By Sara E. Teller

WOODS, AND NORTH OAK PARK. Members include restaurants, retail stores, professional business services, real estate agents, financial, insurance, and legal services, education and health and wellness providers, non-profit organizations, auto care companies, home-based businesses, wedding service providers, salons, and more.

The Chamber and its members are dedicated to creating and sustaining a positive business climate by connecting with each other, local governments, and the community. Darlene Rothman, Executive Director, and RoseAnn Nicolai, Events & Operations Manager, have been with the Berkley Area Chamber since 2012.

“I’ve been the Executive Director for over seven years,” explained Rothman. “I was a Huntington Woods resident for over 27 years and was upset when the economy was affecting local businesses in Berkley. These businesses do a lot to support the community, and it was important for the community to support them during challenging times. When the job opportunity arose to work for the Berkley Area Chamber, I was excited to do what I could to help.”

Of her position, Nicolai said, “I have an event planning and association management company, and I have been a resident of Berkley since 1997. So, when an opportunity came up to work on events within the city where I live, I jumped at the opportunity. A year later the Chamber asked my company to take over the administrative tasks so Darlene could focus on recruiting new members and helping our current members.”

Understanding the importance of investing in local businesses, Nicolai added, “I believe having a thriving business community is an important component of making Berkley a great place to live. Local businesses are the ones who are more likely to donate to local causes and groups. They have an investment in the community. So, helping these businesses thrive is important.”

The Berkley Area Chamber is responsible for many fun, annual activities, some of which include:

THE BERKLEY ART BASH, the 2nd Saturday in June. Chaired by April McCrumb, owner of Catching Fireflies and Yellow Door Art, this fair attracts crowds of over RoseAnn Nicolai, Events 10,000 people who come to find hip handmade wares from over 150 artists and makers, listen to live music, eat great food, and participate in children’s activities.

THE BERKLEY STREET ART FEST, the second Saturday in July. Commissioned artists create murals on various spaces, and children and adults have the opportunity to create their own chalk art. Street performers and musicians are also there to entertain throughout the day.

THE BERKLEY PUB CRAWL, late August. This event highlights Berkley’s bars and restaurants.

THE STATE OF THE CITIES BREAKFAST, the 4th Friday in October. This event offers an opportunity for local government entities to report out to the community the accomplishments and issues from the past year as well as touch on what is forthcoming.

Rothman said, “As a team, we’ve increased the positive aspects of the community, so more [businesses] can grow and prosper. So many wonderful members go above and beyond to help create events, marketing concepts, and volunteer.”

The Chamber’s Board of Directors is grateful to all those who participate, companies and residents alike. Rothman said, “Most [members] are small business owners who do it all and still do what they can to help the greater good of the community. We have wonderful business owners, managers, and employees who create a warm and inviting atmosphere in Berkley and beyond.” She recognizes that residents also contribute to the Chamber’s mission, saying, “The residents are very loyal in supporting local businesses, which is what makes new businesses gravitate here. Strengthening downtown Berkley helps retain residents and attract new residents. Having the Berkley School District so strong is a major anchor to the entire mix. Public Safety makes sure the community is safe. It’s a win-win for all.”

The Berkley Area Chamber of Commerce offers Explore Berkley gift certificates to thirty local businesses, which can be purchased at berkleychamber.com and through the Berkley Education Foundation, berkleyedfoundation.org. Businesses and organizations can also join the Chamber and have access to all of its benefits by registering online. For more information, call 248.414.9157.

By David Ryals

MUHAMMAD AL-SHARKAWI WAS BORN IN EGYPT and received his education there and in Europe, earning both a Ph.D. and MA in Arabic. He later taught in Germany and the Middle East before finally coming to the United States in 2011. He has written six books on the history of Arabic and more than 20 academic articles in several languages. In 2017, he moved to Oak Park in order to teach at Wayne State University in Detroit.

But al-Sharkawi is much more than just an academic and intellectual. First and foremost he is a humanitar- ian. He is also a model citizen. The al-Sharkawi family, for example, is known for opening their home to strangers on Thanksgiving and other occasions. Every day and in every way, Muhammad strives to benefit our community. He is an inspiration in neighborliness.

What drives you to be an exemplary citizen?

My intention is not to achieve the status of an exemplary citizen. When I came to Oak Park, I met great people right from the first minute in my immediate surrounding area and also on the streets that I walk almost daily regardless of the weather. But I found them more as individuals than a community, admirable but individually.

Because my wife and I decided that Oak Park is our final destination after a long tour of the world, we wanted to live in a community. I believe, as a family man, that communities are safer even than a well- policed area in some cases. I started to cultivate roots for my family and to provide a network for my neighbors who are becoming friends really quickly. The goal is for my two boys, my wife’s daughter and the children of my neighbors to grow up in a well- rooted and close-knit but open and diverse community. So the main drive is the future and the joy this process of cultivation brings to me and to Manal, my wife.

What brought you to America and how did you make it your home?

I came to America seeking what money cannot buy: Education in a free and open society for my children. Before coming to the States, my family lived for four years in Egypt, where we had a house, a beach house, a car with a driver and a steady flow of cash.

