Community Chest - Staff Picks

Detroit's RiverWalk
Once a terribly neglected resource, Detroit's riverfront has been transformed into a true gem — we'd say a sapphire, given the sparkling blue waters now easily accessible because of the lovely promenade constructed in recent years under the guidance of the nonprofit Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. When completed, the walkway will stretch from the Ambassador Bridge to Gabriel Richard Park (just past the MacArthur Bridge leading to Belle Isle). The first phase has focused on the 3.5-mile section that starts at Joe Louis Arena and continues east; nearly 3 miles of that portion are complete. New features added this year at the Rivard Pavilion — site of the Cullen Family Carousel — include the Wheelhouse Detroit, which provides bike rentals and tours, and RiverWalk Café. If you haven't walked the riverfront lately, now's the time to check it out. You won't be sorry.

Detroit Free Press text message story
As much as we hate to praise the competition, we can't ignore the importance of the Free Press' publication of incriminating text messages exchanged between former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his chief of staff, Christine Beatty. If it weren't for that monumental scoop, we wouldn't now be sticking the words "former mayor" in front of Kilpatrick's name. The way we see it, the paper deserves a Pulitzer Prize for its efforts — which include a costly Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that is still under way. On the other hand, should the paper be overlooked by the Pulitzer judges, having a Metro Times "Best Of" award to hang on a wall at the offices over on West Lafayette will surely be a comforting consolation.

Buy a brick
The development along Detroit's riverfront is supported by a public-private partnership that includes federal, state, county and city government, corporations, foundations and the community at large. You would be part of the latter. As noted on the Conservancy's Web site the first way to become involved is to simply use the riverfront. The next step would be to put your money where your foot is and buy a commemorative brick. Prices start at $100. Visit the website for more info.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy
Even after he lost the whistle-blower lawsuit that cost the city more than $8 million, and even after the text messages showing that he'd lied under oath were published, Kwame Kilpatrick retained a considerable amount of public support, and many in positions of power continued to watch his back. On the other hand, many in the suburban parts of Wayne County wanted to see the mayor of Detroit pilloried. Given the politically charged nature of it all, — and facing a re-election bid — Worthy was in what many considered a no-win situation. And the easiest thing would have been to hand the case off to the state attorney general or a special prosecutor. But she didn't. Instead, she and her team built a solid case — aided by a series of bond violations and an assault of a state police officer by the mayor — and ended up getting a guy who had long maintained his innocence to plead guilty, step down, accept jail time and agree to reimburse the city $1 million. We say, take a bow, Kym Worthy. Instead off ducking responsibility, you did a good job under the most difficult of circumstances.

Mojo sends moving van to Manoogian
And all it took was the cost of a rental truck. On the morning of Sept. 4, as the city of Detroit held its breath to see if Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick would cop to a guilty plea in court, 95.5 (WKQI-FM) jolly jokers Mojo in the Morning dispatched on-air operative "Rob the Web Guy" — whose Web page lists his previous occupation as "repo man/tow truck driver" — to the Manoogian mansion with a moving van to help Hizzoner pack up his personal belongings. "I got some gloves on, got my tennis shoes. ... I'm good to go," Rob declared. The moment he drove onto the scene, nearly every media outlet keeping watch outside the mansion turned its cameras or microphones toward the truck, reporting the "breaking news" that Kilpatrick's moving truck had arrived. Later, nearly all of them had to issue a retraction that "a local radio station" was behind the hoax. Keep on truckin', Mojo.

District council elections
It's often been claimed that at-large elections for its legislative body spared Detroit the kind of corrupt, machine politics that have plagued district-based cities like Chicago. Well, there's no sign of a machine here, but in recent years, we've had the investigation of the late Kay Everett, the conviction of Lonnie Bates, and now a cloud over the council with the federal Synagro probe. So much for being spared corruption. Meanwhile, we have a political system that circumvents the vigorous debate that goes with a one-on-one general election and the primary leading up to it. We have a system that (practically speaking) is only open to candidates who can afford to run citywide. A system where council members are accountable to all Detroiters in general — but no Detroiters in particular.

