Oct / Nov 2017

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Story by Sara E. Teller
Photos By Amy Claeys Photography

RICKY LENTZ III, OF BERKLEY, PASSED AWAY ON AUGUST 20, 2017 AT THE AGE OF 39, DUE TO A RARE CONGENITAL HEART CONDITION. HIS FAMILY LOST A LOVING HUSBAND AND FATHER. THE COMMUNITY LOST A VERY TALENTED AND GIVING MUSIC LEGEND.

Kevin Davis, known to many as K.D., was close friends with Ricky Lentz III for nearly 30 years. The two were bandmates in several groups, the last of which was Longneck Strangler. “I met Ricky when he was 12 or 13, and I was playing in another local band. I was 18, six years older than Ricky. We became best friends. I ended up being the best man at his wedding. We just did everything together – deer hunting, fishing, went to ball games.”

He describes being as blown away with the young teen’s musical talent as he was with his appearance in the early days. “He was so tall and had a beard, I swear, even at that age. He had hair down to his waist, definitely didn’t look like a preteen.” Ricky was in a band with his father, Rick Jr., at the time, and was already capable of playing numerous instruments when Kevin first met him.

“Ricky was in a band with his dad. That’s how he started. His dad inspired him when Ricky was little and he was playing with a microphone when he was two years old. In the early years, I handled the bookings and promotional events,” says the former musician’s mother, Marlene, who was very proud of her son’s accomplishments.

“At 16, Ricky was doing very well playing all around at local bars, such as New Way,” Marlene says.

“He played in just about every bar in Michigan by the time he turned 18,” Kevin explained. “We did a lot of shows at Emerald Theatre back then, as part of the Psychedelic Blues Society and then with JoCaine.”

Ricky was a forced to be reckoned with on stage. “He’s was involved in all different genres of music from punk, to rock to reggae,” according to Marlene. Kevin adds, “Even at a young age, Ricky could play the guitar like Jimmy Hendrix.”

Marlene describes Ricky as a family man, first and foremost. “His presence on the stage and off – it was almost as if he was too different people,” she explains, adding, “On stage, he had a very commanding presence. Off stage, he would wear glasses and a ball cap. He was humble and quiet, always putting his family first.”

RICKY LEAVES BEHIND his wife Lana and two children, Lulu, five and Henry, three. “I remember one time I walked into the living room and he was singing a song from a cartoon that was on the T.V. while the kids ran around and danced,” Marlene recalls. She said Ricky was known for singing “Let It Go” from the Frozen movie for the kids. “He never left a family function without saying thanks for having us. Always with gratitude. Him and Lana had a special relationship, too. Near perfect as a marriage could be.”

Kevin echoed her sentiments. “Ricky was a God-fearing man, a man of faith. He loved his family, his two children and his wife. His main priorities were God, his family, and the band, in that order. And, he loved to make people feel good about themselves.”

“I have no words to describe how heartbroken our family is,” said Ricky’s aunt, Melissa Schwartz. Her family has been heavily involved in the area for many years. “My family has been ingrained and active within the community for three generations.”
Melissa says Ricky “inherited all of the positive traits of both his mother and father. He was special – a very dutiful man.”
Kevin said Ricky never forgot his roots and was always reaching out to the community, hoping to give back. “We always tried to be charitable,” he said. “Especially to Hazel Park, our hometown. We grew up together. Knew a lot of the same people and had many of the same friends.”

Kevin said the band had a shared goal of wanting listeners to hear their music and relate to it. “We wanted it to reflect what people went through in life. Let them have their own artistic translation of the lyrics, let their minds paint a picture.”
And, Ricky, who wrote some of the music, was very intelligent. “He was real smart,” Marlene says. “Always a book in this hand and the Bible in his pocket.” Kevin and Ricky were engineers by day and they would often “talk to each other in German.” He laughs, “We were always challenging each other, you know, with different trivia and tidbits.”

KEVIN SAID THAT IN 2012, Longneck Strangler signed a deal with Funky D Records and put out an album in 2014, entitled Home. “It was meant to be a tribute about going back home after being gone on the road. There was a trilogy of songs relating to home titled Home, Coming Home and Get Back Home. Listening to the tracks now, I can feel Ricky’s emotions in the lyrics,” he says. “I just hope memories of Ricky will live on through the songs.”

“One time, I was watching a performance,” Marlene recalls. “An audience member said to Ricky ‘you’re our hero.’ My son shook his hand and replied, ‘No, you’re mine.’ That’s the kind of person my son was.”

SUPPORT THE LENTZ FAMILY SECOND CHANCE
ON AUGUST 20, 2017, Lana, Lulu and Henry unexpectedly lost Ricky Lentz – husband, father and sole breadwinner – to an extremely rare congenital heart condition. The young family was only beginning their lives together and was unprep-ared for such a tragedy. After spending most of his life as a musician, performing with Longneck Strangler and many other bands, Ricky had begun a new career to provide for his new loves; his wife and young daughter and son, only five- and three-years-old.
Sadly, these few years were not enough for Ricky to set up his loved ones for a future that unexpectedly and unfortunately would be without him. Ricky was a proud and private man, rarely one to ask for help. We know, however, that in his death, Ricky wouldn’t want to cause any hardship to anyone, and would want to know that Lana, Lulu and Henry were taken care of.

As you can imagine, it is extremely difficult for the family to recover, either emotionally or financially. In any case, they are facing this misfortune, and we would like to enable a second chance for Lana, giving her time to find a way to support her family.

www.youcaring.com/lanalentz-951730

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By: Rebecca Hammond
Photos: Bernie LaFramboise

YEARS AGO, PHIL AND I WERE WALKING HOME AFTER BREAKFAST at a now-defunct eatery with potatoes as good as their staff was rude, and were marveling that we kept returning for more punishment. We stopped to talk to a handsome, elegant man, barefoot, wearing only athletic shorts and a diamond earring, who was smoking a cigarette and looking up, watching a friend on his roof trying to catch a stranded baby raccoon. The three of us chatted, then Phil and I headed home. And we looked at each other and said, “Oh, that was Councilman Covey!”

