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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

 

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.

J.T. Green & Peter Werbe

J.T. Green
I READ PETER WERBE’S ARTICLE IN THE AUGUST EDITION OF FERNDALE FRIENDS with some alarm, and would like to present a rebuttal to what I believe are serious flaws in both facts and arguments.

The thrust of Mr Werbe’s argument is that the Ferndale recycling program is a net loss to the environment.
Firstly, Mr. Werbe focuses his ire on plastic exclusively; and in the process completely ignores that it is uncontroverted that glass and paper are the most easily recyclable substances known to man. If all of the paper currently thrown away in the United States were to be recycled, it would save approximately one billion trees a year. Similarly, producing glass consumes a huge amount of energy (inasmuch as sand is essentially melted down). The process for recycling glass for commercial use is much less energy-intensive. In order to promote recycling, Ferndale uses “single stream” recycling; meaning that all recyclables are recycled in the same container, a method which has been proven to increase recycling among the general population.

Speaking of containers, Mr. Werbe goes on to complain that the containers used to recycle are not themselves recyclable. Well, that’s beside the point, isn’t it? Unlike most household plastics, things like traffic cones, park benches and recycl-ing containers (which also come in for undeserv-ed criticism) are not intended for one-time use; they are intended to be a durable good. There is no point in a park bench being recyclable a sec-ond time, because it’s meant to be installed in a park and sit there for the next 20 years.
Mr. Werbe then goes on to argue that recycling plastic is a net loss to the Earth; a proposition that is as ludicrous as it is completely discredited by the scientific community. The process of recycling plastic uses 50 per cent less energy than the most common method of plastic disposal; which is incineration. By choosing to recycle plastic, we cut our carbon emissions by half. Secondly, by recycling just one ton of plastics, roughly 2000 pounds of oil can be kept in the ground. Recycling plastics further creates jobs; it’s a $5.4 billion dollar industry, which does not include the jobs generated at recycling plants in which recyclable materials are sorted.

No one is arguing for the use of more plastic, but we have to take the world as we find it. Recycling plastic is the best way we have to mitigate the effects of our use of plastic on the environment. What I find truly shocking, is that in 2017, I have to write an article in Ferndale Friends, in one of the most progressive cities in America, in support of recycling.

J. T. Green is a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists as well as EarthLaw, but is writing in a personal capacity.

Peter Werbe responds:
THANK YOU, J.T. FOR EXTENDING THIS CRUCIAL DISCUSSION. I’m sure you, like so many others, realize the planet is at a critical point, perhaps one of no return from the damage done by the fossil fuel/petrochemical/nuclear/industrial system. The rise in CO2 content in the atmosphere, the increasing species die-off, the systematic destruction of forests and natural environment, the poisoning of the seas and over-fishing — the list could on considerably longer.

Recycling as a solution to this is an illusion, one sown primarily by those industries which cause the damage in the first place. Let me repeat a little of what I said in the column you find alarming.

Most of what is threatening life on the planet comes from industry, not municipal waste streams. Although the 97%-3% ratio is challenged to some extent, industrial and mining solid waste still make up the vast majority of the trash of an out-of-control production and consumption system. These are older figures, but 250 million tons of municipal waste is produced yearly, while 7.6 billion tons of nonhazardous industrial waste comes out of factories and mines. And it’s growing steadily each year as the world-wide machine increases its frantic pace of production.

Sure, some of the latter can be recycled, but your organization cites metal reprocessing, for instance, as a major source of pollution in Houston, as are the city’s waste oil disposal sites. And, this is true of every recycling facility.

Increasing the number of recycling plants will add measurably to pollution overall. As I wrote, the reprocessing of anything is a toxic procedure (how do you think they get ink off of paper and where does that go?) and adding more buildings, trucks spewing exhaust, workers driving, etc., means it’s less than zero sum.

