June / July 2017

By Mary Meldrum

JACK ARONSON, WELL-KNOWN FOUNDER OF GARDEN FRESH GOURMET in Ferndale, remembers people who would come into his shop to apply for a job, and had to bring their sister or their mother or a friend because they could not read, write or comprehend the application. They needed help with the very fundamentals of securing a job. That stuck with him.

Now, after both growing and selling their business, Jack and Annette Aronson have formed a foundation of their own and they are throwing a large amount of their money, almost all of their time, and a colossal amount of energy toward local literacy programs. Their level of giving back to Ferndale and the surrounding area is stunning.

Jack is chairman of the board for the non-profit Beyond Basics, which is a 501(c)(3) student-centered, literacy non-profit, serving students in Detroit public schools since 2002. Jack and Annette are also the driving force behind the younger program, The Ferndale Literacy Project, in Ferndale High School.
With as much as 60 per cent of Ferndale High School’s student population migrating from surrounding communities, Ferndale has been overwhelmed with students who arrive reading several grade levels below where they are supposed to be. The Ferndale Literacy Project is designed to address that.

“Reading is the springboard for everything,” contends Jack. He is passionate about helping kids to get on the right track early. Speaking to the skill levels in our country, he adds, “Reading in the United States is a catastrophe right now.”

He is right. In a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, it was estimated in 2013 that approximately 32 million adults in the U.S. can’t read, and 21 per cent of adults read below a fifth grade level. And worse, 19 per cent of high school graduates cannot read. It has not improved since
2013.

Locally, the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund reports that 47 per cent of people in Detroit are illiterate. In nearby suburbs, up to one-third are functionally illiterate. That 47 per cent represents approximately 200,000 souls who have significant trouble with reading, speaking, writing and computational skills – everything a person needs to function in this world as a productive adult.

Within the tri-county region, there are a number of municipalities with illiteracy rates rivaling Detroit: Southfield at 24 per cent, Warren at 17 per cent and Pontiac at 34 per cent.

Nationwide, as much as 85 per cent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate, and over 70 per cent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level. That means a full two-thirds or more of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade will end up in jail, in continuous conflict with the law, and/or on welfare. They can’t get jobs; they can’t get mortgages or cars and are mostly doomed to remain under-educated and flounder in poverty.

It is thought that low literary costs $73 million per year in terms of direct health care costs, but a recent study by Pfizer put the cost much higher. Factors that contribute to illiteracy include poverty, parental involvement (or lack thereof), domestic violence and other overarching life crises that are out of the control of the student.

This is not about stupidity. This is about circumstances, and often those circumstances include a multi-generational problem – a legacy of illiteracy. Parents who cannot read themselves cannot teach their children to read, or help them with homework, or demonstrate to them what a life of literacy would look like. Many are children who grow up without a single book in their house; nobody has ever read to them; nobody has ever read them a bedtime story.

But most of these students want help. They ache for success, and they realize that they can never achieve it without the basic skill of reading.

In the report from the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund, they place a particular focus on the lack of resources available to those hoping to better educate themselves, and that fewer than 10 per cent of those in need of help are actually receiving it.

If you can connect the dots, all this highlights in a dramatic way that this is not a problem . . . this is The Problem. This is the national crisis at the crux of everything that is going wrong in our country. Those who cannot read are screwed — and so are we if we don’t step up and help them.

Recovery of literacy in our youth is paramount to a better community and a better life for everyone. Jack Aronson understands the enormous burden illiteracy places on society, and the costly repercussions of standing by and not pitching in to change outcomes for the children in our community.

Ferndale Literacy Project
Stephanie Scobie is the reading specialist who has been hired to run the Ferndale Literacy Project which is embedded inside Ferndale High School and funded through the Ferndale school system. As they approach the end of their maiden year with 50 students enrolled in the program, she expresses that there has been some great progress and success so far.

“One student tested at the third-grade reading level at the beginning of the year, and in March of this year he is now reading at the eighth-grade level,” she smiles. That same tenth-grade student will be tested again before school lets out for the summer, and there is reason to believe he will be reading at the ninth-grade level by June. Stephanie goes on to describe how his progress in reading has changed this young man’s outlook, his self-confidence, and his actual physical presentation.
“He actually walks taller now and doesn’t hunch over anymore.”

People who can read generally take it for granted, but for those who cannot read or who struggle, illiteracy amounts to being ashamed of your mind. That shame is exquisitely painful for children in school when they are asked to read in front of the class, or when they bring home failing grades semester after semester, while their classmates can brag about getting As and Bs.

Children who are ashamed of their inability to read tend to avoid reading because it makes them feel terrible and embarrassed. There is a real fear in these children that they are not smart. Fear, shame, embarrassment, frustration and confusion all inhibit the ability for students to learn under normal circumstances. Add to this the other burdens of poverty, possible poor health and maybe not knowing where their next meal is coming from, and it is little wonder these kids can’t concentrate on a pop quiz or finish homework. Many are just navigating life by the seat of their pants every day with little security and nobody coming to their rescue.

The Ferndale Literacy program researched and invested in Vanderbuilt University’s computerized reading program, Read 180, which allows students to choose a topic they are interested in and it individualizes the stories to the child’s reading level.

Ferndale High School has dedicated a large room for its literacy project. Jack and Annette Aronson put up the money, and hired a team that has come in and painted and organized and stocked the space. They made it a clean, updated the room with new chairs and desks, shelves, books, white boards and markers. Part of the room is designed as a coffee and lounging space with several new armchairs. Once a month Jack and Annette bring in lunch for the kids, and several times a month snacks are available in the coffee and lounge area. Today the lunch consists of pizza, chicken, subs, cookies, chips and water bottles.

Children can relax and listen to their Read 180 program. This room is their haven and represents an amazing opportunity for these students to transform their lives and their future. The ability to read will not only impact their families, but also the trajectory of their lives, and they seem to know it.

