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29 posts from July 2008

What's the best way to raise high school grad rates for black males in MI?

What will it take to raise the high school graduation rates for black males in Michigan and the city of Detroit?

A new report, according to the Detroit Free Press says:

In Michigan, just 33% of black male students graduated on time, compared with 74% of white male students. The numbers are worse for Detroit Public Schools for both black and white male students: 20% and 17%, respectively, graduated on time in the district.

Nationwide, 47% of black male students and 75% of white male students graduated on time.

The consequences are huge for those who don't graduate.  There's a lost opportunity cost that will ripple down through the generations.

My son-in-law to-be, Adam Jones, from Indy writes in his blog about the low graduation rate in his city and stresses the urgency of the need to find a solution.

Anybody with answers?  Suggestions? 

Should I apologize to Lansing (MI) Mayor Bernero for saying we need transparency in city hall?

I was stunned when I heard that gangs duked it out with guns about four or five blocks from my house on the southwest side of Lansing, MI.

The news didn't come from the Lansing Police Department or from Mayor Virg Bernero or from the two Lansing City Council members who were at our neighborhood association meeting.  It came from two moms who witnessed part of the violence and were scared for themselves and their families.

When I asked the city officials for more details, they said they couldn't talk about it.  They couldn't describe the event and could barely acknowledge that anything happened.  However, we knew that a small army of police responded.

At the meeting I sternly told Mayor Benerno that me and my neighbors had a right to know in general terms what happened.  He talked about the importance of keeping details under wraps.  I said we should have access to the original police report at the very least.  I was told citizens don't have a right to that.

I told him in clear, but strong terms that we needed to know what we are facing in our neighborhood.  We need transparency in our city government.

There has to be a way to keep citizens informed without compromising a criminal investigation.

The explanation has to be more than cryptic cop terms about an alleged assault happened in your neighborhood.

I didn't leave the meeting feeling like the city officials were serving us in this instance that affects the quality of life for so many of us.

Was I wrong in rebuking the mayor for his silence?  Should I apologize?

Hold up your left hand and look at the top left and that's Petoskey, MI

We broke loose from the middle of Michigan this weekend for Petoskey on the northwest side of our beautiful, but troubled state.  From home base, it's a straight ride up the middle of the state with a left turn just before you get to the top.

Getaways with superwife are great.  2701881831_1bbac83dd3_m We stopped for lunch at the state of Michigan Welcome Center just outside Clare and then drove the rest of the way to this resort town on Lake Michigan where a relative's son is getting married.

Here are bits and pieces that we noticed along the way:

  • There are plenty of cars filled with families heading north which means that not everybody is scared away by the high gas prices. 
  • We are staying at the Odawa Resort just outside Petoskey where the casino is packed with senior citizens.  The slots seemed to be getting the action. 
  • But, it was our shuttle driver back to the hotel who provided the important insight about where Michigan voters might be headed this November.

He's a veteran from the Vietnam era and a German national born to a family from one of the Baltic states who lived there during the rule of the Communist regine.

Continue reading "Hold up your left hand and look at the top left and that's Petoskey, MI" »

Averill Woods (Lansing, MI) gather to discuss crime uptick

Listen to Michelle Dunnings present the purpose of last night's meeting of the Averill Woods Neighborhood Association in southwest Lansing (MI) where more than 40 neighbors, two council members and Mayor Virg Bernero attended.

At the meeting, it was disclosed by neighbors that gang violence requiring massive Lansing Police Department response took place in late June on the far westside of the neighborhood.  Neither the mayor or the police would discuss what happened.

Please note:  Video was taken with a small Flip Video camera. 

Untitled from Wes Thorp on Vimeo.

Check this video to see the large turnout for Lansing (MI) neighborhood meeting

Please note:  The sound for this video is poor.  It was shot with a miniature Flip Video camera.  But, it shows the interest of Averill Woods Neighborhood Association residents in an uptick of crime in their south Lansing (MI) area.    I will post more and better video as I have time to upload it.

Averill Woods (Lansing, MI) Neighbors meet about crime increase from Wes Thorp on Vimeo.

