Opinion

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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.

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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

By: Sara E. Teller

ROBERTSON BROTHERS IS A FAMILY-OWNED COMPANY IN BUSINESS for over 70 years,  providing housing mainly in Oakland and Wayne Counties. Some notable projects include Lexington on the Park, Sherman Oaks and Normandy Oaks in Royal Oak.

As of late, the company has been busy completing two new home sites in Ferndale at the former Wilson Elementary School and Taft Digital Learning Center locations. “Organizationally, we’re very excited,” said Tim Loughrin, Manager of Land Acquisition. “We’re happy to be in Ferndale.”

The Wilson site is a little further along, abatement beginning roughly a month ago, followed by demolition. “Trees have been cleared. Contractors [have] moved in,” Loughrin said. “Grading and installing the underground utilities, including water, sewer and storm, will follow the demo, and paving is scheduled to begin sometime in November.”

Twenty-eight single-family homes will be constructed at the site of the former Wilson Elementary school. There will be four options in total: two main floor plans, with an additional two variations of those. The homes, ranging from 2,100 to 2,400 square feet, will be built to order. Homeowners will be able to select a lot, home plan and color scheme, as well as their finishes starting in November. There hasn’t been a new project for single-family homes in the area for 50 years,” Loughrin said. “That’s what excited me the most about this project.”

The Taft site is a new concept for the area. “We’re providing options that don’t exist in the current market. I like to call it the ‘missing middle’,” Tim explained. This is essentially offering an option somewhere between a hi-rise and a single-family home. “Townhomes with medium density don’t exist,” Loughrin said. “We’ve been successful with offering this in other markets.”

Taft will consist of 72 one-to-two car garage townhomes ranging from 1200 to 1500 square feet. Two or three-bedroom options will be avail-able, and homeowners will be able to select their finishes within 30 days of purchasing their new home. All finishes will be available at the Robert-son Brothers design center located at their main office building in Bloomfield Hills.
Because of the new concept at Taft the approvals took a bit longer than expected, but the project is only slightly behind Wilson’s schedule.

Demolition is scheduled for mid-October, which will be followed by grading and installing the underground utilities. “Unfortunately, paving won’t likely happen until next year,” Loughrin said. The asphalt plants will close down in late Fall, reopening sometime in April or May. He is hopeful they will be able to complete a model in the meantime, however.

Subcontractors have placed bids on both projects, and Robertson’s project managers are busy overseeing work. According to Loughrin, the community was heavily involved in the planning phase as the company engaged in neighborhood meetings to ensure they were offering new home options needed in the Ferndale area. “The community is aware of what we’re doing.” Loughrin said.

Justin Lyons, Planner at the City of Ferndale, said, “These will be a big benefit to schools. The sites were a bit of a burden to the community, with the buildings deteriorating. The development partner came up with a plan to alleviate this burden.” He adds that the new sites were “part of a master plan adopted earlier this year regarding the major theme and goals, including providing more types of housing and housing options.” Through a public participation process, the City tried to determine what residents want, and new stock was an issue that came up time and again. “This’ll be a great option for families or anyone who is looking to move to Ferndale,” he said.

NOT EVERYONE IS SO ENTHUSED. David Lungu of The Ferndale Historical Society went to Wilson Elementary as a child. He lived one block from the school for a number of years. “I am 52, and have been a resident of Ferndale almost all my life,” he said, having moved to Southfield just a few years ago.

He has been a board member of the Historical Society for 25 years. As far as the new housing project, David said, “I am really not in favor…because we will lose valuable green space. I remember watching commission meetings where they said they will not get rid of green space. I guess times change,” he sighed. “I do think if they had just replaced the existing footprint of the school with new housing and kept the rest green it would be okay, since buildings were already there.” Ferndale will always be special to David.

“My favorite thing about Ferndale is the friendly and nice atmosphere. I felt real safe and still do when I visit now. For over 45 years I lived in Ferndale, went to Wilson school, then to the old Coolidge Jr. High, then to Ferndale High School where I graduated in 1983.” He recalled many fond memories of attending Wilson Elementary School and baseball games at Wilson Park.