Boots on the Ground . . . Your Boots
This program is young and, although they are experiencing good progress after only one year, it needs a lot of support. Jack and Annette Aronson’s foundation has contributed $100,000 to the Ferndale School System to launch and support this program, and to date, it has only 50 children enrolled. This Fall they hope to enroll 100 high school students into the literacy project. To handle that increase, more funding must be secured. Jack and Annette are asking for your help. Please contact Carol Jackson at cjackson0205@gmail.com to find out how you can get involved and make a difference. Goals can be reached if many contribute at least a little. The money donated to the Ferndale Literacy Project is passed through entirely. There are no administration costs involved, so every dollar has a direct impact. They are in the process of putting together a system where donors can make a smaller monthly contribution of $5 or $10 or $25 with an automatic withdrawal. In the meantime, please also consider making a larger donation, or ask about how you can volunteer your time to become a book buddy, a tutor or a mentor.

Another way you can help is to go to the Ferndale Literacy Project Facebook Page and like and share the heck out of the posts that come across your newsfeed. Help to spread awareness of the program. If you have some free time and any skills that might be of use to this organization, please contact Carol Jackson at the email address above.

This program is not only advancing the reading skills of students today, but helping the students to experience the joy of reading. With our help, they can break the cycle of multi-generational illiteracy and will ‘pay forward’ what they have learned to their children and community in the years to come.

These students are the pathway to successful futures in business, education, politics and community. Please help fund this project so it will continue for years to come. Any and all donations, no matter the size, are graciously accepted.

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By Sara E. Teller & Stephanie Loveless

INSTANT RUNOFF VOTING – WHAT IS IT? THIS IS AN IMPORTANT QUESTION, considering that Ferndale voters may be using the system to elect our mayor and council as early as this November.

Instant Runoff Voting (IRV), or Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) as it is also known, is an alternative voting method aimed at solving common problems with traditional voting methods by allowing voters to rank their choice for candidates, first to last choice. If no candidate receives a majority of first-round votes, the last place candidate is eliminated and the second choices from those ballots are added to the totals for the remaining candidates. The process continues until a majority candidate is ultimately identified.
IRV has been used in Ireland and Australia for quite some time in their national elections, and it has been adopted in parts of Europe. In the United States, about ten cities including San Francisco and Oakland California and Minneapolis, Minnesota use the system, and now the State of Maine is expected to be the first to use it statewide after voters approved it at the polls last November.

Here at home, in 2004 the voters of Ferndale overwhelmingly passed Proposal B with 69.75% of the vote, “to provide for election of the mayor and city council through the use of an Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) system pending the availability and purchase of compatible software and approval of the equipment by the Ferndale Election Commission.” (Full disclosure: Ferndale Friends publisher Stephanie Loveless was part of the organizing team to put IRV on the Ferndale ballot that year.)

Since that time – nothing. The only voting machines the State of Michigan has been willing to certify have been incapable of the simple calculations necessary for this kind of voting, and equipment manufacturers like Diebold have demanded outrageous fees to upgrade for IRV-capability.

Finally – 13 years later – there may finally be light at the end of the tunnel. New voting machines coming to Ferndale this November will reportedly be IRV-capable.

HOWEVER, NOW THAT THE TECHNICAL ISSUES seem to be resolved, there may be new wrinkles at the state and county level. The State Bureau of Elections has now questioned whether or not IRV is allowed under current Michigan election law, despite the fact that the City of Ann Arbor used IRV for at least one election in the ‘70s. There are also new questions about State certification.

Because of these concerns, Ferndale City Clerk Marne McGrath issued a statement on May 1 saying, “In light of this [and other factors], implementation before the 2017 filing deadline may be difficult. It may be more likely it would take place in 2019 if the above items are addressed legislatively and by the BOE.”

To many, the IRV process is much more fair and efficient than traditional voting, but it has yet to gain mainstream traction in much of the United States. “Runoffs are good and sensible. Instant runoffs are just a much more efficient way of doing the same thing,” says Howard Ditkoff of SystemsThinker.com, also an organizer of the 2004 Ferndale referendum. “In the current system, voters are going into the vote, playing a game essentially. And there’s been a historically low turnout,” he explains, because those supporting third-party candidates simply don’t see the point in wasting their time casting a vote. With IRV, all have an equal chance to benefit, including those supporting independent parties who actually have a chance to be heard.

“Any time there are three or more candidates on the ballot, there is always a danger of the candidate opposed by most of the voters winning,” Ethan Fitzgerald of the FairVote organization says.

“One, you’re not dealing with the spoiler effect of traditional voting, and there is no pressure for candidates to drop out. Another great thing we’re witnessing is an increase in campaign civility. There is a need to retain support from the other parties, so there’s more cross-support.” In other words, candidates are motivated to endorse each other because they need the support of their opponents and they tend to focus their campaign dollars on what really matters – the issues – rather than spending time attacking each other. “In runoff elections, there is a savings in campaign spending for candidates, too,” Ethan says.

Ethan explains IRV using a metaphor many can appreciate – ice cream: “We like to tell voters, Ranked Choice Voting is as easy as 1, 2, 3. It’s having to make a decision between options. Anyone who has asked for chocolate ice cream at a parlor and was told they were out so they had to settle for strawberry instead would understand,” he says. “Voters get to rank according to preference. If their candidate is eliminated, they still get their next choice.”

Howard reflects that “people are pretty familiar with runoff elections and understand why they’re needed.” He uses the recent election in France as an example; “In France’s recent presidential election, nobody got a majority in the first round. They didn’t just take the person with the most votes and make them president. No, they took the top two – Macron and Le Pen – and held a second runoff election between them. Why?Because they recognize that if you don’t do that, you may end up with a leader without majority support, which is not a good outcome.”

“Ferndale could really set a great example for other cities, and I hope it gets a chance to do that,” said Ditkoff.

