Thursday, June 30, 2016

BRAD COLE SERENADES THE ARK IN ANN ARBOR WITH BLEND OF FOLK ROCK SOUL




I have to admit that I had not heard of Brad Cole until last week. I was browsing through the list of up-coming performers at The Ark in Ann Arbor when I read the bio the Ark had sent out on Brad Cole. The bio stated that Cole writes about the ups and downs of the human condition. Interesting, I thought.   Intrigued, I decided to see his show Wednesday evening. I'm glad I did because his concert was quite a treat!

From the moment Brad Cole and his band hit the stage it was apparent that it was going to be a great evening. Cole's easy banter with the audience and soulful lyrical content perfectly matched The Ark and it's intimate setting. As for the music, lets call it a frothy blend of urban folk rock soul. Oh, with a dash of xylophone bossa. Perfect! The band was not only tight, but it was obvious they all love playing together. The band had chemistry!

BradCole2016.jpeg
Brad Cole.
Brad Cole recently released an album entitled Lay It Down. The show featured songs from the album. To these ears every song was a gem. There were moments throughout the concert where the music reminded me of mid-seventies Dylan with swirling violin sections that added a slightly Eastern European feeling to the folk soul rock sound. At other times I was reminded of Steely Dan's brand of jazz infused rock. But, make no mistake, Brad Cole has his own deeply unique sound and style that keeps the listener strongly intrigued for the entirety of the concert.

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

YCS SPECIAL BOARD MEETING: DISTRICT FACES STEEP CLIMB AND MANY OBSTACLES

The last time I attended a Ypsilanti Community Schools board meeting was in 2013 during the Ypsilanti/Willow Run school merger debacle. First, for anyone who has not attended a school board meeting lets just say that they're not exactly a thrill. However, this does not mean they are not important. Yes, board members faces looked quite grim during the Ypsilanti Community Schools SPECIAL MEETING/BUDGET HEARING Monday night. Well, who can blame them for looking grim, particularly here in Ypsilanti? YCS is facing so many challenges it is mind boggling. As superintendent Edmondson stated, all urban school districts are facing the same challenges. What are these challenges? For starters kids are leaving public schools in urban areas everywhere in droves. There are so many school options for kids that it is extremely difficult for urban public schools to compete. It is very complicated.

This evening at the YCS special meeting I learned that the Ypsilanti/Willow Run merger accrued  $18 million dollars in debt. I actually had to check with the person next to me to make sure I heard the figure correctly. Well, I heard right. Wow. I also learned that the district is a whopping $2 million dollars in debt. Double wow. Here's the scoop. There is a district deficit for the 2015-16 school year of $2.43 million dollars that will be taken from its fund balance to make up for the loss. Further, in consideration of the 2016-17 general fund budget, the district is expecting a loss of 300 students.

I left the meeting feeling that the board members to a person are deeply committed to creating a successful enriching and positive school district in Ypsilanti. I can also say the same for superintendent Edmondson. But the challenges are difficult and the climb is steep in regard to overcoming the many obstacles facing Ypsilanti Community Schools.

Jeff Brown
Publisher/Editor
Purple Walrus Press.

Photo Purple Walrus Press.

Monday, June 27, 2016

RADAR SPEED SIGN PLACED ON CONGRESS ST AFTER ACCIDENT LAST WEEK

One week after a five year old child was struck by a vehicle on Congress Street in Ypsilanti a radar speed sign has been placed near the scene of the accident. Last Monday afternoon the five year old child was struck by a car while following family members across the street to Rutherford Pool in the Normal Park Neighborhood. The accident occurred at the corner of Elm and Congress.

I spoke to Ypsilanti Police Sunday afternoon, and was told that the radar speed sign was placed there Sunday morning and will remain there for roughly one week. Ypsilanti Police told me that the radar speed sign rotates around the city at the request of neighborhoods concerned about speeders. The officer I spoke to could not confirm that the speed sign was placed there directly as a result of last weeks accident but it's safe to assume that is the likely reason.

Let's hope that a stop sign will be placed at the intersection of Elm and Congress sooner than later. Children stream across the street daily as they head over to Rutherford Pool. This was a disaster waiting to happen.

UPDATE: As of 5pm Monday, the radar speed sign is gone. What kind of cockamamie effort is that?

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press
Radar speed sign at corner of Elm and Congress in Ypsilanti. Photo Purple Walrus Press.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

THANK YOU TO OUR LATEST ADVERTISERS!

Purple Walrus Press would like to thank our newest advertisers SideTrack Bar And Grill and Matthew J Casey Tax Professional. We appreciate your support!

Did you know that Purple Walrus Press online news averages 1000 unique visits each week? Purple Walrus Press is primarily focused on Ypsilanti news, but also addresses issues in other cities and communities. In essence, PWP strives to shine a light and provide perspectives not featured in the mainstream media. PWP also covers breaking news events in and around Ypsilanti. In addition, PWP showcases music and theater reviews! Purple Walrus Press publishes a quarterly print edition. You can pick up a copy of the print edition in Ypsilanti at Bona Sera Cafe, B'24's, Ypsilanti Food Co op, The Ugly Mug, Beezy's, SideTrack, and the downtown Ypsilanti District Library. In Ann Arbor find our print edition at Nicolas Books, and Cafe Elixir Vitae.