Closing the Detroit incinerator
Although the City Council — with then-president Ken Cockrel Jr. on board — voted to close the massive trash burner on Detroit's east side, the thing hasn't been snuffed yet. But every environmental group in southeast Michigan wants it closed, and they have a relentless ally in Councilmember JoAnn Watson, so hopes remain high the facility will be history by this time next year. Vigilance — along with a major commitment to establishing curbside recycling — remains key.

Judge Craig Strong
In our last Best Of issue, our staff picked Judge Craig Strong as the "Best Judge Dressed Like a Player," noting that the Wayne County Circuit Court judge is less noted for the black robes of a jurist than for the bright colors he wears so well and often. Well, mere days after the issue hit the streets, there came an insistent buzzing at our front door. Who did we find there but Judge Craig Strong himself, wearing an ensemble entirely in light-eggplant, right down to his shoes. His reaction? All smiles. When he beamed at us and cried, "Do I look like a player?" we knew the question was purely rhetorical.

State Sen. Hansen Clarke's moratorium proposal
SB 1306 looked to be going nowhere until it became obvious that everyone living on what the talking heads call Main Street is feeling the economic pain caused by the foreclosure crisis. As the country teetered on the brink of economic meltdown a few weeks ago, a press conference was held to announce that Michigan's AFL-CIO leadership was giving the proposed legislation its support as the foreclosure tsunami's black waters kept spreading, swamping neighborhoods across the state. It is more evident than ever that we're all part of the same economic mess, and that helping people stay in their homes is good for everyone. To learn more go to

Join Transportation Riders United
In terms of getting from here to there, things are finally looking up for the only major U.S. metropolitan area without a rapid transit system. After years of going nowhere, there's movement on a number of fronts. Much of the credit for that goes to John Hertel, the seasoned politico who heads Detroit Regional Mass Transit effort. A newly released plan commissioned by the city of Detroit and Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties has generated much excitement and optimism. Along with consolidating Detroit and suburban bus service, it envisions hybrid-powered buses traveling along major routes throughout the region, light rail along parts of Woodward Avenue, and stepped-up commuter rail between the New Center area and Ann Arbor (including Metro Airport). The plan makes too much sense to fail. By cutting greenhouse gas emissions, reducing reliance on foreign oil and promoting economic development throughout the region, the opportunity to link metro Detroit through an integrated transit system is something we can't afford to miss. But long before any of this happened, the nonprofit group Transportation Riders United was out there creating the vision and generating the political pressure needed to transform what once seemed to be an impossible dream into a reality. And it still needs all the help it can muster to assist in keeping things moving in the right direction. Learn what the group is all about at

Founded in 1996 by Vince Keenan, is an example of nonpartisan electoral public service at its best. Want to make sure you are registered, or where your polling place is? Type in your name and the info appears. Interested in who's contributing to a candidate? Click an icon and link to the Secretary of State site containing the info. As its website points out: "Publius continues to evolve based on the principle of creating tools to make the time citizens interact with government as effective as possible. We pound the pavement, make calls, and ask lots of questions in order to consolidate all the information citizens need to vote, and then we create an intuitive system to access it." The name Publius dates back to Roman times, and shares its etymological roots with the word public. And that, pretty much, sums up who this nonprofit serves. That, and democracy itself.

Oakland County Sheriff's Department helicopters
Cops do need a little PR sometimes to save them from that stereotype as jack-booted, ticket-writing, door-kicking violators of Constitutional rights. But we can't help but think maybe one effort has gone a bit too far. Does Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard really need his name plastered down the tail of the department's helicopters? The helicopters do help police and citizens — they've been used to track lost Alzheimer's patients, assist in chases and do drug surveillance — but to be a flying billboard for an elected office? Well, that answer is not up in the air.