SO, THERE HAS BEEN A MIXED REACTION to the two builds, consisting of either enthusiasm or a sort of nostalgic regret. The area is losing a couple of valuable historic monuments, but the new housing will no doubt attract new residents and boost commerce.

By : Jon Szerlag

TO MAKE CHANGE, YOU DON’T ALWAYS HAVE TO SEE IMMEDIATE RESULTS. Sometimes it’s opening peoples’ eyes and minds to a thought, an idea. That is what one local Ferndale resident did when she went for a walk one day in late August near the Wilson Park.

As construction at the site of the former Taft School began (see adjoining article), Shannon O’Brien, a resident of Ferndale for about 25 years and Ferndale Friends Circulation Manager, noticed trees that were marked to be cut down. Already feeling a little disheartened, she remembered taking her son when he was younger to the park, and how he would sit under the trees for shade.

Piece by piece (trees and nature) are disappearing,” O’Brien said. “When my son was in kindergarten, we would go to this park and it was great. I never thought about it at that time.”

While the city landscape has changed, O’Brien said cutting down these old trees which have stood for more than 100 years, and a philosophy of developing every inch of space, is not characteristic of the Ferndale she loves.

O’BRIEN WENT HOME WANTING TO DO SOMETHING to try and save the trees. Then she had an idea: She looked around for something to write on but all she could find was a brown paper bag. She made a quick sign that simply read, “SAVE ME! I am 150+ years old. I cannot be replaced. Please think about my bottom line, not just yours.” Then she marched down to the park and hung it on one of the trees.

Not thinking her brown paper bag sign would have much of an impact, she was surprised to find that within several days signatures started to show up on her sign, which stayed tied to the tree on the south side of the former campus. Before she knew it, there were more than 50 signatures on her sign, and the brown square with her words printed on it stayed until it was one of the last few trees standing.

While the trees were not spared, O’Brien’s spirits were lifted not only by the people who signed her statement, but also stepped up to try to save other trees throughout the city of Ferndale as others began posting similar signs. And her tiny campaign sparked a minor fury around town on social media, and led to articles in Oakland County Times and an interview with Channel 7 WXYZ News.

When she went to where the tree once stood, after work as a caregiver, the tree was now only a stump. O’Brien went and counted the rings. 127 in total.

O’Brien does not know what will happen next, but her love for trees and finding a balance between development and preserving the rich and old natural habitat of the city will continue to be on her mind. She has reach-ed out to the developer and city officials, and if she can find others to help her she may start reaching out more in a grassroots effort.

While development, growth and progression will most likely continue in our city and others, O’Brien is becoming more hopeful that developers and City officials will be more conscious of the area’s natural habitat.

“My son said to me, ‘Do one thing different, and it will make a change,’” O’Brien said. “One small thing can make a difference: ask questions, ask for support or join an organization. I want to bring more consciousness and am thinking of reaching out to different organizations like the Historical Society to see if there is interest (in preserving nature in the city.

O’Brien is not discouraged by the trees at the park being cut down. The community’s input, signatures and surprising kindness has given her hope for Ferndale, and the surrounding area’s natural beauty and heritage.
“One of my friends said she loves what I am doing, and how I am doing it in a peaceful way,” O’Brien said.

“Where there is a will there is a way.”

SOCCRA, the municipal corporation responsible for recycling in Ferndale and 11 surrounding communities, has recently dropped off 100 thousand 65-gallon recycling bins to area homes as replacements for the old 20-gallon standbys we put out on garbage day. You should have already received yours. The big green bins are three times the size of the ones they’re replacing, and since SOCCRA is converting to a mixed recycling facility, all curbside recyclables can now be dumped in them unsorted.

The Recycling Partnership, a national non-profit that is picking up a portion of the cost, wants to improve the relatively low U.S. recycling rates. The thinking behind making these behemoths the new standard is that people will recycle more since they have greater capacity.