Purple Walrus Press often features the writing of multiple contributors including Chai Montgomery, Joannah Soderborg, Johannah Atwood Brown, William Hammond, Mack Macateer, Patti Smith,  as well as yours truly.

If you are interested in advertising your business on the PWP website contact me at purplewalruspress@gmail.com

Thanks!

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press

Saturday, June 25, 2016

FED STATEMENT THAT FILTERED FLINT WATER IS SAFE FOR ALL IS QUESTIONABLE.

It was announced yesterday that federal officials say that all Flint residents using water filters on their faucets can safely drink water from the tap. This is quite a departure from earlier statements from federal officials warning that pregnant women and children should not drink the contaminated Flint water even with a filter.

Filtered water was tested in 200 Flint homes recently and the reports indicated that the level of lead was safe  for consumption. Assistant secretary for preparedness and response for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Nicole Lurie was quoted in the Detroit Free Press Thursday stating, "With the results of this testing, residents can be confidant that they can use filtered water and protect their developing fetus and young child from lead."

But here's the issue. Yes, using a water filter on your tap may bring lead levels down to a safe level, but there remain other concerns with the drinking water in Flint. Many Flint residents are concerned, as they should be, about levels of chlorine and bacteria in the water. Lead is not the only concern in regard to Flint water.

The bottom line is that the water line infrastructure in the city has to be replaced in my hometown of Flint. So far there has been little progress made. Shameful.

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press
Saginaw St in downtown Flint. Photo Purple Walrus Press.

Friday, June 24, 2016

INTERVIEW WITH YPSILANTI TOWNSHIP TRUSTEE CANDIDATE MONICA ROSS-WILLIAMS BY JEFF BROWN

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ypsilanti Twp Trustee Candidate Monica Ross-Williams last week. It is obvious that Monica is deeply committed to Ypsilanti Township and the entire community. Her answers to my interview questions are thorough and highlight her keen insight into Ypsilanti Township.


1. What inspired you to run for elected office in Ypsilanti Township?
My inspiration for running for public office first starts with my late Father, T. Walter Ross. Dad, although he was not a public office elected official, was an elected Union Official Recording Secretary in the mid-1970's at former UAW Local 735 - then General Motors Hydra-Matic Plant. Although, quite young when my Dad ran and won that office, I remember him taking me to various union events in his quest at the time to be elected. Also, I remember the signs and t-shirts. In fact, our family made some of his campaign signs at our home and I had the opportunity to place a special design on a couple. 

The part about my Father's Union campaign that resonates the most is he made at the time, a bit of history, as Dad was one of the first African-Americans to be elected onto Local 735's board at the time and Master Tool and Die Maker (Skilled Trade) at the plant. I saw the importance even at my young age, of being involved and instilling a difference by asking for others to grant trust in your ideas by the power of their vote, meant.  

This experience stuck with me over the years. In my young twenty's ran and was elected the as youngest Recording Secretary for Michigan Corrections Organization SEIU - M 526 at former Huron Valley Men's Facility, where I worked to ensure our Chapter's Correctional Officers negotiated contractual agreements were honored by the Administration. 

Last, but certainly not least, in 2003, I was asked by former New West Willow Neighborhood Association (NWWNA) President Nathan Norman to serve on the Executive Board as Recording Secretary. Elected into the position six times, serving until 2011, until I was appointed on the Ypsilanti Township Parks Commission to serve out a term in office. The next year, 2012, I was honored to be elected into the Parks Commissioner role by the residents of Ypsilanti Township.

2. Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township schools have faced some difficult challenges over the past few years. The Ypsilanti/Willow Run school merger was a little dicey.What is your take in regard to the local public school districts?
I was not in favor initially of the merger for a number of reasons. One, each of the school districts had their distinct identity and history. In a merger as with every merger, history is lost and that can result in unexpressed or expressed pain for those a part of or impacted by the action. Next, as a proud Alumni of Ypsilanti Public Schools, we had experienced a number of changes over the years up to and including our logo "The Braves", the lost of our school colors Purple and Gold, and lastly the name of Ypsilanti Public Schools. 

Individuals generally base a connection on experiences.
 While attending former Ypsilanti Public Schools and the High School, I reflect on many fond memories where lifelong change and impacts were made. 
Whether it was marching on the field with the band during football games, competing in track or volleyball, working on the school newspaper as the editorial editor, makeshift plays acted out in "Senior Circle", when we as a group of students walked out in protest of the district not at the time recognizing Martin Luther King Day Holiday, or how my favorite teacher Ms. Trudy Adams allowed for the expression of my feelings in writing after the unexpected loss of a cousin in the 12th grade.  

Not to say that any of these experiences are lost in totality, however, what is a bit disconnected is the now former school district that captured all of these positive experiences and more, is no more.
 