But, let’s get closer to home and look at the green behemoths that were recently dropped off and made so many giddy with excitement. With single-stream recycling, glass is a major component, but a third of it winds up broken and it’s off to the landfill. That same figure applies to all of recyclables that are contaminated by broken glass shards, food residue, oil, etc.

And, who are the big advocates of recycling as a mask for their poisonous products? The Union of Concerned Scientists cites the American Chemical Society, the American Petroleum Institute, the American Plastics Council as using their advocacy of recycling as a fig leaf for continuing their practices just as they are.

The Saving-a-Billion-Trees line is one promoted by the American Loggers Council. Almost all trees cut for paper are ones grown specifically for that purpose.

Plastic? You are defending plastic? Oh, if only everyone would recycle their plastic. Well, they don’t, they won’t, and they can’t. Much of what is produced isn’t recyclable and 20 years goes by pretty quickly for your park benches. Where do they go then? Most of it just gets dumped into landfills where it takes 1,000 years to break down, while leeching toxins into our land and water systems.

Here are a few things that aren’t recycled: The 100 billion plastic grocery bags used every year and are not permitted in our bins. The 500 million straws a day Americans throw away. The 25 billion Styrofoam cups discarded every year, including four billion from Starbucks alone. Plus, even though the U.S. is now the leading oil producer, it will still fight wars to protect petroleum sources in the Middle East.

Coca-Cola, which airs all those TV ads about how much they value water purity, increased its production of un-recyclable PET bottles by one billion last year, in a yearly total of 110 billion Coke containers.

And, to accommodate single-stream recycling, the SOCRRA facility on Coolidge will close for an indefinite amount of time, leaving all of what we can’t put in the bins…where?

As the American poet, E.E. Cummings once wrote, “I don’t want to startle you, but they mean to kill us all.” Well, I do mean to startle you.
The fate of the earth is at a tipping point and we need to quickly get rid of items that require recycling by first extremely and drastically reducing production and reusing what we can. If not, I fear a bad fate awaits us.

Story by: Sara E. Teller

FERNDALE RESIDENTS AND THOSE IN SURROUNDING COMMUNITIES may be noticing public awareness signs that feature mosquitos popping up in their neighborhoods. What’s this all about, and is there cause for concern?

The signs are meant to announce the potential for mosquitos to carry the West Nile Virus (WNV). WNV is most often spread to humans after they are bit by an infected insect. The infected mosquito carries the virus after biting a bird with WNV.

While most who are infected with WNV will experience little to no symptoms, the virus can cause illness and even death. Approximately one in 150 people infected will develop severe illness. Symptoms of the severe version can include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, vision loss, numbness and paralysis.

Up to 20 per cent of people who become infected with WNV will display some symptoms within three to 14 days, including fever, headache, body aches, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes swollen lymph glands or a skin rash on the chest, stomach and back.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or treatment for WNV. Illness may last weeks to months, even in healthy persons. Those who are symptomatic may require intravenous fluids, help with breathing and nursing care. Severe cases require hospitalization. Pregnant women are encouraged to seek immediate medical attention if they develop symptoms that could be linked to the virus.

The Oakland County Health Division (OCHD) leads the county’s proactive response against the risks posed by WNV and other mosquito-borne diseases, such as the Zika virus. “We have had a WNV prevention plan since 2003,” said Johanna Cassise of the OCHD. There were recently three confirmed cases of WNV in Michigan, including those in Montcalm County, as well as Oakland and Macomb Counties.

“Whenever mosquitoes are active, there is a risk of getting WNV. The risk is highest from late July through September,” Johanna explained. “Currently, one confirmed case of WNV in Oakland County this year.”

The Oakland County Health Division administers funding allocated by County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and the Oakland County Board of Commissioners to employ preventative efforts in conjunction with the county’s 62 cities, villages, and townships (CVTS). “These funds are allocated to participating CVTs and support OCHD’s WNV prevention plan aimed at public education about personal protection and reduction of mosquito breeding habitats,” said Johanna.

