News

By Mary Medium

Immigrants & refugees are the same thing, right?
No, they are not; not at all. And yet, a lot of people refer to them like they are the same, grouping them together like they are all piling through our “open borders.” We don’t have open borders.

Publishers Note: The names of our local contacts for this article have been withheld at their request.

An immigrant is a person who comes to live in a country foreign to them. They may have a variety of reasons to emigrate, such as being offered a job, or the rest of their family is already living there, or a famine, for example, is making life hard. A refugee is a person who is fleeing for their life; a person who is in imminent danger of being wrongly persecuted, imprisoned, tortured or killed.. They are not choosing to leave as a convenience. They usually leave all their worldly possessions behind, pick up their children and run.

For one example, a well-known group of individuals who are persecuted in Africa are albinos. African albinos have long been dismembered and killed because their body parts are thought to have magical powers, or because of the belief that albinos are bad luck.

Because of the brutality of human upon human, there are all sorts of vulnerable populations around the globe that would qualify as refugees if they were to flee their country. Many organizations that support refugees have arisen around the globe as a result.

The International Refugee Assistance Project
The International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) is one such organization. Founded in 2008 by five students at Yale Law School, IRAP is a nonpartisan organization located in New York that organizes law students and lawyers to develop and enforce legal rights for refugees and displaced persons. Shortly after being founded, law student counterparts at New York University and U.C. Berkeley founded IRAP chapters.
What began at a single law school at Yale has bloomed into a legal movement. The law students realized the importance of engaging pro bono attorneys to provide direct legal representation to refugees over-seas who never had access to counsel. The unique model of partnering law students with pro bono lawyers allows IRAP to leverage every dollar contributed into ten in legal aid.

In 2010, IRAP joined the Urban Justice Center, a public interest organization headquartered in New York. Since that time, IRAP has established offices in Jordan and Lebanon. The network of legal represenatives has grown to 29 IRAP chapters at law schools in the U.S.A. and Canada, and is supported by over 75 international law firms and multinational corporations that provide pro bono assistance.

IRAP serves many different populations of refugees, but it serves Iraqi refugees because of the clear obligations of Western countries, and the U.S. in particular, to provide relief to unintended victims of the Iraq War. IRAP has expanded to assist refugees from Afghanistan, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Pakistan, Palestine, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkey and Yemen. Increasingly, IRAP is providing service to more people from Syria because of civil conflict, and also many Somalis and Sudanese.

Their mission is to mobilize direct legal aid and systemic policy advocacy. IRAP focuses on and provides legal services to the world’s most vulnerable and persecuted individuals while empowering the next generation of human rights advocates and leaders. As a result of their impact, in recent years, the demand for IRAP services in the Middle East and North Africa has risen dramatically.

IRAP overseas fields a staff of lawyers, case managers, and interpreters who work in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, international government organizations and governmental partners to swiftly identify refugees in dire need of assistance. IRAP’s caseload expansion is frequently driven by the emerging needs of highly vulnerable populations in the countries in which they operate. Their presence on the ground coupled with their legal expertise and knowledge of local cultural norms, uniquely positions them to respond to emerging crises effectively and in real time.

The demographic groups that IRAP serves the most often include the most vulnerable, at-risk refugee women who have become the victim of gender violence, Iraqis and Afghanis targeted by militia groups, LBGTs who are targeted for their lifestyle, and any person whose safety and lives are in danger.

As the only organization that guides refugees through every step of the resettlement process, IRAP is often able to identify obstacles of which other institutional players are unaware. Their unique model utilizes lessons learned in individual casework to advocate for systemic changes that benefit broader refugee populations. While they never turn away an urgent case that has merit, they look for cases where legal work can create precedents that will benefit the wider refugee community.

IRAP builds untraditional, nonpartisan coalitions to advocate for the rights of refugees, ranging from veterans to religious groups to corporate attorneys. They also play a major role in including refugees in U.S. immigration legislation, drafting legislative language around issues such as access to counsel and formal appeals processes, special procedures for LGBT refugees, and expansions of the U.S. Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs for Iraqi and Afghan wartime allies.

The Process
When refugees arrive in our country, we only witness the very last step in the very arduous process of qualifying as a refugee. The eating process is intense and protracted, and can last anywhere from 18 months to several years after referral.

Refugee processing involves eligibility screening with paperwork, background cjecks, bio-data (fingerprints, iris scans, etc. are all checked through the FYI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense), interviews, medical screening, travel loans, flight plans and resettlement – which is another entire process.

Once a refugee passes all the security checks and is allowed passage to the U.S. , a Customer and Border Protection officer reviews their documentation and conducts additional security checks against its National Targeting Center-Passenger program and the Transportation Security Administration’s Secure Flight Program. CBP ensures that the arriving refugee is the same person who was screened and approved for admission to the United States.