The new containers total 250,000 pounds of un-recyclable plastic items inserted into our communities and mean that the old ones, also un-recyclable, will wind up in a landfill where most plastic produced finds its way. In fact, according to a study published in the July 2017 Sciences Advances, 91 per cent of plastic produced since 1950 – 8.3 billion metric tons – is not recycled regardless of the chasing arrows symbols and number system that we find on plastic products.

The new recycle carts are designed to encourage residents to fill the containers to the brim.

However, recycling is less than a zero-sum game. It actually worsens the environmental degradation of the planet. More recycling means an expanded industry with more factories, more machinery, more energy, more waste, its own refuse and garbage, more workers going to more work on more roads in more cars, with
additional suppliers, ad infinitum.

Disposal of household garbage, however, should only be a footnote when talking about waste. Americans generate ten billion tons of it yearly, but the vast majority —98 per cent — is from industrial and mining operations. The remaining two percent comes from municipal sources.

The emphasis on household recycling functions as a diversion from examining the big sources of waste. A close look at the myths about recycling shows they are being perpetrated less by those committed to ecology and more by those doing the most damage to the planet.

Though they don’t use the recycled substance in production, the American Plastics Council, an industry group for virgin resin manufacturers (first-time-use plastics), is a relentless promoter of plastics recycling. They spend millions on public relations as part of a propaganda campaign to change the long-standing perception of their product as harmful to the environment.

From its inception, plastic has been a synonym for the false and insubstantial. The late Frank Zappa sang about “Plastic People,” and the obscenely-whispered advice to “The Graduate,” similarly was, “Plastics.” Unfortunately, the businessman in the 1967 film was correct; the future did lie in that multi-use substance made from the oil for which the U.S. has been willing to kill several hundred thousand Iraqis.

The substitution of plastics for glass, wood and paper products has been so substantial that hardly anyone even notices. Any public event, a baseball game, for instance, produces massive amounts of plastic cups, plates and cutlery that have been used in some cases for only the seconds it takes to spill down ten ounces of beer before being consigned to a trash barrel. The cups arrive at the local landfill (they can’t be recycled), there to remain intact for hundreds of years, although their slow disintegration begins to release toxins.

They began their ignominious journey in an oil field thousands of miles away and are toxic every moment of their existence from drilling to oceanic and pipeline transportation, to manufacture and finally to disposal. Add wars to secure oil to the equation and you have the premier deadly modern energy source and product component.

The “at least we’re doing something” argument doesn’t work well either. The industrial recycling process which reclaims plastic is highly toxic and much of what is collected in our neighborhoods is shipped overseas and processed under uncontrolled conditions in notorious polluting countries like China and Thailand. In addition, most of the products which are manufactured from what is recycled, such as park benches, traffic strips, and polyester jackets, can’t be recycled a second time. What you set out at your curb is only one generation away from a landfill.

Originally, recycling was conceived of as the last resort in the triad of reduce, re-use, and recycle, the latter being used only for what couldn’t be controlled by the two other elements of waste control. To its credit, the City of Oak Park in announcing the arrival of the new bins, urges adherence to the first principles. But, “reduce,” which means limiting consumption or, at a minimum, less packaging, strikes at the heart of an economy which demands relentless expansion and always increased production and consumption.

On the personal level, there is no way what my household generates as waste can fill 45 more gallons of trash. And, shouldn’t!

How about you?

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

photo ©2017 Dawn Henry

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By Jeannie Davis

THE LAST FRIDAY IN JULY CAME AND WENT QUIETLY. Not so in the past, when our annual Pub Crawl filled our streets with dedicated, organized drinkers, intent on hitting at least half of the drinking establishments in our small town. A fun evening for everyone, as well as a fund-raiser for assorted non-profits over the years, the Pub Crawl trotted along for several years, before running out of steam last year. The reasons for its demise are varied, but a contributing factor is simply that people change.

Today’s young people don’t enjoy the same thing as yesterday’s young people. Things change, attitudes change, manners, fashions, fads, and accept-able behavior all change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes not.