We had a gang war in our Lansing, MI southside neighborhood and didn't know it


Super-wife and I just got back from the Averill Woods Neighborhood Association meeting here in southwest Lansing, MI and we are disappointed in our city leaders, all the way from Mayor Virg Bernero to the Lansing State Journal, the Gannett-owned newspaper in our town.

More than 40 neighbors in our small residential preserve gathered to talk about growing concerns about crime in our area.  Then it came out from two moms who live near the affected area that warring gangs gathered beside a neighborhood facility.

There was talk of gunshots and threats and an overwhelming response from regional police agencies.  Gang participants scattered.

Continue reading "We had a gang war in our Lansing, MI southside neighborhood and didn't know it" »

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick gets in physical scuffle with officers

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick needs to step down from his office.

This report from the Detroit Free Press
about how he physically shoved police officers trying to serve a subpoena to his friend is disturbing and should raise alarms about his fitness to continue.

Enough is enough.  He needs to deal with his demons and he needs to stand trial for the charges against him.

Young people need to see him take responsibility for his life and for the mistakes he has made.  That's the biggest and best thing that he could do right now.

Kwame:  You need to get it together.  It's time to step back and deal with your life.

Retired MI mortgage broker has advice for business people who are desperate

Business people are getting hammered these days and a lot of them are losing everything on which they built their lives. It's easy to not see the doorway out of big troubles.

My friend Dave Porter lives in Arizona, but used to own a successful mortgage business here in Michigan.

He's been on a journey and he's made a lot of discoveries about life and hope that he's sharing on his blog, Boomer In The Pew. I invite you to read his posts and check his transparency. He talks openly and honestly about where he's been, where he's at now and where he's headed.

Read today's post about a mortgage broker in Phoenix who committed suicide after his business started failing. Check the link to a video about another guy named David. He was a womanizer, a murderer and had tons of power. He had every material possession available.

Bottom line: There's hope, real hope and it's there for everybody. Check it out.

It's official: I will soon be a baby-boomer collecting Social Security

When "super-wife" and I left the local Social Security office yesterday, the question hit me like a brick.

"Does this make me a senior citizen," I asked her as we drove out of the parking lot?  I had just provided the final information to start receiving benefits in late October about one month after my 62nd birthday.  I am a member of the first class of baby-boomers born in the first year right after the end of World War II.

We are a large demographic group that has seen our parents transition through these changes from an everyday job to retirement to Social Security.  Along with these changes comes the challenge of re-engineering your identity and your purpose.

For the past few years when asked about my age, I'd quip that I'm a senior citizen in-training.  It was an easy answer that usually got a few chuckles and didn't require me to think much about the new chapter of my life that had been opened.

Continue reading "It's official: I will soon be a baby-boomer collecting Social Security" »

John McCain has learned how to leverage his power in the U.S. Senate

Politicians brag about what they will do once they get in office.  But, very few even get to first base in accomplishing their goals because they're ignorant about how to gain influence in their legislative body.  John McCain, according to the New York Times, has learned his lessons well.  I write about this in a post on my political blog, Politics Through Michigan Eyes.

Could the Holy Spirit be nudging us about Christ the King Anglican Church in Dewitt, MI?

Superwife and I went to Christ the King Anglican Church in Dewitt, MI for the second time this morning.  The 10 a.m. service is held in a section of an old outlet mall a few miles north of Lansing. 

We visited there for a couple of reasons.  Typically, during the summer we take time to visit other churchesLogotype in the area.  It gives us a chance to experience other traditions and meet other people who believe in Jesus Christ, but might approach worship from a different perspective than we do in our Lutheran background.

Second reason is that our son, Justin, is a regular attender at the Church of the Resurrection on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  We've been there and we've enjoyed the service, everything from the music, to the liturgy and the enthusiasm of the worship.

Both churches are part of the Anglican Mission in the Americas which I'm still  learning about.  Apparently, it is a conservative version of the Anglican Church and has aligned itself with an Anglican bishop in Rwanda. 

Okay, what about our impressions of our local Christ the King Anglican Church here in mid-Michigan?

Continue reading "Could the Holy Spirit be nudging us about Christ the King Anglican Church in Dewitt, MI?" »

Michigan: Do you know about getting a discount at the gas pump when you pay with cash?