In 2007, my wife and I started to look for school for my older boy who was kindergarten age. We found out that money can buy us good schooling but not a good education. Being accustomed to traveling, we decided to find a place to raise the family and offer the children a good education. We decided on America although it did not rank in the top ten countries in education. The relative openness of the society and the freedom of expression were attractive factors for me as an author and university professor.

Between 2008 and 2011, my family lived in Providence, Rhode Island where I taught at Brown University. We considered the first contract period an experiment. In these difficult years, my older son began school and started to cultivate his own mind. My wife and I helped him and his younger brother to be aware of the potential of our new life. Once we found out that the children were fine with the new move, we moved to Michigan where I found a permanent professorship.

Why do you invite your neighbors to your home for holidays?

Manal and I come from families that value strong social and familial ties. In our house, we have an open-door policy during the holidays and also on the weekend. In addition to regular and seasonal dinner parties for our immediate neighbors, we found out that many of our neighbors, who come from diverse faith cultures and social backgrounds, spend their holidays alone while others are with their families. We decided to be their family in Oak Park. Manal, my wife, is a great cook and we thought we could take advantage of this skill to attract the neighbors, who were very shy in the beginning.

In addition to book giveaways, the book club, social media presence, monthly get-togethers at the Cork and regular house visits with neighbors, the holiday dinners help form community in Oak Park. Sharing a meal allows people the chance to talk to one another without the awkward feelings that usually accompany talking to strangers.

What are your plans in the future and what are you most proud of?

I have three plans for my community. I am working with some friends and neighbors on a financial cooperative that should provide assistance to the city of Oak Park residents in the form of interest-free small loans. My second goal is to expand my meeting opportunities with the neighbors, instead of once a month to a regular biweekly gathering over coffee. Third, I hope to start volunteering in the city activities and work to improve the life of its citizenry. In short, I plan to leave my city when I die a good place for my wife and children to live in.

As far as Oak Park is concerned, I am so proud I am making a difference. You do not know how happy I feel whenever I exchange greetings with a neighbor.

By Cheryl Weiss

THE BEST GIFT MY MOM EVER GAVE ME was a childhood in Oak Park. I grew up seven houses from Shepherd Park, or “Oak Park Park,” as we called it.

It was perfect; the park was our playground, and summers were spent enjoying the freedom and fun of riding our bikes to the pool, playing a few rounds of mini golf, cooling off in the library with a new book, riding up and down the hill, watching the games at the baseball diamonds, wandering into the ice arena to watch the guys play hockey while having lunch at the snack bar, or just hanging out in the park with friends on the train.

Later, as a Teen Volunteer, I had caring mentors and gained valuable job skills that helped me as I entered the work world. I loved giving back and helping others so much that I continued to volunteer long after I aged out of the Teen Volunteer program. When I retired five years ago, one of the first things I wanted to do was start volunteering in my community again. I always felt like I had a place here in Oak Park; that I belonged here.

We all belong here. Oak Park’s strength is our diversity. We are a beautiful mix of cultures, races, religions, sexual orientations, backgrounds, and traditions. As children, we learned what a treasure this is as we learned from each other; sharing our food, dances, art, music, and pieces of our lives. As adults, as a community, our diversity and our lifelong connections define who we are. It’s #OP4LIFE, our hashtag. It’s an Oak Park thing: You can’t explain it; you just have to experience it.

OAK PARK HAS CHANGED IN THE LAST 50 YEARS and, as much as I loved growing up here, this is the best time to live in Oak Park. Summer Concerts in the Park are back on Thursday evenings, more popular than ever. Nine Mile is being transformed into a fun, walkable area with pocket parks and linear parks. The Library has events for every interest, from adult coloring to STEAM activities, and a fabulous children’s play area. Public Safety’s ice-cream truck is on the road, sharing sweets and smiles, deepening the positive relationships between Public Safety and the community in ways not often seen in other communities. Fourth of July 2019 was better than ever, with the Oak Park Youth Assistance Pancake Breakfast, the parade, and fun in the park. Not only are former Oak Parkers coming back for the 4th of July; many of those who moved west in the 1980s are now buying homes in Oak Park and raising their families here, the community they loved and never forgot.

It’s more than the development and events, though. Mayor Marian McClellan, City Council, and City Manager Erik Tungate are responsive to the concerns and suggestions of the community. Recently, residents wanted a stop sign at Balfour and Kipling. They complained, and a stop sign is now there. In June, a group of residents wanted Oak Park to raise the Pride flag. They contacted the City, attended a City Council meeting, a new policy was crafted, and the Pride flag was soon flying at City Hall.

MY BEST FRIEND SAYS OAK PARK is like The Wonder Years TV show. Maybe it is. Oak Park is home, it’s a place where each of us belong, where we are each welcome to contribute what we can and participate in the events we love. It’s lifelong connections, and it’s something special. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz had it right: “There’s no place like home.”