If there’s a such thing as a Jack of Many Trades for social change, Ferndale has just regrettably said goodbye to one. Longtime resident and champion of gay rights, water issues, and social justice, Craig Covey is returning to his home state of Ohio. He’s a former Ferndale mayor – the first openly gay mayor ever in the State of Michigan – city councilman, and CEO of MAPP (the Midwest Aids Prevention Program). He’s the creator of the Ferndale Pride Fest. He held a seat on the Oakland County Water Commission, and the Oakland County Commission. He ran for office and won many times, and he wasn’t afraid to go for long shots and lose either, like running for Oakland County sheriff against an incumbent. He appeared fearless and tireless, willing to take chances, prioritizing what he felt was right above any attempt to conform to what seemed uniformly popular. But popular he was, and very successful on a number of levels.

FF: Craig, you’re leaving Ferndale after decades of making a difference. What brought you to Michigan years ago?
Craig Covey: I came from Columbus Ohio in 1985 to become director of the Michigan Organization for Human Rights, the group that later became the Triangle Foundation. I had founded the gay rights group in Ohio, and Michigan wanted the same thing up here. I saw a kernel of possibility in Ferndale. This was 1989, and the downtown was an empty canyon. Woodward had adult theaters, strip clubs, and massage parlors. It was a blank canvas.

Metro Detroit did not have a “gay neighborhood” like every other major city. A few of us saw Ferndale as a possible place to try and attract LGBT people, artists, young folks, and other alternative types. It took a decade to make this happen but eventually they came to this eclectic, middle-and-working-class town, and created what we now know as this cool place.

Metro Detroit is one of the most segregated large cities in the country and, for all of the diversity in the region, very few were promoting it as the amazingly positive thing that it is. Visionary leaders such as former city manager Tom Barwin had a role in understanding the importance of attracting the
“creative class.”

When did you first run for office?
I got involved in local politics pretty quickly, as I had been an activist since my early teens in Ohio. With gay leaders like Rudy Serra and Ann Heler, we began to work toward a gay rights ordinance by 1991. That effort of course took ten years and three ballot initiatives. At that time Ferndale was still under the control of conservatives and “Reagan Democrats.”

I first ran for city council as an openly gay candidate in 1995, and came in last place. But, under the leadership of folks like Chuck Goedert and Bob Porter, Ferndale started to become more diverse and progressive, and I won a seat on council just in time for the millennium.

What was that decade of Ferndale’s transition like?
The push-back from all of this was quick and sustained. Certainly, there was resistance from the top levels of the police administration and others to our notions of inclusion and diversity, particularly around matters of race. To this day, Ferndale has the least number of officers of color than any city around us. As the march toward high-end development and further gentrification continues, I hope the city does not price itself out of reach to young people, seniors, and ethnic and racial minorities. It would be a shame if we turned into another Royal Oak or Birmingham.

That seems an ongoing risk. What were the strengths you brought to all this?
I’ve always been best at providing leadership to start new things and provide the creative angle to challenge the status quo and rock the boat. I’m less effective sometimes at sustaining more mature organizations. Of the several careers paths I participated in here, my favorite was the election and holding of political leadership.

But, after 13 years as a councilman, mayor and commissioner, there was no path left to continue such work. With Republicans gerrymandering districts and many Democrats staying in their offices for decades, it was time to go. When I first moved to Michigan in 1985, my Congressman was Sander Levin. When I left the state last month in 2017, my Congressman was still Sander Levin. There are very limited opportunities for energetic Democrats with new and progressive ideas. Young people need to get involved and run for local office so we have choices in our elections.

What’s sending you back to Ohio now?
I had always planned to move back to my home state eventually, and set the age of reaching 60 as my deadline. I had always planned on getting some land and living in a more bucolic setting. I want to hear crickets and the wind more, and less car alarms and police sirens. Besides writing a book or two, I will be planting trees and advocating for Mother Earth.

What memories do you hold most dear?
I’m proud of many great things about the City of Ferndale. We put the city on the map and folks noticed. It would be surprising to many here now that just a few years ago the City banned tattoo parlors, massage therapy, and even dancing in the down-town. Gay people and African Americans were barely tolerated. The downtown was barren, and the neighborhoods bordered on shabby. Today it is full of energy, young people, and at least purports to be welcoming to all.

Is it smooth sailing from now on?
The danger is to lose perspective and not go over-board. If three festivals per summer are great, that doesn’t mean that having ten festivals is better. If 20 clubs and restaurants are cool, that does not mean that we should allow 40. If building some new apartments or lofts is desirable, that does not necessarily mean we should construct high-rises and fill every single space with expensive development. If bike paths are desirable, that doesn’t mean we need 42 giant yellow walk signs on less than a mile of Hilton Road.

A few words about Craig:
Monica Mills: Craig was a wonderful neighbor, extremely helpful mentor, fair, hard-working boss that led his staff well, and a friend Larry and I will cherish forever.

Councilman Dan Martin: Craig was always willing to take a stance on what he felt was right. It didn’t always make him popular, but he followed his passions and beliefs. He was a believer that by leveraging government you could make positive social change. He was a very credible public servant and a good friend.

Rudy Serra (former judge/county commissioner): His work for equal justice has been continuing since his arrival in Michigan. Craig grew to be a recognized leader of the LGBTQ community and then a valued member of the entire Ferndale community. His service as mayor of Ferndale marked an important, coming-of-age moment for the city. Craig moved to Ferndale during a time of increasing development, diversity, and prosperity. His election to council and, more importantly, as mayor, helped to solidify our community’s reputation as an LGBTQ-friendly area.

stephanie loveless, publisher of Ferndale Friends: In Ferndale’s 90-year history, there aren’t many who have left a bigger mark on our city. Craig was instrumental in making Ferndale a better place to live, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude for it.