Susan Tompor writes in today's Detroit Free Press about the issue of getting a cash discount at a gas station when you use a debit card which is the same as cash.  She writes like it's common knowledge that everybody knows that when you throw down cash for gas, rather than a credit card, you get a discount.

I didn't know that.  I do stay abreast of most things that cost me or save me money.

Anybody familiar with this?  How much is the discount?  Is this something that every station does?

For Michigan and for the auto industry, McCain's fuel efficiency standard proposal doesn't make sense

The almost Republican presidential nominee John McCain says each state should be able to set its own fuel efficiency standards for cars.  It doesn't make sense to require car companies to adhere to potentially 50 different requirements.  Does it?

I write about this in my political blog--Politics Through Michigan Eyes.
  I invite you to check it out and to add your take on his proposal.  Where does Obama stand on this?

Fathers: Does this come close to how you feel about your daughter getting married?

I have only one daughter.  Her name is Krista and she's a full-fledged adult.

I was there when she was born and I even saw her before my wife did.  I fell in love with her and with being a dad right away.  I loved and still love every minute of being her father.  I could show you my favorite thousand pictures of her taken from her first day to the present time and I'd smile the whole time.

The memories involving her are voluminous and all positive including the times she and I locked horns over some issue.  I was there from her first day and even there when she put in a bid on her first house.  She's a real sweetheart.

Then Adam enters her life.  When I first met him I could see there was a certain "snap, crackle and pop" between them that indicated that he could be the one.  A few months down the line, he called me and said "I'm going to ask your daughter to marry me."  With enthusiasm and sincerity, I said, "Welcome to the family." 

Continue reading "Fathers: Does this come close to how you feel about your daughter getting married?" »

Can we blame Michigan's environmental elites for high gas prices destroying the state?

Michigan's environmental elites and those from the rest of the country want gas prices to stay high and get even higher even if it wrings every last cent out of the working class, according to Chuck Colson, a conservative radio commentator.

In a recent commentary,
he describes the environmental elite as wanting higher gas prices as part of their social engineering efforts to produce an artificial shortage.  The result will be conservation of this non-renewable resource even if it drives everyday working men and women to poverty.

This country has the oil supplies offshore which the environmental elite folks don't want to tap.  They say it won't make any difference.  Not so says Colson.

If Democrats backed down on their opposition to offshore drilling, the supplies could start flowing within two years, according the former White House staffer.

Reportedly, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Harry Reid are reconsidering their opposition.

Is John McCain exactly what this country needs in our next president?

It's no secret that this country is going through a historic transition right now.  Seems like our leaders are having to weave their way through a series of gauntlets that could change the quality of our life forever.

Who's best equipped to take us down that road?  John McCain?  Barack Obama?

Today's Detroit Free Press
described McCain as a maverick, a political renegade and as a independent whose political philosophy is hard to pigeonhole.  The story states:

But at a time when self-styled progressives and conservative politicians often seem to follow each other in packs, McCain -- the presumptive Republican presidential nominee -- has proven over decades in Congress to be his own man, untethered to the wishes of party activists and unwilling to be bullied into the rank and file on every issue, for better or for worse.

It appears that he has a smorgasbord of views that when lumped together are hard to categorize.

Would he be able to stop the U.S. Congress from the dishonest practice of earmarking?  Such a task would take a leader of the mythic proportions of Lyndon Johnson or even George Washington.  It's going to take more than a surly old-man who has a temper.

Is he deeper than that.  I hope so.  I will continue looking at him. 

My impression of Obama is that he feels that government can right all the wrong that everybody faces.   Government does very few things well.  And that short list seems to be getting smaller and smaller.

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Debriefing from our Washington, DC Fourth of July 2008 trip to visit our son

We've been home almost a week from our visit over the Fourth of July weekend to see our son, Justin, who has lived there almost two years.  I did a first post about the trip, but because we were shortly off to Indy to see our daughter, Krista, I didn't have a chance to do a second.

