Opinion

By Sara E. Teller & stephanie loveless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Mary Meldrum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HERE ARE JUST A FEW TECHNIQUES used in gerrymandering:

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.votersnotpoliticians.com

 

0 84

By Jill Lorie Hurst
Photo by Bernie LaFramboise

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

By: Ingrid Sjostrand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

J.T. Green & Peter Werbe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

0 226

WHAT YOU ARE HOLDING IN YOUR HANDS, BY CONVENTIONAL WISDOM, IS A DINOSAUR, soon to be a fossil. That’s right. We’re told that the Print Age that began in the Fifteenth Century is over, supplanted by electronic devices, with only a few remaining holdouts.

In fact, visiting news sites on one’s phone may soon be outdated technology replaced by holograms appearing with the wave of a hand (or maybe just a thought). Who needs a tree-killing, labor and machinery-intensive, hard-to-deliver, expensive means of communication when the whole world is on our phones?

Well, that would be me, but more importantly, so does this paper’s readership and those of the many other Detroit-area publications that defy so-called conventional wisdom, and see their circulation rising.

What is declining significantly is the corporate media. As an example, The Detroit News and Free Press now limit delivery of their daily edition to Thursday and Friday. In New York City, the drop-off in circulation of The New York Daily News is staggering; from 4.9 million copies of their Sunday paper in 1947 to 235,000 today. No more, “Extra, extra; read all about it.”

News is now garnered instantaneously from the Internet, so the social need for newspapers as an immediate information source is gone and won’t come back.

BUT FERNDALE FRIENDS and the other paper I write for, the Fifth Estate, and a host of other local papers such as the Metro Times, Between the Lines, and several more, serve a need not provided for by the Web.

One important aspect of each paper is that they serve very distinct
communities, and simply having it present is an affirmation of what each publication projects. Most young people grew up with a phone in their hand, so maybe they don’t have a reaction to the important tactile feel of holding a newspaper. But, if you’re reading this, you very well may.

This paper has the culture and residents of Ferndale and the surrounding area all over it, including its advertisements. Most people don’t like ads on TV, which is why programs are recorded and ads get the fast forward function. On radio, as soon as the spot break comes, boom, you hit the button for your second favorite station. But, if you’re like me, you probably read not only every article in this paper to see who is doing what and what is going on, but pay attention to the ads since they are a source of information around the community as well.

Here’s what Stephanie Loveless, Ferndale Friends publisher, had to say about print in a recent conversation I had with her. “I like print. Nobody ever got hacked reading Ferndale Friends or Fifth Estate! We don’t collect cookies, plant spyware or malware, and we make a nice friendly ‘plop’ when we hit your porch. What’s not to love about print?”

ALTHOUGH IT MAY BE IMPORTANT to recognize the Buddhist concept of Impermanence, having back issue available is an important source of history of events covered by a publication. When the Fifth Estate celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015, with exhibitions at the Detroit Historical Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), there was the first edition from 1965 on display, and the 1970 women’s issue which was the paper’s highest circulation. So was the paper’s coverage of the July 1967 Detroit Rebellion, a copy of which is part of the current million-dollar exhibition at the Historical Museum devoted to the uprising.

What’s on your blog is gone in a minute. Well, maybe not from the NSA computers if you are an enemy of the state.

Getting my eyes off of my phone and desktop screen, and onto a printed page is something I look forward to. I can read lengthy articles at my leisure and not get that immediate restless feeling that accompanies viewing Internet articles to move onto the next one. Remember that in George Orwell’s 1984, one of the goals of “Newspeak” was to diminish language and the capacity for full discourse. Although you can publish articles of any length online, how many people are going to read long ones on their phone?

A writer recently submitted an 8,000 word article to the Fifth Estate when we had asked for 1,200 maximum. When we declined to print it, they withdrew it and published it on a news site. It’s doubtful many visitors there read the entire text.
Granted, once you’re set up, online posting is relatively easy, certainly much less than all the effort it takes to publish a newspaper. But how do you know when it’s time to pack it in, like the venerable NYC’s Village Voice did this year after 62 years of print publishing?

Whether to continue printing is actually self-regulating. Newspapers are expensive, so if Ferndale Friends doesn’t get advertising it won’t publish any longer. If the Fifth Estate doesn’t receive subscriptions, it too is history.

For now, though, for both publications, no worry. Same for the others mentioned above. And, yes, I am blowing our own horn. There is a sense of enormous satisfaction that comes with the publication of each issue no matter how many times you’ve seen one roll off the press. You know you’ve connected with lots of people and connected them with each other through what appears on the printed page.