By Sara E. Teller

Photos By Bill Gemmell

ALEX WASEL OPENED ALASKA FISH & CHICKEN in Oak Park in 2012. “I had a dream to open my own place after working in a fish market with a friend of mine,” he said. “I got to know how to manage everything then and I knew I wanted to have my own business.”

Right from the beginning, Wasel and his staff worked hard to keep their customers happy, and they now have many regulars who stop in “six or seven days” a week, according to the owner. This has to do in part with Wasel’s customer-oriented, close-knit team who truly understands the market. The food is cooked-to-order and served fresh daily, too, which makes Alaska a unique experience for those who appreciate high quality chicken and seafood.

“All of our seafood and other dishes are always fresh,” Wasel said. “And everyone loves working here – we’re like a family, and we take care of our customers. We’ve gotten the hang of everything here in Oak Park and have our operation under control. We are very busy.”

SOME FAN-FAVORITES INCLUDE Alaska’s jumbo shrimp, snow crab, and fried lobster tail. There are many types of fish available, too, either separately or in combos, including tilapia, cod,perch, catfish, whiting, pickerel, bass, and orange ruffy, among others. Chicken options include wings and tenders along with breasts, legs, things and even gizzards. Family combos are available, and Alaska offers a tempting dessert menu. There are ten cheesecake options to choose from, including specialty slices such as peach cobbler, sweet potato, and superman, as well as six traditional cakes by the slice, including chocolate, caramel, velvet, lemon, pineapple, and coconut. Overall, Alaska Fish & Chicken has something for everyone and is able to cater to a wide variety of dietary preferences.

“When people come in here and try our seafood, they don’t want to go anywhere else,” Wasel said. “They love how fresh it is and how we’re able to make it just the way they like.”

He added, “I had some friends come in here from out of town and when they left, they told others about it. Now, the people they told now come here all the time. I also have someone who comes in every morning to get chicken.” Wasel laughed fondly, “He says he needs my chicken! We’re always busy.”

WASEL LOVES OAK PARK IN GENERAL. He first started in Highland Park in 2008, but said he wasn’t in a good neighborhood and decided he would need to relocate. When searching for a new spot, he stumbled upon Oak Park and knew that’s where he wanted to be.

Four years later, that dream would become a reality. And even though Wasel still currently resides in Hamtramck, he hopes to relocate in the near future to be closer to the community he serves. He said, “I love this city. It’s safe and everyone’s friendly. The City of Oak Park is great. They’re good neighbors to have.”

Wasel is quick to show his appreciation to both his staff and customers, too, understanding they are responsible for Alaska’s success. “I really appreciate all of our customers in Oak Park. And, I really appreciate my staff,” he said. “They know what they’re doing and work hard every day to ensure we’re taking care of our customers.”

Alaska Fish and Chicken is located at 3701 W Nine Mile Rd. and is open Mondays through Saturdays 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 A.M. as well as Sundays 10:00A.M. to 10:00 P.M. Online delivery is available viaDoordash.com. For more information about the menu, call 248-556-0000.

By Jenn Goeddeke

STATE REPRESENTATIVE ROBER WITTENBERG has an outstanding passion for helping others and is an effective advocate and resource for approximately 95,000 people. In his words, “I like to be socially-conscious and fiscally-responsible at the same time.”

I recently met with Rep. Wittenberg at a local coffee shop to discuss his past and present political activities, along with his future plans. He is currently serving his third and final term as representative for Michigan’s 27th House District. This broad area includes Berkley, Oak Park, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge and Royal Oak Township.

Wittenberg certainly has a high regard for Oak Park. His grandparents moved here in 1967 and stayed until 2008. Since then, the home remained in Wittenberg’s family up until 2017 when it was sold. Wittenberg also attended Oak Park Middle School and is good friends with both the Mayor and City Manager. He mentioned with pride his “active and engaged” neighborhood block club, which is totally structured and holds monthly meetings, plus it hosts an annual Summer BBQ. He describes it as a “wonderful community.” And, even though it is the largest city in the District, it is more like a small town in terms of its residents. “I would love to keep serving this community!” he added with a smile.

WITTENBERG GREW UP IN MICHIGAN’S 27TH DISTRICT and was drawn to politics from an early age. While attending Berkley High School, then later at Indiana University, Wittenberg was continuously involved in various student councils and associations. He also volunteered his time for the campaigns of Mayor McClellan (Oak Park), Mayor Coulter (Ferndale) and also several city council races. By the time he got to the point of going into politics as his full- time career, many of his friends and family were saying, “What took you so long?”

 The issues of greatest focus in his political agenda include environmental issues (clean water and reducing chemical and other pollutants), equal wages for all, greater gun control and higher educational standards and funding. A further motivation behind his efforts is what he calls: ‘Universal Fairness.’ As he explained, “I see that people often get treated differently based on how they look or who they love, and so on. That’s just so wrong!”

He added, “People might have an issue, for example with their utility company, but then they get lost in the shuffle of trying to solve the problem. Typically, we can make one call and take care of it for them. I wish individuals could always get their concerns taken care of right away, but it often doesn’t happen like that. So my job is to advocate and point them in the best direction.”

