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By Rudy Serra

Q: I LIVE IN FERNDALE. I HAVE A NEIGHBOR who has a driveway and multiple cars. He
never uses his driveway, and parks all his cars on the street so I can’t park in front of my own house. Is there anything I can do?

ANSWER: THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO to prevent a person from legally parking on a public street. You cannot force a person to park in their driveway just because they have one. The key is-sue is whether they are parking legally.

The Ferndale Code of Ordinances talks about parking on residential streets in Title 10. Check it out online. Ferndale ordinances forbid anyone from parking a vehicle on any public street for more than 24 hours.

In addition, the ordinance says you cannot move a car from one spot on the street to another spot on the same street in order to avoid the 24-hour ban. Enforcement of this regulation would probably reduce or eliminate your problem.

The best way to resolve a problem like this, of course, is with a courteous conversation. If your neighborhood has a block club, or neighborhood watch, they might be helpful. It might be helpful for a community group to distribute copies of the parking ordinance door-to-door. You may want to share a copy of the ordinances, or this article in Ferndale Friends, with all your neighbors. I have neighbors who run a day care, there is a church nearby, and others have multiple cars, but there has never been a parking issue on wonderful Wordsworth that I know about.

The Ferndale Police prioritize resources. Parking enforcement in a residential area is not likely to get much attention unless you make your concerns known to the Public Works Director, who is responsible (see the parking ordinances) for parking regulations. If you do not get a reply from the Pub-lic Works Director, you might want to contact the City Manager and/or Mayor and City Council. The Public Works Director is the place to start.

The Ferndale Code says that the city should send written notice to the owner of any vehicle found to be in violation. The owner is given a chance to comply. If they fail, the car can be impounded and the registered owner can be fined. Some streets limit parking to certain hours or days. Many cities require cars to be off the street in the event of snow, and other forms of regulation may be avail-able to help you.

Please promote peaceful parking.

JUDGE RUDY REPORTS is a regular feature in Ferndale Friends. This ¨ask the lawyer¨ format column 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.

Photo by Dawn Henry

Very few people these days worry about nuclear war destroying the world, Dr. Strangelove-style. And the US’ unending war in Afghanistan and America’s military actions around the globe seem part of the wallpaper—there in the background, but not affecting anyone in the homeland other than that very small number doing the fighting.

However, if you drive by the heart of Ferndale at Nine Mile Road and Woodward, Mondays at 4:30-5:30 P.M., you’ll get a reminder of the ongoing conflicts and the persistent threat of nuclear destruction. Standing on the southwest corner, picket signs aloft, is a group that has brought their message of peace to passersby for the last 628 Mondays.

Beginning in 2003, the loosely-organized peace advocates echo part of the Postal Service credo — “Neither snow nor rain. . .” – showing up undaunted by weather conditions or even by a dust-up with the Ferndale police in 2008. As they did back then, the most prominent signs say, “Honk for Peace,” which is met with an unending response as cars drive by. It was those signs and the horn-honking that got the group in trouble when the police decided that the cacophony of horns created a disturbance and made some arrests. Eventually, it was all settled amicably and peace was made on the corner although the signs and the response continue.

I asked one of the stalwarts, Helen Weber, a board member of Peace Action of Michigan, whose office is on Nine Mile Rd., whether she ever gets discouraged since usually only a handful people take part each week. “Oh, no,” says Weber, who served a term on the Ferndale city council, “because there’s always such an enthusiastic reaction from drivers honking their horns in response to our signs.”

How can you describe people who brave the elements and, at times, scorn for their Cassandra-like warnings? They would shy away from heroes. Maybe just “the Nine Mile Peace People,” as they’ve been called.
But there are people who were strategically located at the center of nuclear decisions that saved the world, that maybe deserve a heroic depiction.

One must be extended to an obscure Soviet duty officer, Col. Stanislav Petrov, who, when working at a Russian early warning station, on September 27, 1983, received signals that the US had launched ICBMs at his country. He had seconds to decide whether it was a satellite glitch or real and launch the Soviet arsenal in response. Fortunately, he made the correct decision (we had not launched missiles, and thus no cause to retaliate).

Six weeks later, in the midst of US-NATO war games on Russia’s border, right after President Reagan had ramped up his anti-Soviet rhetoric and unveiled his Star Wars missile defense system that would have given the US nuclear superiority, another crisis unfolded.