This year, 45 CVTs have joined the Health Division in implementing protective measures designed to educate residents on the potential harm of WNV. Almost $200 thousand dollars, the amount that is allocated annually for prevention activities, will be distributed among those participating. The funds will pay for:

● Larviciding municipal catch basins to eliminate mosquito larvae and halt reproduction.
● Distributing personal-use mosquito repellent at outdoor community events.
● Implementing public-awareness campaigns about protecting against WNV and controlling mosquitos. Funding through Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) enhanced educational messaging throughout the county.

Part of the current public awareness campaign includes signs featuring Know the Buzz. “Signs were distributed to interested CVTs participating in the reimbursement program and the Oakland County Senior Advisory Council,” Johanna said. “City of Ferndale is one of the municipalities displaying the signs.”

THE OCHD RECOMMENDS SEVERAL WAYS TO PREVENT WNV. “The best way to prevent WNV infection is to prevent mosquito bites,” according to Johanna.

To best protect against bites, residents should use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellant. All EPA-registered insect repellants are evaluated for safety and effectiveness, and will contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or paramenthanediol as the active ingredient. Repellents containing a higher percentage of the active ingredient typically provide longer-lasting protection.

It is also important to get rid of breeding sites. To do so, homeowners should remove any standing water. Some tips include turning over any type of container that can collect fluid. Once a week, empty out items that hold water such as tires, buckets, planters, toys, pools, birdbaths, pet bowls, flowerpots, and trash containers. Clean clogged roof gutters, particularly if leaves tend to plug up the drains. Treat standing water that cannot be eliminated, such as retention ponds or drainage ditches, with a mosquito larvicide. Mosquito larvicide is easy to use and can be purchased at most home improvement stores.

Individuals should also wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, especially while outdoors, and limit outdoor activities when-ever mosquitoes are most active, typically late afternoon, dusk to dawn, and in the early morning. Avoid areas where mosquitoes may be present and maintain window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of homes and buildings. Never prop open doors, allowing for easy entry into the home.

For more information residents can follow @publichealthOC on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. The Health Division encourages everyone to share its prevention messages. Additional information can also be found at the Mosquito-Borne Disease Information Page at:
www.oakgov.com/health/information/Pages/Mosquito-Borne-Diseases.aspx

By Kevin Alan Lamb

AMONG MANY OTHERS HELPING IN MANY WAYS, Ferndale’s First United Methodist Church teamed up with Royal Oak’s First United Methodist to aid victims of Hurricane Harvey through the United Methodist Church’s worldwide relief agency, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). On Labor Day, 2017, they began collecting “flood buckets” and continued through most of September. The buckets are filled with supplies like laundry detergent, household cleaner, soap, air freshener, insect repellant spray, etc., and given to evacuees returning to their homes.

Royal Oak First United Methodist received a donation of a semi-trailer truck and driver, and they filled it with donations to be driven to their Midwest supply depot in Illinois for further distribution. I spoke with Jill Warren, a member of the Outreach Committee at Ferndale First United Methodist helping with the collection.

How did the Outreach Committee come to be formed and who are its members?
It’s a standing committee of Ferndale First United Methodist Church. All United Methodist churches have a similar committee, although it may be called something different. Members are elected at our annual meeting from the congregation. The current chair is Deacon Mike Cadotte, a longtime member of our congregation now becoming ordained as a Catholic priest. He serves Community of Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Church, which meets in our building.

The Committee leads our community-focused programs including our free Community Dinner (last Wednesday of the month, 6:00-7:00 P.M.), free community clothes closet, parents night out, Dream Cruise picnic, and annual Fair-Trade Ferndale pop-up shop. We also display banners to witness against injustice (Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ Pride, Immigration) and are a sanctuary congregation offering shelter to those in danger of deportation. It’s a very engaged Committee.