The Struggles are Real
The hurdles for refugees and their families are high and many, staring with language barrier, frequently being separated from their loved ones, terror of being sent back, the hunger, thirst, cold and exhaustion that comes with trekking and surviving the flight out of their country of origin. Many die and many more are on the brink of physical collapse at times. All this, just to get to the country of first asylum where they are often herded into fenced retention camps and live in flimsy tents and given very few freedoms. Many face prejudice and anger from the natives int eh country of first asylum.

IRAP is one of the first organizations to support a refugee by helping them prepare their documenation and legal status. For refugees, access to this legal assistance is just as important as access to food and shelter. Legal assistance is literally life or death for them.

The world is facing a refugee crisis the likes of which we have not witnessed since Work War II. Refugees around the world continue to be neglected, victimized, and denied the procedural safeguards that are the hallmarks of a just society. IRAP is providing safe passage and new beginnings for the most at-risk refugees. A the same time, they are also providing crucial support and building capacity in their field.

They are always interested in finding more people to support them. If you are interested in learning more or supporting the noble work of IRAP, please visit https://refugeerights.org

 

By Blake Prewitt, Superintendent, Ferndale Schools
(Originally Published January 9 2017)

Earlier this week, Ferndale High School Principal Roger Smith announced that he will be retiring at the end of the school year. Mr. Smith’s retirement marks the end of an iconic 34 year run at Ferndale Schools.
Mr. Smith is a lifelong Ferndale Schools resident who graduated from Ferndale High School in 1974 to pursue his teaching degree from Wayne State University. After graduation, he spent time teaching in both Pontiac and Avondale Schools before being hired back home in Ferndale in 1983 as the FHS Band Director. During his tenor within Ferndale Schools, Smith has also taught orchestra and choir in the high school as well as elementary strings at the Harding, Wilson, Washington, Coolidge, and Jackson schools. Smith was named Assistant Principal at FHS in 2005 and Principal in 2015.

As a fellow musician and educator, it has been a pleasure to work with Mr. Smith. I remember competing against Mr. Smith’s marching band and always being impressed with what he was able to get his students to achieve. Mr. Smith is truly centered on his students and believes in each and every one of them. They know he cares about them.

Ferndale Schools Board of Education President Jennifer LaTosch had this to say: “Roger Smith has been an integral part of of the Ferndale Public School family for decades, as a student (FHS graduate of 1974), parent (his two sons graduated in 2005 and 2008), band and orchestra director, coach, teacher, assistant principal, high school principal, and so much more. Roger’s quick smile and welcoming hello greet every-one who enters or visits our school family and ensures that all are met with compassion, dignity, and respect. It has been a true honor to get to know Roger, to witness the genuine relationships he cultivates with the students and staff, and to experience his love and commitment to the students and families of Ferndale Public Schools. We wish Roger nothing but the best in his retirement and look forward to seeing him around town and at future district events for years to come. On behalf of the Ferndale Public Schools Board of Education, we thank you, Roger!”

We will all truly miss Mr. Smith but hope that he continues to stay engaged at Ferndale High School. We will partner with the community to honor Mr. Smith’s countless contributions at a special event later this year.

By David Wesley
Photo Bernie Laframboise

The Detroit Bold coffee brand was born in Ferndale, and it’s Chief Bean Officer, AJ, was born in Highland Park and spent most of his life in every town up and down Woodward from the Detroit River to Pontiac. He is a Ferndale legend, as the former proprietor of AJ’s Café and progenitor of the “Danny Boy” and “Assembly Line” marathon concerts, among many other things. Recently he has become embattled in a lawsuit over the name of his coffee company.

The local entrepreneur sat down with Ferndale Friends for an interview about his life, Detroit, coffee and his company and the lawsuit.

DW: What is your relationship with coffee and the city of Detroit, and how did it spark you to start your own coffee company?
AJ: My relationship with coffee as it applies to my company is rooted in our café, AJ’s Music Café (April 1, 2007-April 1, 2012) on 9 Mile in Ferndale. I began selling it in one pound bags out of the cafe in 2009. We started selling retail, first to Ferndale Foods, in 2011.

It was there that for those five memorable years that we became an epicenter of sorts, for grassroots causes in the Detroit area, and earned the title of “the little cafe that bailed out the American automobile industry, one cup of coffee at a time.” At that time, no other subject was of more importance than the struggling auto industry and the economic pain our entire region was suffering through. People were losing jobs more than ever due to a whole new technological age that was displacing our whole industry, and our way of life was imploding in a decades-long crescendo.