“The new election equipment is capable of implementing the software but we must wait until the State of Michigan certifies the equipment for IRV,” explains Marne McGrath of the City of Ferndale. “Most likely we will not be using IRV in the November 2017 election,” although there is hope it’ll be up and running by then.
When asked if IRV will realistically be available to residents in the near future, Ethan responded, “We hope so. The equipment purchased is certainly capable of allowing for ranked choice. We’re just waiting on state certification.”

In early May, McGrath requested a legal opinion from City of Ferndale attorney Dan Christ about the way forward. On May 29th, she reported that she has a follow-up email into Christ and hopes to receive a response in a week or two. At that point, she plans to re-engage with the county and state, depending on the advice given by Christ.

In the meantime, voters can educate themselves by referencing FairVote.org. “There are a lot of printable materials here,” Ethan explains, or by visiting http://www.firv.org.

 

Story By Jenn Geddeke

RIFINO VALENTINE IS THE ULTIMATE ENTREPRENEUR. PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF VALENTINE DISTILLING COMPANY, HE HAS A STEADY FOCUS ON HIGH-QUALITY CRAFT DISTILLING, AND A BURNING DRIVE TO PROVE THAT THE MIDWEST CAN GENERATE THE BEST LIQUOR IN THE WORLD.
Highly dissatisfied with imported and mass-produced goods, Valentine decided to go ‘back to basics’ and use the Midwest as his manufacturing base. Currently, Valentine Vodka is beating much of its worldwide competition; for example, the brand was awarded the coveted title of “World’s Best Vodka” in 2016, by the World Vodka Awards in London. The Valentine brand gins and bourbons have also won multiple awards. According to Valentine, this momentum won’t stop until the Grey Goose brand is no longer on the shelf!

Valentine grew up on farmland, with the classic Michigan example of John Deere making the best tractors. He realized that somehow as a culture, we developed the notion of local not being the best, and he has a strong desire to change that perception. In Valentine’s view, large corporations are mainly concerned about profit, where the consumer gets the short end of the stick but has to settle regardless. His original philosophy was to step back, and to take no short cuts; as he explained, “Profit, of course, is still important…but, it’s a balancing act.”

At the point where Valentine was forming his business plan, there were only a handful of micro-distilleries in the country (at time of writing, there are over 2,000 in the US.) It was a brand-new type of business, in terms of both local and state economics; inspectors and landlords were not even sure how to classify or handle a micro-distillery. Public perception at the time was also limited, including that of liquor store and bar owners. Therefore, a large part of Valentine’s task in developing his brand was in educating others
on micro-distilling.

How did Valentine choose Ferndale as a location? He recalls, “It was a happy accident! Detroit was actually my first choice, but at the time in 2007 there was too much red tape involved. The owners of B. Nektar Meadery –Brad & Kerri Dahlhofer — suggested Ferndale as a potential alternate locale.” Valentine called the city, and spoke to the planner, Marsha Sheer, who gave him an enthusiastic response. He added, “The City worked with us, and looked for ways to help. Ferndale has the type of culture where new ideas are embraced.” And so the Valentine Distilling Company Cocktail Lounge/original distillery was born. In addition, there is a new production facility at 965 Wanda (the largest in the country), boasting over 15,000 square feet of distillery space.

Naturally, all this growth is helping the local economy – Valentine is buying a lot of grain – plus, secondary and tertiary-level businesses are also benefiting. While developing his brand, Valentine did not consider that the local impact would be as profound; essentially, he set out to compete with the larger companies. Now, as a world-renowned distillery, his main focus is drawn back to MI, where he claims a lot of work still has to be done. Valentine’s growth strategy is to keep expanding in the Midwest. His vision is, “…a sustainable pace, not explosive growth, so that quality issues do not occur.”

Just released this year is a special bourbon whiskey line, named after Detroit Mayor Hazen S. Pingree (in office from 1890-1897, and considered to be one of the greatest mayors in U.S. history for breaking up monopolies and standing for regular workers). Two of these bourbons (the Blue and Black labels) have already won a prestigious ‘Double Gold’ award in the San Francisco World Spirits Championship. Regarding these new awards, Valentine says, “We only enter international spirits competitions to show the world what Detroit has to offer. To be awarded these highest honors meaåns so much to us.” Surely no other distiller deserves these accolades more than Valentine, considering his dedication to the craft. Meanwhile, his brands keep on expanding; watch for a new addition to the Mayor Pingree family to be added in June: the ‘Orange Label’ rye whiskey. Certainly, this is one of the many Valentine brand drinks to look forward to this Summer!

For further information, please visit:
www.ValentineDistilling.com
www.facebook.com/ValentineVodka
www.twitter.com/ValentineVodka

Valentine Distilling Co. is located at:
965 Wanda Street, Ferndale, Michigan.

The Valentine Distilling Co. Cocktail Lounge is at:
161 Vester St., Ferndale, MI,
Hours: Tues.-Thurs. 4:30 P.M. – 11 P.M.; Fri. & Sat. 4:30 P.M. – 1 A.M.; Sun. 12:00 P.M. – 6 P.M.
Closed Mondays.

 

TEMPERS ARE FLARING ONCE AGAIN, with all manner of charges and accusations flying, as Ferndale residents debate the pros and cons of the proposed new parking/mixed-used structure for the corner of Allen and Troy. Below, we present two-and-a-half perspectives with the hopes of sorting out a little bit of the fact and fiction:

By Clint Hubbell

MY NAME IS CLINT HUBBELL, AND I AM A HOMEOWNER IN FERNDALE. People love to be in Ferndale. They love the energy, they love the diversity, and they which is why it’s fun to be here.

There is an issue with everyone wanting to be here, though: Parking. As optimistic as I am about public transit, including the SMART system, the potential for light rail making its way up Wood-ward Avenue into Ferndale and beyond, and our fantastic new bike-friendly attitude, the fact remains that for shoppers, entertainment-seekers, eaters and drinkers and learners, the primary mode of transportation is the car. I love our walk-able city — I live within walking distance of our downtown, and we take advantage of it. We love to bike and, having lived in Seattle and Chicago, I know the true value and power of robust public transit.