Chair of the City Charter Rewrite Commission
When KK was finally out as mayor, the question became: When would the next mayoral election be held? Turning to the city charter for guidance, journalists, attorneys, city council members and their staff tried to decipher the language that reads: "If a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor or city council 30 days or more before the filing deadline for a general election in the city or special citywide election, the vacancy shall be filled at that election for the remainder of the term. When a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor or city council less than 30 days before the filing deadline for a general election in the city or special citywide election, the city council shall order a special primary election for the nomination of candidates and special general election to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the unexpired term." The arguments over which filing deadline — one that's past or in the future — crippled the city while the council sorted it out. This conundrum — and others too numerous to detail here, not to mention our district council stance related above — leads us to start a campaign for a charter rewrite. Given his familiarity with the charter — hell, he's actually read the fucking thing and keeps a printed copy of it in his office — we suggest Goodman. After all, with KK gone, he could use some more steady work.

Book-Cadillac Hotel
1114 Washington Blvd., Detroit; 313-442-1600
Constructed in the 1920s at a cost of $14 million, Detroit's 33-floor Book-Cadillac could once lay claim to being the tallest hotel in the world — an ornate structure with more than 1,100 guest rooms, three ballrooms and an equal number of dining rooms and, according to information posted on the website Forgotten Detroit, a silver service that contained 50,000 pieces. Once described as the "epitome of glamour," it — like the city around it — eventually fell into a long decline. It was shuttered in the 1980s. Now, after more than two decades of dormancy, the famed hotel has undergone a $180 million renovation — including the addition of 67 luxury condos on the building's top floors — resurrecting one of the city's most prominent ghosts. Those who cherish the city's great past and want to see its glorious remnants preserved — and those desperate to see signs that Detroit is continuing to move forward despite the deluge of problems facing it — all cheered to see the splendor has returned.

It's complicated
First you check with the U.S. Naval Observatory online ( to figure the time of the sunrise. Then with radio traffic reports to help time your arrival at the crest of M-39 (Southfield) interchange to I-96 headed downtown. There's one problem, though: You can't stop to take it all in.

Greektown Casino expansion
Yes, Detroit needs development (and redevelopment) so badly it's hard to say no to anything. And, yes, the casino has been fighting its way through bankruptcy. But the expansion of the old temporary casino to its permanent state involves the construction of a largely featureless boxy behemoth extending over Lafayette Avenue. You walk down the avenue alongside the new construction, look up at what are apparently intended to appear (to the outside) as enormous faux windows and you can't help but curse the light and sky you've lost here. Approach the casino from west, staring east on Lafayette, and that bare brick wall creates the most boring streetscape in all of downtown Detroit.

Hall Road/M-59
Holy Christ! You really need more power on today's road, especially if you want to get your economy car past the convoy of light trucks speeding down the hammer lane. It's enough to make Steve McQueen himself break a sweat. Make your move quickly! Dart left, clearing the ferocious-looking grill of some oversized Ram 1500, then swerve immediately into the left turn lane, where you have 10 yards to skid to a stop due to a backup. Now, take your cue from the H3 that's riding your ass and give it a jackrabbit start the minute there's any sign of forward movement. Then, once you're through the "Michigan left," if you've made the red, dart across five lanes of traffic to that wrap joint you like. Who needs an exercise bike?

City Bicycling Plan
Working quietly last month, Detroit City Council heard and approved the Detroit Non-Motorized Transportation Master Plan. That sounds deathly dull, but it's actually exciting news for the pedalists among us. Though the state had vowed to commit funds to cycling initiatives in Detroit, and Detroit's Traffic Engineering Department had signed off on the endeavor, the plan had never been brought before council for its approval — something MDOT needed before it would help move things forward. The plan ought to get cyclists pumped: It will track cycling destinations across Detroit with an eye to connecting them with a network of bike trails, lanes and greenways, calling for as many as 400 miles of bike lanes across the city. The plan's organizers believe lanes could be painted down during normal MDOT road maintenance. And for groups wanting bike lanes in their neck of the woods, working in tandem with the city means it won't be the uphill slog it used to be.

Dequindre Cut Bicycle Path
Talk about anticipation! Last year, the long-unused rail bed slicing through Detroit's near east side emerged from the thick cover of brush as contractors whacked back the wilderness and began turning the old sub-surface rail cut into a bike path. Back then, we heard this "rails to trails" project was due to be complete in May 2008, linking Eastern Market with the newly expanded RiverWalk and its parks. The only problem is, construction is still under way, and no section of the path seems to be open yet. That's a terribly tempting thing for city cyclists to pass over, day in and day out. And plenty can't resist. Here's hoping the path is ready for us to roll on by, oh, let's say May 2009.