REGARDING HIS THIRD TERM, WITTENBERG IS ENTHUSIASTIC. “I am loving it! I have good experience and I know how the system works. I have come to know my colleagues pretty well. With Gretchen Whitmer as the new governor, there is a big improvement overall. The Republican representatives come to us Democrats now, and we have to work closer together.”

By all accounts, Wittenberg has been a popular state representative. What has been the secret to his success (aside from his obvious desire to serve the people)?

“As a Democrat from a progressive area, I try to find the common ground ‘across the aisle,” meaning with the more right-leaning members. Maybe in part due to this, I had more bills passed into law than any other Democrat in my class.” Additionally, Wittenberg is a very ‘approachable’ elected official, with a large part of his time spent out in the community. For example, he particularly enjoys reading to students, and so far this term he has read to over 1800 students from four different school districts. “I want to continue on that path!” he added.

HAVING SERVED SIX YEARS, WITTENBERG IS TERM-LIMITED and will no longer be able to serve in his current position after the upcoming 2020 election. Therefore, he is making the most of his time now, while considering future opportunities to serve in Oakland County. Wittenberg mentioned that the terms of office for State Representatives are the most restrictive in the country. Wittenberg pointed out, “This is such a relationship-building business.  You have to get to know your fellow legislators! I consider [term limits] a failed experiment.”

I asked Wittenberg about his future plans. He replied that some changeover will be taking place soon, with L. Brooks Patterson not running for another term as Oakland County Executive. This will inevitably cause a shuffle. Wittenberg says he will not be running for county executive, but he is interested in the county treasurer position. (County positions are four- year terms with no term limits).

 Conversations regarding those possible positions have already started whereas campaigning will begin towards the end of this year. Wittenberg explained that Andy Meisner has been County Treasurer but will most likely be running for the county executive position. Wittenberg admires Meisner and wants to follow in his footsteps, “This would be a big jump in my constituency, from about 95,000 people to around 1.3 million. But I want whatever position that will allow me to stay involved.”

Robert Wittenberg can be reached by mail: PO Box 33014, Lansing, MI. 48909; by phone: 517.373.0478, or by email: robertwittenberg@house.mi.gov. Check out his website: www.wittenberg.housedems.com.

By Maggie Boleyn

To Charles Gladue, studying and learning from history is essential to avoid repeating past mistakes. He quotes Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Gladue uses his love of history to inform his service to Hazel Park residents. Among his many roles, he is President of the Hazel Park Historical Society, a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

“I was drawn to preserving our city’s history because, first and foremost, I am a history nut,” he said. Gladue adds he was excited to have the opportunity to help establish Hazel Park’s Historical Museum, along with his fellow Commissioners. Gladue, a resident of Hazel Park for 24 years, has logged hundreds of volunteer hours, serving on the Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Tax Review Board, and Historical Commission and Museum. He grew up in Oak Park and attended Ferndale High School.

Gladue is imbued with a strong volunteer spirit and carries that to his quest for City Council. “I am running for City Council because I believe we need a more balanced Council,” he said. “I believe serving is more than just attending the one or two meetings a month that are held. You have to get out and volunteer and interact.” In addition to his service to the City through boards and commissions, Gladue chairs the Hazel Park Lions Club Memorial Day weekend.

“This interaction with the community has allowed me to get a good sense of what our residents want to see in our city and more importantly, what they don’t want to see,” Gladue said.

WHEN ASKED WHAT PLANS HE ENVISIONS FOR HAZEL PARK, Gladue responded, “I would like to see Hazel Park transform back to a city with a vibrant, established downtown. We had it at one time, and if we would have not torn it all down from the ‘60s to the ‘90s in favor of strip malls, I firmly believe we would be sitting where Ferndale and Royal Oak are right now.”

One City improvement project in the works is the redesign of Scout Park. “I am excited about the upcoming Scout Park re-do, and would like to see that continue, right down to the smaller parks,” Gladue said. City Manager Edward Klobucher and the Hazel Park Recreation Department recently presented the design plan for the future Scout Park Playground. The plan, created by children (with help from Playgrounds by Leathers), was made possible by the SutarSutaruk-Meyer Foundation. The playground will be built “by and for” the community. Construction is scheduled to begin in June.

Gladue hopes that the city does not start playing favorites to specific individuals or businesses as has happened in the past. If so, the city would lose opportunities and not allow itself to diversify. A more balanced City Council would prevent this. The City Council and City administration need to be responsive to the concerns of its citizens, including more opportunities for the public to voice their input.

Gladue concludes, “I believe our residents need to be informed of the past, so we, as a city, do not repeat our past errors. And, believe me, we made a lot of those.”

WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING TO US? Look at what we have become in the past two or three years. Locally, and as a nation, we have become full-fledged, frothing-at-the-mouth, obscenity-spouting bigots. That’s right, bigots. We hate anyone who differs in opinion from us. Our blood pressure shoots up at the sight of a red ball cap, or a phrase, or the mere mention of a concept. We have become “deplorable.”