Public Schools in general in our area are under great stress. In the Ypsilanti Community, both of our public school districts are stained by the lost of students to other means of K-12 education, and a migration of residents out of the area post the 2008 housing crisis.  

However, although as the Township Board level of government official generally do not make policies regarding Public Schools, we do have a voice. In my opinion, we must use that voice to advocate keeping public education and school districts strong vital role in developing our young residents into adults ready for the 21st Century workforce in trade education,or higher education on the collegiate levels. 

3. Gang violence has been an issue in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township recently, particularly last summer. There is a citizen group called Ypsilanti Community Interrupters. They were formed with intent to educate citizens in regard to how to help stem violence in the community. What is your opinion on the Ypsilanti Interrupters and local gang violence?

The work that the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office (WSCO) has done this year thus far in particular has been noteworthy in the aspect of using the Community Policing model to curb gang-associated activities.

The WSCO along with the Office of Community and Economic Development - Washtenaw County (OCED) has worked with a number of local businesses to provide youth employment opportunities over the summer months. Curfew enforcement has been stepped up, with residents across the Township willing to place signage in their yards informing youth of what times the Township ordinance is in effect.
 Furthermore, the WSCO has added Youth Liaison Deputies focused on working with our younger residents to shift the relationship law enforcement has with our youth to a cooperative versus adversal exchanges, when approriate. 

As for The Interrupters, this is another example of the WSCO partnering with concerned residents to provide positive alternatives for keeping our communities safer. As a resident of Ypsilanti Township, I've worked as a volunteer with The Interrupters leaflet campaign in 2015 and this year to ensure our communities have knowledge of resources available in the County, Township and with the WSCO, focused on providing positive alternatives for our youth.  

We still have work to do as residents, elected officials, concerned citizens and the law enforcement community to reduce gang associated activities within our area. I believe what happened last year was a wake-up call too many that it takes a sustained partnership to take the concrete steps required for making all of our neighborhoods in Ypsilanti Township safer.

4. What is your opinion on the surveillance camera program in West Willow? Do you feel that the program has been effective in stemming violence in the community?
I was an Elected New West Willow Neighborhood Association Executive Board member during the time that the surveillance camera program was debated and piloted. At the time, there were concerns over where the cameras would be placed, what type of activities would the devices record and privacy rights. Our Board worked in partnership with the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Township Board to ensure residents concerns were addressed. The purpose of the surveillance cameras were and remain to reduce crime and capture information on suspected criminal activity, and nothing more. 

Not long after the surveillance cameras were installed, the device assisted with the timely capture of an individual accosting children at school bus stops in the neighborhood. Without the devices, the perpetrator might have done more harm to our children in the West Willow Community. 

In the years since, West Willow's Piloted Surveillance Camera program has became a model adopted into other neighborhoods by residents request in the Township. However, the devices are one tool to combat criminal activity. Residents, Community Members and Visitors alike watchful eyes and willingness to "If You See Something, Say Something" must be used in coordination to keep our neighborhoods, safe. 

5. What is your vision as far as economic development in Ypsilanti Township?
Ypsilanti Township has experienced a series of changes of the last decade. Previous known as the home to manufacturing operations like former General Motors Powertrain, and a still existing although laregly downsized Ford Rawsonville Plant. Other events or employment downsizings in the greater Washtenaw County Community also impacted the Township, like the closing of Pfizer in Ann Arbor, the closing of Ford Ypsilanti/Visteon Facility in the City of Ypsilanti and the conversion of Ford Saline into Faurecia Plant - resulted some job losses along a lower pay scale for newer workers post to the 2008 economic crisis. 
Next. the housing bubble or crisis greatly impacted our Township. We are still recovering post eight years after the housing crisis as personal property values although increasing, are still below other areas in the County.

A January 2015 Washtenaw County Economic Development Department study on Housing Affordability and Economic Equity, denotes the following about the Eastern Regional area of Washtenaw County, including Ypsilanti Township. 

"In sum, Ann Arbor and those with Ann Arbor addresses are at one end of the spectrum where property values are increasing and that appears likely to continue, while Ypsilanti (City and Township) is at the other and in real trouble. At this unblended scale, these are two markets going in opposite directions with three very probable outcomes, barring a significant change in policy at the local jurisdictional or countywide level.(1). The imbalance in income, education and opportunity between the jurisdictions along with the socioeconomic segregation that goes with it will hamper the regional economic growth potential of the area. Regions that experience strong and more stable growth are typically more equitable, have less segregation and better balanced workforce skills within them.(2)."

Citation (1)., (2),, CZB, LLC. (2015, January). Housing Affordability and Economic Equity - Analysis Washtenaw County, Michigan. Retrieved February 28, 2015, from http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/community-and-economic-development/plans-reports-data/housing-and-infrastructure/2015/washtenaw-county-affordability-and-economic-equity.pdf

Recognizing and openly discussing what the Eastern Regional Areas of Washtenaw County have experienced is necessary. Without a fair and honest assessment plus scaleable plans on how to reverse the losses our area has lived through along true desire for Organizational Change, does not equal as a result, a sound plan for the future. 
First, before the manufacturing/industrial age boom was small and medium size business owners in Ypsilanti Township. Therefore, we must remember our roots in this community and support keeping our businesses in the Township. 
Second, the economic imbalance has to be addressed. One way to do so is to partner with verifiable trade schools and institutions to cross-promote employment fields such as Plumbing, Electricians, Masonry, Automobile Service Excellence certifications plus more to create livable wage employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.   
  
