my well-informed, reasonable friends initially believed this was true.
With a nod to Jeff Wattrick’s naming of bridge-owning Matty Moroun as the Mr. Burns of Detroit, and in light of Tim Logan’s summary of land-banking Paul McKee’s salesmanship of his “vision” versus his actual record on following through with development, I have an observation to make.
Paul McKee is the Monorail Guy of Metro St. Louis, and he’s coming to make a presentation to a municipal council or lender near you!
I’ll admit it’s not a perfect metaphor. Even the Monorail Guy followed through on his promise to build what he pitched, and to create a couple of short-term jobs.
Sing it with me now: Monoraaail, monoraaaaail, monoraaaaaaail!