But what if you don’t live within walking or biking distance, and you want to be here? The bus?Sure, you can take the bus. But by-and-large, the option is the car. Cars give a flexibility that people value — they come and go at the driver’s whim, which means they fit the driver’s need whether that need is a ten-minute shopping trip or a two-hour dinner. Until that reality is cured by a serious investment in public transportation, the car will remain the primary mode of transportation in and out of Ferndale for out-of-towners who want to be here. And it shows. Although admittedly anecdotal, anyone who wants to come down-town in a car on Saturday knows that is always a losing proposition, and many people who want to spend their money here end up going elsewhere. The city’s natural reaction is to balance additional parking for cars and catering to the car culture on one hand with making our city livable, workable, and playable on the other.

The result: A “mixed-use” parking/commercial/residential development. But problems come when we try to be everything to everyone. Here are what I see as the cons to the pro-posed mixed-use development currently being advanced by the City of Ferndale for the Lot 6 location at W. Troy St. and Allen Road, where there is an existing street-level parking lot operated by the City:

• The Mixed-Use Development is Expensive. The City anticipates issuing bonds in the amount of 15 million dollars to cover the costs involved with the project. The current mixed-use plan involves a cast-in-place structure with footings sunk far down as 130 feet (because Ferndale is built on a swampy area). Fifteen million dollars is, objectively, a lot of money, and it is guaranteed by Ferndale’s taxpayers, in spite of the City’s best intentions of repaying the bonds with fees gathered from the parking system. This is putting a lot of Ferndale’s financial eggs in one parking basket.

• People Don’t Want to Walk or Bike for five Months of the Year in Michigan. Let’s face it: from November to March, people want to drive into a snow-plowed lot, do their business, get back in their car and go home — usually with as little time spent outside as possible. They don’t care about walk-ability, bike-ability, or atmosphere when there is a foot of snow on the ground. Mostly, people are doing what they can to keep it together until the sun emerges once again. The atmosphere generated by a fancy parking development won’t matter.

• The Mixed Use Development Creates a Long-Term Parking Solution at the Expense of the Short-Term/drop-off and pick-up user. There are only going to be a very small number of spaces on the first floor of the mixed-use structure, adding parking time, and walking time in and out of the lot. Also, as it is, there is only one proposed entrance/exit from the mixed-use structure. While the City assures us that this will not cause an increase in traffic on W. Troy, there is a natural bottleneck that occurs when there is only one way in and out of the structure.

• The Public/Private Partnership May Create Unnecessary Entanglements. Aside from the City getting its information from the firms who stand to benefit financially from a relationship with the City, one idea for the mixed-use development is to derive rents from first floor commercial spaces and possibly property tax revenue from residential units, and from possible high-end commercial or residential space above the top level of the parking structure. Who’s the management company?

Who’s going to lease the commercial spaces when there are no chain-stores or liquor licenses permitted? This revenue stream is less than clear.

• There is No Meaningful Parking Mitigation Plan. The City projects that “Phase 1” of the mixed-use development will take between 12 and 15 months to complete. This means that for as many as 15 months the shoppers and business owners will not have the benefit of the 130+ spots in Lot 6. The simple fact is that the City does not know what to tell the folks who want to come and spend their money, drop off and pick up their children, eat breakfast, grab lunch, have a beer, munch on a cupcake, or pick up some take-out. There are plans, but the plans put peoples cars far away from businesses and are not well-conceived.

• Does not keep the character of Ferndale. In spite of the best intentions of the City to keep this project in tune with Ferndale’s vibe, the proposal for a transfer floor on the fourth floor of this structure leaves the option open to use the space above the fourth floor, potentially to five or six stories, directly adjacent to a residential neighbor-hood and single or two-story commercial spaces between Troy and 9 Mile Rd. There is nothing, except for the Ferndale Center Building or Credit Union One that rivals that height. Also, the generic mod architecture does nothing to maintain our funky rep; it makes us look like everyone else.

There are many more problems with the mixed-use proposal. There is an alternative, however, which is a precast structure that addresses many of the concerns above.

• Less Expensive. The precast, single-use, parking structure is less expensive because the construction is largely prefabricated. It is unclear how much less, but the City of Rochester, for example, added about 550 spots for approximately $12 million dollars in 2015-16.
(www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/oakland/county/2015/01/18/rochester-parking-plan/21953215/) By contrast, the proposed mixed-use plan nets only about 200 additional spots at an estimated cost of $15 million.

• Accessibility in the Winter. The precast, single-use, parking structure gives people an easy-in-easy-out option for patronizing local businesses, eliminating walking around a first floor of commercial space or taking an elevator to get to the 9 Mile businesses.

In addition to being less expensive and easier to use, a single-use structure means that the City doesn’t need to be a landlord, won’t need a management company taking a cut of the revenue received from renters, can continue (but not expand) relationships with its existing parking vendor, and doesn’t need to worry about contracts for air rights and residential units.

Because of the issues with a mixed-use development and the simplicity offered by a single-use pre-cast parking structure, I favor the latter, leaving the “space-making” developments for other projects better suited for space-making.

Name Withheld

FERNDALE HAS THE CHANCE TO TAKE A BOLD STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION — by building a sorely needed parking deck that would help alleviate our city’s parking crunch in a way that enhances the vibrancy of downtown. The proposed four-story garage would create nearly 400 parking spaces out of a parking lot that now holds 139. It would feature ground-floor retail and office space, a design that would expand the city’s tax base, make the deck more financially viable and add to the street life that Ferndale has worked so hard to nurture over the years.

It also would come with green-space buffers and walls to minimize the impact on homeowners immediately adjacent to the structure. And it would be paid for not with taxes, but with revenue from the city’s parking system.