Our K-12 educational public school system must be strong to prepare our youth for 21st jobs and collegiate level coursework, plus make Ypsilanti Township a place to "Live, Learn, Work and Enjoy".

Lastly, we must attract new business opportunities in this area, as well as keep the ones we have currently.
 
There is a study scheduled to take place in the months ahead, to build an New Autonomous Vehicle Testing Facility in partnership with The American Center for Mobility and Michigan Economic Development Corporation at the former General Motors Powertrain plant location. The New autonomous Vehicle Testing Facility study along with the proposed expansion of Regional Master Transit is good news, however, we have to assure that residents in our community have access to the jobs and training necessary to become future employees in these industries.

Now, on a much lighter note!

6. Who's your favorite band or musician?
My favorite Musician, the Late, Great Prince Rogers Nelson because he was well-rounded. Prince could write, produce, play a number of instruments and sing simultaneously. Talent! Prince had it and will be missed by fans like myself.  

7. Do you have a favorite album?
Public Enemy - "It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back" (1988). The title speak for itself.

8. Have you read any good books lately?
Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty - by Daron Acemo─člu and James A. Robinson (March 2012)

9. What is your favorite movie?

The American President (1995) with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. A bit of a Romantic at heart.

10. Did you have a favorite TV show when you were growing up?
The Polka Dot Door (1971-1993) - I loved this show as a child!

For those interested in more information on Monica's campaign visit the Campaign's Website or her Facebook Page.

Thanks, Monica!

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

CHILD STRUCK BY CAR ON CONGRESS STREET IN YPSILANTI

Monday, June 20, a child was struck by a car on Congress in Ypsilanti. According to accounts on social media the child ran across Congress St while heading to Rutherford Pool.  The child was following siblings across the street and stepped in front of the car. According to reports on social media Rutherford Pool staff members were the first to respond to the accident. It was stated that the Rutherford Pool board has sent an email to Ypsilanti City Hall to notify them of the incident. It was also stated that the board would like to know from the city what can be done as far as making the crosswalk safer. There is not a stop sign at the corner of Elm and Congress which is where the crosswalk is located. Word is that the child sustained a broken femur, lacerations of the pancreas, and spleen, whiplash, and road rash.

 Children stream across this section of Congress as they head to Rutherford Pool which is situated just across the street. It was only a matter of time before a tragic event like this was going to happen. The city must place a stop sign at this location before another tragedy like this occurs.

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

CHAI ON TRUMP: By Purple Walrus Press contributor Chai Montgomery.

On "stopping Trump." Trump is a wealthy capitalist. Men like him own both parties and all the politicians who play their game. You can keep him out of the White House sure enough, but you can't stop his views, or his power to fuse his views with government policies without diminishing the power of capital. It's men who are more or less like Trump who have dominated politics one way or another since before the New Deal. Want revolutionary change? Look further than an election cycle.... these cycles are window dressings.

Chai Montgomery Purple Walrus Press contributor.

Friday, June 17, 2016

YPSILANTI HIGH PARKING LOT TALK WITH PRINCIPAL PROVES TELLING

 As I wrote in my previous June 13th article, last week an email was forwarded to me stating that Ypsilanti High School students were going to be holding a rally called Students Rights Matters. The email also stated that after the rally students would be speaking at the YCS board meeting that evening. I was very impressed with the email and was looking forward to covering the student led protest. I thought it was great that students would be raising concerns regarding what is going at Ypsilanti High. Students were to be addressing school safety and the fact that they feel there are too many school suspensions, The students also want to see the re-implementation of restorative practices at Ypsilanti High School.

Unfortunately, the rally was cancelled. Instead of hearing students speak their minds, a handful of us middle aged folks were greeted in the parking lot by new Ypsilanti High School principal Scott Snyder. Snyder, who had much on his mind, did not hesitate in sharing his thoughts with us regarding the school. Snyder made some very interesting comments to us as we stood in a circle in the Ypsilanti High Parking lot.

Listed below are a few of the comments principal Snyder made in our chat circle Monday evening. To the best of my knowledge, this is what I recall hearing him saying, These are not direct quotes, I am paraphrasing his comments.

1. Only 2% of incoming freshman to Ypsilanti High are reading at grade level.
2. He must handle teachers calling in sick to work per their doctors stating that they could not come to work due to emotional duress related to their teaching positions. This is due to stressful teaching conditions.
3. It is not uncommon for teachers to attend seminars such as restorative practice training and then quit their teaching jobs in the district only to find teaching positions in other districts.
4. Local gangs pose challenges to an already difficult learning environment at Ypsilanti High School.

