the man found frozen in detroit and what it means

In the movie Short Cuts, Buck Henry and his pals, while on a fishing trip, find the body of a young woman. She’s underwater and clearly dead. And, by the looks of it, she hasn’t been there long. They debate hiking back to civilization so that they can tell someone, but ultimately decide to stay where they are and continue their vacation. So they stand by her body, beers in hand, and reel in fish.

It’s the kind of thing that you can’t imagine would ever really happen, but, at the same time, you know very well might.

I was reminded of this scene today while reading an article in the Detroit News about the man found dead and frozen in ice few days ago in an abandoned Detroit warehouse. The story in itself was appalling — the image of his feet sticking up out of the ice just seemed to convey the helpless, demoralized and fragile state of Detroit at the moment – but what really got me was the fact that the men who had found him, while exploring the abandoned building, didn’t immediately tell anyone. Instead, they proceeded to play a game of ice hockey there, on the surface of the ice above him. I know that he was dead, and that there was no helping him at that point, but I can’t imagine being so cavalier about loss of human life as to do nothing. It makes me doubt our future prospects as a society. And I hate that it happened here in Detroit.


[At the request of several readers, I’ve chosen to take down that image that originally accompanied this article. The image showed the dead man’s legs extending from the ice. I’d originally thought that it was important to share the image, as it illustrates the dire circumstances in Detroit better than any article could ever hope to. Upon further reflection, however, I’ve decided to take it down. If you want to see similar images, just follow that link at the top of the post.]

Posted in Observations | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

the future of michigan

At the University of Michigan on Monday, February 9, the Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) will be hosting a panel discussion on “Michigan’s Economy in 2009 and Beyond.” The event will feature John Austin, the Director of the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, Charles Ballard, Michigan State economics professor and author of the book “Michigan’s Economic Future,” Christopher Hayter, of the National Governors Association, and Kim Hill, from the Center for Automotive Research’s Automotive Communities Program. The event is scheduled to run from 4:00 to 5:30 at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. The following comes from the official event abstract:

A consensus has emerged in the last few years regarding Michigan’s economic future. In order to return prosperity to the state most analysts agree that Michigan must develop a diversified knowledge economy featuring robust entrepreneurial activity and a highly educated, innovative labor force.

However, today Michigan is confronted with a severe economic recession and a meltdown of the economy’s core automotive sector. There has been much less discussion, and certainly no consensus, regarding how Michigan should respond to the current economic recession and yet stay on the path of transition toward a knowledge economy…

Coincidentally, a friend of mine, an inventor and entrepreneur by the name of Michael McCorquodale, is blogging on this very subject this week for Metromode. Here’s a sample:

…So where does that leave Michigan?

Michigan doesn’t have a model.

What I’m really saying is that Michigan has most of the ingredients and yet they have not been synthesized into an executable model. First, Michigan has well-differentiated technology. My work, among that of many other world-class researchers, at the University of Michigan and all of the Michigan institutions is proof positive that we do. 

Second, Michigan has the passion. Of all of the places I have lived, nowhere in my life have I known people more passionate than those in Metro Detroit. 

Third, Michigan has the capital, but it is not making its way into the irrational investments. Put simply, there is a terrible lack of risk capital. From Q1/02 to Q4/07, all of which is post-bubble, California invested $49.5B in companies while Michigan invested a measly $363M. In less time, Mobius has raised over $20M as a single company.

This is where it gets complicated.

There is also a lack of deal-flow. Related to my previous blog entry, there is a lack of “doers” in Michigan. Yet, it is not that simple. There is also a lack of experienced management. Start-ups are a cottage industry in the Valley where thousands of executives have had experience in one. They are an anomaly in the industrial Midwest so it is terribly difficult to build an experienced management team worthy of investment. 

Further, our leadership in Michigan focuses on maintaining the status quo and has failed to diversify the economy with a focus on emerging business. Thus, there is little justification for the capital; yet, when someone like me shows up, I’m demanding capital and forced to relocate to California without it. Meanwhile, Michigan is sixth in the nation for new patents issued; yet most of those revolutionary innovations sit in laboratories, never to see the light of day.

So where do we go from here? Michigan is stuck between the chicken and the egg in developing its model….

As Michael mentioned above, his company, Mobius Microsystems, ultimately left Michigan for California, where they’ve been able to attract quite a bit of venture capital. They still have a research and development facility here in the state, but, in spite of his efforts, they weren’t able to keep the entire company here. And Michael is taking a lot of shit on Metromode right now because of it. People apparently don’t like hearing that their state is broken, and that’s essentially Michael’s message… The interesting thing — the thing that the folks leaving nasty comments don’t know — is that Michael really loves Detroit. When I first met him, he was living downtown and seriously contemplating a run for City Council (while earning his PhD). Sure, some of what he has to say might rub people the wrong way, but it’s not because he hates Michigan. If he hated Michigan, he would have gone to California and never looked back. Instead, he’s made an effort to keep some part of the business here, and he’s taking every opportunity possible to advocate for change. And, given the situation we now find ourselves in, I think maybe we should hear him out.