University of Michigan-Dearborn natural area
Corner of Fairlane Drive and Montieth Boulevard, Dearborn; 313-593-5338
"You could live your life in the area and never know it was there. It's one of my favorite places to go — especially in the fall," one of our informants told us. Not far from the bustle of Fairlane Mall, the University of Michigan-Dearborn owns 75 acres of natural habitat (part of the original Henry Ford Estate) and oversees another 225 acres owned by the county. UM-D's Environmental Interpretive Center on Fairlane Drive houses exhibits on topics such as the Rouge River (which runs through the area) and is the gateway to the foot trails through the vicinity. The topography includes a variety of forest types (such as one of southeast Michigan's rare climax beech-maple forests), maturing old fields, Clara Ford's former rose garden (now returning to nature), an eight-acre lake and a community organic garden (plots available, call 313-583-6371). Fox, raccoon and deer can be seen. More than 250 bird species have been recorded by the Rouge River Bird Observatory, housed at the center. The observatory studies the role of this natural-amid-urban area as a stopover for migrating birds. The center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; the trails are open sunrise to sunset. No dogs, no running; bicycling only on the River Rouge Gateway Trail (trailhead on Michigan Avenue). More info at, including a link to the latest bird sightings from the observatory. You can also use the nature area trails to reach the Henry Ford Estate, Fair Lane.

Peche Island
Detroit River, just downstream from Lake St. Clair
This Canadian recreation spot is part of Windsor's park system (think "toilets available") and offers beaches, waterfowl, inland waterways, walking trails and wetlands. Named by the French — for "fish" or "fisherman" — it's home to bald eagles and some enormous freshwater turtles, and the park can only be reached by boat. Hiram Walker owned the 100-acre island from 1883 to 1907, long enough to build a summer house, stable, greenhouse and ice house; only the home's foundation remains. Since the Walker family gave it up, the island has been owned by the province of Ontario and now is part of the city of Windsor, which provides a map and other information at

Mountain Biking
Various trails, Metroparks and state parks;
Who needs real mountains for great mountain biking? Not riders in southeast Michigan, who are surrounded by a trove of hilly trails that attract new and experienced cyclists. Just ask Ernie Bell. After friends convinced him to try off-road cycling a decade ago, he's become a dedicated rider and now assists others with his Waterford bike shop, Cycle Therapy. "I see all kinds of people from outside of southeast Michigan who come here for the rides," he says. That includes bike tourists who make a trip specifically for some rides and business travelers who escape meetings and hit the trails. "They have to go mountain biking here because they've heard so much about it," Bell says. The area's offerings range from beginner — Island Lake is one of the most highly recommended — to the difficult single-track loops at Highland Recreation Area. In between "There are challenging rides but they aren't so hard that they scare people away," Bell says. "I think the average rider can ride most of the trails without risking too much."

Pinnacle Race Course
18000 Vining Rd., New Boston; 734-543-3200;
It opened in July, bringing live thoroughbred racing back to the Detroit area after a hiatus of nearly a decade. The new track, located near Metro Airport, is operating while still under construction. So while it may not offer the amenities of a Churchill Downs, it's still the only place in town to watch the distant descendants of Secretariat, Man O' War, et al. thunder down the stretch. As part of the inaugural season, admission and parking are free through Nov. 2.

Belleville Lake
Folks in Belleville like to make the point that Oakland County doesn't have a monopoly on lakes in metro Detroit. And Belleville has a bit of history as a one-time resort community of the 1930s, as well as birthplace of techno in the 1990s (Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson have been called the Belleville Three). Public access points to the lake, Wayne County's largest, include Horizon Park and Van Buren Park, the latter boasting a swimming and picnic areas and a variety of wildlife. Be on the lookout for bald eagles and the University of Michigan women's crew team, which practices and races on the lake. Diversions include the annual Strawberry Festival and Taste of Belleville Festival. More info at