Scott Snyder is up against a lot of tough realities. These powerful and enlightening comments from Snyder are reflective of the dire predicament public schools are facing in not only Ypsilanti, but Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland and my hometown of Flint. There is much talk in America about the importance of education, but catch phrases like "stay in school" ring hollow in a state and nation that is not motivated to truly assist or help struggling public schools. Often students must go without textbooks or proper supplies leaving this burden directly on the shoulders of underpaid teachers.

Principal Scott Snyder truly is facing a mountain of challenges at his school. As I said in my previous article, there is no question that Snyder cares deeply about and is committed to students at Ypsilanti High. The issue is how do we fix our broken public education system in this state and in the country? I wish I had the answer.

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press.

New Ypsilanti High principal Scott Snyder center speaks to small group of concerned citizens in parking lot. Photo Purple Walrus Press.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

YPSILANTI HIGH STUDENT LED PROTEST RALLY CANCELLED: BECOMES VENT SESSION FOR PRINCIPAL.

Last week a very intriguing email was forwarded to me. The email stated that a student led  protest rally was going to be held in the parking lot of Ypsilanti High School Monday, June 13 at 5:30 pm. The email stated that the purpose of the Students Rights Matters Rally was to address several key issues and problems at the school. I was very impressed with the well-organized email and very impressed that students were taking it upon themselves to organize a rally to address school issues that they were concerned about and taking issue with. Listed below are the key matters listed in the email students are concerned with and feel need to be addressed by the school administration.

1. Find alternatives to to suspensions.
2. Push for the implementation of restorative practices done at YCHS.
3. Bring the community together to better the schools.
4. Need of a safer school environment.
5. Need for appropriate monitoring system.

I was very eager to cover the rally. I can't remember the last time I heard about a student led high school protest rally. As someone who strongly believes in student empowerment it made me feel good that Ypsilanti High students were coordinating the rally and planned on attending the 6:30 YCS board meeting at the nearby administration building on Packard.

I arrived to an empty parking lot at Ypsilanti High where the rally was to take place at 5:30.  Minutes later adult facilitator Anell Eccleston arrived as a representative of the Student Advocacy Center. A few fellow middle aged folks like me suddenly showed up also. Anell broke the news to the handful of us that the student rally had been cancelled. He explained that students had met with the principal and had decided along with Principal Snyder that the best thing would be for students with concerns to try and work things out internally with principal Snyder. I was looking forward to hearing what the STUDENTS had to say.

Soon more older folks arrived from within the local community and surrounding communities. Where were the students? Anyway, Low and behold, Ypsilanti High's new principal Scott Snyder suddenly appeared on the scene. Principal Snyder began explaining that he had met with student rally organizers earlier in the day and that they had decided that the rally should be cancelled, and that it would be best for all concerned if issues were worked out in meetings with him in school. Principal  Snyder then began to address the group of 17 or so older folks, including myself, who had come to the rally in hopes of hearing what Ypsi High students had to say. Snyder spoke at length about the many difficult challenges and issues being faced by Ypsilanti High School and the district as a whole. It was clear that Snyder is passionate and sincere in regard to his position as Ypsilanti High principal. The problem I have is that I came to hear about what was on the mind of students, and not the principal. Obviously, Ypsilanti High students have real concerns and issues that they wanted to express at a student led rally. I think the fact that these students wanted to not only have a rally, but also state their issues at the school board meeting that night is wonderful. As passionate as principal Snyder was in the parking lot circle of grown ups, I had come to hear students air their important grievances.

A couple of students actually did step into the circle of us oldsters, thank god. One of these students was Ypsilanti student Chevaun Johnson whose name was on a email that went out announcing the proposed student rally. I spoke with Chevaun in the parking lot. She told me that Ypsilanti High School students are being punished and suspended for long periods of time and that it is difficult for theses students to catch up with school work and get back on track when they return to school. She articulately explained that when students are suspended for 10 days they cannot bring their school work home. When they finally come back to school they are way behind and have to make up class work after school which can be difficult for many students to do.

Chevaun also told me that she is concerned about bus security. She stated that there are not enough monitors and that there is an issue with fights and arguments. According to the email sent out announcing the student rally, concerned students also want to see restorative practice re-implemented at the high school.

I left the Ypsilanti High School parking lot a little disappointed Monday because I wanted to hear the perspective of Ypsilanti High School students regarding conditions at the high school. I can hear a bunch of parents talk anytime I want while sitting in a plastic chair at the local Rutherford swimming pool. I was hoping to hear the students speak their minds.

In the end, if students feel that they can discuss and solve problems they see in the school by meeting in the principals office, that's great. I only hope that principal Snyder really listens to the concerns of these students and addresses them in a satisfactory way. I also hope that Principal Snyder didn't discourage the proposed student led rally for fear of bad PR for the school and district. I guess we'll see.

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press.
Ypsilanti High principal Scott Snyder center speaking to group of obvious non-students in parking lot. Photo by PWP. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

QUESTIONS REMAIN SURROUNDING DEATH OF WIMA STUDENT IN YPSILANTI.

