By David Ryals

AS MEMBERS OF THE FERNDALE ARTS AND CULTURE COMMISSION (FACC), Tim Brennan and Sharon Chess were charged with creating a community band. In February 2015, Sharon set up a FaceBook page and named it Ferndale Community Concert Band. The interest in the idea was inspiring, and they knew they were heading in the right direction. They separated from the FACC that Spring, and became a recognized 501c3 non-profit organization.

Now, beginning their third season, they are excited to welcome 20 new members, bringing them to a resounding 83 members. Their members are exceptional musicians, having various talents and degrees in teaching or performing music and longevity. Twenty-five members are alumni of the Ferndale Schools (FS) Music Program, from 1969 to students who are now Freshman through Seniors in the FS program.
The fascinating part about FCCB is, as a group, they have become a community of individuals who share the passion for music, people and community. The friendships, camaraderie and mentoring for each other is unlike anything Sharon and Tim have ever witnessed or experienced in other organizations.

Being part of this organization has been a wonderful opportunity for all of them.

One of their flute players, Ms. Anne Dwyer, put it best, “The opportunity to interact with and learn from this wealth of musical knowledge is like finding a million dollars in my attic – it’s a treasure in my own house.”

Though Sharon does not play an instrument or read music, her passion for music and those who are talented and gifted in music touch her heart and soul. She is the band’s biggest cheerleader, as she listens through every rehearsal and performance.

Her job as Director of Development is to create awareness and opportunity for members and the whole organization. They now have several smaller ensembles within the band who are invited to play at area events. The organizers of such events in turn donate to the band, welcome assistance for a non-profit with a slim budget.

They gladly accept donations for the band, and encourage everyone to join their email list. Immediately following their concerts, the FCCB offers a bake sale, and many of the members put their culinary skills to work and contribute to the sale.

Other opportunities are blossoming. A new event being produced by Quicken Loans, Winter Wonderland, has reached out to the FCCB to be a part of an innovative way to bring people to Downtown this winter.

The Ferndale Community Foundation, Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce, Woodward Dream Cruise, Downtown Development Association, Social Connection and Ultimate Fun Productions are a few of those who have helped to recognize and support them in this endeavor.

The FCCB is extremely excited to announce they are the recipient of a grant for 2018 from Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. The Council invests in organizations which encourage the growth of arts and culture in any community.

The FCCB Home Town Holiday concert, on Sunday, December 17 at 3:00 P.M. will be held in the Ferndale school auditorium, and is free to all those who attend. This performance is not your traditional singalong of carols. A new tradition will begin with this concert; they are encouraging everyone to wear an ugly holiday sweater or tie, and join them in a Santa march scheduled for the same day.

The FCCB has also been invited by the Clarkston Community Band to join them and the Rochester Community Band in a single performance in the Clarkston High School auditorium on March 4, 7:00 P.M. The facility is state of the art, having been recently renovated. This invitation, once again, shows the respect gained in such a short period of time with in the world of community bands.

Their Music Director, Ed Quick, is excited to lead an incredible collection of talent and devoted musicians, and smiles as he raises his baton to begin each rehearsal. They couldn’t do it without him.

Continued support and opportunity will increase the Ferndale Community Concert Band’s longevity. Check them out on YouTube and at

Story By Jon Szerlag

VANDALISM IS MORE THAN JUST A CRIME OF DESTRUCTION of property, especially when it is personal property. for one oak park family, a pumpkin thrown at their window after Halloween had them rethinking their ongoing efforts to transform their home into a local extravaganza and holiday landmark
for the community.

For some, Halloween may be just a day for a quick scare and for children to get candy. For others, it is something more. It is a tradition that seems to be faltering, moving underground as the popularity of Trunk-or-Treat and other similar events take the stage for a safe alternative to going door-to-door shouting “Trick or Treat!”

For the Schaller family, October — especially the night of Halloween — is something to be proud of. Their house, both outside and in, has become a traditional holiday landmark known for elaborate decorations and costumes. “It’s part of an atmosphere,” said Chris Schaller. “It’s a family event, and other families are involved in it as well. We all remember when we were little kids. Trick-or-treating was different back then. It was fun. We want the kids to feel that and keep that tradition alive. [Halloween] is a time for the community to get together, and we are a part of that. We offer a sense of community and a sense of nostalgia and a little part of tradition, hoping that this torch will be carried on with some little kid saying I want to do that.”

All of that almost came to a halt when their son was woken in the middle of the night to a crash which shook the house and knocked numerous items off a wall, including a collectable cuckoo clock. Their son thought someone was trying to break into their house, then noticed the items on the floor and thought they just fell. When he left for work the next day, he noticed that some of the decorations were damaged, and someone had thrown a pumpkin at a window with such force it knocked all of the items off the wall inside. The Schaller family has been decorating their house for four years, and never had any concerns or problems.