Since this will be published after the drop-off day, what can our readers do to support your effort?
The need to respond to disasters is ongoing for emergency preparedness. Keep checking our Facebook page and website for other ways to be involved. We support UMCOR financially, and anyone can contribute to this disaster relief organization, religious or secular.

For those overwhelmed with the current rate of natural disaster in our world, share with us a few different ways your organization stays focused and committed to the task at hand.
We are so fortunate to be part of a bigger denomination that funds and supports disaster relief every day. Knowing that we can share the work through our collections of items and funds becomes an extension of our commitment to “living according to the example of Jesus.” Doing this kind of work as a community builds community too, and that builds networks of personal support and encouragement when times are discouraging. Sharing the work with others is the best antidote I know to feeling overwhelmed.

ADDITIONAL MICHIGAN EFFORTS:

RED CROSS: “This is major,” said Red Cross spokesman Perry Rech. “This is the largest weather event we’ve encountered since (Hurricane) Sandy.” Rech said the Red Cross has sent 60 people to Houston. “Michigan is well into the fray,” he said Monday. “We’ve got emergency response vehicles going down, we have people on the ground. We have our full national fleet deployed.” Those vehicles, said Bob Blumenfeld, chief operating officer of the Michigan region of the Red Cross, carry “a fair amount of materials and infrastructure” to aid in disaster relief— food, bottled water, blankets, “clean-up kits” consisting of buckets, rubber gloves and disinfectant.

SALVATION ARMY: The Salvation Army’s Eastern Michigan Division is asking for money donations but has not yet sent anyone, said spokeswoman Andrea Kenski. “We’re waiting for the call from our national headquarters, but we have our Emergency Disaster Services teams ready to go,” she said. Metro Detroiters can make donations by calling (877) 725-6424 (SALMICH).

DOW CHEMICAL: Dow Chemical Co. and The Dow Chemical Co. Foundation announced on Tuesday, Aug. 29, that they would allocate $1 million to support immediate relief and long-term recovery and rebuilding efforts for parts of Texas affected by Hurricane Harvey, according to a press release. According to Dow officials, as a part of financial commitment, Dow is collaborating with national and local partners providing critical services to individuals immediately affected by the flood and will donate $100,000 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, $100,000 to Team Rubicon and $200,000 to other local nonprofit organizations assisting the region.

JEWISH FEDERATION OF METRO DETROIT: The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit has opened a special relief fund for those affected by the devastating hurricane that struck the Gulf Coast. Many thousands of families and individuals are in need of food, medicine and other basic supports. 100% of all donations will go towards relief and recovery efforts.

PRESBYTERY CHURCH IN DETROIT: The Rev. Allen D. Timm, Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery Church in Detroit, said the church is waiting to hear from the general assembly as to when volunteers will be dispatched to Houston. “We work through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance,” said Timm. “We have a local group which will be sending volunteers, but we have to wait until we get word from the Presbyterian Disaster Group.’” The church is also taking donations.

THE CITY OF WARREN: Warren Mayor Jim Fouts’ office announced that it’s collecting non-perishable food items to distribute to Hurricane Harvey victims. “We know what it’s like to have most of a city underwater,” said Fouts, referring to the August 2014 record flooding in Warren. “It doesn’t compare to Houston’s flooding, but we needed outside help like the Southern Baptist Convention volunteers to help. “Our drive is an example of Americans helping other Americans in need.” The items can be dropped off at the Mayor’s Office on the second floor of city hall or the Warren Community Center on Arden west of Mound.

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By: Jeff Milo, Circulation Specialist

IF YOU’RE READING THIS and haven’t visited the library in a while, I’d like to invite you to come in this week and say hello. Maybe your schedule kept you from making it in during our regular hours…? Well, we’re now open on Sunday! That’s right, we expanded our services and have now increased the community’s accessibility to our circulating materials and information resources! We’ll now be open on Sundays from 12:00-5:00 P.M.