We generally welcome the changes we make ourselves: New home, new car, clothes, re-decorations. All these things we have control of, and accept gladly. However, we struggle when things are changed for us. If you don’t believe me, read back to some of the remarks on Facebook with respect to the planned parking deck. We know we need it, yet we don’t want things to be different than they are now.

Yet when we consider that our entire lives are about change, why are we so resistant? We grow, educate ourselves (well, some of us do) , change our liv-ing statuses, make new friends, lose friends, forge relationships, lose relationships. Married, adjusted to living with someone, then, either through death or divorce, forced to adjust to living alone. All of this while our bodies are betraying us by aging, no longer able to do the things we did in our youths.

Some of us have endured more adjustments than others. Some have actually embraced new adventures in living, sought out things new and different to do. I find these people more flexible than the more settled folks.

A good example is Sharon, a new senior member who has lived all over the world with a government agency. She is adaptable, and open. I realize that this is not for everyone, and we can be happy and fulfilled living a life in one spot. There are several creative, enthusiastic seniors who have lived in ne place their entire lives. And yet, they have changed within themselves, learning, becoming passionate about one thing, then finding a different passion.

I have noticed within myself over the years, first, totally dedicated to making money, running a business, investing in real estate, whatever it took.

Then, retirement, and open heart surgery shifted my focus. A change was forced on me. My passion became travel, Greece, Italy, Paris… I got high just thinking about a trip.

I became bored with that, and shifted into more local kicks. Volunteering, Senior trips and meetings, political campaigns, Art Commission. I loved seeing events come from the idea stage to fruition, and worked my butt off making it happen.

And now, in my late 70s, I find myself focusing on the spiritual, working within the universe. Following spiritual leaders. Being present now. I am enjoying my one-on-one time with my seniors. Getting to know each of them individually.

So, I guess, we are constantly changing, and most of the time, it is for the better. Look at your life. So many things are nothing like they were at a younger age. Look at your attitude. I am sure you have mellowed, and don’t sweat the small stuff so much. I would hope that you are more confident, and enjoy interactions more. You are more open to change, and do not fear it so much.

This is the new “you.” This is a result of many minor and major changes in your life. Enjoy and revel in this person, but, be aware that, this too will change.

jeannie davis; 248-541-5888
Pub. Note: Ferndale has supposedly “needed” this parking structure for 25 years, yet for all that time we have somehow gotten by without it. In fact, Ferndale only keeps getting better and better! How can that be possible, if we need this thing so badly? Ferndale is great without a massive parking structure. We hope it will continue to be great after the construction mess is cleaned up and the cement is dry, because then it will be too late.

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By Rudy Serra

Q: “I AM 27-YEARS-OLD. Is it legal to date a 17-year-old as long as the parents are okay with it? I am freaking out because I don’t know if it’s legal, and Child Protective Services is coming to talk to them.”

Answer: The topic is more complicated than it may appear at first.

Sixteen is the age of consent for sex in Michigan. Under the law, any person who is under 16 years of age is incapable of giving valid consent. As a result, any sexual contact with a person under 16 can be charged as a crime. A person who has reached their sixteenth birthday can consent to sex. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the answer.

Between 16 and 18 is an especially precarious time. A person who is 16 can agree to have sex, but they cannot validly sign a contract. They are still not an “adult.” They are legally a minor.

If you use a computer, phone or an-other electronic device to communicate with a 16 or 17-year-old, you may commit “child sexually abusive activity” without ever even meeting. Taking or sending photographs, for example, would be a felony even if the model is over 16 (when sex is legal) but under 18. No person under 18 can agree to be in pictures, movies or on a phone or computer without parental authorization.

The word “date” is vague. If “dating” does not include any physical contact (even through clothing), then you could “date” a 15-year-old legally. The problem is that the slightest sexual touching could break the law. Areas of the body such as the breasts, inner thigh, buttocks and other reproductive or excretory parts are strictly off limits.

The fact that the parents do not object, of course, makes it less likely that they will agitate the police to take action. Either way, it is best to stick with 18 or over to avoid a potentially life-altering prosecution.

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.