“This is the first time someone has messed with our decorations,” said Linda Schaller. “People come by…and they respect it. This year was the first year someone did something. It was my fears being realized for the first time. I am hesitant on how much we will do because I don’t want it to happen again.” Although this act of vandalism, of personal disrespect, shook more than just their walls of their home, the Schallers’ will not let this stop them from continuing their tradition.

“We are not going to let one bad seed spoil all we give to the community, and what the community gives to us,” said Chris Schaller. But he did add that they will take some more precautions moving forward, like moving the pumpkins to the backyard and taking larger, expensive items in at night.

“Growing up, getting a candy bar was such a great treat. It was the highlight of the year: the costume mom made for you, becoming the superhero of the moment. It’s good for parents and the community. And people and kids remember us from the year before and look forward to coming here. We are not going to let one person, or group of kids spoil it for the roughly 200 kids we had this year. We are going to keep it going.”

SARA TELLER AND DAVID RYALS (aka David Wesley), both long-time contributors to Ferndale Friends, are each celebrating the release of new books. Ryals offers a novel which gives a “gruesome” depiction of the African Ivory trade, and Teller’s book provides advice to people who may be in an abusive relationship of a particular type. Both books are being released by the Ferndale-area publisher, Mad Hatter Publishing. Congratulations, David and Sara!

New Book on Narcissistic Abuse Could Save Lives

NARCISSISTIC ABUSE: A SURVIVAL GUIDE, is a new book by Michigan author Sara Teller that could save lives. There’s an insidious, secret war going on, and it may just be happening inside your home. If your spouse or partner is always right and you’re always wrong, if you’re always the one to blame for a mishap,if you’re never good enough, then you may be at war and not even realize it.

Narcissistic Abuse is real and potentially life threatening. Physical, mental, and emotional abuse are all part of the narcissist’s bag of abusive tricks, and can have a lifelong impact on you and everyone in your household.

If you or someone you know is caught in this situation, this book can help you break free and survive. If you’re a therapist, counselor, or you’re involved in the recovery process, this book brings insight into the inner workings of the abusive narcissistic relationship.

Teller brings to bear her life experience combined with her intellectual and academic studies, and presents a thorough reference book address-ing the real need to identify Narcissistic Abuse, create a survival strategy and find therapeutic relief from the after-effect. She sheds light on:
The difference between narcissism as an inherent human trait and pathological narcissism that is destructive and harmful. Victimization, abuse, and the healing process. Therapeutic intervention and relief

Teller is passionate about helping those caught in narcissistic abusive relationships. Her desire to understand the disorder led to her current pursuit of an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She’s a warm, caring, and driven advocate who aims to shed light on the devastating impact of this often hidden and misunderstood disorder.

A novelist and poet, Sara has honed her craft through four previous books of fiction along with 15 years of publishing, and writing experience that includes newspapers, magazines and book publishers. Not only does she excel at the written word, she’s also a passionate and informative speaker. She also holds an MBA with a concentration in Marketing.

Narcissistic Abuse: A Survival Guide is available in both eBook and paperback on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers.

Elephant Poaching in Africa Dissected With Precision

ELEPHANT PLAY, a new novel by Michigan author David Ryals, rips you out of your chair and across the plains, deserts and thick, hot brush of Africa leaving in its wake the decimated, rotting carcasses of elephant and man. To think you’re undertaking a nice comfortable read when you first pick up the novel, Elephant Play, is your first mistake and lulls you into a false sense of normalcy. All too quickly, you’ll find yourself wondering when you left sanity behind and where this horrifying ride will take you in the end. Getting up close and personal with elephant poachers is no pretty thing. Ryals’ expert imagery may just make you vomit your lunch if you’re not careful. This novel takes you on a journey into madness entwined with a look into the gruesome and brutal ivory trade.

Born in the poorest part of America, our diabolic narrator is driven by a ghastly sense of helpless futility coupled with a compulsive criminality that keeps his chance at fame in sight. It’s a measure of the author’s skill that we live through that hideous dream and emerge from it illuminated. Or bewildered. Or diabolically amused.

David Ryals developed his writing skill, style, and artistic maturity through his debut novel, Elephant Play. His expressive work is inspired by the absurdity of life and satirized through vibrant caricature. Elephant Play is available in both eBook and paper-back on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers.

Gia Cilento
Mad Hatter Publishing, Inc. (MHPI) P.O. Box 20973, Ferndale, MI 48220 248.560.7372

By: Rebecca Hammond

SHALL I OPEN A MYTHICAL BOOK OF SUPERLATIVES? If you didn’t know Betty Laframboise, you might feel that what you’re about to read is a little over the top. But superlatives are the norm when friends describe Betty.

Betty Laframboise passed away in September, at age 93. Born in Canada, but spending most of her life here in Ferndale, she was a tireless volunteer and volunteer-recruiter; in fact, longtime friends like Peggy Snow joke that you didn’t want to let Betty know where you lived. She’d find you, and next you would find yourself involved, maybe to your own surprise. Snow found this out after a casual chat after a meeting at the library. Not only did Betty show up at Peggy’s door the next day with block club fliers, Peggy eventually found herself secretary. “Betty was the founder of the block club,” Peggy said.