Peter Werbe is a member of Fifth Estate magazine’s editorial collective www.FifthEstate.org.

0 22

By Rebecca Hammond

ON OUR MANY MINI-MICHIGAN TRIPS, WE NOTICE A LACK OF MILKWEED IN places that could sustain it, but we also notice an abundance of goldenrod. Monarch butterflies need both, milkweed being their only host plant, goldenrod and asters being the nectar plants that get the last generation of monarchs each year from northern places to central Mexico. You may have been told that goldenrod revs up your fall allergies. I was. But goldenrod pollen is too big and heavy to blow around and be inhaled. Most of us are really triggered by ragweed, which blooms at the same time, but with no attention-getting showiness.

I saw many monarchs in the UP a week or so ago, some along Lake Michigan, about to cross the Straits, one just off the coast of Grand Island, in the winds of a coming storm. We were on a ledge watching that storm roll in, and the monarch was a surprise.

If you visit Grand Island, consider the ferry schedule online and on the door of the ferry office in Munising to be a wee bit more flexible than stated. We thought we had a half hour to kill before the 9:00 A.M. ferry made the three-minute trip, but the captain wandered into the parking lot and gathered up four of us, and off we went. The ferries are actually pontoon boats, carrying only six passengers at a time, with three official trips a day at this time of year.

THREE DOWNY WOODPECKERS flew onto our porch recently, obviously nest-mates, a female and two males. They explored the place, rear-ranging things here and there. I have a bee house (although wasps and fireflies seemed to use it, no bees appeared to) and one compartment is full of wood shavings. A male pulled them out and dropped them, one at a time. Then the female pulled them out and inserted them into a different compartment, one at a time.

KATE FOX, NEIGHBOR WITH the “Keep Fernlandia Weird” straw-bale vegetable garden last year, expanded this year, same plants, just more of ‘em. Her carrots were so thick and abundant with foliage (itself edible) that she laughed at my inability to keep my hands out of it. The bales of straw are conditioned with fertilizer and heat up and cool down like compost.

Kate made recesses in the tops of the bales, and filled those with soil-less mix. The plants go right into that. Her basil was a healthy little fragrant forest, and the tomato plants were towering. She also has eggplant and cucumbers. The bales are already breaking down, and can be spread else-where like any mulch. Kate says this is her gardening method from now on.

My own tomatoes and peppers were lackluster. So, I googled. Filled a big watering can from the rain barrel, tossed in a handful of Epsom salts, and about the same amount of blackstrap molasses. Tomatoes like calcium. Molasses supplies that, and iron and potassium. I keep a bottle around for electrolyte issues I have in this older age, making sure to take a couple of spoonfuls any night we’ve been out getting sweaty hiking or biking. The salts have a lot of magnesium, which is supposedly why a good soak in a salty bath relaxes the muscles. If you’ve never tried this, you may be surprised. The tomatoes looked better two days later, and did fine from then on, as did green peppers that got the same medicine.

IF YOU’RE UP EARLY and sit outside in the dark, you may hear screech owls calling to each other just before dawn. Sitting outside in the early morning is so wonderful, so life-enriching, it’s a wonder that anyone who does it once isn’t up early and outside every day. Humans are odd things about continuing that which we find rewarding. We so often just go back to sleep, in more ways than one.

IF YOU TIRE EVEN OF FERNDALE’S great bike-lane system, head up Schoenherr and turn west on Clinton River Drive. You quickly come to a parking lot along power lines. It’s a trail-head for a paved path that goes through Utica and beyond. It shadows the Clinton River and goes up and down and around enough curves to be a relief to those of us locked into our incessant rectangles and straightaways. And it has some fun tunnels and bridges. Most of it feels quite remote from urbanness. Check out the paved trail right here in Harding Park. Fun addition to a pedal around town.

This urban setting is home to more deer now than I can believe. We visited some former neighborhood pals who moved to south Royal Oak, and were admiring their new home and back yard. Up walked a doe and buck. As the six of us, two couples, our friends’ two little girls, were shouting with surprise, and ooh-ing and ahh-ing, the deer decided to, right then and there, um, mate. At that moment, the older of the two girls remarked, quite innocently, “Maybe they’ll have a baby!” Uh, yeah. That’s just about a sure thing.

ADDING TO THE ONGOING LIST OF reasons I know I live in a great city this: When a police officer showed up at our house to take a look at vandalized plants in our front yard, her first comment was that the plants are milkweed, and monarchs need milkweed. And that we need to protect it. Thank you, officer. We are, and will continue.

Becky Hammond loves the Michigan outdoors and never wants to be anywhere else. Heaven is here.