The Russians, always terrified of US intentions, believed the games were the real thing—a preparation for a first strike at the Soviet Union. All Soviet and Eastern European bases were put on full alert, which could have led to a confrontation if the US had followed suit. US Lt. General Leonard Perroots, an intelligence chief at the American Air Force base in Germany, saw the elevated Soviet military alert but, rather than respond in kind, decided to err on the side of caution and defused what could have led to a nuclear confrontation. And, can we say, hail to Vasili Arkhipov, a Soviet submarine commander during the 1982 Cuban missile crisis who refused to give the okay for a nuclear strike against the US when a unanimous decision of three officers was necessary. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., an advisor to President John Kennedy’s administration wrote, “This was not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. It was the most dangerous moment in human history.”

So, whew, right? Courageous men saved the world. But all of our lives were on a razor’s edge, any one of which could have gone the other way. Not good.

And, what do we face today?

Trump falsely denounces the US having “fallen behind on nuclear weapons capacity,” and commits his administration to achieving “nuclear superiority,” a policy which will result in a new arms race. Add that to his call for a$56 billion dollar increase in war spending, and the situation seems very frightening.
But, the darling of the liberals, Barack Obama, proposed a $30 billion increase and a $1 trillion modernization of US nuclear forces.

As with so many other issues facing us, it is increasingly upon us, we the people, to demand an end to war and the outrageous expenditures being spent in preparation for one. And, that is partly done every Monday in downtown Ferndale.

Helen Weber says, “There is a reminder needed that a lot of work has to be done together for a better world.”
Sometimes she has been out on the corner by herself. Don’t let that happen.

See you on Nine Mile this Monday? Peace out.

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By Rebecca Hammond

Great Lakes Funding: Funding for Great Lakes restoration may be completely cut. While I feel that our Lakes are magnificent and worth cleaning up for their own sake, there is also nonetheless a massive financial benefit to having clean lakes, and the waterways that feed them. Our tourism industry is close to being entirely based upon our water. And, although I don’t hunt or fish myself, I believe that anyone who does should be able to eat what they catch with no fears of toxicity.

It’s odd that the very success of the Clean Water Act and the EPA has convinced people that not only are they unnecessary, they never were necessary. The whole point of relaxing regulations is to legalize practices that were halted only through legislative mandate. While it’s sad to realize that there are CEOs who seem willing to increase their pollution again as soon as possible, it’s just as sad that apparently there are many who believe it won’t matter. Think back to a time, decades ago, of a drive through SW Detroit when the industrial stench was at its worst. Now imagine it even stronger. Regulations make it as mild as it is now.

The popular push-back against these moves is enormous, like nothing I’ve seen in decades. While stalwarts like the Sierra Club have never gone off-duty (and we’ve taken them for granted), new grassroots efforts are popping up like, well, grass from roots. Charlevoix resident Kimberly Simon started a movement called “All Hands on Deck” to get people personally involved in local events and fight to keep funding in place for Great Lakes restoration. Kimberly told me, “The cuts are a nail in the coffin for the Great Lakes ecosystem on land and water and for the Great Lakes regional economy and lifestyle. Great Lakes issues are not political. The Great Lakes environmental concerns cross state, party, and national lines. I hope to show that in a time when we are divided in this nation about almost everything, water is something we can agree on.” The group’s first events will be July 3 at 10:00 A.M., on beaches all over the region, and their greater purpose includes communication with political leaders, having a website that will be a hub for information and volunteerism, and educating citizens to empower them to not only reach out to candidates, but to change everyday habits to keep our Lakes healthier.

Botanist Kate Chapel took this to heart and is organizing a downriver event. “I learned about ‘All Hands On Deck’ through Facebook and immediately started to get involved. I am a provisional interpreter at the Lake Erie Metropark, so protecting this resource is very important to me. Lake Erie provides a multitude of ecosystem services including fishing, recreation, and tourism. The wetlands associated with its shore teem with life, and filter out toxins and excess nutrients. It’s truly a remarkable system worthy of our protection and stewardship.” Everyday activism.