What’s not to like about it? You would have thought the idea would have brought the end of downtown Ferndale, the way opponents lashed out at it, creating a petition and hiring a professional company to gather signatures to put the issue to a city-wide vote. To this day, the business owner who financed the canvassing hasn’t identified himself or herself publicly, but the professional signature gatherers told residents that signing the petition was “to support the parking deck” or to force a choice between the four-story deck or a smaller, three-story deck with no first-floor commercial space. I heard from at least a dozen people who, they were embarrassed to admit, had signed the petition not realizing what it would do.

The canvassers didn’t tell the truth: that the city-wide vote only would have been on whether to allow the city to seek bonds to pay for a parking deck; there was no choice between one or another, and rejecting the bond issue would have meant starting over at square one. I can’t count how many times the city has had to do that in the nearly 20 years I’ve lived in Ferndale. Other residents and I co-founded the Support the Ferndale Parking Deck page on Facebook to fight back and interject some truth into the debate to counter the misinformation opponents were spreading.

They claimed:

• Taxpayers would be on the hook for $20 million in bonds for the deck. Well, sure, in the same way a bank is on the hook for a home mortgage. The $20 million figure, it should be noted, is the maximum the city could seek in bonds to build the deck, which likely would cost several million dollars less than that. The bonds would be repaid not by taxes, on property or otherwise, but by revenue from parking fees and violations. Ferndale now brings in about $1 million a year from its parking system, a figure expected to grow once the deck is built. And it’s quite reasonable to assume that parking revenue will remain steady, short of some catastrophic event that stops people from visiting downtown and paying to park.

• The four-story deck would take up to two years to build, while a parking-only, three-story deck would only take six months. Both claims were untrue. Expert construction projections are that the four-story deck would take 12-15 months to complete, with parking available in as little as 11 months, while a three-story deck would take 9-12 months. The reason is that no matter which deck is built, construction requires excavating to reach bed-rock that supports the weight of the deck — about 130 feet deep in Ferndale — adding months to construction.

• The City would become a “landlord” for the commercial space in the deck. Again, untrue. “The City has no intention of becoming a landlord,” Assistant City Manager Joe Gacioch, who is spearheading the project, told me. He said the city might sell the commercial space to a private comp-any or pursue options including a long-term lease with a property management company or a public-private partnership. In that case, primary day-to-day management of the commercial space would be up to the private sector, although the city would retain say in what sorts of businesses could locate there to make sure they fit in with the city’s vision for downtown.

There were more claims, and I could go on, but at this point we are all better off coming together to determine as a community how to best build this parking deck and to minimize the impact construction will have on downtown businesses.

There will be disruption, no doubt. I hope residents hold city officials to their pledges to do as much as they can to minimize the harm to down-town businesses by providing shuttles for workers, free valet service for customers and a well-publicized campaign to remind visitors that downtown Ferndale will be open for business throughout.

What we’ll get in return is a parking deck that will make it easier for the residents and visitors who love our downtown to be able to find a parking space when they get there— instead of driving in circles endlessly looking for a spot, or avoiding going there altogether.

By stephanie loveless

APPARENTLY, MANY OF YOU ARE HAVING A PARKING PROBLEM. I am sorry to hear it. I have lived in Ferndale for 33 years, and never once had a parking problem – there has always been a handy tree or signpost to lock my bike.

Out of every 100 days, there are generally one or two when the weather is bad enough to feel sorry for myself, on the bike. But most of the time, I feel sorry for what you are missing! It’s a whole different world, living at 12-miles-per-hour, and you might really love it.

People have been trying to build this damn parking structure here in Ferndale for as long as I can remember, and it looks like they are going to get it this time. But I want you to know that lots of us have given a big cheer every time these plans have gone unfulfilled. I want to speak up for those of us who hate the thought of ANY kind of immense cement structure dominating our beloved home town! We like Ferndale just the way it is, and the less you change the better. How many others feel the same? We’ll never know, and it would have been better to put the matter to a vote. If this thing goes badly, the people who resisted a vote will take a lot of heat for it.

There are plenty of cement mountains to the south of us, and to the north, east and west. We came to Ferndale because we love our small-town lifestyle in the greater metropolitan setting. We’ve really enjoyed the last 20 years while this whole parking structure debacle has remained nothing more than a debate over blueprints.

I guess it’s coming this time, though! That’s okay. This is your town too. Just please understand that we’re not in love with the idea of having our paradise paved over just so you can have another place to park your car.

 

Story by Sara E. Teller
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

FERNDALE WILL SOON BE HOSTING TWO COMMUNITY-WIDE GARAGE SALES, TO TAKE PLACE ON THE EAST AND WEST SIDES OF WOODWARD. Organizers set up a polling system on the Ferndale Forum Facebook page, asking members to vote on two separate weekends for each side to hold their sales.

The East Side will be on Saturday, June 17th. The West Side opted for Saturday, July 8th. Both will last from 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. with rain days on those Sundays.

“Anyone in the 48220 zip code who wants to participate can plan their own sale at their own property,” said Carey Gufstason of Ferndale’s Glass Action, who helped to coordinate the events. Those who wish to participate can also “encourage neighbors to have a block sale to drive more traffic their way and set up Craigslist ads.” The organizers are asking that anyone who chooses to post an ad list it under the heading “Ferndale Garage Sale (East or West) Side” so the posts are searchable. “The sale won’t be at a building or lot,” Carey clarifies. “Just individual homes that wish to sell.”

“It’s like any other city wide sale,” she says, “You pick a date and do it! Ours is unique only because Woodward splits us in two, and this is a fun way to support and explore each other’s sides of Ferndale.”

The garage sale has received quite a bit of traction on Facebook. “This is really word of mouth via Facebook,” Carey says. “If someone on Academy wants in, they simply plan their sale on the East Side date. When shoppers see on Craigslist that there are 30-plus houses all on one side of Woodward having a sale, for example, they can get around and see more possibly, in a concentrated area this way. Then come back weeks later for the other side.”