Because we had a music café, and with that a stage, we had venue — a small but somewhat familiar place — and when I took it over it had achieved some prominence in the local music and open mic community. I sort of inherited that. So, we brought in open mic nights which helped regain the spot as a destination. Ted Berlinghof’s open mic Wednesday’s were fairly legendary, and that led us to our first foray into marathon concerts.

We held a quirky Danny Boy marathon in 2008 which made global news, and attracted over 1000 people to sing 700 versions of that Irish air on St. Patty’s day weekend. We instantly gained five minutes of fame and enough social capital to become somewhat of a household name, if not at least a familiar one. Our Danny Boy marathon was worthy of a Guinness record, or so I thought. Several months went by after I had submitted the necessary documentation that Guinness required, only to be told that they did not have a “single-song longevity marathon” record, nor did they wish to have one.

It was Guinness that suggested that we attempt the “longest continuous concert by multiple artists,” an event that was regularly monitored and updated. So, we took them up on it. That following March, 2009, we broke the Guinness record and Detroit Bold coffee was born!

DW: How has your company grown since its start and what has the reaction of Detroiters been?
AJ: I began selling Detroit Bold out of the cafe in 2011 under the banner name of “Assembly Line Blend, Industrial Strength coffee,” in 2009. We had two varieties; our dark roast was “Detroit Bold” and our light roast was “Fisher Body,” in deference to our auto heritage. Two years later, we adopted the Detroit Bold Banner for all of our varieties.

My first retail store was Ferndale Foods. By the suggestion of fellow local businessman and good friend, Jack Aronson, I took his suggestion and kept the operation small in the early days to see if the product was viable and would sell. Boy, did it! We are now in approximately 300 stores and growing! I still personally stock the shelves and tend to Ferndale Foods as much as I can.

DW: Recently there’s been a lawsuit filed against Detroit Bold. How did that happen and what’s your prediction of the outcome?
AJ: Yes, we are being sued by an unknown and obscure entity out of New York who claims the rights to “Detroit Coffee Co.” They maintain that our name, “Detroit Bold Coffee Co.,” confuses their potential customers. They are attempting to take our good name.

I am not at liberty to discuss much of the case but I can say that our name, our story and our dedication to providing excellent products and being that essence of what it means to be Detroit Bold is more than a product or a name. It is a civic pride, born of authenticity that comes from being a part of the fabric of where you come from and that is not something that can be bought or taken away.

DW: Regardless of the lawsuit what will your future plans be with Detroit Bold?
AJ: As of any attempts to usurp our name, Detroit Bold is far more important than a product. It is my vision to contribute to an awareness that the city of Detroit and her people are the essence of the truest grit, determination, talent and hard work that has kept this country at the forefront in far more than our awesome cars. To be “Detroit Bold” is to take ownership in your community in ways that make you proud because you, the everyday, ordinary hardworking human are the backbone of a community and we need every one of us. We can never again let Detroit be the poster child for neglect, disinvestment and collateral damage for an economy that would leave anyone behind. So, the future is to be an example of a good company that contributes to the community economy and supports our neighbors, celebrating our magnificent diversity.

By Rose Carver

Ferndale has a parking problem. Looking for a parking spot during the weekends or for downtown events is beyond a hassle. Residents and officials have been debating solutions for years, to little or no avail. Last year, the widely-publicized 360 Project, which would have built two parking structures with office and retail space on either side of Woodward, was ultimately rejected. Now, similar plans are beginning to form.

The Ferndale City Council selected a parking lot at the corner of West Troy Street and Allen Street to house a new parking structure. However, there are conflicting ideas of how the space should be used. City Council is setting their sights on mixed-use space again – a parking garage with residential, office, and commercial space built in. With the large opposition of the 360 Project last year, this new plan is coming as a surprise to many residents.

The Council’s vision is a parking structure with office and retail space on the ground floor, with the possibility of an office cap on the top floor rather than rooftop parking. After spending the last year researching available lots in Ferndale, Council voted unanimously to select the location at West Troy Street and Allen Street as the best option due to its size and location. Council is including the mixed-use space idea to promote the city’s walkability and to expand the downtown area, as well as bringing more daytime traffic to the area.

The Park Ferndale web site says the project goals include the following:
●    Meeting the parking supply needs for our downtown businesses
●    Minimizing business disruption during construction
●    Minimizing the impact of the parking deck height on residents
●    Creating a sense of place for the public
●    Providing a buffer for the residents adjacent to the parking lot
●    Creating a vibrant street, active with complementary retailers

Despite this positive mission statement, there are still concerns for neighbors of the lot. Local business owners worry about the traffic and delays that will be caused by the construction of the building. A simple parking structure can be put up in a matter of months. The addition of plumbing and electricity to accommodate the mixed-use space will delay the completion date by months or years. This is very concerning.

