Friday, August 29, 2008

Joe Biden and Mass Transit in Detroit

Update: Barack and Michelle Obama and Joe and Jill Biden will be in Detroit on Monday at Hart Plaza! 11 am at the end of the Annual Labor Day Parade! See ya there

Last week, I promised that I would find a connection between Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and Detroit. Betcha didn't know that Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) is one of the staunchest supporters of the development and growth of mass transit options for America!

Here in Detroit, the Motor City, it has been decades since mass transit was a really viable and reliable option. As people moved further and further away from the City Center, highways were built and cars became almost indispensible--except a lot of people don't have cars. The absence of a modern mass transit system has been a detriment to the development of a truly regional metroplex. In 1919, Detroit voted for a bond issue to finance a subway system, but it was vetoed by Mayor James Couzens.

Along the east coast of the United States, especially between the Washington, D.C. area and points north and west, Amtrak has continued to run commuter trains used by millions daily. Senator Biden has for years taken the "train" daily to and from his home in Delaware, and has sponsored several bills to strengthen the funding for Amtrak.

Back here at home, the non-profit group Transportation Riders United (TRU) has been in the forefront to bring back good mass transportation to Detroit, including working with different government organizations and community groups on the two primary plans for light-rail service in Detroit: the publicly -funded DDOT 5-year Plan and the privately-funded Woodward Catalyst Project.

There is also an excellent and complete history of mass transit in Detroit from 1863 to the present on the TRU Website.
On Sunday, Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden, along with their wives, Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, will be campaigning in Michigan. Hopefully we'll hear about future mass transit plans for Detroit and Michigan.
Pictures of Detroit Department of Street Railways credit: Dave's Railpix

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Detroit Staycation: Labor Day Weekend Festivals

Summer's almost over, but Labor Day Weekend offers lots of fairs, festivals, concerts, and family-fun activities in and around Detroit. Don't tell your boss I said so, but you might as well take Friday off, too--so much to do and see!

The Michigan State Fair
Last week, I posted about the Michigan State Fair, which began on August 22. It continues this weekend through Labor Day.

Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix
Belle Isle roars again this year with the 2008 Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Race, with proceeds to support the beautification and maintenance of Belle Isle. Every year, Detroit families participate in "Free Prix Day", where festival goers can observe qualifying races, see the drivers and cars up close, and enjoy food, beverages, and rides. There is no parking on Belle Isle during the Grand Prix. This year's racing activities begin on Friday, August 29, and culminate with the big race of the American Le Mans Series, the IndyCar Series, and the SCAA SPEED World Challenge GT Championship on Sunday, August 31. The Grand prix is run by a subsidiary of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, chaired by Roger Penske. For further event and ticket information, visit the Grand Prix Website.

Chrysler Arts, Beats and Eats
Over 200 musical performances, 155 artist exhibits, and 50 restaurants will be featured at the 11th Annual Chrysler Arts, Beats, and Eats in Pontiac. Starting Friday August 29 at 4 pm, and continuing through Labor Day at 8 pm, the Arts, Beats, and Eats Festival will also feature "Recycle and Bicycle": making a difference by Going Green. Festival-goers will also have a chance to become amateur bloggers at the "Blogin Cafe'" equipped with 50 computer stations and guest celebrity bloggers. Local bands and musicians will be featured on several stages representing various music genres: smooth soul, jazz, r&b, rock, alternative, rockabilly, and techno. A complete listing of the cuisine, music, and art activities is available here.

Ravi Coltrane
Detroit International Jazzfest
The 29th Annual Jazzfest (formerly known as "Detroit Montreux) will take place from Friday, August 29 through Monday, September 1 downtown at Hart Plaza. This year's theme is "A Love Supreme: the Philly-Detroit Summit", featuring artists from both Philadelphia and Detroit. From Philly, artists include Benny Golson, Jimmy Heath, pat marino, and Christian McBride, the 2008 Artist-in-Residence. Detroit music legends Barry harris, Geri Allen, Kenny Burrell, and Gerald Wilson will appear. Lalah Hathaway, Ravi Coltrane, and Brandon Lee are just a few headliners. Full information is available on the website.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

12-Step Program for Detroit: Step 8--Kwame Kilpatrick Must Make Amends

It's Wednesday, and we are on Step 8 of the 12 Steps of Healing for Detroit! As you may know, each week we have been looking at ways that we, as people who live and/or work in our beloved and beleaguered City. We know that we are the ones we have been waiting for, and that we are better than our current leadership.

The whole point of this blog is to teach some, and remind others of the wonderful things about Detroit, the Detroit Metroplex, and especially the Detroit people. In the process, I will also point out what I believe is wrong with our current leaders (and, when appropriate, what is right), and I hope to hear your ideas in the comments section.

"Step 8", loosely based on the AA 12-step Program, admonishes those who follow the program to make a list of all persons harmed and be willing to make amends to them all. Well, Kwame Kilpatrick, Mr. Mayor, this step seems tailor-made for you!