By Sara E. Teller & stephanie loveless

ALTHOUGH HE LIVES IN LANSING, Hugh McNichol quite possibly knows – and cares – more about Ferndale elections than pretty much anyone who actually lives here.

He’s been working with the State Bureau of Elections, regarding Ferndale. He’s been lobbying the State legislature on our behalf. He helped form a Lansing chapter of the organization, Represent Us, and organized a rally at the State Capitol earlier this year as part of his election reform efforts. And so much more.
And you’ve probably never even heard his name before.

“Ferndale was technically my first home. I was born in Warren because Ferndale — where my parents lived –didn’t have a hospital, or so my parents tell me. We moved to Lansing shortly after and I’ve called Lansing my home ever since. I joined the Army Reserves after high school (2000) and in 2006-2007, I deployed to Iraq. That’s probably what got me interested in governments, not just ours but world-wide.”

McNichol became involved in the push for Instant Run-off Voting (IRV) last year after the results of the election. He wasn’t in favor of either of the two front runners and didn’t think it was right to be forced into choosing someone he dislikes over a candidate he believes in. “Should I vote my ideals and waste my vote on a candidate that has no chance?” Hugh asked himself, “or, should I vote the reality of the race and choose the lesser of two evils?” The current voting system doesn’t allow for other options.

“I realized our democracy is broken whenever more than two candidates are running, and I wanted to help fix it. IRV allows us to vote our ideals without worrying about it helping the candidate we dislike the most.” Under this voting system, “winners must have majority support, more than 50 per cent of the vote (as opposed to a mere plurality). It empowers voters and makes their preferences matter,” Hugh explains.

With IRV, a voter is given the opportunity to rank their choice of candidates one-two-three. For example, in the last general election, a voter may have marked their ballot 1) Clinton, 2) Stein, 3) Johnson. If any candidate gets a simple majority, they win. If nobody gets at least 50 per cent, then the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and if that candidate is your first choice then the second choice on your ballot is counted instead. The process continues until finally one candidate emerges with majority support of the electorate.

“One of my favorite applications for IRV is its use by military voters located overseas,” he says. Five states allow members of the military overseas to rank their choice of candidates. This ballot can then be counted in the primary, general, and any subsequent runoff election, instead of their local clerks having to mail them another ballot. Right now, if a ballot arrives after the votes are counted in a primary, it doesn’t count.

“That’s an unnecessary disenfranchisement of our service members overseas and I’d like to see more states, including Michigan, adopt it.”

IN 2004, THE RESIDENTS OF FERNDALE voted overwhelmingly – 70 per cent to 30 per cent — in favor of using IRV for our mayoral and council races. So why aren’t we using the system? For one thing, Ferndale’s voting machines at the time were incapable of the simple calculations necessary to conduct an IRV election. Addition-ally, there have been roadblocks from the State. “When I’d found out that the biggest roadblock impeding implementation was the cost of upgrade to compatible machines, I started calling the Bureau of Elections. I requested that the new machines they were already planning to purchase be IRV compatible, especially because Ferndale had been waiting since 2004,” McNichol says.

His efforts, along with that of other supporters, were not wasted, and Ferndale’s new machines are indeed capable of IRV.

However, there was yet another challenge to over-come. “The next hurdle was ballot instructions. Although IRV, or “preferential voting,” is authorized in our State Constitution, Michigan’s Election Law con-tains no official ballot instructions to tell voters how to rank their preferences.” Without instructions, voters might get confused. But adding step-by-step directions is as simple as including something like:

1) Pick your first-choice candidate, and darken the oval next to that candidate under “1st Choice.”
2) If you have a 2nd choice candidate, darken the oval next to that candidate under “2nd Choice.”
3) Continue until you have ranked all your choices.

With the help of the nonpartisan national election reform organization, FairVote (www.fairvote.org) and clerks in both Ferndale and Lansing, these instructions have been drafted and are currently under review at the Secretary of State. If approved, “it’ll go to legislative services who’ll make sure it’s in compliance. This could also take weeks or months, or could be outright rejected,” Hugh explains.

Sadly, that does not seem to be the end of the story. On July 27, 2017, Ferndale City Clerk Marne McGrath said she is coming to the conclusion that “just because election law doesn’t specifically prohibit it, it also doesn’t allow it.” She said FairVote is “looking closely at voting instructions. Although I feel they are on the right track, election law is long, old, and not always clearly written. Michigan is one of only eight states that administer elections at the local level and it can be frustrating working with such a decentralized system.”

Perhaps a legislative solution will be required for Ferndale to finally fulfill the will of its voters expressed more than a dozen years ago. Or perhaps the City should pursue a more assertive approach. The voters are waiting.

“In the meantime,” McNichol said, “I’m advocating for IRV to our state legislators. Most of them had never even heard of it. Now we have supporters from both sides of the aisle, but we need more.”

McNichol, along with the help of Ferndale resident and Exec. Director of Citizens for a Fair Ferndale, Kathryn Bruner James, sent Rep. Robert Wittenberg and Sen. Vincent Gregory emails, and has traveled to their offices to solicit their sponsorship. “Ferndale is their district. The people of Ferndale are their constituents,” McNichol explains. However, “Neither knew what IRV was or that Ferndale had passed it in ‘04,” he says, defeatedly. “Education and time have probably been the biggest setbacks.” It takes quite a bit of time to knock on doors and get people to listen.

As far as an estimated timeframe for the roll out of the new voting system, Hugh says, “My best guess is 2019, but the Ferndale Election Commission will ultimately decide when IRV will be implemented in Ferndale.” This is because the 2004 referendum, perhaps unwisely, gives our local election com-mission ultimate authority over the matter, beyond approval of the County and State. Even then, if our local election commission decided it does not want IRV, Ferndale voters would be forced to go back to the polls to take the matter out of their hands. (Ferndale’s Election Commission consists of the city clerk, mayor and city attorney.)