“Losing a lot we depend on for two years will be devastating for business,” says local Sensei Jaye Spiro, owner of Mejishi Martial Arts on Nine Mile Road. As an all-ages teacher, Jaye worries that the loss of this space will make it difficult for students to be picked up or dropped off from the building.

While Council has offered to accommodate a shuttle from Credit Union One to the plaza, the businesses fear this is a complicated, even if temporary, fix.

Jaye is united with neighboring business owners who think a simple parking structure would be best for the city’s needs. Jaye cites a parking platform recently built in Rochester, a simple three-level brick parking garage, as a preferable outcome. The project took less than a year to build and added nearly 300 spots to Rochester’s downtown area, all while finishing ahead of schedule and under budget by over a million dollars.
The height of the structure is also a repeated concern. A 2014 parking survey determined that 250 more parking spots are needed in the downtown area. The Public Meeting Summary notes that the Troy lot is zoned for buildings of 70 feet, or six to seven stories tall. The committee says even a parking-only structure would require four stories to reach 250 spaces. Worry is resonating that a new structure will shadow over the historic downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods.

The planning is currently in a public outreach stage. Council has held two public meetings and sent out a survey to 300 residents and business owners asking for their opinion on the plans for the mixed-use space. Seventy-four responses were received, most of which were from residents or business owners in the direct vicinity. Many of the comments and questions had similar themes; that parking is a more pressing need than the mixed-use components, that more information needs to be provided for the project, that the proposal could negatively impact residents and businesses, and that residents deserve adequate communication throughout the progress of the project.

Many suggested that traffic on Troy and Allen should be rerouted, that Troy become one-way or a dead end to cut down on an already congested traffic spot. Some responses seem hesitant; “In my opinion, Troy Street is not the place for ‘mixed-use.’ We simply need more parking for the existing businesses. Creating more business simply creates more demand on parking. I say, be progressive, build the ‘deck parking’ and let existing businesses grow.”

Some sound angrier: “How much revenue can possibly come from rental space in a ‘mixed-use’ parking deck that ultimately consumes the very spots it’s providing. A tiered deck for Troy St. is what we need immediately. Not mixed with potential store fronts or restaurants… and that this survey is specifically for thoughts on ‘mixed-use’ only seems to me we are right back to the last 360 disaster…why hasn’t Ferndale learned from our neighboring cities mistakes?” and “How would you feel if you got to wake up each morning and look out your kitchen window to see a giant, ugly cement structure instead of the bright morning sky?? How about barbequing in your backyard under… a cement structure? Your kids swinging… under a cement structure! Love it? No? Neither do I.”

Within all the concern for the mixed-use structure is a repeated overture; the downtown area has such a draw throughout metro-Detroit for its unique spirit; the beautiful historical buildings and interesting businesses are incomparable to other cities. As one survey responder so eloquently phrased it; “We are turning Ferndale into Royal JOAK.”

To learn more about the project, surveys and previous meetings or to find out about future meetings, go to www.ferndaleparking.com.

Photo Dawn Henry

As Barack Obama prepared to relinquish the Presidency to the man who received the second-most votes in the November election, he warned in his January 10 farewell address, “We’re the losers now, so it behooves us to break out of that bubble more.”

“For too many of us,” he said, “it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles.” He cautioned against sequestering ourselves with those “who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.”

This advice from a man, who had he not run up against Republican revenge against the four-term presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, would be sitting in the White House today beginning his third term. However, let’s look deeper at his advice.

Who is really in a bubble?
Those of us who live in the Woodward Corridor communities and ones to the east and west of the Motor City’s main street, exhibit the characteristics of a diverse, multi-cultural America.

Sorry for presenting a laundry list of all of us, but it needs to be said because the “we” in We the People are a group with many definitions. Women and men, white, black, brown, yellow, and red. Straight, and LGBT with more appended initials to encompass the whole range of sexuality. A vibrant youth culture alongside seniors. All co-existing in our cities which feature a surfeit of music of many styles, clubs, bars, restaurants, festivals, and theatres for all tastes in entertainment and food.

We live in communities where you can fly the American flag or a rainbow flag on your porch, or both, without ear. On Nine Mile Road, Affirmations, the community center for the LGBT community, feels safe enough there to provide a safe space for those who elsewhere would be under threat. And, those who aren’t, often are allies and are proud of having such a center in our area.

Is this a bubble we need to step out of or away from? Are we the ones who should be challenging our assumptions?