Judy Wells, another longtime friend, said, “Betty was an ordinary person, but such an extremely special ordinary person. It’s hard to describe her. As much as a person can be a people person, she was one. Any way she could help, she helped. Politics or neighborhood or school stuff, she was gung-ho to do it. She was such a go-getter, willing to step in anywhere. We did most things together. If you saw one of us, you saw the other. People would even call us by each others’ names.”

What was she involved in? PTA. The Dream Cruise, right out of the starting gate. Those block clubs. Politics (she was one of Craig Covey’s staunchest supporters). School fairs. Improving Ferndale’s rather seedy downtown. She was active in her church, first St. James, and later St. Mary Magdalen in Hazel Park, as a hospital Eucharist volunteer among other things.

Wells said, “I don’t know how she ever had time to raise kids and take care of speculated that the key to Betty’s success was rootedness. “Almost everything Betty was involved in turned out to be a success because she always lived on the same street, and knew everybody. She lived there since her marriage.”

That marriage was to the late Henry Laframboise. The couple had six children, Mary Jo Ortiz, Roger, Bernie (Ferndale Friends staff photographer), Mary Louise West, Vincent, and Mary Rose (also deceased). She is survived by ten grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren.

Former mayor Craig Covey told me, “Betty Laframboise was the first community activist I met in Ferndale three decades ago, and was organizing neighbors and advocating for Ferndale when most of us were still teenagers. When Ferndale hit one of its lower points, with a downtown known for strip clubs and massage parlors, Betty led the fight to protect the city from further decline. Without her, this town would never have had the chance to become the cool place it became.”

“She was a fierce advocate for the neighborhoods and especially the East side of Ferndale. She was no-nonsense, and politically a moderate, something that is rare these days and sorely needed,” Snow told me,
“Betty carried Craig’s [campaign] signs in her trunk and when she talked to someone in her travels that was interested, she had a sign for them.” Wells said, “She was one of the first to be involved in the Dream Cruise.

She was selling real estate then. We met at City Hall that first year. She was involved eight or nine years. We were worried to get enough people to come see the cars. We thought it would be just people from Ferndale and maybe Pleasant Ridge. And now look at it! Betty got volunteers because she went out beating the bushes.” Snow echoed this, saying, “One year she had near 100 volunteers. She arranged for food donations for them; that was at the old library meeting room. Volunteers could go there to cool off and have pizza. She thought it was very important to show appreciation to volunteers. Anything Betty did she put her all into.”

This past September 25, our city adopted a resolution, which reads in part:
Mayor David Coulter and the Ferndale City Council extends the City’s condolences to the family of Betty Laframboise. Betty Laframboise, 93, a longtime resident of Ferndale, died Monday, September 11, 2017. She was born December 31, 1923 in Leamington, Ontario, Canada to Frederick and Frances Haslam. Betty was an active volunteer over the years, participating in the PTA as Vice President at Wilson and Coolidge, President at Coolidge, and President of the PTA Council. She was also a former Chairperson of the Ferndale Block Club Network, An election worker for the city, and Eucharistic Volunteer at St. John Oakland Hospital.

Betty Laframboise was a credit to her family, as well as to our community and country. It is with deep sorrow that we mourn her loss.

“Framboise” is French for raspberry. In early Christian art, according to the Telegraph UK, raspberries symbolized kindness, and “the red juice was thought of as the blood running through the heart, where kindness originates.” Seems very fitting, doesn’t it?

By Ann Heler, Board of Directors

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

Upcoming clinic sessions:
Saturday mornings 9:00 AM to Noon:
12/16/17, 1/6/18, 1/20/18, 2/3/18, and 2/27/18.
Thursday evenings 6:00 – 8:30 PM:
11/30/17, 12/7/17, 12/21/17, 1/11/18, 1/25/18, 2/8/18, and 2/22/18

Please call me at 248-677-2273, ext. 23 or e-mail our Head Nurse, Diane Dengate at or go to our website and pull down the Volunteers tab. I need to say a big thank you to the RNs that sent in the applications or e-mailed Diane. You are just wonderful…..thank you.

We have another very critical need for a Clinic Manager. This is a paid position – $22,000/year. Work load is 15 hours per week with some of that time by phone or e-mail. The person needs to be a Physician Assistant, Nurse Practitioner or RN with some administrative experience. Once again as above, call me at 248-677-2273 ext. 23 or e-mail Diane Dengate Head Nurse for more information.

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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 ( 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;

Sen. Vincent Gregory: BOX 30036, Lansing, MI 48909,; (517) 373-7888

If you are interested in working for IRV in Ferndale, contact: stephanie loveless at

Hugh McNichol: 517-420-8452;

For more information, contact:
FairVote:, 6930 Carroll Ave Ste 240, Takoma Park MD 20912, 301-270-4616,

Ranked Choice :
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:


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, check out their web site,, 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.