For those thinking of a trip to see our national capital, I want to add just a little more about what we did.  Here goes:

  • Good place to eat--District Chophouse & Brewery at 509 7th Street NW, where we landed for lunch one day after a morning of power sightseeing and walking.  I had an ahi tuna sandwich with an oatmeal stout.  Now, I'm not a foodie, but I thought both tasted great.  I'd go back.  Expensive?  I don't really know.  Justin paid for it.
  • Wine store--Best Cellers at 2855 Clarendon Boulevard in Arlington, VA  Justin's been working on expanding our palettes ala Gary Vaynerchuk.  When we went in the store clerks were friendly and not pretentious.  They explained the wine samples they were offering in a way that we could relate.  I just wish I would have written down what we purchased. 
  • Diners, Dives and Drive-ins--One of my favorite shows is Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network with Guy Fieri.  His job is to hit all the best greasy spoons in the country.  Well, one that Guy needs to visit if Five Guys Burgers and Fries in D..C.  Justin took us to the one near his apartment in the Navy Yard District at 1100 New Jersey Ave., SE.  Oh wow.  Good old fashioned big and greasy burger with fries to match.
  • Museum--I got way more than what I expected when we went to the Newseum at 555 Pennsylvania Ave., NW just down the street from the U.S. Capitol Building.  In an interesting way with artifacts from actual events, we were reminded of the important role of the news media in keeping government functioning the way it should.  It all comes down to accountability.  It was one of the few times in the last couple of decades that I felt proud to be a journalism school graduate.  The success and viability of the news media holds the key to our futures more than we like to admit.
It was great seeing our son.  What a great guy.  Two days after we got back we went to visit super-daughter, Krista.  Details to come.

He's my son and I'm really proud of him Standing at Berlin's "Checkpoint Charlie"

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Here's what we've done so far in Washington, DC while visiting our son

In a post yesterday, I mentioned that super-wife and I are in Washington, DC visiting our favorite son, Justin.  Highlights include:

  • Mount Vernon--the estate of our first president, George Washington.  The $13 ticket was worth it, especially after watching the first five parts of the HBO John Adam series.  This set the stage for what we were to see.  The estate is a must-see destination for anybody who wants to see the home of one of the key architects of our nation and our way of life.  Do some homework before you go.  Minimally read about it in Wikipedia.

Visiting Mt. Vernon, VA on July 5, 08      Visiting Mt. Vernon, VA on July 5, 08     Visiting Mt. Vernon, VA on July 5, 08        Visiting Mt. Vernon, VA on July 5, 08 Visiting Mt. Vernon, VA on July 5, 08Visiting Mt. Vernon, VA on July 5, 08

  • We did not go into Washington's main house because the line went on forever and a sign said there was a 65-minute wait in the hot sun.
  • To get there, we took the Metro subway from DC, then a bus that took us right to the estate.
  • I'd recommend doing some homework about Washington and the American Revolution before going.  It would make it more meaningful.

Report on our trip to visit our "favorite son" in Washington D.C.

It's our first trip where both of us have transitioned to retired or semi-retired babyboomers. We are visiting our son, Justin, here in Washington, D. C. What a privilege to see your grown-up kids in their own environment.

My first reaction is very clear: I'm a blessed person. God has blessed me greatly with my family. Words can't describe how I feel about being married, having kids, being part of their growth at home and watching them as they find their places in the world. By the way, we also have a daughter, Krista, a neo-natal intensive care nurse in Indy who's engaged to a great guy, Adam.

We got into D.C. on Friday morning. The ride from Reagan Airport was like being part of a Las Vegas improv performance. We had a 70-year-old cabbie who recited poetry and interspersed it with his philosophy of life.

Being the Fourth of July weekend, we've had a weekend that's folded into appropriate experiences. We watched the first five segments of the John Adams HBO miniseries at Justin's apartment. We watched a reading of the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives and then went to the Newseum which was way much better than I expected.

I will post more pictures and impressions after we get back from visiting Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington. Here's one of my first videos from my Flip Mino camera and my first experience with uploading to Viddler:

Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes says Michigan may be on the verge of collapse

Has our state of Michigan gone beyond the tipping point in terms of its future?

The Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes has a tough read here
about the Great Lakes State and its inability to get itself free from its economic death spiral. 

He says, the auto companies and the unions should have seen it coming a long time ago.

Is he overstating our condition?  Is it better or worse than he says?

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