Hillary Clinton did not lose the election because we were too insular. She lost because of voter suppression, Russian interference, FBI malfeasance, decades-long demonization of her, and an Electoral College which performed the function it was established for—to assure the domination of the Southern states. And, I say this without being a supporter of Clinton. As it is, she garnered more votes than any candidate in the history of the nation.

Also, Democratic candidates received five million more votes for the U.S. House of Representatives than their opponents, but because of redistricting, the Republicans have a huge majority. This is not what democracy looks like.

Obama’s bubble admonition also doesn’t take into account that all of the myriad groups mentioned above (and I know I left some out) all vote for each other—whites vote for blacks in our bubble; blacks vote for whites; gays for straights, and the reverse. The only rock solid identity politics, with no variation, being practiced in America is that of white identify politics, which is the bedrock of the Republican Party. White people have voted in the majority for Republican presidential candidates since 1968. They viewed Barack Obama as the final triumph of who they consider The Other.

We do not have a concept of The Other. Everyone sits at our table together, each bringing something unique and delicious to our communal meal which is our lives and the communities in which we live.

The 2016 election was little about ObamaCare or even jobs. It essentially was a referendum on what would be the dominant social narrative, mostly, do black lives matter? The majority of whites voted, no. It’s like they’re living in late 1970’s Rhodesia, a white colonial nation based on dreams of an imagined greatness that never was.

But the majority of us by at least three million (which doesn’t count the millions purposely excluded from voting) understand that rather than our communities being a bubble, they are a reflection of this country and a model of the way it should be. The way to support our communities of diversity, solidarity, tolerance, and love is by example.

We saw that with the November 20, 1200-person, originally named Ferndale Trumps Hate march, in reaction to the Trump electoral victory. The event was renamed Ferndale Love and despite charges of that being too touchy-feely, it most accurately defined what our communities are all about.

And, the unbelievable January 21 Women’s March that saw almost four million women and men marching to defending the equality and rights that have been won over the last two generations.

We are not in a bubble; We Are The World as it should be!

Publishers  Note: We are proud to welcome Peter Werbe to the Ferndale Friends editorial team. Werbe, a Detroit-area activist, has influenced many tens of thousands of people in our area as host, until recently, of WRIF’s long-running phone-in talk show, “Nightcall.” He is also an editor of the legendary publication, Fifth Estate (www.FifthEstate.org). Werbe represents a left/liberal view and so, for balance, we seek a columnist of a similar stature to represent the conservative viewpoint.

Story by Maggie Boleyn
Photos by Bernie LaFramboise

Hazel Park is poised to become the first city in the state of Michigan to require microchips for dogs in place of a regular license. In 2015, San Antonio, Texas, became the largest US city replacing standard pet licenses with the implanted chip.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of dogs found in Hazel Park,” Bethany (Beth) Holland said. “We know they’ve got people, and we want to increase the number of reunions with owners.” She noted that without identification, “It’s a miracle they get back home.”

Holland has served as Volunteer Team Leader at the Hazel Park Animal Control Shelter, and was recently named as a Councilperson for Hazel Park.

Holland said that the idea for the microchip requirement has been discussed since 2015. City ordinances will have to be changed to reflect the microchip mandate for dogs, but the rollout is planned for April 2017. Currently, there are no plans to require cats to have the rice-grain sized microchip device implanted. Holland promised that there will be ample advance notice given to residents regarding the new regulations.
Supporters of the implanted devices say that registered microchips increase the odds of your pet returning home. Microchips have unique numbers that function as your pet’s ID. If your pet becomes lost, most veterinarians and all animal shelters have special scanners that can “read” the microchip. Universal scanners provide the best chance of reading microchips.

The risk of an animal shelter or vet not being able to detect a microchip is very low. Rarely, microchips, which are designed to last for 25 years, can fail and become undetectable. Human error can also lead to a chip not being read as can faulty scanners, or struggling, aggressive or obese animals. According to the Humane Society, while universal scanners can detect a competing company’s chip, they may not be able to correctly read the data.

Collars with ID tags can fall off, thereby losing your contact information. “My dog loses them all the time,” Holland confided.

Holland said microchips can be obtained at vaccine clinics, veterinary offices and at Hazel Park Animal Control. The chips are inserted with a large needle between the shoulder blades, and the animal does not need to be anesthetized for the procedure.

Prices for implanting the device vary and generally range from $10-$20 dollars. Depending on the microchip model chosen, there may be an annual fee charged by the microchip company to maintain current registration information. These fees also vary; and some companies may charge a one-time fee, while others require annual maintenance fees. Some chip companies will register pets with any brand of chip. The American Microchip Advisory Council is working to develop a network of registry databases to streamline the return of pets to their families.