Currently, this does not seem to be a concern. Mayor Coulter said recently, “”For cities without a primary election for local offices, IRV can help ensure voters actually elect the candidates they want. We’re hopeful that with the new equipment we can finally implement this system.” And McGrath also seems genuinely interested in implementation. McGrath stated: “I am confident that we will see a lot of movement on this in the next two years.”

And so we wait. In the meantime, supporters should contact their elected officials to urge IRV be implemented in Ferndale. See below.

Rep. Robert Wittenberg: Box 30014, Lansing, MI 48909-7514; (517) 373-0478; robertwittenberg@house.mi.gov

Sen. Vincent Gregory: BOX 30036, Lansing, MI 48909, senvgregory@senate.michigan.gov; (517) 373-7888

If you are interested in working for IRV in Ferndale, contact: stephanie loveless at steffie@ferndalefriends.net

Hugh McNichol: 517-420-8452; hugh.mcnichol@gmail.com

For more information, contact:
FairVote: www.fairvote.org, 6930 Carroll Ave Ste 240, Takoma Park MD 20912, 301-270-4616, info@fairvote.org

FIRV : www.firv.org
Ranked Choice :  www.rankedchoicevoting.org
Represent Us: https://represent.us/

By Mary Meldrum

WE HAVE ALL BEEN CAPTIVATED BY THE stunning political stories that have erupted in our country lately. Walls, immigration bans, the return of white supremacy groups and more have distracted us from a quiet power grab that has been taking place behind the scenes: Gerrymandering. It is a slight-of-hand that has been executed masterfully by political groups to advance their own agenda.

Voters should choose their politicians; not the other way around. But some of our most important borders in Michigan and other states have been drawn up by politicians to serve their own political agendas, looping the power of the people out of decisions regarding their future. Our Founding Fathers would be appalled with gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering is a process by which the party in power, either Democrat or Republican, redraws voting districts to benefit their own party and weaken their opponent. Because of gerrymandering, fewer and few-er Congressional districts, for example, are competitive anymore. The incumbent is sure to be reelected, giving people little reason to even bother voting.

Gerrymandering manipulates political boundaries that divide our neighborhoods and communities, essentially removing voters’ ability to impact a political election. This unfair but legal tactic is used in every state by both Republicans and Democrats in order to sequester enough votes to win elections no matter what the majority of the voters want.

Forms of gerrymandering go back to as early as 1788. But everything changed in 2010. In 2009, Republican strategists took advantage of the fact that 2010 was a census year as well as a midterm election year. State leaders – based on those census results – redesigned voting districts to benefit the GOP for the next 10 years.

The 2010 election outcomes of 2010 show the strategy was wildly successful. Republicans gained almost 700 seats at the state level across the U.S. This wiped out Democratic advantages in Alabama, New York, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Republicans were then firmly in charge of redistricting.

IN MICHIGAN, THE GRASSROOTS STARTUP ORGANIZATION, VOTERS NOT POLITICIANS, is transparent process for drawing fair electoral district boundaries that will result in fair and competitive elections. The plan is to reform the process by amending the Michigan Constitution through a ballot initiative in the November 2018 election.

Katie Fahey is the President of Voters Not Politicians, which has snowballed into a large network of people across Michigan following the 2016 elections. She began by holding 33 town meetings to discuss and survey voters to find out what they really want.

“It is breathtaking to see how many people want to come together in these divisive times,” Katie shared.

Voters Not Politicians needs 315,654 valid petition signatures by February 2018 for the ballot initiative to succeed. As of September, they had collected over 140,000 votes, and 100,000 of those came in 25 days. They already have signatures from all 83 counties in Michigan.

Because of their success, it isn’t surprising that they have become a threat and a target to the status quo and establishment politicians. One such opponent is Michigan Republican attorney Bob LaBrant, who filed a complaint against the Voters Not Politicians commit-tee this past Summer. LaBrant advises clients on political strategy, and is recognized as one of Michigan’s foremost experts on campaign finance law and redistricting.

MICHIGAN IS ONE OF 37 STATES that gives all power for deciding voting district boundaries to the state legislature. In order for proposed maps to pass muster, a simple majority of each chamber of the state legislature must vote yes. The governor has the power to veto the redistricting plan. However, when one party controls each of these areas, they effectively have full control over the redistricting process with zero input from other parties, and of course, no input from the people who elected them in the first place.

When the legislature draws the election maps, they get to choose their voters, instead of voters choosing them. This is direct manipulation of election outcomes and allows politicians to give their party an advantage sometimes for decades to come.

The evolution and use of advanced computer software and big data has empowered this type of manipulation and contributed to the extreme partisan gerrymandering that we see in states like Michigan. Skillful redistricting can grace incumbents with virtually guaranteed reelection or leave them with no chance at all.

America for Sale
LARGE AMOUNTS OF “DARK MONEY” (legaly undisclosed political contributions) flooding into politics has also led to the severe manipulation of voting maps. Lobbyists and special interests invest enormous sums of money to fund highly complex and corrupt redistricting plans to keep politicians they control in power. This influences politicians to follow the will of who is pa-ing them instead of the will of the people.

The names of the groups that are bankrolled by corporations, unions and other special interests sound very  dedicated to democracy and America. Names like “Fair Districts Mass” and “Protect Your Vote” and “The Center for a Better New Jersey.” But a deep-dive investigation by ProPublica (an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force.) found that while these groups purport to help represent voters in their communities, their main interest is gaining a political advantage in the fight over redistricting. Powerful players are turning to increasingly sophisticated tools and techniques to “game” the redistricting process, while voters are almost all blind to their shenanigans, and ultimately losing.

Corporations and outside interests provide cash for voter data, mapping consultants and lobbyists to influence state legislators who are in charge of redistricting. They can also fund the inevitable lawsuits that contest nearly every state’s redistricting plan after it is unveiled.