Carey says the purpose of the sale is to unite the community of Ferndale in a fun way. “The root is a traditional, city-wide sale. Having two creates a fun, community opportunity. In the end everyone gets new treasures, meets new neighbors and makes a little cash cleaning out your cupboards.

In the last several years online buy/sell/trade pages have really kicked up a lot of off-season selling, and I confess, I got way into it,” Carey says, “But it’s different. It’s usually a ‘porch-pick up’ kind of thing and most times you’re not coming face-to-face. Old time yard sales are a fun way to mix it up with the community.”

Carey encourages members of the community to “Invite out-of-city friends and promote in the old-fashion and also new-fangled ways. Take lots of pictures, make ads, make signs. Just be sure they’re in spots that are okay to display them or they’ll be pulled down. The City of Ferndale does not enforce permits to have a garage sale. This is all by individuals willing to put their sales together.”

The garage sales are a great way to promote health and wellness during the summer months, as well. “I always encourage people shopping to bike ride around if the weather permits,” Carey adds, “And, also a great piece of advice to sellers: Don’t hold unpaid goods for buyers, but make an exception for bikers to return for their items post-sale.”

As far as other advice, Carey says, “I like to donate goods after the sale and would ask others to consider it instead of putting it to the street. If you call Purple Heart, Grace Centers or other organizations in advance, they’ll come get your goods sometimes that day or the day after. Imagine if they had trucks and trucks full of goods just from Ferndalians? That would be awesome!”

By Adam O’Connor

JUST BEFORE THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER REALLY SLAP METRO DETROITERS IN THE FACE, FERNDALE HAS FOUND YET ANOTHER REASON TO CELEBRATE.  AND WHAT DO PEOPLE LOVE MORE THAN GOOD BBQ WHEN THE WEATHER’S NICE?

Well, a few things they love just as much happen to be as good booze, great beer, and outstanding music. Fortunately, the newest Ferndale summer festival provides exactly those things – and more.

Bruise, BBQ & Bourbon – produced by Ferndale’s  own Ultimate Fun Productions and The Social Connection – kicks off it’s inaugural celebration in the summer the weekend of June 16–18. The festival will take place down the main thorough fare of East 9 Mile Road in Downtown Ferndale.

The weekend will feature two stages of continuous music – one acoustic and one main stage – featuring the likes of local and regional acts like George Morris in the Gypsy Chorus, Ryan Delilah and the Miracle Men, the Whiskey Charmers, Dan Tillery, Alise King, Tosha Owens, Tripp N Dixie, AwesomeR, and Flint’s one man band Sweet Willy Tea amongst others.

The event will also feature everyone’s favorite festival foods – definitely focused on BBQ, but also offering up a smattering of other items for those who don’t partake in summertime’s grilled and smoke treats. Local BBQ purveyors Smoke Ring BBQ, Detroit BBQ company, Stonewood Smokehouse and more will be joined by the other great Michigan BBQ slinging champs like Lansing’s The Smoking Pig and Hollands Hogwild BBQ. Some pit masters (such as Smoke Shack) will be coming from so far as Columbus Ohio – and they will undoubtedly be more announced.

An abundance of craft beer will also be present, as well as a varied choice of booze – from smoky bourbons to aged whiskey’s and more. There will even be a Moscow Mule tent featuring every type of Mule variation you’ve heard of – and some you haven’t – such as the Mexican Mule (tequila, ginger beer and lime juice), Gin Gin Mule (gin, ginger beer, lime juice) and Cider Mule (vodka, ginger beer, hard apple cider, and lime juice) and a bunch more! Further, Cocktail Creations is your destination to sample a variety of classic newly-conceived summer cocktails if Moscow Mules aren’t your thing. And finally, if you were hoping for a great selection of bourbons you won’t be disappointed by the offerings on Bourbon Boulevard.

There will be all-ages fun as well, offering games, the kids zone face painting, Michigan’s favorite backyard past time of cornhole and tons of more wholesome and family friendly entertainment for anyone who feels like bringing themselves out to the free event

The event takes place on Friday, June 16 from the hours of 5 pm until Midnight; Saturday, June 17 from Noon until Midnight; and Sunday, June 18 from Noon until 10pm.

Further information and festival updates are available at brewsbbqbourbon.com or by visiting the event’s social media (you can even entered to win a free slab of ribs!).

By Jeff Milo

What better way to get to know a band than in a cozy, domestic setting like a front porch? Michael Benghiat and Gary Graff’s vision of more than two dozen Ferndale homes hosting a diverse lineup of more than 30 regional bands is coming to life on Saturday, June 24. This six-hour suburban music festival is called The Front Porch, and it doubles as a prototype, or pilot program, for what could turn into a regular television show (of the same name). The concept has been pitched to Detroit Public Television (DPTV, Detroit’s PBS affiliate) already, and could be shopped to other media outlets as well.

Benghiat, head of Front Porch Productions and founder/CEO of Optimum Marketing, has been a lifelong music fan. He has vast experience in event-planning, marketing and communications in the global entertainment industry, most notably with Olympia Entertainment. Graff, meanwhile, is a venerated local music journalist who’s byline and features regularly appear in The Oakland Press. When they went to the Ferndale City Council and special events committee to present their idea for an afternoon’s worth of outdoor musical performances situated upon Ferndalian front porches for a strolling audience of neighbors, families and music lovers, the response was more than enthusiastic!

“We thought it’d be really cool to be a part of this because we’ve played many stages, but never a front porch,” said Carrie Shepard, singer/guitarist of local country/rock quartet The Whiskey Charmers. “Plus, Ferndale is just a town that really supports live music. Hanging out on a front porch, playing some of our songs in such a relaxed setting, it’s bound to result in a cool, unique vibe!”