Holland acknowledged that potential fees of around $30 dollars per dog would hit some Hazel Park residents hard.

“We are expecting growing pains,” she said “We’re trying to figure it out. We’re basically creating the wheel.”

She said that plans are in the works to possibly vary the fee, depending on factors such as whether the dog has been altered, has lived in Hazel Park for more than six years, or already has a microchip device implanted.  Holland said that the City of Hazel Park has purchased 100 microchips, and is actively seeking corporate sponsorships to help defray additional costs.

The Humane Society says that microchips do provide an extra level of protection if your pet loses his collar and tags, and are a good back-up option for pet identification, but should never be the only identification method used.

The Humane Society recommends that owners who are concerned about pets having negative reactions to microchipping, or if you have questions about microchips in general, to check with your pet’s veterinarian.

Jack D. Arlan

What will happen if the President/Congress/Supreme Court acts to (fill in the blank)?” “Will they really do (this or that)?”

We’ve all heard these questions over the past few months.

People are asking these questions at the kitchen table, on their job, at their place of worship and on the street. Few are untouched by concern, and their concerns are many. One illustration is Medicare, the primary source of medical coverage for the elderly: What’s the effect on you, your parents or grandparents if it is changed, eliminated or privatized?

What can ordinary citizens like you and I do in a time of change and transition? How can we be heard in a time when federal policies and programs may dramatically impact many of us directly? People – young and old, a populace of varying color, religion, orientation and political persuasion -want and should have an influential voice.

Ezra Levin, Leah Greenberg, Angel Padilla and a few dozen other former congressional staffers recently published a guide for citizen-participation called Indivisible. It showed up on the web last December, and has been received by the public with enthusiasm. It’s a handbook for those who want to make their stance known on issues and hold their representatives in Washington accountable. Much of the advice is based on the successful tactics of the Tea Party. There is an overt anti-Trump tone, but the information is useful to people of all political positions. It may be found easily via Google or go directly to www.indivisibleguide.com.
Congressional staffers know how your Senators and Representatives think. They have seen how small groups of constituents can have an enormous impact on what our lawmakers do.

Your congressional representative and two United States senators want you to believe they care about you, share your values and are working hard on your behalf. Senators run for reelection every six years, Congressmen every two; they are always in a position of running for reelection or getting ready to do so. Even those in a “safe” seat care about threats in the next primary.

Your senators, Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, need to be responsive to the people of Michigan; they don’t worry as much about someone in Kentucky or Alaska. Your Congressman (for those in Ferndale, that’s Sandy Levin of the Ninth District) doesn’t lose too much sleep over those in Traverse City or Saginaw; he values his constituents first.

All of your members of Congress have web pages, showing their Washington DC and local offices, contact information and much about them and their work. Remember that independent checks are easily accessible, via the web, for voting history, your congressman in the news, etc.

How do your Congressional members feel about issues you’re concerned about? Are they speaking up? Are they attempting to support or oppose relevant policies or programs? There are four key areas where a handful of local constituents have the opportunity to make an impact:

1.    Townhall meetings. Public, in-district events are regularly held.
2.    Non-town hall events. These are ribbon-cutting ceremonies, parades, etc.
3.    District office(s). Your member of Congress has one or more local offices that he or she is at on a regular basis. It’s open for visits and meetings.
4.    Coordinated emails and telephone calls.

Indivisible is chock-full of detail about how these areas may be effectively utilized. It deals with the ways to ask questions and get answers, create public awareness as to responsiveness (or the lack thereof) and utilization of things like signs and other indications of support. There’s also a wealth of information about the formation and makeup of groups, which can be effective even starting out with a handful of like-minded folk.

Keep two things in mind: First, the authors recommend you concentrate on one issue at a time; your representatives don’t want to hear or address a bushel of issues in a single interaction. Second, focus on matters that have a current legislative priority; your influence is greatest with matters in the public eye now.
Also note that positive reinforcement can be important even if your member of Congress is already speaking and acting in accordance with your views. He or she, and their staff, can be energized by knowing their constituents believe they’re doing a good job; opponents notice.

IT’S A TIME OF TRANSITION, A TIME OF CHANGE. WHAT OUR GOVERNMENT DOES OR DOESN’T DO WILL IMPACT YOU. BE AWARE, BE VIGILANT. DEMAND THAT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS ACT ON YOUR BEHALF.

Story by Jeff Milo

Anthony Kasperek is “The Robin Hood of Finance…” At least that’s what his former colleagues from Wall Street have apprised of his current endeavor. The modus operandi behind his Ferndale-based company, Dig! Wealth, is to empower his clients with financial literacy. He’s also out to demystify and deflate the perceived complexities of money management.