Mr. Mayor, you have hurt the entire City of Detroit, you have hurt the entire region of southeastern Michigan and southwestern Ontario and northwestern Ohio, you have hurt the entire State of Michigan, you have hurt the entire Democratic Party and the candidacy of Barack Obama, you have hurt your family, including your wife, your sons, and your mother, you have hurt the police department, you have hurt businesses small and large that stayed in Detroit and/or came back to Detroit.

Mr. Mayor, you have hurt families, you have hurt children, you have hurt the national and international image and reputation of Detroit; you have certainly hurt the budget of the City of Detroit, which is OUR money.

It's time for you to make amends, Kwame Kilpatrick. It is time for you to realize that the world does NOT revolve around you, and that Detroit can and will survive and even thrive without you. You owe us even more than that $9 million...especially those of us who supported you while you lied to us and the world. You have no credibility left, and you cannot effectively conduct the business of the City anymore, and that is supposed to be your job. The fact that you even thought for a minute that you "should" have gone to the Democratic Convention and taken even a smidgen of a chance that your ruined image would badly reflect on our Presidential Candidate shows your arrogance and inconsiderate nature. You are (were) a Superdelegate; their votes aren't even necessary at this point. Believe me, no one even notices your absence.

The people who live in Detroit, work in Detroit, and love Detroit will pick up the pieces and carry on and work hard to repair the damage you have done; but it's time for you to go. It's time for you to make your list of all you have harmed and start to make amends (from far away from Detroit) to them all. It was/is not about "racism" at this point; it is/was about you and your wrongdoings. The sooner you grow up and realize that and move yourself out of the picture, the sooner Detroit can heal and move on.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Shopping in Detroit: Terry's Enchanted Garden

Terry's Enchanted Garden, one of the oldest and most respected woman-owned businesses in Detroit, is much more than just a "flower shop". Owned by Mable and Sunne Terry, "Terry's", as it is affectionately called, is a flower shop, a corporate florist, and a "unique boutique" of limited-edition apparel, jewelry, and home accents.

Terry's Enchanted Garden did start as a small flower shop in 1980. Today, Terry's is capable of custom floral designing for your corporate or private event, has beautiful floral arrangements for any and all occasions including funeral arrangements, provides gourmet baskets and live plants, and is a one-stop shopping experience for clothing and collectibles. From the store's website, even e-shopping is available! Terry's is located in the University Commons Shopping District, formerly known as "The Avenue of Fashion", near Livernois and Seven Mile Road.

Mable Terry, Chairman
Sunne Terry, Manager

19338 Livernois Ave.
Detroit, MI 48221
(800) 342-4408 (Toll-Free)
(313) 342-3758
Fax: (313) 342-2333
Business Hours: Mon. - Thurs. 9am - 5pm, Fri. 9am - 6pm, Sat. 9am - 4pm

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Detroit's Unique Neighborhoods: Corktown

In honor of the Irish roots of both the Presidential and Vice-Presidential Nominees for the Democratic Party, let's visit Corktown in Detroit, the oldest still-surviving neighborhood in the City.

Although Corktown is now primarily an Hispanic neighborhood, it was originally settled by immigrants primarily from County Cork in Ireland in the mid-1800s. The original area of Corktown has shrunk over the years, but the neighborhood is now listed on the National Register of Historic Districts and is a Designated Historic Detroit for the City of Detroit. The historic streets contain a mix of Victoria-era homes in beautiful colors, newly built condos, and one of the oldest remaining structures in Detroit dating from before the 1850s.

Today's Corktown is located just west of downtown, bordered by Michigan Avenue, Porter Street, the Lodge Freeway, and 16th Street. Tiger Stadium (or what's left of it), is located in Corktown, and many related businesses sprang up around the old ballpark. Since the Detroit Tigers moved to Comerica Park, a new night-life has come to the area, including new bars and restaurants, and revived local rock music venues. The Corktown neighborhood has also been designated as a Michigan "Cool City" and is admired as one of the most "walkable" areas in Detroit.

Two recent books about the history of the Irish in Detroit can be viewed here...if you visit Corktown, make sure to stop by Nancy Whiskey's, PJ's Lager House, Slows Bar-B-Q, and the many other night-life venues!

Shameless Plug: please read my husband's blog The "D" Spot...

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

I got MY 3 AM Text Message! Obama-Biden!

Let the General Election Campaign start! Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) announced EARLY this morning that he had chosen Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) as his Vice-Presidential running mate! I received my text message at 3:02 AM (even though I was asleep)--I think the correlation to "ready at 3 AM" was priceless!

As most of you know, "The 'D' Spot Redeux" is not a political blog per se, but I sometimes have to step in with my opinions--and I will!