Reel Deal
The sponsor group's name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue: The Association for Psychoanalytic Thought of the Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute. But the group's film series has been around for five years — not bad — and we think some of you will want to get on the couch with them. (We couldn't resist, doc.) The current format features extensive clips from a film of the last year or so, followed by a group discussion led by a "director's chair' facilitator" (taking the film theory perspective) and either a psychoanalyst or a psychotherapist. There are four events planned over the next six months. Next up is No Country for Old Men, (Friday, Oct. 19, 1-3 p.m. at the Bloomfield Township Library), but we're really looking forward to the season closer in Ann Arbor next March with HBO's In Treatment. That'll give us shrinks talking about a show about a shrink and his shrink. That's so meta- that we're getting dizzy. For information see or call Dave Lundin at 248-229-5389.

Murray Feldman
Wall Street is in freefall, your job's in jeopardy and the word "foreclosure" has become part of your daily vocabulary. Murray Feldman, if we ever needed you, it's now. The velvet-smooth FOX2 business reporter, who's been on the beat here so long he can remember when car sales were booming, has become our voice of experience and reassurance. He hosts Money Minute reports in the mornings, Murray's Money Savers in the afternoons, the help-wanted FOX2 Job Shop every day, The Feldman Report at night, does double duty for WWJ-AM (950) news radio and somehow finds time to co-anchor Channel 2's 5:30 p.m. newscast with Sherry Margolis. Look! On the air! It's SuperFeldman! How Murray manages to be such a ubiquitous presence on Detroit TV, reporting such critical information, yet remain relatively anonymous away from the camera, is one of the Motor City's great media mysteries.

Alan Almond's Pillow Talk
He's still inspiring imitators after all this time — even R&B superstar Keith Sweat with his Sweat Hotel on Mix 92.3 (WMXD-FM) — but Detroit's Alan Almond has been making panties damp with his bottomless voice and atmospheric love songs from 7 p.m.-midnight as host of Pillow Talk on WNIC-FM (100.3), which he started more than a quarter century ago, and his style and delivery remain among the most consistent elements in all of radio. Exhibit A: Almond's nomination as 2008 national Personality of the Year by Radio & Records magazine and his claim to the highest-rated nighttime romantic-mood radio show in Detroit history. Alan, thank you so, so much.

'Juggling a flood of interview requests'
"Mixed metaphor? Is that a journalism thing?" one of our poet-writers once asked. Runners-up in this "journalism thing" competition: "... has his hands in so many pies that he would seem unable to keep track of everything on his proverbial plate ... has worked various teeming waters of American music, mining the rich vein of our collective musical heritage, while traveling restlessly down many a back road. ... Its songs hang together like gentle mood swings ... These dueling powerhouses get to pour on the intensity."

M.L. Liebler
When MT had the idea of a collage poem drawing on the work of ... oh, a hundred or so Detroit poets, it seemed the only person crazy enough to try and knowledgeable enough to pull it off was M.L. Liebler. The result — our first cover poem — speaks for itself. Abandon Automobile (2001), which Liebler co-edited with Melba Joyce Boyd, is the introduction to contemporary poetry in Detroit. Liebler's been in the trenches for years promoting series and group readings and building connections between the Detroit and the national and international scenes. Metro Detroit Writers, which he directs, offers the best one-stop directory to literary events in metro Detroit at This Thursday, Oct. 16, he's at Cliff Bell's with his Magic Poetry Band and guests from the Detroit Writers Workshop. Friday, Oct. 17, he's with Marge Piercy and others at the 18th Annual Bernard Firestone Labor Arts & Poetry Tribute, at McGregor Conference Center on the Wayne State campus. Saturday he kicks off the Kick Out the Jams Library Tour with John Sinclair and others in Ypsi. Did we mention he stays busy?

Motown Writers Network
Celebrating its eighth year, the organization founded by author Sylvia Hubbard hosts its fifth annual "Essence of Motown Literary Jam and Conference" Nov. 6-9. Through its free, weekly Web newsletter, free, monthly seminars on self-publishing, marketing and writing, and frequent collaborations with local libraries, the Network has become one of the largest volunteer literacy organizations in Michigan. Among its recent honors are the 2005 Spirit of Detroit Award and the 2008 Detroit Literary Empowerment Gala's Community Champion Award.