But at the same time, Kasperek knows it’s an uphill battle because when most folks hear “financial advisor,” they may as well be thinking: “…root canal.” Still, many who have come to consult with Dig! Wealth have wound up disarmed by the down-to-earth-ness of this Ferndale-based biz-whiz. He’s not wearing a suit, even if he may have on a tie; he may casually discharge a cuss word amid his musings on mutual funds; there’s a guitar beside his desk from his punk rock days ready to be strummed; and he’s all-too-ready to filter-away that intimidating aura around intimidating stuff like 401ks.

“There’s not a lot of trust when it comes to financial planning,” Kasperek said, speaking from several years’ experience, including a stint with as a financial agent with a firm on Wall Street. The reason is that most work-shops, most seminars, most “luncheon-learns,” as Kasperek said, “are never presented in a way that makes sense to people.”

“I aim to help people realize that they don’t have to be afraid of money,” said Kasperek. “Just ‘Dig’ it! Financial planning is something we all have to do, but what I’m trying for is to understand and appreciate everyone’s lifestyles. And I knew that I had to create a sort of transparency in financial planning that just wasn’t there before.”

People use phrases like “adult-ing…” in a sort of self-aggrandizing way. We feel like we’re doing a good job at “adulting” when we get all their bills paid on our own. Kasperek realized that all of us could excel infinitely more as an “adult,” if we just dig in and develop the everyday basics needed to properly “grow-up” and grasp the fundamentals of financial literacy.

Kasperek had his revelation of reinforcing our “adulting” skills back on Wall Street a year ago. He decided that his former/current and assuredly future home of Ferndale was the best place, socially/culturally/economically, for him to start up this business, operating out of a collective of recent start-ups inside Renaissance Vineyard Church.  “I remember just after my second daughter was born, looking at her and her sister Jade and worrying that there may not even be 401ks when they grow up. What can I do for them?What can I do to help people?”

Much credit for his move to foster Dig! Wealth has to go to Kasperek’s wife, Alisha; once they moved back she basically put it to him that she could tell he was unhappy with his current tract in finance and challenged him to try something new.

“I have one script to write in my life and my life has always been fairly unique: I was abandoned at birth, adopted, raised in Sterling Heights, then Royal Oak, then Ferndale, and I never would have thought I’d get into finance and wear a suit. I was in punk bands and living with artists and skateboarding, I never saw myself in those suits.
“I saw some pretty crazy stuff when I was on Wall Street, and my heart and soul was just not in it. So, there’s gotta’ be a good side; there’s gotta’ be a reason I got into finance. I could go down a path and drive a nice car and work out of a skyscraper…or, I could come back to Ferndale, a place that I love to death, that’s helped me become the person I am, and I can raise my family here and be creative (with finance) and help people in the best way I know how…”

Raising a financially literate child is very important in today’s world. Kasperek relates a story about his daughter asking him how much money she would need to retire at the age of 25. “She was seven-and-a-half. My reply was, ‘Sweetheart, millions of dollars.’ The look on her face was of deflation. So even a seven-year-old can feel the same way a 65-year-old can feel about retirement.”

What Kasperek wants to do with Dig!, with financial advising, is to give back to this community. And that’s through empowerment. Oh, and another reason he’s “a real person…” is he’s not working on commission; he’s seeing you and your situation, and not a percentage.

“I’m driven to encourage people,” Kasperek said, plain and simple. “To encourage businesses, or prospective business owners, to encourage everyone to get into the basics of finance. That’s why I started the workshops, ‘Adulting for Beginners,’ and am starting up a social club soon called the Adulting Society Club. We are full service/full disclosure; we can manage your money or give financial advice, or just make a budget. It’s easier than you think, it’s just all these little things that no one has any idea about yet cuz they feel like they’re just throwing darts at the board.”

“Being an adult isn’t very sexy,” Kasperek said. “But we’re trying to make it sexy.”

More info:
akasperek@financialguide.com
twitter.com/Dig_Wealth
www.facebook.com/digwealth/

By: Jeff Milo, Circulation Specialist

We’re stirring up a significant amount of HOOPLA this winter and spring! The Ferndale Library is excited to announce that its patrons now have access to HOOPLA Digital, an app for your tablet, phone or home computer that lets you use your library card to download or stream free videos, movies, music, audiobooks, comics and eBooks! Hundreds of thousands of the latest films from all the major studios can be streamed through the HOOPLA app, and you won’t have to pay any subscription fee (as you would with Netflix or Hulu), you’ll just need your library card!