June 1 was a very tragic and sad day not only for Washtenaw International Middle Academy, but for the entire city of Ypsilanti. Wednesday afternoon, June 1, at around 3 pm,  a 911 call was placed to the Ypsilanti Police Dept from the Washtenaw International Middle Academy located in Ypsilanti. It was indicated in the call that a student had fallen off the roof. The police immediately arrived and discovered that the student, 14 year old Xavier Small, had died from head trauma due to the fall. This was such a sad and tragic death. I arrived at the school at around 4:20 because I had heard that the school was on lockdown due to a medical emergency. It was  so sad and shocking to learn about what had happened. The entire community was shocked to learn of the young mans death.

Since the death of the eighth grade student there have been questions on the minds of Ypsilanti residents surrounding his death. How and why was the student on the roof of the school? Also, I have been wondering if Ypsilanti Community Schools are conducting their own separate investigation into the death. I knew that the Ypsilanti Police are investigating.

Sunday evening I contacted Ypsilanti Community Schools Communication Coordinator, Yen Azzaro. In an email to Azzaro I stated that I had questions regarding how and why the student was on the school roof. I also asked her if YCS was conducting
it's own investigation. Yen promptly emailed me back Sunday night. She stated that YCS was not conducting an investigation, but that the administration will be debriefing in the near future. Yen Azzaro also told me in the email that they have no information about specifics and are awaiting investigation findings from the police.

This has been such a tragic event for the district and the entire community as a whole. Hopefully, the authorities will be able to shed more light on the tragedy soon.

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press
Washtenaw International Middle Academy. Photo Purple Walrus Press

Sunday, June 12, 2016

MUHAMMAD ALI ANTI WAR STANCE WAS HEROIC

Like many others of my baby boom generation, I not only loved Muhammad Ali, I saw him as a spokesman for our generation. Yes, he was one hell of a boxer. I would say he was the greatest of all-time. But he was so much more than a boxer. Of course, Ali had an incredibly infectious, outrageous and down right lovable personality. This fact is well documented, but there is so much to the story.

I became aware of Ali in 1974 as a kid in Flint. My dad and a buddy had tickets to go see Ali's famous fight against Joe Frazier broadcast via satellite  at the IMA Sports Arena in downtown Flint. The next morning all my dad could talk about was the fight. I'd never seen him so giddy. That is where the Ali story began for me back then as an 11 year old.

As a teenager in the seventies a year or two after the official end of the Vietnam war, I  became aware of a different side of Ali: The anti war activist Ali. This became the side of Ali I was most impressed  with and interested in. Ten years or so earlier in 1967 Ali received notice that he was being drafted. This was at the height of the Vietnam war. At his scheduled induction Ali would not step forward when his name was called and refused to be drafted. He made a statement to the public saying that he was a conscientious objector and that war was against his religion. He also made a public statement saying that, "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong. No Viet Cong ever called me Nigger,"  Appallingly, on June 20, 1967, Ali was was found guilty of a felony regarding his refusal to be drafted, and his boxing license was revoked.

Of all of Ali's accomplishments, his anti war stance has always impressed me the most. Ali's anti war stance and willingness to call out an often racist culture in American was and remains truly heroic. Here's to you Muhammad Ali. You are a hero.

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

WHAT'S UP WITH CONTAMINATED WATER STREET AND BORDER TO BORDER TRAIL IN YPSILANTI?

So this past February my children and I were thrilled to come across the new Border to Border Trail located on the Water Street property in Ypsilanti as we were traipsing around town on foot. It was a chilly winter morning but we decided to peel off Michigan Ave and explore the trail that runs along the beautiful Huron River. The trail was newly adorned with wooden over-hanging decks that brought you right over the waters edge. Nifty wooden benches were scattered here and there throughout the entirety of the trail that winds along the river through the woods. It was and is beautiful. My seven year old daughter remarked that she couldn't wait to come here in the summer when everything would be "green and pretty." I told that was an excellent idea. We even talked about having a picnic.

Well, scrap the picnic because the place is polluted with harmful toxins. Great. Now I get to break the news to my seven year old.

From what I know the situation came to light in April when residents were told to stay off the Border to Border Trail situated on the Water Street property. According to tests that were done, elevated levels of toxins were found on the site. These toxins include PCBs and Polychlorinated Biphenyls. I have no idea what Polychlorinated Biphenyls are but I certainly don't want to picnic around them.

Tuesday I went down to the entrance of the trail on Michigan Ave just to see how things were looking. Well, things didn't look so hot. Amid the large Water Street Redevelopment Ready sign near the entrance I found KEEP OUT, NO TRESPASSING and TRAIL CLOSED signs. Re development ready? I don't think so. The fact that the entrance area looked unkempted and over grown with weeds didn't help either.

