Friday, September 19, 2014

Will Ferndale Truly Represent Diversity?


  This editorial appeared in the Oakland Press and Daily Tribune on September 18, 2014
  With the recent retirement incentive program announced by Ferndale for its police department that could result in several new younger police officers being hired, it is a good time to finally begin to bring diversity to that important part of the city.   Ferndale is a city that promotes, celebrates, and embraces diversity, and yet its police officers are still all white and mostly male.  The City Council and city administration ought to follow other progressive cities and hire officers who will reflect the diversity of the people who live, shop, and do business in Ferndale.

     In the eleven years I spent on Council, we regularly asked the police chiefs to hire more women and minorities but were always given reasons why that could not happen, be it civil service rules or testing procedures.   But in 2014, it is time to no longer accept such excuses.  Ferndale has always had a love affair with its police force.  We appreciate them for the important and exceptional work they do.   We have also had a long line of very conservative police chiefs, even as the city became more Democratic, more progressive, and more diverse.
     With a large gay population, and up to 20% of its population now made up of Blacks, Latinos, Arabic and Asian Americans, our police officers should finally begin to reflect that make up.  It will make our police force  even stronger and more effective.  All the cities around us have done this, and it time for Ferndale to walk the walk, as well as talk the talk.  I hope City Council, the City Manager, and the Police Chief will make this happen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ten Actions to Reduce Storm Water Damage and Flooding Costs

While the recent flooding in Ferndale and throughout the region is still being measured and assessed, it appears to be the largest amount of rain in a twelve hour period in at least 89 years.  Some statisticians are reporting the storm may be categorized as a "two to three hundred" year storm.   Nevertheless, very heavy rains and storm events that used to be rare and unusual are becoming more frequent and climatologists in Michigan predict that this kind of weather  is what we should expect in our region with climate change.

Here are some steps that we can take to begin to deal with this new reality.

1)  Do not use water during heavy rains.  Do not do laundry, run dishwashers, take showers, or flush toilets if possible during heavy storms or prolong rains.  These activities just add to the volume of water and sewage to our combined wastewater and storm water systems.

2)   Turn off automatic sprinklers before, during, or after rains.  This may seem obvious, but cities, counties, golf courses, businesses, and even some  homeowners let this happen.  This adds to the problem, and wastes water, and money.

3)  Make sure your rain gutters on homes, businesses, or garages release rain runoff onto the ground or into the lawn or garden.  Do not allow them to be connected to sewers.

4)  Make sure culverts, drain grates, and catch basins are clear and unobstructed. If you cannot do this, make sure your city or township is doing that regularly.

5)  Never flush baby wipes, personal wipes, paper towels, or sanitary napkins down the toilet.  These products do not dissolve.  They clog sewer lines.  Throw them in the trash.

6)  Do not throw cigarette butts, or any kind of trash into the street.  These wash into drains and catch basins and clog the sewers or end up in our lakes and streams.

7)  Install a rain garden.  These structures catch and hold rain water, and release it back into the earth where we want it to go.

8)  Insist your city or township require green infrastructure in its building codes.  Any roof, parking lot, or sidewalk that is impervious to water adds to the problem of storm water overflow.  Permeable concrete, green roofs, retention ponds, and rain gardens reduce storm water and can lessen flooding.

9)  Be sure you add flood insurance or sewer back up riders to your homeowners' policies.  This protection is not automatic, and must be  requested and added.

10)  Reduce your carbon footprint.  Use less gasoline, heating fuel, natural gas, and other fossil fuels.  Eat less meat.  Reduce your power usage including electricity unless it is wind, solar or other renewables.  Your kids and grandkids will thank you.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Patricia J. Covey - January 29, 1929 to June 27, 2014


Patricia J. “Patty Jo” Covey, beloved mother, grandmother, sister and aunt, formerly of Canton, OH, passed away peacefully in her home after a brief illness on June 27, 2014.  She is survived by her sister, Gwen Neff of Jackson, OH; her three children, Roderic A. (Kathie) Covey of Canton; Craig  Covey of Ferndale, MI; and Lisa A. Covey of Winslow, ME; her three grandchildren, Ashley Covey and Brandon Covey of Canton, and Justin Burgher of Winslow, ME; former husband W. Roderic Covey of N. Canton; and nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, Geraldine Wylie and Ashford Wylie; and brother Charlie.
 