“I think it definitely compliments the overall vibe that is ‘Fabulous Ferndale,’” said Joshua James, the multi-genre-specialist and leader of string-band/Dixie-jazz outfit The Ashton Neighborhood Pleasure Club. “We’re a very connected neighborhood; residents really embody that motto of ‘Good neighbors,’ and I think something like (The Front Porch) could be the perfect catalyst to strengthen the community. Having been to Jackson Square in New Orleans where everyone is out playing music, I can say that having something like a porch concert is going to be a lot of fun.“

Something similar to the schema of Benghiat and Graff’s citywide concert has been achieved in other markets, with great success and an expectedly enthusiastic response from residents. Various Porch Fests are featured in up to 50 communities around the country, but Benghiat’s idea is to develop this into a TV show where he and Graff can travel to several cities all around Michigan where they can film vibrant, music-packed portraits of that area’s local artists, interviewing bands on front porches and filming live performances. DPTV loved Benghiat’s idea, but they requested a pilot episode first, before they decide on whether or not they’d like to produce a full season of episodes.

That makes Ferndale’s June 24 Front Porch Show the possible precursor to a future television show. Benghiat arranged for a film crew to capture each performance and prepare a feature-length package to DPTV and other channels of distribution. After that, fingers are crossed! Benghiat hopes to know by mid-Autumn whether or not The Front Porch can start stepping it up!

Meanwhile, mark your calendars for June 24! And get your maps out! North of Marshall, east of Central, South of Maplehurst and west of Livernois! You’re going to find up to 25 houses in that square of sidestreets hosting 35+ local bands, including The Luddites, The Codgers, The Corktown Popes, Brother Hallow, and many more!

For more information, visit facebook.com/pg/frontporchmi

Story By Maggie Boleyn
Photos By Bernie LaFramboise

SAY “FOOD TRUCK” TO PEOPLE OF A CERTAIN AGE, AND IT WILL PROBABLY CONJURE UP VISIONS OF TIGHTLY-WRAPPED MYSTERY SANDWICHES, OR CORN DOGS AND COTTON CANDY AT THE STATE FAIR. THAT IS SO LAST CENTURY. TODAY’S FOOD TRUCKS ARE MORE OF A “MOVEABLE FEAST,” AND DEFINITELY NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER’S FOOD TRUCK.

Food trucks are a growing trend. In fact, according to the Food Liability Insurance Program (FLIP), an online insurance program which caters to the insurance needs of the food distributing industries,“food trucks are driving a healthy trend and steering people towards local, sustainable, and organic foods.”

FLIP reports that mobile food businesses report a 9.3 per cent increase in revenue since 2010. In 2015, the mobile food industry was valued at $856.7 million and that number is expected to increase another $130 million by 2019.

And, it looks very promising that, come this summer, the East Side of Ferndale will be helping to fuel that trend. “Detroit Fleat,” a food-truck-themed eatery, will launch on the site at 1820 E. Nine Mile near Wanda Street, which originally housed Wing Hing Inn.

“We are moving along nicely, and the place is looking great,” says Aaron Tye, owner of Delectabowl Food Truck and Catering, and the driving force behind Detroit Fleat. Tye said construction started “the day we closed on the property,” back in February of 2017.

“We are excited to bring some great food to the East Side of Ferndale,” Tye says of his plans for Detroit Fleat. “We know that the options are limited on that side of town and by bringing in private owned food trucks that specialize in respected cuisines, we are confident that everyone can find something they like.”

The Detroit Fleat concept envisions several food trucks at the Nine Mile location. Tye explains, “We will have a few of the top food trucks in Metro Detroit on a semi-permanent basis, and also a rotating truck slot to keep things interesting.”

Having several food trucks means that customers will be able to enjoy a variety of choices, Tye says. “The great thing about eating from gourmet food trucks is that they keep their menus limited to a few items to what they do best. Rarely do you find a restaurant that specializes at everything on their menu. But you are able to do that by having multiple food trucks. Tacos, BBQ, comfort food, Mediterranean, burgers are just a few menu items that you will see between the trucks at Detroit Fleat.”
Tye, a former Ferndale resident, had been looking for a spot for a food truck court for some time before selecting the Nine Mile location.

“We started looking for a more permanent location for food trucks a few years back when we launched our food truck, Delectabowl,” he said. “We have always kept our eye on properties in Ferndale due to the community and the city’s willingness to work with food trucks and try new concepts.”

Tye adds, “We will have a year-round house menu featuring some street food favorites along with a full craft cocktail and beer bar. Our space will be great for private events and pop ups. Detroit Fleat will also be a great resource for anyone looking for info on booking food trucks for private events which has been a growing need between event organizers and food trucks.”

By David Wesley

SINCE FERNDALE FRIENDS LAST SPOKE TO DAVE PHILLIPS of Ferndale Community Radio (FCR), there has been an outpouring of support for the station, in particular from local businesses. The future is optimistic for FCR. The Rust Belt Market, in downtown Ferndale has been their anchor in keeping them going and providing a base for their work. Dave Phillips spoke to me about the current happenings of FCR and where they are at now with their goals.

DW: Since we last spoke a couple months ago, how much progress has there been in getting Ferndale Community Radio off the ground?
DP: We’ve seen an outpouring of support from the community, local businesses in particular. We’re over the moon about the number of local businesses who have pledged money, and we hope to recruit a few more in the near future. If all goes well, we should be on the air by the end of Summer, but there are still a few hurdles to jump.

DW: What will it take for FCR to finally reach its goal and how can people help make it happen?
DP: There are three main ways people can help:
Donate. Any little bit helps.
Spread the word. There are many more people out there who would support this project but just don’t know about it yet. The more people who know about it, the more donations we get.
Inform local businesses and connect them to us. We offer generous underwriting packages that are perfect for local businesses to spread the word.

We could reach our goal if we get five to ten more businesses to sign on.

DW: What will be the biggest perks to FCR and how will it affect the city and community?
DP: It’s similar to the difference between eating at a Chili’s or Imperial. Commercial radio stations are bland, and designed to appeal to as many people as possible. This station is unique and targeted toward a specific demographic – the Ferndale resident.