Today, in this space I'm going to treat you to a guest post from one of my absolute favorite progressive political bloggers (besides my hubby, of  course!), Al Giordano. If you are a true progressive, you will love his blog (named "The Field"--long story); if you're not, well, that's OK, I forgive you!  Plus, you know by now that I love history and historical contexts; and you may find plenty of information in this guest post that I betcha didn't know!  (In coming weeks, I'll find and post a connection between Joe Biden and Detroit--you know I will!)

You also know that every post here is or will be connected to Detroit and Michigan, and this election is VERY important to our city and state. Therefore, whoever you decide to vote for, I just ask that you be as informed about your choice as possible.

On Monday, we will return to our regularly scheduled daily posts.

Biden: Second Chance for The Everyman

Posted by Al Giordano - August 23, 2008 at 9:05 am

By Al Giordano

Twenty years ago, Joe Biden was 46, almost the same age Barack Obama is today, and was running for the Democratic nomination for president after eight years of Ronald Reagan's White House. He coulda been a contendah, until John Sasso - campaign manager for rival Mike Dukakis - leaked a videotape to the networks of a British politician's speech that had used the very same words Biden was using on the stump:
"Why is it that Joe Biden is the first in his family ever to go a
university? Why is it that my wife . . . is the first in her family to
ever go to college? Is it because our fathers and mothers were not
bright? . . . Is it because they didn't work hard? My ancestors who
worked in the coal mines of northeast Pennsylvania and would come after
12 hours and play football for four hours? It's because they didn't
have a platform on which to stand."
Biden had, on previous occasions, credited the Brit, Neil Kinnock, with the words, but on subsequent moments did not. "Plagiarism" was the charge - hardly the kind of thing that would have sunk a candidate today, but in 1988 - when a less politically savvy public didn't understand that most politicians don't write their own speeches - it was devastating. Biden dropped out of the presidential contest and didn't enter it again until last year. But by then it seemed more a Last Hurrah; a kind of revival tour for a one-hit wonder pop group from the 1980s.

Yet the words in that 1988 speech were essentially true, if not original. He was the first Biden to go to college. He did descend from coal miner country. This was a man with the class resentment that comes naturally to being born from below. And as the national media vetting process will disclose in the coming days, after 36 years in the US Senate, he's still one of the poorest US Senators: he never availed himself of the back-door personal enrichment techniques that most of his colleagues - Democrat and Republican - have utilized. Beyond class resentment, he retains a sense of class solidarity. His wife since 1977 never went into Washington lobbying: she remained a public schoolteacher.
Biden has also lived personal tragedies that would have splat most people like watermelons tossed from the sixth floor of a Wilmington tenement: between his first US Senate election in 1972 and being sworn in, his first wife and three small children were in a gruesome car accident. 
Mrs. Biden died, his kids were wounded, and he became a single father.
Biden never quite entered the Washington DC culture so seductive to his peers: commuting from Delaware to DC, always coming home at night.

Had he not been driven from the 1988 presidential contest, perhaps George H.W. Bush, Sr., would have never been elected president. Perhaps we never would have settled on Bill Clinton as a lukewarm response to that crisis. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, sure, but here's my point: Whatever we think of Biden's ideology - his hawkishness on wars, foreign and domestic, his foot-in-mouth disease, his addiction to TV news liveshots (oh, lordy, Patty Solis Doyle won't be able to sleep for the next ten weeks, monitoring her invisible electronic shock collar that has now been fastened around Biden's neck) - his personal story is compelling and honorable.
It's that personal story that is going to be featured heavily in the coming days as he migrates through Springfield, Eau Claire, Quad Cities, Kansas City, Billings and Denver. His native Pennsylvania is now a lock for Obama, and he puts Pennsyltucky (West Virginia, Southeast Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, Western Virginia, in particular) back in play.

And in Biden, we have a textbook example of the difference between holding racist ideations (his "clean and articulate" comments about Obama, his stereotypical remarks about Indian-Americans and convenience stores, etc.) and "race baiting" (the Clintonian and Republican penchant for willfully using the wedge of race to divide Americans in order to win elections). Biden is surely guilty of the former but, let's be honest, who isn't? You? Go to the mirror and think again! Watching Biden over the decades, I've not seen him willfully use race to divide others (which is what has placed so many of us in an unforgiving stance toward Bill Clinton, especially this past year). Even when they were still primary rivals for the nomination, Obama came to Biden's defense during a debate, defending that "in his soul," Biden's not a hater.

I think the two of them are going to get along splendidly, and have a lot of infectious fun using John McCain as a punching bag. Apollo Creed has now signed on as coach and sparring partner with Rocky Balboa.
Multi-racial class warfare - there's a place for us, somewhere a place for us - now becomes the wedge against the millionaire McCain.

Yes, I would have preferred the "three point shot" - that Obama pick a running mate from outside of Washington - but as DC insiders go, it's interesting that Biden chose all these years to refuse to live inside it, or meet with its lobbyists.

The 2008 election now has its very own "Comeback Kid," and his name ain't Clinton. Oh, yes, I can live with that.

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