Let’s identify the elephant in the room. Mainly, Trump. No, this is not a political piece, or a rant against an idea. This is a statement of the kind of people we are becoming. And, I confess, I have been right there on the ride. I am talking about the ride from rational human beings to bug-eyed monsters. 

I have clicked on so many derogatory articles about the President, that now that is all my news feed gives me. As one older news reporter put it, “We are all addicted to Donald Trump.”

I have even tried to click on news stories about Meghan Markle, and Kate Middleton, to wean myself off this political haunted house ride. The only result is that now I get stories about the royal family, as well as Trump stuff. Actually, the royal family is juicier.

And Facebook! Good grief, can people really be this terrible, rude, and insulting? Would we be acting this way during a discussion at a gathering? Face-to-face? I wonder. Follow the feeds, and you can see situations go from zero-to-60 in a few short lines.

I remember political discussions in the ‘60s and ‘70s. We had Vietnam, civil rights, and impeachment on the table. I remember, we all had really strong opinions, yet we remained civil. We knew how our friends felt about the president or school segregation but we respected their right to their opinion. We still invited each other to our parties, and coffee clutches. We still talked about our kids, and exchanged recipes, and helped each other.

Now, people call each other names, and rant and rave through screen after screen of political dialogue aimed at changing the other person’s position. I got a news flash for you! It ain’t gonna work! People believe what they want to believe. We are firmly fixed in our minds, and insulting rhetoric badly-typed on a Facebook page certainly isn’t going to change any minds.

Tom Gagne is the one guy in town who offers us something to think about on Facebook. He reads impartial books, articles, and knows history. He thinks things through, and only then, with a quiet manner, shares his ideas. I don’t think he reaches many people, however. Keep trying, Tom!

Facebook certainly is partially to blame for our blooming rudeness. We say things while on that page that we would never say face to face. Facebook allows us to vent the hidden socially unacceptable feelings that we would never show “in public.” And yet on Facebook we are very much “in public.” Even more so than otherwise.

Facebook is fun. I love the sarcastic jokes, and share them with glee. I adore the puppies, and kittens. I am happy to be up to date on what is going on around town. And it is fun keeping up with old and new friends.

So Facebook is not entirely to blame. We have to change ourselves. We have to remember that what we type is out there for all to see, and not just now, forever. We need to be polite, and careful of other’s feelings. We need to remember to be tolerant of other’s beliefs and ideology.

In other words, be kind. Think for yourself. At least listen to the other guy. Then, here is a novel idea: If they are indeed an asshole, just keep scrolling. There is plenty of other stuff on facebook to see. Don’t be a jerk.

Have fun

jeannie davis

By Rebecca Hammond

BACKLASH TO THE BACKLASH. First, in response to organizing consultant and author, Marie Kondo, and her methods for and urging of the purging of possessions: Her new TV show seems like too much excess in regards to excess. Another is a handful of articles that basically say, “No, you don’t have to feel guilty for anything lifestyle-related as regards to the planet. Blame bigger entities!” A backlash against lifestyles and their direct and deleterious effects on the planet and climate and home life is being seen as excessive in and of itself, and is getting lashed back at.

My husband and I clash about Stuff – him having less, me having more – but it’s nothing compared to my inner Clash. Having too much stuff does not feel good. I suspect we mentally carry our excess around more than we know, and this could be the reason people who drastically downsize can gush for years about how good it feels.

Our culture has created an interesting loop of sorts: We’re purging our extras, so thrift shops are full of them. And, thus, we can drop stuff off then pop in and buy more. Thrift shop junk is cheap and each item has a one-of-a-kind quality, making it constantly seem another Unique Steal. We don’t so much buy stuff now as rent it; we keep a sort of circulating library of excess. We rotate our stuff.

I feel burdened with needing to make use of discards, hating to send anything to be hoarded in landfills, which, according to Pulitzer-prizewinner Edward Humes (the author of Garbology) is how we convince ourselves we’re not hoarders. Most of us store our unwanted stuff elsewhere, as a group, en masse, at group expense. We’re socialist hoarders. Hoarders on TV shows are probably more honest.

For almost two decades, I hoarded wool sweaters and made them into purses, which felt (pun intended) both earth-friendly and businesslike, since I sold both the purses and articles about how to make them. It’s easier to be creative if you have excess, because you can compare colors and textures, and you can be ready to strike when the creative iron is hot.

I began getting supplies secondhand decades ago; a fellow spinning-guild member told me to look for used hand-knit sweaters and dismantle them for the yarn. This is surprisingly guiltproducing (someone took weeks or even months to knit that sweater) and gratifying. If you plan to make the yarn into balls, it takes an evening to deconstruct a sweater and wind it up, and this is oddly satisfying. Maybe it goes way back. Surely once upon a time women regularly unraveled holey sweaters they’d knit into yarn for socks and mittens.

When Wendy Shepherd of Mittens for Detroit announced last year that they had plenty of kid’s mittens and needed adult sizes, I saw a way to reduce my stash. I’d made a pattern from a fleece mitten bought at Hudson’s, when there was still such a place, and I figured that in maybe two weeks I could reduce the sweater hoard to nothing. That was last November. I’m still working on it.