0 16

By Rudy Serra

Q: IF I AM BEING CHARGED with embezzlement and I admitted to it, will I be able to get a court-appointed attorney even though I confessed? I am being charged with embezzlement (less than $200.00) from my place of work. I admitted to it, apologized and offered to pay it back on the spot. They told me to keep it, and told me they were going to press charges. This is my very first time doing anything so stupid. What will happen at my arraignment hearing?

ANSWER: The purpose of arraignment is to make sure you understand the charges against you and your legal rights. Some-times, defendants go through arraignment without a lawyer. When you face potential incarceration, you have the right to a court-appointed lawyer. Since bond is set at arraignment, in many cases there are court-appointed lawyers available at this stage. Sometimes, the court does not appoint a lawyer until after arraignment.

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”

In 1963 the U.S. Supreme Court decided a case called “Gideon v Wainwright.” In that case, the defendant was not able to afford to pay for a lawyer. He wanted one anyway. The court decided that defendants have a right to a government-paid lawyer in criminal cases if they can’t afford to hire one on their own.

Later, the court clarified that poor people can have a lawyer appointed if they face incarceration. If an offense is punishable only by a fine or some other non-jail sanction, then there is no right to counsel. You do not get a court appointed lawyer for running a stop sign or over-parking because these are called “civil infractions” for which there is no jail penalty.

The fact that a person pleads guilty has no effect on their right to a court-appointed lawyer. If a guilty plea could possibly result in jail time, then the court should appoint a lawyer for you.

Usually, a defendant has to prove their own inability to pay. The court pays for counsel only if you are “indigent.” Also, usually, if you get convicted, part of your sentence requires you to repay the court for your lawyer. The courts have adopted competency standards for appointed criminal defense lawyers. Some courts use a “House Counsel” system, where an assigned public defender rep-resents everyone in court that day. In more serious cases, like felonies, the court assigns one lawyer to one defendant. In either case, continuing legal education and other standards apply.

JUDGE RUDY REPORTS is a regular feature in Ferndale Friends. We welcomes questions from readers. If you have a legal question or concern, send your question by email to: rudy.serra@sbcglobal.net. Advice about specific cases cannot be provided but general legal questions and topics are welcome.

0 25

By Jeannie Davis
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF EVERY GROUP? Every person working for a cause? Every com-mission that plans events? Fundraising!

It’s a universal problem – how to raise funds for your group or cause. I have helped raise funds for the Ferndale Foundation, the Ferndale Art Commission, the Ferndale Historical Society and more political campaigns than I can remember. I am not alone. Every other passionate, involved person in this city has had the same experiences. We have all worked hard for so many causes.

Some of the methods have been typical, like banquets, raffles, bar parties, and house parties. My particular favorite is the “moo-poo” event held to support sports at the high school. It involves a cow, a field with squares drawn and numbered, and I think you can imagine the rest.

This all leads to our Ferndale Senior Group. We are limited in raising funds, particularly within our peers, by the fact that the majority of seniors are on limited, fixed incomes. We can only raise so much money during our meetings with 50/50 raffles, pick-your-own prize raffles, and other efforts which raise limited amounts. We reach outside our group periodically. We are indeed all good bakers, and our bake sales are our biggest money-raisers. However, we can only have so many bake sales, and our ladies can only bake so many cookies.

In specific instances, we have applied, and received grant money from the Ferndale Foundation. What do we need money for? We pay for lunch at the Center once a month for members. We offer a special free trip for members every year. We partially subsidize holiday parties during the year. We provide small refreshments at meetings. We pay for speakers and entertainment at our meetings. This certainly is not covered by our $10 annual dues.

Please understand, we are not begging for money. Rather, we are begging for education on raising funds. We need ideas on what we can do to earn enough to be able to continue to offer these services to our people. The hard part is that the people doing the work are somewhat limited physically. Some of us can’t stand for long, lift heavy stuff, nor do we have the endurance for long shifts. Obviously, we need to reach outside our group. Pretty small parameters, but some of you must have ideas.

Maybe we could assist another group with a fund-raiser and have a small share in the profit. We have bounced so many ideas around during our meetings. My particular favorite is still the calendar-girl idea. Steve at Western Market even volunteered to allow us to use his fruit displays in his store for staging. However, only two of us were willing to do it. So another idea hit the dust.

So, please, if you have any know-how, or know of things which have worked out in other cities, please contact me, or stop one of us on the street, and talk to us about it. Even if you get an idea at 3:00 A.M., just call Virginia Saxton. She will be happy to answer the phone and talk!

Jeannie Davis, 248-541-5888