HERE ARE JUST A FEW TECHNIQUES used in gerrymandering:

CRACKING: If a party feels threatened by high densities of voters that fall into certain demographics or political ideologies, they crack them apart to dissipate and destroy their voting power.

PACKING: Politicians can also “pack voters” from the other party into a few districts. While this gives the other party a couple districts, it maintains power in all the other districts because the opposing party’s voters have been herded so tightly into just a few districts.

KIDNAPPING: Michigan representatives must live in the district they represent. District lines can be drawn so precisely by the opponent party that they can remove an incumbent politician from their home district. This strategy is used when an incumbent with a solid home-base is targeted and the lines drawn to move them to a neighboring district. This gives the majority party the power to silence their influence in the next election.

HIJACKING: Hijacking occurs when a political candidate is packed into a district with an established leader of the same party. This forces the two to run against each other in the primary election and removes them from competing with the other party in neighboring districts.

If we continue to allow politicians the power to control the redistricting process, we risk letting one of the two parties manipulate our election maps in 2020, when the next census is conduct-ed. Both parties are preparing to continue the tradition of partisan gerrymandering and have very distinct and aggressive strategies in place to secure voting districts: the Republicans are preparing a project called REDMAP 2020 and the Democrats are preparing their own project named ADVANTAGE 2020.

Politicians don’t want us to take away their control of the election maps because it helps them stay in power, even if the general public wants them out. If gerrymandering in Michigan continues, the ones who benefit are the members of the state legislature and their armies of lobbyists.

“The people of Michigan have been locked out of effective change-making opportunities, but we have the power, energy, and drive to create a solution that ends gerrymandering and reinvigorates the very spirit of our democracy,” emphasizes Katie Fahey.

Voters Not Politicians is a major grassroots effort to thwart the gerrymandering plans of politicians, and they need your signature.

If you’d like to sign their petition, go to:
www.votersnotpoliticians.com/findthepetition

www.votersnotpoliticians.com

 

THE FERNDALE RAT PATROL was formed late in the Summer of 2017 by Ferndale resident Laura Mikulski and associates after a City of Ferndale meeting about our rat problem. Citizens were left distraught over the City’s inability to deal with Ferndale’s growing rat problem. Due to legalities, costs, manpower, etc., the only option the Council could offer was to continue down their present path of action –hiring exterminators.

These concerned citizens met again shortly after, the City was not involved, and the Ferndale Rat Patrol was born. Their aim is simple: Rid our city of rats through the power of community.

The FRP differs vastly from conventional pest control services. The FRP does not use poison. Instead, there is a focus on community support, education and outreach involved: Neighbors talking to neighbors, and neighbors collaborating with each other.

The FRP is unique in that they are a community-based, volunteer organization. All members chose to be involved in the FRP, whether actively or passively. They share knowledge, ideas, methods and sometimes even equipment. The FRP’s operations affect the city of Ferndale in a variety of ways. Laura Mikulski chatted with Ferndale Friends about the Ferndale Rat Patrol.

FF: When and how did FRP come into existence?
Laura Mikulski: The FRP came into being after the Wilson Park Neighbor-hood Group, on the East side of Ferndale, approached the City looking for a rat control solution. The City set up a sort of townhall meeting, bringing in our code enforcement and a pest control company to explain how to control rats. Our code enforcement officer explained that proper rat control begins with keeping a clean yard and adhering to ordinance. Most in attendance already understood this, and personally kept their yards clean. Almost everyone knew someone in their neighborhood with a yard that contributed to the rat issue, but none were sure how to address it besides reporting to code enforcement-a sticky subject at best, since it can ruin relationships with neighbors if word gets out that you reported them.
The pest control company in attendance offered one solution: poison. This infuriated residents who had pets poisoned by dead rats, as well as those who had owl populations diminish due to poisoning. When it became clear that the city wouldn’t take an active hand in ridding the city of the rats currently in town, a group lingered behind to discuss solutions and community organization.

FF: What is the aim of the FRP? How does FRP differ from other pest control services?
The group is intended for those ready to take action to reduce the rat problem in the city, and to dispel the taboo of discussing the significant rat issues the city is facing. We intend to use methods that are not detrimental to the overall health of the environment (minimizing, if not eliminating the use of poisons). This group is intended for those that are ready to take action and learn, not to blame, complain and wait for others to do something. We are not a pest control service – we’re a grassroots organization of citizens and neighbors who perform outreach to educate on what drives the rat population, help eliminate rat habitat, and empower homeowners to remove rats effectively and manage their property to eliminate the rat population.

FF: What makes FRP unique? How does FRP affect the city of Ferndale?
The Ferndale Rat Patrol is unique in that it’s a collaborative effort to control the rat population in the city without relying on pest control companies or code enforcement. This is a citizen-empowering-citizen movement to depopulate and control rats, where we seek to help each other rather than place blame or look for others to fix the problem. It affects Ferndale in a huge way: Less poisons are being used, less rats are running rampant.

FF: What is the future of FRP? What are your goals?
Our goal is to safely reduce the rat population, always. Ideally, there would be none. They’re non-native, wildly destructive, and pathogenic. Additionally, conventional means of depopulating rats increase risk of secondary poisoning and death to pets and predators, something we’re staunchly against, and through education have reduced. It truly takes massive community involve-ment to make this happen on such a wide scale, and our group is growing daily. It’s become less and less taboo to discuss incidences of rat and meth-ods of extermination, which makes it easier to share knowledge and help without the embarrassment or stigma of having rats. People are waking up to the idea that this isn’t just a problem for a few people. It’s a city-wide issue that can only be resolved through coordinated effort.

Last year we did a “clean sweep” by performing outreach, and asking those who saw dead rats, evidence of rat, or killed rats personally to report in through a survey tool. In one month, September 2016, we tracked 437 rat kills, 257 which were snap traps that we recommended. We saw a major reduction in population that’s held strong through early 2017, and just rose again in September of this year. We’ve been tracking since about mid-month August, and have well over 200 rat kills accounted for through smart trapping through-out the city. We also created a flyer that we distribute when performing outreach so that neighbors can spread the word and we can reach those who might not be home with tips on how to eradicate rats in their neighborhood.