Now Heather Rhea-Wright of Painted Lady Trashions has made the Rust Belt corner into a donation station. I’m trying to drop off mittens every other day or so. It’s gratifying to see the warm items people leave: sweaters, coats, hats, scarves, gloves, even some boots, and that they’re picked up constantly. Some of us have so much, some have not close to enough. (Painted Lady Trashions might be the ultimate recycledproducts business. If you haven’t checked it out, you should. Rust Belt Market.)

ANOTHER BACKLASH SEEMS TIED to a notion of excess as a basic right in a materialistic culture, showing up in a few angry articles about environmental guilt. I’m not sure what’s so awful about guilt. It seems a normal human trait. But some writers think there is not only no need for guilt, it’s out of the question to entertain even the idea of the thought of it. Is that indirect enough?

I’ve been baffled by the environmental movement’s ability and willingness to divorce the results of our actions from the consequences of them. A copy of an environmental magazine from a big, powerful group will likely contain objections to rising sea levels, warming temps, and bizarre new weather patterns and ads and offers for world adventure travel, something with a hefty Co2 footprint because of the massive gulp of oil each trip. We finger-point at Big Oil and their wealth and power as if we didn’t contribute to it. This is all apparently supposed to ensure our happiness.

Of course, we aren’t happy. We’re a depressed, anxious, and medicated population. We seem to assume that the “only” downside we face to the excesses of modern lifestyles is a filthy and deteriorating planet. It stands to reason that if de-cluttered houses could improve our moods, a clean planet could. Maybe mammals can’t really psychologically pull off fouling our nests.

Rebecca Hammond walks in Ferndale most days, and wishes drivers would not only stop at stop signs, but would look up from their phones as they approach them. If you opt out of these niceties, please stop being angry at the pedestrians you almost kill.

By Sarah E. Teller

WHEN SUBURBAN FORD MOVED INTO FERNDALE, the company had some work to do in and around the existing facility. But this didn’t stop the family-owned business from putting down roots. Suburban Ford’s Platform President, Ron MacEachern, said, “Our company normally buys a store in a geographic area that we can develop into a larger footprint. If we have a large footprint, we can do more.”

Suburban began operations in Ferndale with the Buick GMC lot on Woodward in 2012 and acquired the Ford lot two years later. “When we got here, some major remodeling needed to be done,” explained MacEachern, including getting rid of a rodent infestation and remediating the water. “We sunk $5 million into a total campus remodel,” he disclosed. Part of that remodel included landscape improvements with greenery and brick pavers added to the front of the building. “The City asked us to do this,” MacEachern said. “We lost parking because of it, but we were happy to cooperate. We added to the beautification of Woodward Avenue.”

According to MacEachern and General Manager Jeff Huvaere, the company started with one parking lot and also a house kiddy-corner from the area. They also bought out a few other homes over time, making offers over list price. MacEachern explained, “The people who lived in these homes knocked on our door and told us they were interested in selling.” The renovations paid off, and Suburban Ford quickly expanded. Staff increased substantially to 75 employees. However, the rapid expansion came at a price and parking and other issues soon arose.

In November 2018, Suburban issued a mailer to local residents that read: “While the dealership has been through a lot of physical changes and growth…we understand that you as our neighbors have been impacted by those changes as well, with increased customer traffic, construction traffic and noise and increased street parking activity on Silman and Jewell Street.”

SUBURBAN SCHEDULED A PUBLIC MEETING For December 10, 2018 regarding “the dealership’s operations and future proposed plans,” as specified in a letter distributed by the City of Ferndale. “I don’t think they expected a standing-room-only crowd to voice their concerns,” resident Roberta Kuhn said of the meeting. “But those who have been impacted the most were there. They’re concerned about their property values, safety, and the impact on the neighborhood of tearing down old homes zoned residential to make parking lots.’”

“Progress is uncomfortable for some people,” MacEachern said of the meeting’s outcome. “But for every complaint we’ve gotten, we’ve received at least that many compliments.” Of the parking situation, he said assuredly, “We don’t park [cars] there illegally, and they’re not there overnight.” Huvaere added, “We haven’t gotten one parking ticket I can think of since we’ve been here.”

Some residents believe ‘no parking’ signs have been pulled from certain areas so the dealership isn’t issued tickets. And they’ve noticed other problems, such as an incident of antifreeze leaking onto surrounding streets.

Kuhn said, “There was a car parked across the street from my house where it is legal to park. However, it was leaking antifreeze. I went to the City and showed a picture of it to Code Enforcement, so he drove over and talked to the service managers and they had it towed. Everyone around here has cats and dogs. I’m worried about our animals and the environment.” She added, “There was also a mechanic working on a car right in front of my house. There is no parking on the north side of Silman. Another big issue has been mechanics test-driving cars, fast-braking, etc. up and down the street.”