What are we citizens of Ypsilanti supposed to think when we learn that contamination levels were at 10 to 40 times what state and federal regulations allow. This according to an mlive article regarding a letter from Michigan State Housing Development Authority Environmental manager, Dan Lince. Furthermore, word on the street is that the proposed Eastside Recreation Center that was supposed to be constructed on the Water Street property has backed out of the deal. I don't know for certain whether this is a fact or not, but folks I have spoken to say they have heard the Recreation Center deal is dead. Fact or fiction? I can only speculate. There is also speculation that a new developer is interested in the Water Street property.

So, what's the plan for the Water Street Border to Border Trail and when will it re open? Wednesday morning I put a call into the office of Ypsilanti city economic development director, Beth Ernat. I was hoping to receive information regarding the current status of the Border to Border Trail and to attain information regarding speculation that the Eastside Recreation Center deal is kaput, and if there is indeed another developer interested in the Water Street property. As of Thursday evening Beth Ernat has not responded to my phone call.

The bottom line is, what is really going on with the Water Street Border to Border Trail and what is going on with Water Street in general? There is a Water Street debt millage vote coming up in August and people want and deserve to know.

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press.
  Border to Border Trail Water Street property Ypsilanti, MI.  Purple Walrus Press photo.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

HOMELAND SECURITY AND SECRET SERVICE RAID YPSILANTI GAS STATION

Around 1:00 this afternoon I was surprised to learn that the Citgo gas station on S. Huron Street in Ypsilanti had been raided by Homeland Security and U.S. Secret Service. When I arrived at the Citgo station minutes later I found that indeed the station was shut down and closed to the public. Several officers, some wearing Homeland Security emblazoned jackets, were visible walking in and out of the gas station. I assume that the other people on the scene were Secret Service agents.

As I walked onto the grounds of the gas station with my camera I was immediately approached by a Secret Service agent who very politely told me to stay off the property, which I promptly did, of course. I mean, who's going to tangle with U.S. Secret Service? Certainly not I.

According to mlive, officers were seen taking boxes out of the gas station which were then being searched. When I arrived at the scene several official vehicles were blocking each of the entrances in to the Citgo parking lot.

Several of the residents who live on the street just behind the station were out in front of their homes talking about the situation and speculating as to what was happening half a block away.

Late breaking information is just being reported by Local 4 News Detroit that search warrants are being executed at eight gas stations in Southeast Michigan.

Stay tuned for updates.

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press

Citgo gas station on S. Huron Street Ypsilanti, Mi. Purple Walrus Press photo.

Monday, June 6, 2016

FLINT CRISIS: PROTECTIVE COATING BUILD UP IN WATER LINES SOUNDS LIKE FICTION SCIENCE.

The water has been poisoned in Flint for two years. Bathing and showering remains unsafe and deep concerns remain regarding the drinking water. I now fear, as do many others, that the water crisis in Flint is being forgotten by the media and people living outside of the Flint area.

A few months ago information was sent out that the correct chemicals were finally added to the Flint River water at the treatment plant in Flint. In January governor Snyder said that the State first intends to make the pipes safe by re-building a protective coating between the lead and the water. Snyder said that the State restored corrosion controls to the water system. Those were the phosphates that were missing from the water between April, 2014, and October, 2015. At a press conference in January Snyder said, "Over time, the phosphates will build up a protective coating between the pipes and the water they carry making them capable of delivering safe drinking water."

Frankly, this makes no sense to me. I'm no water treatment expert but I don't buy this protective coating idea. I also know that I am not the only one who has serious doubts about the protective coating theory. I recently spoke to Flint resident and long time friend Johanna Atwood Brown about her thoughts on the water crisis. Johanna told me that the Mayors pipe replacement effort has stalled in Flint.She and her husband took it upon themselves to have the water lines replaced in their home and hired a company.They got pipes with a double filter which she said doesn't take all of the lead out, but some. Johanna also stated, "Then we have the faucet filter, but it will be a long time before I drink the water again."

Appallingly, Johanna and her husband had to spend $3,600, which they pulled from their retirement fund. "We are glad we had the cash to do it. Lots of people do not. They are dependent on the coating that I'm sure no one feels safe about." Yes, this protective coating concept sounds like fiction science to me.

Jeff Brown
Editor/Publisher
Purple Walrus Press

Saturday, June 4, 2016

JO JO'S ART BEAT FROM THE STREET BY PWP CONTRIBUTOR JOANNAH SODERBORG.

I love movies and am always up for interesting and thought provoking movies.  Just my luck, The Cinetopia International Film Festival starts this weekend in Detroit and Ann Arbor and continues through June 13.  There is always a plethora of interesting movies offered so check out
 www.cinetopiafestival.org for movies, dates, and times.

Take advantage of the FREE movies being screened..
Only Yesterday, the masterpiece from studio Gibli will be screened on the North lawn of the DIA opening night, Friday June 3.  If you can't catch that showing go to the June 11 screening at the Michigan theater, main auditorium at noon.

Detroit Voices, short films showcasing the diversity and creativity of Michigan filmmakers.  
Detroit screening is June 4, 12:15 pm, at the DIA. 
Ann Arbor screening is June 11, 12:30 pm at the Michigan theater in the screening room.