We want you to consider your library as a community center. Finding something new to read can, and should, be a social experience. The Internet is amazing, but sometimes it can make your recreational recon of culture and entertainment a seclusive affair. It’s not just about finding a book, or picking one out – talking about books, browsing for something with a librarian’s recommendation, or get-ting to compare something you read in a group or one of our book clubs, can not only enhance your enjoyment, but bring you deeper understandings of the world, of history, of the human experience.

But you have to be here to fully experience it. The younger folk would hashtag this #IRL (In Real Life). Now that we’re able to stay open every day of the week, we want to invite you to learn more about everything we do here!

FIRST OF ALL: THE BOOKS! Thousands upon thousands of books! Your library card gets you access to not only the materials here in our building, but also to the loanable collection of titles from The Library Network of Oakland County.

DVDs? Of course! CDs? Yes, and might we add that we have an impressive amount of albums from local artists! Kids programming? Yes, several days a week, including a popular Music & Movement story-time for toddlers. We also host community conversations, seminars, presentations and more, from local organizations, state representatives, authors, and many more local luminaries.

We had our best-attended series of Summer Concerts last season, and we are thrilled to continue bringing you concerts on every first Friday of the month. In fact, you can catch rising punk-pop trio Prude Boys here on November 3rd: they just released a new single on California-based label Burger Records, and are undoubtedly a local band to watch in the year ahead.

So come discover something at your library this week – on any day you like!

SPOOKTACULAR: My favorite time of year! Our ever-popular annual Halloween Spooktacular party is Sat., Oct. 28 from 5:00-7:00 P.M., featuring artists and theatrical performers from local Detroit Circus’ Flyhouse troupe, including acrobatics, contortion, juggling, side show acts, feats of balance and strength, and stilt walking! That’s right, it’s a “Spooky Circus” themed Spooktacular!

This year, the Ferndale Library is an official stop along the 9 Mile route of participating local businesses for the Downtown Trick or Treating event. The library usually closes at 5:00 P.M. on Saturdays, but will remain open until 7:00 P.M. exclusively for the program of Halloween- themed activities. (Books, public computers, and other typically available resources wouldn’t be accessible during this event).

This event is free and open to all families, residents, and anyone attending the Downtown Trick or Treat event!

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By Ann Heler, Board of Directors

HELP WANTED: Physicians and RNs. We can use a little help. We like each session to have at least three practitioners and three RNs. We ask that you volunteer with us once monthly. You can be retired, of course, but you need to have a current practicing license. Think about it…please.

The rest of 2017 dates are: 
Saturday mornings, 9:00 A.M. to noon: 10/14, 10/28, 11/11, 12/16.
Thursday evenings 6:00–8:30 P.M.: 10/19, 11/2, 11/16, 11/30, 12/7, 12/21.
If you have any questions, please call me at 248-677-2273, ext. 23 or e-mail our Head Nurse, Diane Dengate, at dengate436@aol.com.

FernCare is still scheduling appointments for new patients a month out. Call 248-677-2273. If you cannot wait that long, there are two free clinics with available appointments much sooner:

Bernstein Community Health Clinic, 45580 Woodward Ave. Pontiac, MI 48341, 248-309-3752

HUDA Clinic, 13420 Woodrow Wilson, Detroit, MI 48213, 313-444-5490.

A sliding fee scale clinic is Covenant Care Clinic, 27776 Woodward, Royal Oak, MI, 248-556-4900, across the street from the Westborn Market. It is a full-service clinic and open 40 hours a week. They also take Healthy Michigan and Medicaid insured patients as well as other insurances. They also have dental services at their clinic on Detroit’s East Side.

By: Sara E. Teller

ROBERTSON BROTHERS IS A FAMILY-OWNED COMPANY IN BUSINESS for over 70 years,  providing housing mainly in Oakland and Wayne Counties. Some notable projects include Lexington on the Park, Sherman Oaks and Normandy Oaks in Royal Oak.