Ferndale Michigan Monarch Project: Monarch numbers are down again this winter. I send seed fluff out the car’s passenger window wherever a spot lacks milkweed, monarch’s only host plant. Look for meadowy places, grassy verges, goldenrod and thistles, which like the same kinds of spots. This has made many a dull car trip more interesting and purposeful. A family could break up the monotony kids experience on road trips by giving them each a bag of pods and a win-dow cracked open about an inch. Great opportunity to teach kids about butterflies while let-ting them participate in some everyday activism.

Boots and Beer: We love a Michigan hike followed by a stop at a microbrewery. Last Sunday, we drove to the Maple River State Game Area north of Lansing and walked the dikes. If you’ve driven on US 127, you’ve been right through its center and may have thought, like we did, it was just a flooded area, wild and not walkable. But most of the dikes bordering the man-made lakes are. They were partly-thawed and teeming with waterfowl: ducks, swans, geese, cranes. This seemed to be a photo of four sandhill cranes. Look closely. It’s five.

I emailed this to ornithologist Laura Erickson of Duluth. We met years ago on the Ohio turnpike, of all places, because I passed her Prius in mine, in the ‘90s it being a custom for Prius drivers to wave to each other (if you watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, you know this was A Thing, and it used to be an outright snub to not wave back). We ended up at the same rest area, and struck up a friendship.

Laura told me that this must have been a long-mated pair to fly so closely together. “Spring migratory flocks are made up of pairs, their one-or-two young from the previous year, and relatives/neighbors/new associates they meet during stopovers. They’re very sociable. But the primary units of Sandhill Crane society are the mated-for life pairs that hook up during their third to fourth years. The young (usually one chick but some times two) stay with their parents until the parents slip away at some point near their destination during spring migration – the parents to nest again, the young to wander and mix with other young birds and adults whose mates have died over the winter – those adults will meet new adults and the young will wander around in small groups all summer, starting new attachments that, if their bond survives fall migration and winter, will set up new pairs to join the adult pairs the following year.” Ordinary, everyday magnificence.

Becky Hammond is indebted to Gloria Steinem for this headline, sort of. She’s lived in Ferndale since 1986.

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By Jeannie Davis

I recently bought a new car. Yep, it was time to trade in my 2005 Subaru, with 26,000 miles, for a new chariot. My feelings were definitely mixed. After all, we had been through a lot together. How many flowers and pots had my little buddy carted home? I re-member campaign time, with tons of signs crammed into the back. Greg Pawlica and I always had such fun, driving around and placing the signs in lawns. I have a few memories but not a lot, because I am not a good driver and my friends always prefer to drive.

So, I was ambivalent. I was going to have to change, and change is a four-letter word to seniors. I knew where all the buttons were, and what they did. The radio presets hadn’t changed in six years, nor had the seat position or the mirrors. Yikes!

However, I soldiered through the credit checks and the appraisal on my little buddy. I signed all the papers, and made my final selection. At last came the moment of truth. I got into the driver’s seat, with Nichole (my wonderful sales-person) in the passenger seat.

This is when I learned that a radio isn’t just a radio, it also answers my phone, has a complicated thing called a “play list,” tells me when I get an e-mail, where I can get gas or food, and even delivers the weather. At this point, Nichole noticed my glazed eyes and said there were several features but perhaps now was not the time. She referred me to the manual, which equals War and Peace in size. She gallantly set up my phone so I could answer it on something called “blue tooth.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I rarely answer my cell phone anyway because, by the time I figure out how to answer it, the caller has given up.

Finally, I couldn’t put it off any longer. I bravely drove off the lot with the new  car, drove home, and spent the rest of the day on the couch, utterly exhausted.

The next day, it was time for a road test. I planned on being really brave, and going as far as the bird seed store. I managed to start the thing, and even adjusted the seat. However, when I went into reverse, the oddest thing happened! There, on that little screen on the dash was a picture of my driveway in back of me! I am not a total babe in the woods – I had seen this feature in Dan Martin’s car as a passenger but never as a driver. I was so distract-ed that I almost sideswiped a tree. Okay, got past that, and onto the road. I figured a little music couldn’t hurt, so I hit the radio button and soon was motoring gently along Woodward listening to Bach. A pleasant interlude, until the radio informed me that Craig Covey had posted on Facebook, as had Jean Russell. Like I care! What was this? After a few more blurbs, I turned the radio off, but did that stop the nonsense? No, my radio continued to inform me of Facebook posts, and e-mails.