Local bands will be played extensively. Local stories will be covered in depth. In the event of an emergency, we’ll be focusing specifically on the Ferndale aspect. We’ll be playing songs that you won’t be able to hear anywhere else on the FM dial.

DW: How will the FCR impact the Rust Belt and vice versa, since the Rust Belt will be the broadcast center?
DP: In short, this project would have been dead in the water without the Rust Belt. We can’t thank them enough for giving us a space and really breathing life back into Ferndale Radio. We’re excited about having an impact on the Rust Belt, too. Shoppers will be able to hear our signal inside and they’ll be able to see us. It probably exists somewhere, but I can’t think of many radio stations where the DJs are as visible as we will be. It should create a unique shopping experience.

DW: We here at Ferndale Friends encourage residents and business owners to support FCR any way they can, preferably with donations. This is a project that will benefit the entire city and add so much more to our lives here. More about Ferndale Community Radio can found at facebook.com/FerndaleRadio or ferndaleradio@gmail.com

Just before going to press, project organizer Michelle Mirowski announced that they are working out the final details with the City. Our fingers are crossed…

www.Ferndaleradio.com

 

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Photo by Dawn Henry

A FRIEND JUST RETURNED FROM A TRIP TO BERKELEY (California, not our neighbors to the northwest of us), where he reported that walking down the city’s famed and freaky Shattuck Ave., one smells the pungent odor of marijuana constantly.

Our city of Berkley voted to decriminalize weed in a 2014 city referendum, as has Ferndale, Oak Park, even upscale Pleasant Ridge, plus 12 other Michigan cities. The momentum seems so strong that High Times, a cannabis legalization publication, rates our state as one most likely to soon decriminalize marijuana. Vermont’s governor recently vetoed a legalization bill.

However, don’t light up a fatty on any of the Oakland county cities which voted to permit recreational use of the herb. Even though the state passed the Medical Marijuana Act in 2008, local law enforcement officials in Oakland County will not allow even marijuana medicinal dispensaries to operate, and you risk felony prosecution for possession if you don’t have a medical card permitting it.

However, Detroit, which voted to allow usage, has over 250 marijuana dispensaries, many of which dot Eight Mile Rd., conveniently close to a suburban clientele.

Nine Mile Rd. and Woodward isn’t Shattuck Ave. However, it might be soon. MI Legalize, the group whose efforts to get the legalization question on the 2016 ballot was thwarted by a technicality, has an organizing campaign aimed at next year’s election.

Even though 44 states allow medical marijuana, and several permit recreational use, the rub is that it remains illegal at the federal level under the Controlled Substances Act which classifies it with drugs like heroin. The Feds deny that marijuana is a medicine and the courts agree.

In a 2005 ruling, the US Supreme Court affirmed that the federal government has the constitutional authority to prohibit marijuana for all purposes.

Their decision wasn’t based on the right-wing, Puritanical desire to punish pleasure which is now being threatened by US Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, who is demanding increased enforcement of anti-drug laws. Rather, the court recognized the sovereignty of federal law over state or city statutes.
They reason that without that dominance, the state of Alabama could re-institute segregation or Ferndale could declare a minimum wage of $3.75 an hour. After all, it was the unwillingness of Northern states like
Michigan to enforce the Constitution’s guarantee of slavery and the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act that led the South to rebel. It is much like the Sanctuary City movement of today which pits federal law against a city’s refusal to cooperate with immigration police.

But let’s go back to the Dylan song. What are the consequences of widespread and constant marijuana usage on a society and on the individual?

John Sinclair, 1960s MC5 manager and White Panther Party founder, who suffered two prison stints for possession of reefer, saw great political potential for getting high. In 1971, he wrote: “The Marijuana Revolution is just part of the world-wide revolution being carried out by peoples of the Earth who refuse to put up any longer with the exploitation, greed and oppression of the Euro-Amerikan ownership-class.”

Those were heady days and although Sinclair’s words may seem a lot more optimistic regarding the possibility of social change than what occurred, he was onto something. Getting high was part of the rebellion of the era, it was an intoxicant that brought pleasure and mental exploration without the deadening and toxic effect of the mainstream’s favorite mind altering substance—alcohol. Marijuana was part of a process that allowed the generation of the 1960s to shed the rigid strictures and demands of conventional society.

However, as weed and other drug use became more prevalent, state and federal governments realized the economic potential for harsh enforcement and the increase and militarization of their police apparatuses. Thus was born the Prison/Industrial Complex alongside its Military big brother. It’s estimated that $1 trillion has been spent on the so-called War on Drugs This constitutes a massive wealth transfer of our income in taxes to the government to stop people (often us) from altering their consciousness, and to create clients for the Prison/Industrial Complex. Or, as Sinclair once said, “to stop people from smoking flowers.”
We’re moving towards legalization, but what will result from a universal Shattuck Ave.?

Many people see decriminalization like Sinclair did—a force for liberating one’s mind which in turn would liberate society. In fiction, however, the result is often portrayed differently. In Aldous Huxley’s 1933 Brave New World, soma, a “euphoric, narcotic, pleasantly hallucinant” substance is doled out to “Delta workers,” as a method of controlling rebellious impulses.

George Lucas’s 1971 directorial debut film, THX1138, is set in a dystopian 25th Century world, where use of mind-altering drugs is mandatory to enforce compliance.

Whether marijuana can be part of a process of liberation or used by the government as a mind-numbing substance that enforces the status quo isn’t clear. Let’s just be aware of the consequences of what we wish for. But, legalize it!

The MI Legalize campaign can be reached at facebook.com/MiLegalize

Peter Werbe is a member of Fifth Estate magazine’s editorial collective www.FifthEstate.org. On Saturday, July 15, he will moderate a panel at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History which will discuss the legacy of the White Panther Party. Panelists will include Atty. Buck Davis, Geni Parker, Pun Plamondon, Leni Sinclair, and John Sinclair. Admission is free. TheWright.org.