She was born Jan. 29, 1929 in Athalia, OH and grew up on a farm, originally known as Wylie Orchards.  She picked apples and strawberries with her brother and sister. She always referred to Athalia as “down home”. She was an A student, cheerleader and valedictorian of her class.  She was active in 4H and won an Ohio State Fair blue ribbon for a dress she made. She was graduated with a B.A. in Fine Arts from Ohio State and worked at Stern & Mann’s as a graphic designer after college, prior to becoming a full-time homemaker. In later years she also applied her artistic skills at Jane Skinner Academy and Framer’s Workshop in Canton.
 
She lived most of her life in Canton, OH where she raised her three children. In recent years she lived with her son Rod (Kathie) in Ohio, spent time with Craig in Michigan and in Maine with Lisa and Justin.  In 2012, she made her home near Lisa and Justin in Winslow, ME where she enjoyed the pleasures of living independently.

She was a longtime member of the Methodist Church and attended Zion United Methodist Church in Canton prior to moving to Maine, where she became involved with Winslow Congregational Church.

She enjoyed playing bridge and was a member of several card clubs through the years. She had a green thumb, inside and out, excelled in arts and crafts, and was a skilled artist with water colors, pastels, oils and acrylics. She enjoyed reading, playing games on the computer, knitting, doing puzzles, participating in Facebook, and summertime gardening of flowers and tomatoes.
 
Friends and family appreciated her sweet spirit, sense of humor, acceptance of all people, and easy-going attitude. She marched with her son Craig in the Columbus Gay Pride parade in 1991 and she was in Ferndale when he was elected mayor of that city in 2007.  All her children and grandchildren benefited from her kindness, wisdom, full support and unconditional love. Her spirit lives on in our hearts, and will live on in the kind actions we take towards one another. She taught her kids acceptance, love of nature, and charity for others.

An outdoor memorial garden party takes place on July, 19, 2014, followed by a reception with food, live music, and sharing at her and Lisa’s homes on S. Garand St. in Winslow, Maine at 3:00; rain date Sunday, July 20, 2014. Six trees and bushes, representing her children and grandchildren, will be planted in her honor on the properties. In lieu of flowers, the family and Patty Jo have requested that donations be made in her memory to Hospice of Waterville, P.O. Box 200, Waterville, ME 04903 or the Homeless Shelter of Waterville, 19 Colby St., Waterville, ME 04901.

 Online condolences may be shared at directcremationofmaine.com.

 

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Detroit Pastors to Pray against Marriage Equality outside Courtroom March 3, 2014

Friends: See below, a press release that went out Friday Feb. 28 from “Detroit Black Pastors” announcing a protest prayer vigil Monday in Detroit against marriage equality. Also immediately below, are some of my thoughts on this homophobic event.

“Of all the issues that these ministers could be working on, such as unemployment, hunger, disease, or crime, it is almost unbelievable that they choose to picket and pray against marriage equality in Michigan,” said Craig Covey, longtime community activist and former Ferndale Mayor. “They ought to ask themselves, What would Jesus do? Their same arguments were used in the 1950’s by racists in opposition to mixed racial marriages,” he added.
Covey was the first openly gay person to be elected mayor of a Michigan city in 2007.

Subject: Detroit Black Pastors to protest gay marriage

From: stacyswimp@stacyswimp.com [mailto:stacyswimp@stacyswimp.com]
Sent: Friday, February 28, 2014 7:39 AM
Subject: RE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Black Detroit Pastors to Lead Protest At U.S. District Court

Black Detroit Pastors to Lead Protest for "Righteousness and Freedom" At U.S. District Court


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DATE: February 28, 2014
Contact: Stacy Swimp
313-887-0942
swimpstacy@gmail.com


*** NEWS ADVISORY ***

WHAT: Protest Against Federal Judge’s Threat To Voting Rights
WHO: Black Pastors and Christian leaders from Detroit and Outstate Michigan
WHEN: March 3, 2014, 9am, ET
WHERE: United States District Court for the Eastern District, Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse; 231 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226
WHY: On February 25, 2014, Judge Bernard Friedman of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan began presiding over DeBoer vs. Snyder, a lawsuit that addresses both the 2004 voter approved amendment to the Michigan Constitution that defines marriage between one man and one woman as well as the state adoption law. Judge Friedman is expected to rule on this case next week.


Detroit, Michigan- A Coalition of over 100 Black Pastors from Detroit have announced that they intend to lead a peaceful march against what they express is a threat to their Voting Rights.