'Let's corporate'
From an actual letter from an actual college student seeking a summer internship at Metro Times: "As an inspiring journalist, I would love to be able to work, learn, and corporate with Metro Times. Working alongside with you and the entire staff, I will gain more experience and become an even better writer. ... Writing allows me to express, learn and grow into a better person and see the world." (Postscript: Student did not get summer internship.)

Guy: 'I've got your switchblade still.'
Stylish woman: 'Oh, that's OK. I've got five more.'
Yes, it's true: We've secretly been scouring the streets, listening in on private conversations held in public places, stealing great lines for publication. So sue us. Whether it's a duet of Blue Cross Blue Shields employees gossiping on a smoke break ("I had the most god-damned fun in that truck, sitting on his lap"), or some lunatic running his mouth at an outdoor bazaar ("I beat up women too. I'm from the old school"), or a confessional take on inebriation ("I was drinking so much I skipped drunk and went straight to hangover"), we're delighted to find out what some folks have got the nerve or verve to say. And yet, it's the profoundly simple stuff that makes metro Detroit seem like a real deep place to dwell. Once overheard at a bar: "Something is everything to somebody."

Annual Caribbean Festival Parade on Jefferson Avenue
Reggae, soca and other island and coastal sounds blare from flatbed trucks. Beauty pageant contestants wave from convertibles. Hundreds of dancers — 800 to 900 last year, the organizers tell us — in respective national colors wave national flags. And there are floats (of a sort), as costumed ladies drag wheeled contraptions from which flare enormous wing-like appendages — they're human butterflies. With cultural and musical attractions celebrating Jamaica, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and their regional neighbors, the Caribbean Festival is a summer staple in many big American and Canadian cities, including Detroit. It's well worth catching, including the parade that traditionally starts Saturday at noon near Chene Park, then struts down Jefferson to the festival site at Hart Plaza. Next year's event is Aug. 10, 11, 12; the parade is on Aug. 11. Organized by the Caribbean Cultural and Carnival Committee;

Riverfront fields at the Historic Fort Wayne
Luis Reyes says the view is "pretty nice" but he doesn't have a lot of time to think about it as soccer balls fly at him. A goalie for Cesar Chavez Academy's soccer team, the 17-year old has practice and games just about every weekday on the riverfront fields at Historic Fort Wayne. Nine soccer fields are nestled between a row of aged buildings at the southwest Detroit fort and the river's edge on former parade grounds. Perched above the Detroit River, the sidelines offer a view of freighters and other boats on the river and the Canadian shoreline across the waters. Think Detroit PAL runs soccer leagues that use the fields, which are under the care of the Detroit Recreation Department. On Saturdays during the spring and fall, more than 2,000 players use the site. Ranging in age from 4 to 19, players could be making their first kicks or be part of a traveling league. Kristen Kaszeta, director of communications for Think Detroit PAL — a two-year-old merger of the former Think Detroit nonprofit and the Police Athletic League — says the soccer fields are a big draw for spectators. "The barges go by, it's done really well," she says. People also find the fields a great viewing place for summer fireworks.

The launch site of the Edmund Fitzgerald
Foot of Great Lakes Avenue, Ecorse
A couple of times a month during the summer, a few curious souls will appear at this Ecorse canal looking for what some call Great Lakes shipping's "Valhalla": the canal where the legendary Edmund Fitzgerald freighter was launched in 1958. The site back then was the Great Lakes Engineering Works boat-building yard, where the ill-fated "Fitz" first hit water on June 7, 1958. The ore carrier sailed the Great Lakes until her famed sinking on Lake Superior in 1975, memorialized most notably in a Gordon Lightfoot song and a display at the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point in the Upper Peninsula. Twenty-nine men died and rest in a cold Lake Superior grave. But while the ship's final resting place is well-known, its birthplace is not. No marker. No sign. No memorabilia for sale. An occasional Homeland Security patrol goes by the industrial waterfront site. It's now owned by U.S. Steel, which leases land on either side of the canal to Detroit Bulk Storage, a supplier of materials for road construction, and Great Lakes Towing Company to harbor its three-tugboat fleet.