“HOOPLA is a service we’ve wanted to offer for some time,” said, Darlene Hellenberg, Ferndale Library’s Interim Director. “We are so happy that the millage passed, and HOOPLA will be a great way to start rewarding patrons for that support. We’re hoping people really utilize HOOPLA to the fullest during this initial trial period, as a popular reception would assure this exciting resource eventually becoming permanently available.”

HOOPLA is a new digital media service where you’ll access more than half a million titles
across numerous formats: Films that were recently in theaters, or recent seasons of binge-worthy TV shows, the latest eBooks and audio-books, popular music albums and cutting edge comics and graphic novels.

As with OverDrive (our original eBook/Audiobook app), you can down-load titles to your device (or computer) and read them on your screen; after a few weeks, your downloaded “check-out” is discharged from your record when the file automatically deletes it-self. But you could also just stream a movie or an album, sample some songs or just settle in for a viewing, no down-load required.

Best of all, with HOOPLA, there are no hold lists to sign-up for, no waiting, no extra apps or accounts needed, and no special steps to use it. It just works!

As a library cardholder, you may borrow (or stream) up to three titles per month. Patrons can always see how many downloads or streaming check-outs they’re permitted per month, and HOOPLA records a history of check-outs that only the patron can view. This completely revolutionizes the traditional borrowing arrangement of public libraries, and FADL’s staff are excited and energized to charge forth into the future.

“There is a potential to reach Fern-dale residents that have never used the library before said Kelly Bennett, Head of Circulation. “HOOPLA brings the library into their home, into their hands,into their lives. We’re hoping to see an uptick in new patrons.”

To register for and enjoy hoopla digital for free with your library card, please download the hoopla digital app from your Apple or Google Play store on your mobile device. If you are using a computer, you may visit
www.hoopladigital.com/home.

By Jeannie Davis

THE FERNDALE SENIOR GROUP. Who are we?

We are comprised of people over 55 years of age, living in Ferndale. Or not living in Ferndale. People who join want a place to connect with others, and are not enamored of lunching and shopping. Our members range from their 60s to 90s. They are not stodgy old fogies (Well, most of them aren’t).

Our members range in commitment from people who throw themselves into our events and projects,and cleaning up after special lunches….to people who come to socialize, enjoy our programs, and then go home. They all bring different talents and person-alities to the table.

One thing they all have in common is a desire to engage. Some people become more involved after attending meetings for a while, and some don’t. This is fine. One thing is certain. They all meet people who share common attitudes and problems, and they all make friends.

We meet on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month at the Kulick Center at 11:00 A.M. You don’t have to be a member to attend. However, by becoming a member ($10 per year), you will get the newsletter which outlines our speakers, coming trips, and coming events. Plus, we go on certain special trips, which are members only. Some are free!At our meetings, we host pertinent speakers: Garry Taylor from the Historical Society, Mayor Coulter speaking on the state of our city, Sergeant Brown speaking on how the Ferndale Police Force operates and how to be safe, speakers on nutrition, protection from scams, handwriting analysts, demonstrations on zentangle, even our local poet. In addition, we have entertainment: magicians, singers, comedians etc. As if this wasn’t enough, on those meeting days when we have nobody speaking, we amuse our-selves. Last week, we had a lively discussion on what the members wanted to see more of and less of. Or, we have colored, or brought in our knitting and sat and chatted.

By the way, many of our members arrive early just to socialize. Lunch is available at the center after for those who want it.

We have a committee which does nothing but arrange trips for our members. The trips are generally cost-attractive. We are planning trips to The Henry Ford Museum, The Detroit Institute of Arts, The Lavender Festival in Romeo, The Wyandotte Art Fair, the Riverwalk, and of course, the casinos. We have favorite trips which we do every other year, so they don’t get stale: Eastern Market, Art fairs, Frankenmouth, Morley Candy factory, Karr’s Nuts. When we plan these trips, we look for unusual restaurants for lunch.

For events, we have pot luck lunches in the summer, and at Thanksgiving. We Seniors supply the main meat, and the members bring in dishes to pass. This is so popular, that, we are thinking of adding another potluck in March. We have card par-ties, St. Pat’s lunches, winter picnics, and a special lunch for Tiger’s opening day. We do a spaghetti dinner in the fall.

So, why would you join us? Well, you will meet like-minded people. Nothing is more intimidating than walking into a room full of strangers, not knowing anyone. You break into a sweat imagining sitting alone with nobody talking to you. Well not at the Ferndale Seniors. We have a reputation as one of the friendliest groups in Oakland County. Several people have commented on our warmth. People come forward and introduce themselves, and ask if you would like to sit with them. You will learn many new things, and have fun doing it. You will explore our surrounding area within the safety of a group on a bus.

We are not high-pressure, visit us, see if you like what you see.
Jeannie Davis, 248-541-5888