I arrived at the bird seed store, made my purchases, and told the girl that I could carry both bags out to my car. I am strong, but, my downfall came when attempting to open the hatch. After fiddling with the dam key fob and tugging at the handle, the girl from the store came out and did something magical, opened my rear, stowed my bags, and returned to her perch inside the store.

I arrived home without further incident, poured a drink, and pouted. I know I am going to have to open the manual and learn how everything works, but I am dreading it. After all, I have learned other things, how hard can it be? Maybe by the time you read this, I will be expertly handling this annoyance on wheels. But if you see me driving with one hand and randomly poking at buttons with the other, perhaps you could help me out.

Change!  Who needs it? However, I do like the color.

By Rudy Serra

Q: My son returned from a visit with his cousin, and now he wants to install neon lights on the under-carriage if his car. Are those even legal? What about interior neon lights? What else should he know about tricking out his car?

Answer: The Dream Cruise is only a few months away. Welcome to convertible season and Daylights Savings Time. The law says you cannot install lights on a motor vehicle unless “expressly required or permitted” by the motor vehicle code. Otherwise, the law requires that such lights “are both covered and unlit.” Who wants to buy lights they have to keep both unlit and covered?

Neon undercarriage lights are not required. They are not mentioned in the motor vehicle code. Although they are not expressly forbidden, they are also not expressly permitted. This means that you can install neon under-carriage lights, but you cannot use them at any time that the car is on a public street. You cannot drive with such lights on. Your son can display the lights only while parked.

The law is also very specific about what color lights can be used in or on a car, and what direction they can be seen from. The only color lights that may be visible from the front of a vehicle are white or amber. If you can look through the windshield and see blue, red, green or other lights in the passenger compartment, it is a violation. Interior neon lights, therefore, would be subject to the same rules as exterior. You would need to be parked.

The only colors that may be visible from the rear of a vehicle are red or amber. On the sides of your vehicle in back, you can display only amber or red. On the sides of the front, anything other than white or amber is a violation.

According to the Michigan State Police: “No other colors are allowed and if any permitted color lamp is visible from any direction that is not allowed then it cannot be equipped that way. If the lighting causes a visual impairment for the driver or is potentially distracting, then such lighting is unlawful. Finally, like exterior neon lighting, there is no provision within the Michigan Vehicle Code that allows the use of interior neon lighting. Ultimately, it will be a matter for the courts to decide.”

Even neon license plate frames are regulated. They must be covered and unlit any time the vehicle is being driven, and they cannot obscure any information on the plate.

JUDGE RUDY REPORTS is a regular feature in Ferndale Friends. This ¨ask the lawyer¨ format column 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.

I’m writing to share the current real estate market conditions in the Metro Detroit area. Our inventory of available homes is at a critical low right now; and with the threat of interest rates continuing to rise, this is a big problem for buyers. It should also be a clear message to homeowners considering selling their homes.

I listed a home last week on Wednesday at 9:00 A.M. It was a typical 1200 sq. ft, bungalow located in the Woodward corridor. By 12:00 P.M., there were over 50 confirmed showings. I called for “highest and best” after receiving two offers. On Friday at 5:00 P.M., I had 19 offers for my client to review and 17 were over asking price. Great news for the seller, but bad news for the 18 buyers who did not get the home.

I want everyone in the Metro Detroit area to know this is the time to sell!! If interest rates continue to rise, the pool of buyers will shrink, and home sales will be affected. As inventory rises, this will change the market to benefit buyers, and home values will drop. If you’re thinking of selling, waiting could be devastating to your bottom line. It could also be damaging to the market as a whole. If inventories rise at the same time as interest rates, it could create the atmosphere for another real estate “bubble,” and we all know how damaging that can be to the housing market.

For those who think waiting until summer to sell will help your bottom line, I’d ask you to reconsider your rationale. Do you think you will profit from waiting until the time when others are more likely to put their homes on the market? Not likely! The time to put your home on the market is now, while supply is low. Cash in now!

Sincerely, Eric Blaine
Real Estate One, 26236 Woodward Ave Royal Oak, MI 48067
Cell: 248-808-4758.

By Rose Carver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Dawn Henry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack D. Arlan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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