“ANOTHER BIG CONCERN WAS THE PLAN to tear down five homes at the same time; four on Silman and one on Jewell. Some of these homes are close to 100 years old. Neighbors are concerned about lead paint, asbestos and other toxic materials that would be released in the environment and the adjacent homes.”

“Other issues discussed included home values, conserving greenspace, snow removal, limited street corner visibility due to parked cars along Woodward, and scattered trash and debris. In fairness, some of these issues have been addressed since the meeting. However, rezoning residential for parking is the pending concern.”

MacEachern responded, “We have never been cited for any environmental thing. We have never had a parking violation. Yes, we have vehicles parked on the side streets, but we have a strict rule about where employees are supposed to perform test drives. We also have rules for where customers can test drive vehicles.”

“I can tell you this,” MacEachern said. “As far as any antifreeze, we are diligent about following OSHA and safety guidelines.” “Otherwise, we’d lose our license,” Huvaere said. “The bottom line is there are a few unhappy neighbors and parking is a legitimate concern we’re working with the City on. There’s a designated test drive route,” Huvaere added. MacEachern said, “We’re hitting max capacity, and we need a couple hundred parking spots.”

BOTH HUVAERE AND MACEACHERN SAID addressing residents’ concerns is their top priority. “I know I plan to stay here. I love Ferndale,” Huvaere said. “I was working in Sterling Heights for seven years before I came here, and there’s a community feel to Ferndale that there wasn’t there. We get the sense that residents just want to be in the know, and we would too. We’re here to stay.”

Justin Lyons, Planning Manager at the City of Ferndale, said there are no future meetings in the books with the City to discuss parking, explaining, “Suburban’s team was going to review the feedback given at the December community meeting and decide their next steps. The request to expand parking would be driven by Suburban and is not a City-led project. The City would review the request once received and would notify residents in the immediate area via the email list started at the community meeting and mail. The most recent proposal by Suburban would likely require rezoning, which requires public hearings and public notice via mail and newspaper at least 15 days prior to a meeting.” He suggested, “Residents should use SeeClickFix for issues related to parking and contact the police non-emergency line, 248-541-3650, for speeding or other safety issues. Suburban Ford’s management team has also encouraged residents to reach out directly to them.”

By Peter Werbe

THE ONLY THING THAT MAKES the dark, dull, slate-gray days of November and December tolerable is the holidays those months. We all treasure our time off. We work too damn much even if we like our jobs.

Americans work longer hours than any other Western industrial country. Adults working full-time clock an average of 47 hours a week and that’s an average! Whatever happened to the eight-hour day?

In the 1950s, a UAW caucus advocated a “30-for-40” work week from the then-Big 3 — 30 hours work for 40 hours pay. But in too many work places today we’ve gone in the opposite direction.

Working longer hours for less pay is the equation for enriching the one percent, and it’s been amazingly successful — for them. 

Not so much for us, though. We would like to spend less time at our desks, at a counter, or in front of a

machine, and more at leisure and things we want to do!

Even 30 hours at labor would seem onerous to the pre-industrial people who lived here previously on the land our forebears seized. University of Michigan anthropologist Marshall Sahlins wrote in his classic, Stone Age Economics, that hunter-gatherer bands labored very little to sustain themselves to the extent that priests who accompanied the first European invaders were dismayed by how little tribal people worked and instead spending so much time lazing about.

Most of us aren’t ready for a return to tribal ways, so at least let’s see if we can get a little more time off by agitating for more holidays! There are plenty of days that need official recognition (and a few that should be retired), so here’s a month-by- month list which creates some new opportunities for time off with pay.

NEW YEAR’S DAY and the birthday of MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. on the third Monday of the year are definite keepers. The King celebration may be the most important holiday in contemporary America.

PRESIDENT’S DAY; third Monday in February. This one has to go. Really, Republicans, do you want to celebrate Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama? And, Democrats certainly don’t want to honor Richard Nixon, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump. The first 15 presidents were slave owners. All of them since have been responsible for so many misdeeds, including theft of native land, lies about wars, suppression of civil liberties and civil rights, that we ought to forget about this one and replace it with a PEOPLE’S DAY. Celebrate ourselves, our diversity, and our communities. 

VALENTINE’S DAY; February 14. A tribute to love and romance. This needs to be an all-day holiday for re-invigorating our relationships and finding new ones. The Third Century Bishop Valentine helped Christian couples wed and for his efforts was beheaded by the pagan Roman emperor Claudius II. Maybe this is where the expression “losing your head” over a romantic interest came from.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY; March 8. Given world-wide recognition in 1975 by the United Nations,

this celebration of the role of women was declared at a 1910 International Socialist Woman’s Conference in Copenhagen. Women, who are paid less than men and often do double work on the job and at home, need a day off.

SPRING EQUINOX; March 20. The date when the day and night are of equal length. Celebrated in many cultures as a day of renewal and rebirth.

TAX DAY; April 15. A day off to reflect on where our tax dollars are going. A huge transfer of wealth occurs by taxing our incomes which the government turns over to Military/Industrial Complex corporations. For our generous

contribution to the war industry’s bottom line, we deserve at least one day off.