As of late, the company has been busy completing two new home sites in Ferndale at the former Wilson Elementary School and Taft Digital Learning Center locations. “Organizationally, we’re very excited,” said Tim Loughrin, Manager of Land Acquisition. “We’re happy to be in Ferndale.”

The Wilson site is a little further along, abatement beginning roughly a month ago, followed by demolition. “Trees have been cleared. Contractors [have] moved in,” Loughrin said. “Grading and installing the underground utilities, including water, sewer and storm, will follow the demo, and paving is scheduled to begin sometime in November.”

Twenty-eight single-family homes will be constructed at the site of the former Wilson Elementary school. There will be four options in total: two main floor plans, with an additional two variations of those. The homes, ranging from 2,100 to 2,400 square feet, will be built to order. Homeowners will be able to select a lot, home plan and color scheme, as well as their finishes starting in November. There hasn’t been a new project for single-family homes in the area for 50 years,” Loughrin said. “That’s what excited me the most about this project.”

The Taft site is a new concept for the area. “We’re providing options that don’t exist in the current market. I like to call it the ‘missing middle’,” Tim explained. This is essentially offering an option somewhere between a hi-rise and a single-family home. “Townhomes with medium density don’t exist,” Loughrin said. “We’ve been successful with offering this in other markets.”

Taft will consist of 72 one-to-two car garage townhomes ranging from 1200 to 1500 square feet. Two or three-bedroom options will be avail-able, and homeowners will be able to select their finishes within 30 days of purchasing their new home. All finishes will be available at the Robert-son Brothers design center located at their main office building in Bloomfield Hills.
Because of the new concept at Taft the approvals took a bit longer than expected, but the project is only slightly behind Wilson’s schedule.

Demolition is scheduled for mid-October, which will be followed by grading and installing the underground utilities. “Unfortunately, paving won’t likely happen until next year,” Loughrin said. The asphalt plants will close down in late Fall, reopening sometime in April or May. He is hopeful they will be able to complete a model in the meantime, however.

Subcontractors have placed bids on both projects, and Robertson’s project managers are busy overseeing work. According to Loughrin, the community was heavily involved in the planning phase as the company engaged in neighborhood meetings to ensure they were offering new home options needed in the Ferndale area. “The community is aware of what we’re doing.” Loughrin said.

Justin Lyons, Planner at the City of Ferndale, said, “These will be a big benefit to schools. The sites were a bit of a burden to the community, with the buildings deteriorating. The development partner came up with a plan to alleviate this burden.” He adds that the new sites were “part of a master plan adopted earlier this year regarding the major theme and goals, including providing more types of housing and housing options.” Through a public participation process, the City tried to determine what residents want, and new stock was an issue that came up time and again. “This’ll be a great option for families or anyone who is looking to move to Ferndale,” he said.

NOT EVERYONE IS SO ENTHUSED. David Lungu of The Ferndale Historical Society went to Wilson Elementary as a child. He lived one block from the school for a number of years. “I am 52, and have been a resident of Ferndale almost all my life,” he said, having moved to Southfield just a few years ago.

He has been a board member of the Historical Society for 25 years. As far as the new housing project, David said, “I am really not in favor…because we will lose valuable green space. I remember watching commission meetings where they said they will not get rid of green space. I guess times change,” he sighed. “I do think if they had just replaced the existing footprint of the school with new housing and kept the rest green it would be okay, since buildings were already there.” Ferndale will always be special to David.

“My favorite thing about Ferndale is the friendly and nice atmosphere. I felt real safe and still do when I visit now. For over 45 years I lived in Ferndale, went to Wilson school, then to the old Coolidge Jr. High, then to Ferndale High School where I graduated in 1983.” He recalled many fond memories of attending Wilson Elementary School and baseball games at Wilson Park.

SO, THERE HAS BEEN A MIXED REACTION to the two builds, consisting of either enthusiasm or a sort of nostalgic regret. The area is losing a couple of valuable historic monuments, but the new housing will no doubt attract new residents and boost commerce.