Posted in Michigan | 20 Comments

since the township is without a fire chief, would now be a good time to consider consolidating departments?

A fews days ago I put this question to a reader of this site who seems knowledgeable as to the inner workings of the City and Township fire departments. Following is his response:

Mark, I’d like to address a local topic that pops up every so often, but is in the news right now. Recently, the Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees voted to authorize the three administrators to explore Fire Chief sharing duties with adjoining agencies. What they mean is that Ypsilanti Township and another department (Ypsi City, Superior, Augusta, etc…) would “share” a Fire Chief, splitting the cost between the two communities.

Before we get to the question you asked me, namely, “is this an opportunity to bring the two departments (Ypsi City and Ypsi Twp) together under one Chief”, I’d like to look at some other things. I’ll come back to consolidation of departments at the end.

Currently, the City has Jon Ichesco in charge, and the Township is in the process of deciding what to do. The last Township Chief resigned and returned to Florida. He was a big advocate of Fire Districting, Consolidated Dispatch, Automatic Mutual Aid agreements, and basically forming departments based on need and not necessarily political boundary. He saw the need for more firefighters at emergency scenes and was trying to move the board of Trustees in that direction.

The Township gave a Chief’s test and there were two successful candidates. Act 78, the Civil Service Laws says that number one must be offered the position. I don’t know where they are on that. In the meantime, the Township Board authorized Trustee and ex-YPD Stan Eldridge to be interim Fire Commissioner for 16 weeks. He was given a list of duties and is being paid $500.00 a week. He is to oversee the overtime at the department, attend County Fire meetings, implement a fire survey program, and deal with dispatch issues regarding HVA. This came as a surprise to the Township Firefighters, who, naturally did not want an ex-cop overseeing any part of their operations, any more than PD would want a Firefighter with no Police Experience overseeing a Police Department or any part of their operations.

So right now, my understanding is that labor relations are strained at our neighbors house.

Now back to your question. I don’t believe that a Chief could effectively serve two communities. A “sharing” plan won’t work. Demands on a Fire Chief are heavy. There are so many regulations, standards, budgeting, operational issues, and safety laws that he has to follow and be responsible for, that it would not all get done, in both communities. I hear Jon Ichesco is not enamored with the idea.

Is this the time for a consolidation? Based on my conversations with some of the YTFD guys, there is no will to “go along” right now with the current state of relations. I also would find it hard for the current township board to promote the idea, after running so strongly against any merger or service sharing with the City in their election campaign. The used it in their signs, if you remember.

Elvis Costello

So, where do we go from here?

Posted in Ypsilanti | 34 Comments

shuttin’ detroit down

I’m not a fan of modern country music, but I thought, given the subject matter addressed in this new song by John Rich, that I should share the video. The song is called, “Shuttin’ Detroit Down.”

The refrain, for those of you unable to listen, is:

In the real world, they’re shuttin’ Detroit down /
While the boss man takes his bonus and jets on out of town

Given the mood of the country, I guess it was just a matter of time before someone came along to articulate what we’re feeling and set it to music… and, most likely, get rich in the process.

Posted in Art and Culture | 7 Comments

25 things about me

I’ve just been informed that I’ve been “tagged” through a social networking site, which apparently means that I have to do whatever I’m told, and then identify a number of my friends so that they can be forced to do the same. It’s like a chain letter, but somewhat more stupid, as there is no possibility of financial reward, or threat of gruesome death. You’re just told to do this thing, and provide the names of others. In this particular case, I’m being asked to list 25 “random things (about myself), facts, habits, or goals.”

So far, it looks like four of my friends have fallen victim to this particular meme. One admitted to having been in rehab. One shared that her mother is schizophrenic. I’m not sure what I can share that hasn’t already been shared, so I thought that I’d open it up to those of you who know me…. Following are the first few things to come to mind. If you know of others, leave a comment, or (in the case that it’s something shockingly terrible or embarrassing) send me an email.

Here’s my short list:

1. My head comes to a point on top.
2. I went through the windshield of a car when I was two.
3. I have brittle little wrists. I’ve broken both of them.
4. I’m likely related to the man who killed the pirate Black Beard.
5. I collected all of my fingernails and toenails for about a decade.
6. I have Obsessive Compulsive disorder, which, I’m glad to say, has its good points.
7. I’ve never asked a girl on a date. The same goes for women.
8. I was propositioned once by some men on a Greek boat to star in a Turkish film.
9. No matter how many times I see it, I cry my eyes out watching Ghost.
10. The nails on my big toes grow faster than all the other ones, and they’re as sharp as switchblades.
11. I was on Romper Room as a child.
12. I got thrown off Romper Room for spitting.

Posted in Mark's Life | 28 Comments


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