Laura Mikulski be presenting on rats, and rat prevention and elimination at the Ferndale Garden Club meeting on December 14. The FRP is also trying to organize a get-together fundraiser (since this is all funded personally). Anyone interested should tune into our Facebook group for details:
www.facebook.com/groups/968411293270256/ ( login required).

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By Jill Lorie Hurst
Photo by Bernie LaFramboise

THEY POPPED UP QUIETLY, SHORTLY AFTER THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: THE SIGNS. A new group of signs that appeared as the campaign signs came down. Poster board with printed words that reminded us that we are a community,not only locally, but globally.

The first sign I noticed was the tri-colored, “No matter where you’re from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor”. A simple, powerful statement written in English, Arabic and Spanish. Once I noticed the first, I started to look for them – and there they were, all around town. That sign and others that expressed beliefs that support our freedoms and human rights for all.

I wanted one for my lawn, but couldn’t figure out how to get one without stealing it off a neighbor’s lawn. Sarah Lynn Fox liked the signs she was seeing, too. She and her husband, Brian Stawowy, noticed them as they walked their dogs around the neighborhood. Sarah said, “It made me feel so great to see all the signs…proud to live in Ferndale.”

She tried to get a “Hate Has No Home Here” sign, but it was back-ordered. Not one to sit and wait around for someone else to solve her problem, Sarah went online and found a web site (signsonthecheap.com) that allows you to create and print your own signs. She came up with a similar design and decided to print in bulk. She would make 100 signs and offer them to others, for free. “I wanted to spread a little bit of hope around the community.” A co-worker told her she was crazy: No one would want the signs. And what would Brian say? Sarah posted on the Facebook Ferndale Forum, and the response was overwhelming.

And although Sarah offered the signs for free, the community was all too happy to help finance the project. One person sent $200 dollars to help. Another person who contributed money doesn’t even live in Ferndale anymore, but liked the project enough to support it. By the time the signs came in, Sarah had a spreadsheet with 300 names on it, people waiting for signs.

The night she set out to deliver the first batch, Brian was with her all the way. It turned out to be quite an adventure. He smiles, remembering that first delivery outing. “It was fun. We got to learn a lot about the town.” They both mention “admiring their neighbors’ houses, the front yard gardens”. Brian said the best part was “us working together and meeting our neighbors face-to-face.” They loved the chance to get to know more about their adopted home town. People were friendly, inviting them in and sharing their Ferndale knowledge with them.

I was sure Sarah and Brian were native Ferndalians, but they both grew up north of the Detroit area, moving to the area for work (him) and grad school (her). They met downtown after a Tigers game. In 2013, when they decided to settle down together, they found their way to Ferndale because of easy access to Detroit and a dog-friendly community. Sign distribution is just one of the changes in their life since January. They’ve attended immigration marches and city council meetings. Sarah: “We didn’t know our congressional district or who our state representatives were until this year.” She added “If the election results had been different, our lives would be different.”

Along with the signs, Fox and Stawowy are circulating petitions to support “Voters, Not Politicians,” a ballot proposal to end gerrymandering in Michigan. It’s an important, non-partisan issue. “You have to start some-where,” says Fox. “We can no longer make excuses to not get involved.”

Sarah Lynn Fox and Brian Stawowy are living breathing “signs of hope” for our future. As I walked past their high-ceilinged home after our interview, I read their sign:
We Believe Black Lives Matter
No Human Is Illegal
Science Is Real
Women’s Rights Are Human Rights
Water Is Life • Love Is Love
Mother Earth Is Worth Protecting

Like a light in the window. Signs of hope in Ferndale.

 

By: Sara E. Teller

EARLIER THIS YEAR, THE MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF TALENT AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT created a new pilot program to help refugees successfully transition to American life. In May 2017, the Department stated in its official policy issuance: “The recent influx of immigrants (refugees and persons granted asylum, or ‘asylees’) and other persons granted legal authorization to work in the United States from distressed locations outside of North America creates a unique workforce challenge as many of the impacted individuals cannot document their prior educational and employment history. In addition, these individuals may face significant language and cultural barriers and difficulties finding adequate housing and transportation. Providing additional support and access to resources to this population via the workforce system is critical to ensuring their successful transition into Michigan’s workforce.”

The Refugee Navigator Pilot Program was born, and over half a million dollars was allocated toward its development. The program is being offered at all eight Oakland County Michigan Works offices, including Ferndale’s. It is also available in Kent, Macomb and Wayne Counties. These four counties were chosen because they are currently experiencing the largest influx of new American citizens.

The May official policy issuance further states, “The intent of [the] pilot is to assist all work-authorized immigrants, with overcoming language barriers, lack of a documented educational and employment history, and other barriers to employment and their successful integration into Michigan’s economy.” Navigators (as the pilot offices are called) “shall operate with a degree of autonomy within the Michigan Works! One-Stop Service Centers within each of the four designated counties. They shall have specific training in dealing with the refugee population.”

“WE BEGAN SERVICES in June 2017,”explains Pamela Bellaver, Supervisor of the Ferndale Michigan Works location. “We feel this program is important in assisting work authorized immigrants and legal refugees in their transition.”

With such great diversity in Oakland County, the Ferndale Michigan Works office specifically received a wealth of community support in establishing the pilot program. “We have experienced an outpouring of support in our community for this program and look forward to assisting as many individuals as possible,” Pamela said.

So far, everything has gone off without a hitch, and the program is operating as anticipated. “We have not experienced any challenges to date as we continue to spread the word about this excellent program,” she adds proudly. The pilot offers a wide variety of services to its participants, assisting with everything from pre-employment information sharing to post-employment professional licensure services and career advancement training.