The Pastors say they are "Protesting with praise, worship and prayer".

"We have already given enough speeches. We intend to go out and sing praises. We shall worship. We shall pray. We shall behold the glory of the living God, Who we trust will show Himself strong on our behalf, ending the threat against our voting rights and stopping the violation of our Christian conscience.", said Rev. Dr. Roland A. Caldwell, Burnette Inspirational Ministries, Detroit, Michigan "We are calling on Christians, wherever you are, to come to Detroit and stand with us for righteousness and freedom."'

At a Press Conference led by hosted this week at First Baptist World Changers International Church, the Pastors and Christians leaders denounced what they said is a threat to their voting rights. Additionally, they denounced what they expressed as a potential threat to their God given right of religious freedom.

"Man’s rejection of God’s Word does not change the fact that God instituted marriage as a means of creating and sustaining family, as well as creating and sustaining a strong and moral society. It is indeed on the basis of strong families, as defined by God, that the future of our nation rests. Hence, there can be no doubt that to redefine marriage as between any two people, regardless of gender, would be an action against the will of God and the best interest of both nation and family." says, Minister Stacy Swimp, Founder of "REVIVE ALIVE", Flint, Michigan. "Our presence shall serve as a reminder to Judge Friedman that it is his God given responsibility to uphold God’s rights and protect the institution of marriage between one man and one woman, which God created and blessed.

The coalition's leaders have said that they also believe it is the responsibility of the Church to be the conscience of the community, state and nation. In doing so, they believe they can impact both the judicial and the political system to return to honoring America's Judeo-Christian Values and commitment to traditional marriage.

"We acknowledge that, for too long, the body of Christ, including many of the leaders of the churches, have been silent in the face of spiritual corruption in the church, community and public square.", states Rev. Stacey Foster, Life Changers International Ministries. "Therefore, we are calling on every Christian, in Michigan and around the nation, to join us in a call for the spiritual revival of the body of Christ. We need a restoration of consciousness in both the church and the society at large."





Sunday, January 19, 2014

13th Annual Bud Light Ferndale Blues & Music Festival January 24-February 2, 2014

Annual Winter Festival in its Thirteenth Year

10 Days – 20 Venues – 60 Concerts – 2 charities – 12,000 people

(Ferndale) For the 13th year in a row, the now legendary Annual Bud Light Ferndale Blues & Music Festival will bring music and crowds to locations across Ferndale with more than five dozen individual concerts and events in at least 20 venues over ten days during January 24 to February 2, 2014. Concerts are held in restaurants, clubs, bars, stores, the public library and other locations across Ferndale.

The annual music festival is held in the middle of winter each year to raise money for two local charities- Ferndale Youth Assistance and The Michigan AIDS Coalition. It brings music and camaraderie to people from across the region – some of whom may be suffering cabin fever or winter blues. It has also become a destination, bringing thousands to Ferndale in an otherwise slow time of the year for business. Top sponsors this year include Bud Light, Absolut Vodka, Garden Fresh Salsa, Suburban Buick GMC, One Eyed Betty’s, Giffels Webster, Edtec Central, Channel 2 Fox News, and Dino’s Lounge.
“The days are short and the nights are long, dark, and cold”, says festival Co-Chair and Co-founder Craig Covey. “What better time to get out of the house, listen to great live music and party with friends?”

Most of the concerts are free and are held in a huge variety of settings including nightclubs, restaurants, bars and pubs, service organizations, and the library.

Venues this year include Dino’s, One Eyed Betty’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Sakana, Howe’s Bayou, Bosco Lounge, Rosie O’Grady’s, Easy Like Sundae and Treat Dreams. Other favorite spots each year include Boogie Fever, Sneakers, New Way Bar, Ferndale Elk’s Club, Soho and Como’s. Music offerings include jazz, rock n roll, club, dance, big band, house & electronic music, 70’s and 80’s disco, as well as the stalwart blues in all its forms.
A small army of volunteers makes the event successful as folks assigned to concerts help raise money through donations at the door and by passing the blind blue piggy banks that are icons of the festival. Blue lights always light up the downtown. Contact mmills@michiganaidscoalition.org to volunteer.