EARTH DAY; April 22. A day on which we ponder what is happening to our planet and that everything bad that Chicken Little predicted is coming true. The sky is really going to fall unless we do something quickly. Also, on the happier side, celebrate what is left of the beauty of the Earth.

MAY DAY/BELTANE; May 1. This is both the date of the original Labor Day (the U.S. put ours in September to

avoid international worker solidarity), and an important pagan holiday of May Poles and fertility rites. Linked together, they are the ideal holiday which needs the entire day to consider serious labor issues followed by pagan revelry.

CINCO DE MAYO; May 5. Annual celebration to commemorate the Mexican Army’s victory over the French Empire in 1862. A significant triumph over imperialism which also can be used to acknowledge that the U.S. ripped off the entire northern half of Mexico. People are understandably upset over Russia’s annexation of Crimea which is about 10,000 square miles. Arizona alone, part of the U.S. conquest, is over 100,000. Let’s treat ourselves to tacos and a margarita, but remembering that to Mexicans this was land theft of enormous proportions.

MOTHER’S DAY. Move to second Monday in May so we get the day off. The origins of the holiday go back to 1870 when Julia Ward Howe, an abolitionist who wrote “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” wanted to establish a Mother’s Peace Day. Howe dedicated the celebration to the eradication of war. Later, it became a sappy Hallmark card day, but still, Mom always deserves to be celebrated.

MEMORIAL DAY; last Monday of May. Combine with Veterans Day. No disrespect to veterans, but two holidays devoted to wars that mostly shouldn’t have been fought doesn’t seem appropriate. For all their sacrifices, the men who fell in American conflicts mostly gave their lives in wars based on outright lies such as the ones in Vietnam and Iraq. And, really, can very many people conjure up why the U.S. fought the War of 1812, the Spanish American War? How about World War I?

FATHER’S DAY. Move to third Monday in June. Let’s honor dad by giving him the day off.

JUNETEENTH; June 19. also known as Freedom Day, commemorates the June 19, 1865 announcement

of the final abolition of slavery in the U.S. at the end of the Civil War. This holiday is celebrated almost exclusively by African-Americans, but it should be one we all take part in since it marked the end of a hideous institution, one that enslaved millions of people and was defended tenaciously by the southern states leaving three/quarters of a million Americans dead.

SUMMER SOLSTICE, June 21. The pagan holiday, Litha, celebrates the longest day of the year.

INDEPENDENCE DAY; July 4. Can’t touch this one, but we should remember that one of the colonists’ complaints against King George was that he wouldn’t allow further expansion into Native people’s land. Also, that the Southern states signed onto independence almost solely because they feared England was going to abolish slavery. “In order to form a more perfect union,” the South insisted that slavery be enshrined in the U.S. Constitution in three places which guaranteed them national political dominance until the Civil War.

We need at least one more holiday in July. International Kissing Day? Tell the Truth Day? The dog days of Summer are in August, so there’s nothing specific to celebrate. This month should be designated as when all workers get two weeks paid vacation in the manner that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has proposed for his city’s employees.

HIROSHIMA DAY; August 6. A day of grim commemoration of the destruction of a civilian city at the moment Japan was about to surrender. It had no real military necessity, but rather was a notice to the Soviet Union that not only did the U.S. possess a terrible weapon, but was willing to use it. It will be a good time to consider that we and other countries still face nuclear destruction from possession of these insane weapons. I don’t want to ruin your day, but the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has set the Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight.

LABOR DAY; first Monday in September. Yes, working people deserve two holidays to celebrate their labor.

INTERNATIONAL PEACE DAY; September 21/Fall equinox. ‘Nuff said.

COLUMBUS DAY; October 12. This one has definitely got to go! By 1492, Europeans had ruined their continent with wars, environmental destruction, religious insanity, and was on the verge of social and economic collapse when they burst beyond their geography and began looting what was, to them, a new world. On his first day on Hispaniola, Columbus wrote in his diary about the Arawak people who had welcomed him, “They will make fine servants.” The rest is well-known: slavery, ethnic cleansing, and finally, genocide. New holiday in its place; Indigenous People’s Day.

HALLOWEEN, October 31. We need the whole day for costuming and revelry. Come as your fantasy, but white people: no black face or sombreros and mustaches, or the like. Confused as to what is cool to wear? Google “Halloween: what not to wear.”

VETERANS DAY; November 11. Gone. See Memorial Day. This originally was Armistice Day marking the end of the World War I carnage.

THANKSGIVING DAY. This celebration has the same problems as Columbus Day but, like Christmas, its original meaning is pretty much lost and is mostly a family event, so it stays.

CHRISTMAS/WINTER SOLSTICE, December 25. So much of the Christmas stuff was taken from the pagan recognition of the Solstice marking the returning of the light, and its religious element is so minimized that it is now a festival of gift giving, family, and feasting. So, it stays. 

We really deserve a lot more days off than chronicled above, but let’s start with these and make them a reality. Let them all be marked by processions, festivals, dancing in the streets, and feasts. Workers of the world, relax!

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