WHEN A NEW CITIZEN enters a MichiganWorks pilot office, its employees will first determine whether he or she is eligible to receive assistance from the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) adult, dislocated worker, or youth programs. A one-stop delivery system assists with outreach, intake and orientation to the program’s information. “Work-authorized immigrants referred for navigator-facilitated career services will be pre-screened to ensure that they have legal authorization to work in the United States and that they possess documentation to support their status,” according to the official issuance.

Officials clarify that the program is only for legal, documented American citizens, stating, “It is not the intent of this program to serve undocumented immigrants or anyone who does not have legal authorization to work in the United States.”

Once citizenship is determined, the office will conduct an initial skills assessment designed to enable career counselors to garner a better picture of each participant’s specific needs. These assessments include literacy, numeracy, and English language proficiency testing, as well as aptitudes and abilities (including skills gaps) assessments, and determinations of supportive service requirements.

After the center has an idea of what will benefit a particular individual, a list of available job openings will be provided and he or she will undergo job searches and placement assistance, as well as career counseling as needed. Information regarding in-demand industries and occupations will be offered, as well as tips regarding needed skills to obtain vacant positions, industry earnings, opportunities for advancement, and workforce and labor market employment statistics.

If necessary, referrals to other programs will be offered, including additional workforce development programs the individual may be eligible for. Upon request, participants will receive assistance and referrals to various other services that will help in his or her transition, including language acquisition or English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, housing, health care and child care assistance, transportation options, opportunities to receive a high school diploma or professional licensure, public assistance, legal and financial services, and civil rights information. According to the policy, “Each navigator will be required to maintain a robust network of federal, state, local, philanthropic and faith-based organizations.”

Ferndale residents who know of any refugees or “asylees” who may benefit from pilot program can contact their local Michigan Works office at 248-545-0222.

By Maggie Boleyn

PSSSST…FERNDALE ISN’T JUST A HIP HAVEN FOR YOUNG PEOPLE. Ferndale’s more senior citizens are a very active, and very involved part of the city as well.

Jeannie Davis, president of the Ferndale Senior Group, says the group provides a “new outlet for socialization.” She adds that board members strive to “work very hard to make the senior experience more enjoyable.”

Davis, who also writes the seniors column for Ferndale Friends, said her goal is “to make the group more visible.” She adds that Ferndale Seniors are an active group within the community, participating in events like selling T-shirts for the Woodward Dream Cruise, leading pub crawls, manning a rib tent and helping with other local happenings. “We are visible and viable,” she said. “We aren’t just playing bingo, and sitting and knitting.”

Indeed, the Ferndale Senior Group is also embracing technology to help seniors connect with each other and with the community at large. “I love texting the Mayor,” Davis said. The Ferndale Seniors Group also has a Facebook presence, where Davis wrote: “Ferndale Senior Group is a social group comprised of people who are 55-years and over. Being a Ferndale resident is not a requisite.”

The Ferndale Senior Group meets twice a month on the second and fourth Wednesdays at 11:00 A.M., at the Kulick Center on Livernois. “These meetings aren’t just gabfests,” Davis promises. “It’s always a learning experience.” Recent guest speakers included a visitor from the Ferndale Historical Museum and the group also hosts a candidate forum, where attendees can meet, greet and ask questions of candidates running for office.

Elected officials also visit the Ferndale’s Senior Group although, as Davis hastens to clarify, “We are not a political group.” The visits are merely to provide information to attendees. Politicians and candidates do well to court senior voters. According to ElectProject.org, at any time, more than half of registered voters over the age of 60 can be relied upon to cast a ballot in elections. In presidential voting years, 70 per cent of registered seniors will cast a vote, in person or by absentee ballot.

Davis notes that a mayoral town hall is also another feature of the Senior Group. She said that plans are in the works for Mayor Dave Coulter to hold a town hall meeting at the Kulick Center on October 11. “Anyone can come,” Davis added.

The Ferndale Senior Group also offers short day trips to nearby places such as the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Zoo, Cranbrook, and the River Walk on the Detroit River in Downtown Detroit. “We’re constantly looking for different things,” Davis says. “We want to give them something more to talk about than daytime TV and aches and pains,” she adds. The group offers a wide variety of inexpensive things for people to do.

The Senior Group allows anyone to attend meetings; however, persons who become members receive discounted rates for events and activities, Davis says.

Money Magazine pointed out that “The best places to age well have lots of jobs, good public transportation and active communities.” Davis, who retired from running her own business as a real estate appraiser, considers Ferndale as a “senior-friendly” city. “Ferndale is a very walk-able community,” she said. “Also, we love the ‘businesses on Nine’, especially Western Market.” Davis says. She adds that Ferndale’s Metro Detroit location means there are plenty of opportunities for visiting cultural venues and volunteering.

Davis, who has lived in Ferndale since 1960s, concludes that Ferndale seems “genuinely fond of seniors.

By: Maggie Boleyn

TEN HUT! THE FERNDALE HIGH SCHOOL MARCHING BAND IS PREPARING TO TAKE THE FIELD AT FORD FIELD THIS NOVEMBER,participating in the Michigan Competing Band Association (MCBA) State Championship Contest.

Many people have seen high school marching bands in action, but few watching the performance know how much hard work and long practice hours that staff and students put in to reach the state-level competition. “Marching Band at the highest level has become music theater on a football field,” says FHS Marching Band Director Elon J. Jamison. “The kids play, march, dance, sing, act, and so on. It is a monumental physical, mental, and emotional activity.” Jamison has been on staff at FHS for 20 years, serving more than a dozen years as FHS Marching Band Director.

FHS typically does very well in MCBA statewide events. “Ferndale has brought home top honors nine of the last 13 years,” says FHS assistant band director Audrey Langley.

There is quite a process in achieving a slot competing at the state level. Each spring, MCBA member bands are divided into four flights of competition based on school enrollment numbers taken from the second semester school count. The four MCBA competition flight levels range from schools with less than 728 students to greater than 1436 pupils.