The 7th Annual Blues Barbeque and Ribs Burn-Out happens on Saturday Feb 1 from noon to 6 pm in the City Library Parking Lot and is organized and sponsored by Dinos, Suburban Buick GMC, Garden Fresh Salsa, Bud Light, Remax, and more. Eight local businesses and chefs complete for the best ribs. Celebrity judges include Red Wings alumni, elected officials, business owners and others who select the best chef and best ribs. Attendees also vote for their People’s Choice Award. Bands play live music there all day and into the night. Several thousand pounds of ribs are served along with other food and drink. The event is in a giant heated tent.

There are always multiple family friendly concerts and venues including this year at the Ferndale Public Library, Treat Dreams, and Easy Like Sundae.
“This event is one of our most important fundraisers each year for youth HIV/AIDS prevention programs,” said Dan Martin, MAC Board President and Ferndale Mayor Pro-Tem. “And it is a nice shot in the arm for our downtown businesses,” he added.
“We are excited at the growth of sponsors this year,” said Larry Mills, Festival Co-Chair and Co-Founder along with his wife Monica and Covey. “The economy is improving, and the businesses really stepped up and helped us secure what is no doubt the highest level of quality bands ever,” he added.
“This festival raised critical funds for our work with youth in the district last year,” said Joe Longo, 43rd District Court Judge and Ferndale Youth Assistance Board Vice-Chair. “Our budget is always tight, like most charities these days, and the festival helps us serve at-risk youth of our district,” he added.

Additional sponsors of the festival include Sneakers, Between the Lines Newspaper, The Daily Tribune, Ferndale 115, Buffalo Wild Wings, Nick Schrock Allstate, Northland Medical Building Pharmacy, Jameson Irish Whiskey, Serve-Pro, Sakana, Urbane Life, Woodward Talk, Danny’s Irish Pub, Soho, Attorney Howard Shifman, Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner Jim Nash, Ferndale Mayor Pro-Tem Dan Martin, FYA Board President Craig Covey, The Bar Downstairs, MIP Brewers, Ferndale DDA, and the Detroit Blues Society.

Organizers estimate more than 12,000 people from the region and beyond attend the festival over the ten days. They will raise in excess of $23,000 for the charities and will bring a bounce of well over a quarter million dollars to the local economy.
An up-to-date schedule of events and concerts is available at www.ferndalebluesfestival.org

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Growing Ferndale Bureacracy - 4 Examples

During the mayoral debates you may have heard me mention increasing bureaucracy within our local government activities. Here are four examples that I watched or endured over the past ten months.

For sixteen years, I have helped organize many civic events, mostly fundraisers for local charities that also promote our downtown. I’ve organized a dozen music festivals, sixteen pub crawls, political rallies, memorials, and three Gay Pride festivals. But the most recent Ferndale Pride festival, which I chaired, was the most difficult and frustrating event I have ever organized, and it was because of incredible and hard to fathom problems with local Ferndale officials. It took five separate meetings over the course of five months, expending dozens of person-hours, and innumerable phone calls and emails, just to get our permits from the city to put on this annual, popular, and important event. Two of us from the pride committee worked with at least 14 staff members and officials to get this done.

The city has a “Director of Special Events” who insisted on where stages were to be placed, how to configure booths and vehicles, and what streets we could use. At one point he tried to separate two parts of the event, moving the 1,000 person Rainbow Run into neighborhoods, with traffic between them and the festival. He tried to limit the festival to one block, which would have caused serious problems including safety of festival goers. One of my co-chairs and I each had to take time off work to meet with him in City Hall during city work hours. This happened four times. Calls to the City Manager and the mayor did nothing to ameliorate our misery struggling with this unyielding minor official. It made me want to never work on a festival again.

This city staffer then linked up with the Police Chief to try and force our music to end at 8:45 pm on a summer Saturday night, instead of our requested 9 pm. Even though festivals in Ferndale routinely run to 10 or 11 pm, ours was forced to end earlier. We had to have another two meetings, pleading with City Council, to finally get what we requested. We had to beg, with hat in hand, for that 15 minutes of music. The pride festival has never had any problems or complaints. It is loved by the community, and it was an absolute pain to organize this past year.

I wrote about the frustration experienced by the Ferndale Environmental Sustainability Commission in a previous blog earlier this year. It took six months to rewrite a one page ordinance that renewed that popular and important commission. At least three members resigned during that excruciating process.

Our annual Arbor Day Ceremony, which has happened every year for a decade, took 3 months to organize and was held two months AFTER Arbor Day. That simple event lasts about 45 minutes, with a few staff and a dozen children planting a tree in a park.