Another fun and free event I can't wait for is the Michael Jackson sing along celebration.
Wednesday June 8, Campus Martius -downtown Detroit, 8:00pm.
Thursday June 9, Maynard & Liberty- Ann Arbor, 8:00pm.

Jojo

Thursday, June 2, 2016

ON FLINT: CONTRIBUTED TO PWP BY BOBBI COATES OF FLINT.

I'm going to say something right now that a lot of people aren't going to like, but I hope that you will give me a chance to understand where I'm coming from.
First and foremost, thank you from the bottom of my heart to those who came from all across the country this weekend with good intentions simply to donate water to the people of Flint. We appreciate you, we appreciate your donations, your time, and your effort. We need people like you keeping us in the spotlight for the right reasons. Thank you, sincerely.
However, what we don't need are outsiders pandering to us, threatening us, miscategorizing us, coming in uninformed or incorrectly informed, and taking our agency from us. We, the people of Flint, have our own voices, and we've been using them. We've used them locally, we've used them in the State Capitol, we've used them in Washington, D.C. We're still using them. Some are more vocal than others but some of us know that this isn't about who shouts the loudest and waits for change to happen, it's about speaking within the appropriate channels using methods that get real results. We, the people of Flint, don't need your voices to speak FOR us. We need your voices to combine with and amplify ours, to support our movements, to understand us, and to let US tell YOU what we need.
What we don't need are people who see us as something less than people. People who paint us as feral, untrusting, lawless animals who want to harm the ones who are helping us. That's what outsiders are being told. Allegedly, our local police and local volunteers have told people that they need to be armed and protected from the people in Flint. People from all over the country came, openly carrying high powered rifles to protect themselves against US. Let that sink in for a moment. Now ask yourself if that's what activists for the people do.
Because of the reported violence here, out-of-towners felt unsafe in our "sketchy" neighborhoods. We, the people of Flint, live in these neighborhoods. We, the people of Flint, work in these neighborhoods, go to school in these neighborhoods, and do everything that "normal" people do in these neighborhoods. Yes, we have crime. We have drugs. We have murders. Community activists go out every day in these neighborhoods, unarmed, delivering food and water to the very same people these guests in our city felt they needed protection from. There has never been even one reported shooting or robbery of unarmed people walking through those "sketchy" neighborhoods delivering water door-to-door.
We, the people of Flint, are strong. We're resilient. We're vocal. If you want to help us, get to know us. Don't weekend warrior in and tell us things we already know, like we need to vote the corrupt and inefficient "leaders" out, or tell us that voting for a certain candidate will magically make everything better. We're smarter than that. Don't make us your pet project, taking selfies with the locals, trespassing on vacant properties so you can share the ugliest photos of our gaping, impoverished, blighted wounds. Don't tell us we need to move away like that's an actual option for everyone.
Instead, show us peace. Greet us with open arms, not guns. Highlight the many good things Flint has going for it and tell everyone you know that Flint is a city worth investing in--investing your time, investing your interest, investing your good will, and investing your money! Bring us jobs! Don't just show up for the media coverage and go away. Help us get back on our feet. Treat us like human beings, just like the ones you have back where you're from.
For those of you who don't know me, I wasn't born here, but my family and I moved here in 1992, and with two brief exceptions I've lived here ever since. Flint is my home. I dropped out of two different high schools here. I went to two different colleges and earned 4 degrees here. I've lived on the North End, the South Side, the East Side. I've ridden the city bus, frequently. I know what the colors on the weather ball mean and I know that the only true coney is a Flint coney. Anything else is just a chili dog.
I've lived in extreme poverty and I'm still poor, working just like everyone else here is to improve our situations. I've dealt with family members addicted to drugs and seen them pawn everything we had that was worth another rock. I've been in places and situations where I've felt unsafe. I have friends who have been victims of crimes, including shootings. I have friends who are police officers. I have friends with licenses to carry concealed weapons, and I respect their rights to do so. This isn't about me being a bleeding heart liberal who wants to take your guns away--I respect your second amendment rights as long as they don't interrupt my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I've organized charity benefits, volunteered in soup kitchens, collected toys for the Whaley kids, you name it. I went to, and just graduated from, law school with hope I can finally put my education to work right here in Flint and give back to the community I love. Not Grand Blanc, not Burton, not Swartz Creek. Flint is my home. Don't tell me you need to carry a weapon to protect yourself against me in my own home.
We, the people of Flint, need to stand united together. We have the same interests. We don't need the media telling us all the activists are fighting and undermining everything we're trying to do. We don't need outsiders coming in to organize for us. We need to put aside our differences, give up this BS about some activists aren't legit because they weren't at your event. We're all fighting the fight. We need to give up the BS about some parts of Flint being better or worse or good or sketchy and realize that all those parts have one thing in common: People who are suffering. Some have more, some have less, some are better or worse off than others, but we're all affected. Let's stand together, support each other, and depend on each other like we always have--and like we will continue to do if and when the spotlight leaves.

Bobbi Coates.

You, Johanna A
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