Owing to enrollment numbers, FHS was moved into Flight IV competition for a couple of years. Under cur-rent criteria, FHS is again competing as a Flight III school. Langley, who served as volunteer for seven years prior, said “We have placed first in Flight IV the last two seasons and now the stakes are a little higher with our return to Flight III.”

To advance into the MCBA State Championship con-test, bands pay a $150.00 fee and must compete in at least two of the 20 or more contests that MCBA holds each year. A band must attain scores at MCBA contests placing it among the 12 highest scoring bands in its flight competition. Judging categories are weighted between musical, visual and overall general effect.

Despite the highly competitive nature, participating in marching band brings new awareness to students and fosters cooperation among students. “It really changes your perceptions of what is possible,” Langley said. “The band, staff, and parents literally create a show from nothing. Every single person involved has their sights on one goal – creating the best show possible. It unites people.”

No matter the size of the school, the competitive spirit is strong. “The competition is still quite stiff coming from the west side of the state,” Langley said. “Historically our biggest competitors in the Flight III category are Stevensville Lakeshore and Byron Center.”

ASIDE FROM ACHIEVING HIGH SCORES, music education in general and marching band participation particularly carries many benefits for students.

“Music educates the soul in a way that nothing else can,” Jamison said. “Music and music education teaches and expresses what cannot ever be properly expressed in words or pictures; it has to be heard, seen and felt to properly appreciate it. I often use the analogy that if, as they say, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ a recording or live performance is worth a million.”

Langley adds, “Learning to play as a band teaches teamwork and selflessness. Working on a piece requires focus and determination. The kids learn to lift each other up. Students who participate in ensembles think more about the whole rather than just them-selves.” Langley went on to say, “This activity is the determining factor of success in many kids’ lives.”

Jamison notes students who participate in marching band also get an intense physical workout. “There has been research done that when marching band kids at this level are in the midst of a performance, all their vital statistics are maxed out: heart rate, lung capacity, mental activity – everything.”

Asked what she wished more people knew about FHS Marching Band, Langley replied, “I wish people knew how much we get done with very little funding, how much we are dependent upon the parent volunteers, and how dedicated the staff is to the students. They don’t get much limelight but are the reason the students are able to compete at the highest level. It isn’t just a bunch of kids marching around a field; it’s about the kids experiencing being a part of something bigger than themselves.”

INTERESTED COMMUNITY MEMBERS CAN HELP THE ARTS at FHS through the non-profit group FAB (Ferndale Fine Arts Boosters) which supports the march-ing band and other programs. “Marching band is a large subcommittee of FAB run by a handful of dedicated parents,” Langley said. “Without them, we would not be able to function at the level we do. They are wizards of finance.

“FAB meets the second Tuesday of every month in the Ferndale High School Media Center at 7:00 P.M. You need not have a student in the schools to be a member; all interested adults who wish to support FAB are welcome. A $5 donation or more helps continue the Fine Arts Program at FHS. Donations are tax deductible.

Ferndale Fine Arts Boosters – FAB 881 Pinecrest Ferndale, MI 48220

By: Ingrid Sjostrand

A 65-GALLON GREEN RECYCLING CART HAS SHOWN UP ON your curb and, well… every other curb in the neighborhood. Where did it come from? What can be recycled in it? Is there a cost?

While the debate over the benefits and negatives of these carts is growing hot, I went to the source for the basics. Colette Farris, organization development manager at SOCRRA
(Southeastern Oakland Resource Recovery Administration), gave me all the details you need to know about the cart program.

SOCRRA is a municipal corporation responsible for recycling, trash and yard waste in 12 member com-munities in metro Detroit. Founded in the 1950s, it covers the cities of Berkley, Beverly Hills, Birming-ham, Clawson, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Lathrup Village, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak and Troy.

The carts have been delivered to almost 100,000 single-family households in these cities and are meant for mixed recycling, which means there is no longer a need to sort your recyclables prior to pick up.
“SOCRRA is currently constructing a new Material Recovery Facility (MRF) to enable us to process mixed recycling, which is connected to the timing of distributing the carts. The new equipment has the technology to automate the sorting of materials instead of hand sorting.” Farris says. “This change means that neither the residents nor the drivers of the recycling trucks need to presort before delivering recyclables to our MRF.”

While the carts do allow for mixed recyclables, there are still some limits to what can be put curbside and what needs to be dropped off at SOCRRA’s recycling center.

“Two changes were made to what we collect curbside – batteries are no longer accepted curbside and the only metal that can go in the carts are cans and empty aerosol cans,” Farris says. “These, along with Styrofoam and plastic bags can be brought to the SOCRRA drop off center for recycling.”

All carts were delivered with informational paperwork breaking down the details, but paper, cartons, cans, glass and plastic jugs, bottles and containers are all acceptable materials. Cardboard can be recycled in carts too, it just has to be broken down into three-foot by three-foot pieces. (Some bins were distributed with incorrect instructions which humorously stated three inches instead of three feet).

Distribution of carts started in July, and was completed on September 8th at no cost to residents. Prompt-ed by an initiative by Gov. Snyder to double recycling within the next two years, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was able to purchase the arts through grant funding from nonprofit The Recycling Partnership.

“The goal is to increase recycling rates in our communities and we didn’t want the cost of the cart to be an obstacle in achieving this goal,” Farris says.

So far, the carts seem to be making a difference. In August, 2,017 tons of recyclables were collected compared to 1,733 tons in August 2016 – a 16 per cent increase. Farris only expects this number to increase now that all carts have been delivered.

SOCRRA encourages everyone to try the carts for two or three months but for those that decide not to keep theirs, they will take them back. The old bins being replaced by carts are for residents to keep, but can be returned to the recycling center also.

Most feedback SOCRRA has received has been positive but Farris encourages residents to reach out with any comments or questions. Contact SOCRRA at socrra@socrra.org, check out their web site, www.socrra.org, or call the administrative office (248) 288-5150 if you have specific questions about recycling.