Finally, the city hired, yet again, a “management consulting company” to add another layer to the planning of the court renovation project. More than six months in planning, the company was disorganized and late with simple tasks of preparing and issuing bids, some out of order; construction couldn’t start because abatement hadn’t occurred. The court and police were moved into cramped temporary headquarters, while the project was delayed for three months.

This is not the friendly and efficient city government that we want and expect in Ferndale.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ferndale's "New" Parking System: What Went Wrong?


This fall brings with it Ferndale’s local elections for mayor and council, and with these elections comes the chance for residents to weigh in on how they believe the city is being managed, including the purchase and installation of the “new” parking system downtown. Some claim that all the problems with the electronic kiosk style system purchased and installed in February are over and done with, and that this should no longer be an issue. I believe differently, and suggest that we need a full accounting of how this situation came about, how much it truly cost – and is still costing, and how to prevent such deleterious decisions from happening in the future. I also think that plenty of voters will register their opinions come November 5th.

Last summer, City Council adopted the plan for the new system which involved cutting down most of our parking meters and replacing them with numbered posts and electronic kiosks spread around the lots. The plan was to install them in November 2012. It was to cost about $350,000.00. This was the single biggest mistake made. As in other cities around our region, they should have tried a pilot study, on just one lot. Had anyone bothered to call Bob Bruner, our former city manager who now runs Birmingham, they would have learned that they did a pilot study on one surface lot there, and it was pulled in just 30 days because of strident opposition. The people disliked the system immensely.

But Ferndale went for all the lots at once; they were installed in February, and the result was well documented. This was the second big mistake. Long lines, with patrons standing in the dark and cold, trying to figure out the system was the sad picture. We saw malfunctioning machines, including eaten credit cards, some not taking paper money, and some not working at all. At the same time the new system was installed, the rates were raised drastically. That led to more angst. The city rushed to buy more machines, and then lowered rates. And then they declared a parking holiday, with free parking for more than six weeks.

Recent verbal reports and public relations from the City of Ferndale have tried to paint a rosy picture of the latest results and trends from this parking system. The full truth is less optimistic. The total costs of the system, including staff time from City Hall, the DPW, and Ferndale police, and additional costs not yet added in or incurred, will show the total cost to be approaching one million dollars.

The city manager’s report of July 22, 2013 entitled “Auto Parking Fund Update”, shows that the total spent on hardware and consultants was $547,276.00 and total expenditures from the parking fund was $744,868.00 or ¾ of a million dollars. More costs are coming including staff time from the Department of Public Works, costs for new additional lighting, and additional charges for more management consultants.

New individual meters could have been installed over time, perhaps one lot at a time. These new meters could have taken credit cards, coins or other forms of electronic payment. Even the old meters took payment from smart phones. Royal Oak is moving in this direction.
That we need more parking is obvious. But with the disaster that has occurred over the past year, we are now behind a year in that goal. The auto parking fund would have $2 million in it this year had we not embarked on this new system. Instead, the fund has a quarter million dollars less in it now going forward. Parking revenue has fallen by tens of thousands of dollars since last winter. In addition, parking ticket revenue is also way down.
The Ferndale Police Chief himself was quoted in the June 5th issue of the Woodward Talk as saying that his officers had to explain the system to people and that parking enforcement was more complicated and involved. He said also that the new system had taken attention away from some of the residential parking enforcement that was needed.

Finally, members of Council or staff should have done their homework, and checked with neighboring cities on their experience. They should have visited a town with the same exact system. They should have called other city managers or mayors and simply asked how this went.
We have other choices to build a parking deck. Remember that two different developers agreed to build a deck in exchange for us allowing development such as stores or shops on the first level. We just needed to wait until the Great Recession was over.

Some say now that it is too late; we are stuck with what we have. Maybe so. But luckily for residents and voters, they get to chime in on their opinions of how their elected leaders have done. The new parking system is an issue that should be discussed during this election campaign, and responsibility must be taken for the mistakes that were made. We need a full accounting of all the costs associated with this project and we need to ask all of the candidates what they are planning going forward.

The mayor mentioned in the spring that the city council would review the parking rates again come December, and the City Manager’s memo of July 22 also lists those plans, and on December 1, 2013, she lists this: “Address the current rates and rate structures, including parking passes”. You know what that means. And that happens after the election.