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Complete Streets in Birmingham Birmingham is moving ahead with planning to implement a Complete Streets program that will provide access to all users, not just automobiles.
53: Scott Grant
The Bloomfield Hills school district has unveiled more detailed plans for the proposed combined high school, construction time frame and necessary millage
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Minday VanHellemont's newest Birmingham restaurant, Bella Piatti, has opened with numerous Italian inspired dishes and a philosophical concept of small plates.
Renaissance Day Spa; Astrein's Creative Jeweler's; Palladium 12; J. McLaughlin; Laurie Tennent Studio; Sanders; Holiday Express
Two bistros survive initial review; senator's recall is dead; Old Woodward work on hold; new steakhouse on its way; county redistricting lawsuit argued
Voters will be deciding city commission and school district spots, along with a school tax renewal and library millage.
67: Jennifer McMahan
Although there has been some improvement in the real estate market, local brokers say that there are still challenges ahead.
AT THE TABLE
A recap of select categories of crime occurring in the past month in Birmingham, Bloomfield Township and Bloomfield Hills, presented in map format.
31: Natalie Taylor
THE COVER Quarton Lake, Birmingham.
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Society reporter Sally Gerak provides the latest news from the society and non-profit circuit as she covers major events of the past month.
Our recommendations for the November 8 election ballot.
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FROM THE PUBLISHER ews editor Lisa Brody's piece in this issue (page 33) on the present day state of the real estate market certainly gives one pause for reflection.
As the broker/owners of the leading real estate firms shared with us for the November edition, sales have improved over the past year in the Birmingham/Bloomfield area, although there appears to be no steady stream of good news even on that front. Couple that with ongoing foreclosures and property values that will decline for another couple of years and one is left with the reminder that we are still mired in a recession. Certainly Michigan, and in particular the southeast Michigan region, has seen its share of a challenging economy in the last few years. But there are some signs that at least in our immediate geographical area some sort of turnaround, albeit a slow one, is poised to start. Of course housing sales, which historically have led us out of past recessions, are a critical factor in a future recovery, so everyone should share concern for the fact that short sales and foreclosures are dragging down the market and home values. But at least for now, this geographical area is positioned somewhat better than other parts of Oakland County and the state. There are also other indicators which can provide some solace if you are monitoring the economic climate, among them the increased activity taking place in terms of new businesses locating in the Birmingham/Bloomfield market, chronicled each month by Katey Meisner in our Business Matters pages at the back of each edition. Whether in Bloomfield, where at Maple and Telegraph Bob Thomas is opening Skier's Peak, a ski equipment and apparel company, and Roland Optics will open later this year, or restaurateur Bill Roberts expanding his holdings by opening at least one new restaurant further down Telegraph, or in the immediate downtown Birmingham area, there has been increased positive news in recent months. In downtown Birmingham we are seeing a mix of new businesses, starting with larger national firms opening outposts here, like the Paper Source, J. McLaughlin or Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse. We are also seeing a number of independent entrepreneurs set up shop. To name just a few, you have William Corfield and Nude The Salon on Hamilton Row, Aaron Cohen opening a second men's store on Maple (Revive), partners Claudia Leo, Charlie Lorenzi and Eric Wolfe investing in Detroit Guitar, or Norm LePage, who is investing considerable energy and funding to open a new brewery and restaurant in the Rail District. The list could go on for some time but the key point is that large or small, national firms or independent risk-takers, business people are still finding this market to be an attractive home, in large part because the communities are well-planned and maintained and the residents have generally tended to support locally-based businesses. But that latter point is the key as we attempt to distance ourselves from the last several years. Local residents must support local businesses. It's a simple as that. Throwing your support behind local businesses helps strengthen the tax-base and communities and in turn continues to make them attractive places for other business and for existing and new residents. It's a symbiotic relationship that requires equal commitment by both residents and the business community. Why do I beat this drum periodically? Because as we enter the holiday season it's important to serve up a reminder so that we don't lose focus as we try as a group to return the area to better times. As always, I welcome your feedback. David Hohendorf Publisher DavidHohendorf@downtownpublications.com
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Have you heard the Good News about the Birmingham and Bloomfield Real Estate Market… • Home Sales are Up 32% from 2009 to 2011 • The Average Listing Time on Market is Down by 56% • Listing Inventory Has Been Reduced By 30% • Stronger sales and steadily rising prices are helping appraisals once again coincide with purchase prices. It is a great time to buy and sell, a rare win-win market for all! Combining my extensive Birmingham and Bloomfield Market expertise with the tools and resources distinct to Sotheby’s, I have successfully assisted my clients in reaching their real estate goals. I am certain that you too will be impressed with the superior standards in marketing, presenting and negotiating the sale or purchase of your home. Experience the difference between
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INCOMING Bar problems article I have been meaning to e-mail you to say that I look forward to your monthly every month! Informative. The “Bar Problems” article (October 2011/Downtown) was good. I'm a retired federal criminal justice employee who has lived here 18 years. I understand the city's need for revenue given this meltdown, but getting large groups of young males together in a loud, musical, alcoholladen setting will result in incidents. It is not such a good idea to have night club venues. Bistros and restaurants such as Cafe Via, fine. Keep up the good work you are doing. Timothy Kozak, Birmingham
Response to Bar Problems In your October 2011 issue, you (published) the story “Bar Problems: City Grapples with Incidents at Establishments,” which illustrates some of the issues encountered by Birmingham-based nightlife venues. As the vice president and chief operating officer of The Dali Group, which owns and operates The Hamilton Room, I wanted to take a moment to address some of the issues at hand. As is the case in any major metropolitan market and in many smaller communities with active entertainment districts, over the years, we have encountered isolated instances of behavioral issues with specific patrons. Some of these instances were highlighted in your latest piece. And while there were 172 calls for service in 2010 (as they are defined by the Birmingham Police Department) at The Hamilton Room and 82 at Chen Chow Brasserie, it is important to note that the majority of these contacts are self-generated by the department and include minor occurrences such as accidental alarm activations. That said, we have made significant strides to avoid further calls for service of any kind. In fact, we recently shuffled our management deck in an effort to add dynamic talent with fresh ideas and innovative new strategies. Eric Doelle, founder and CEO of The Dali Group, invited me to join his team in March 2011. Together we went about the business of sourcing top-tier talent. For example, Tracy Wilson joined us in June 2011 as general manager (GM) at Chen Chow after 10
six years as the assistant director of food and beverage at MGM Grand Detroit. Last month alone, we also welcomed new general managers to both Barrio Tacos and Tequila and The Hamilton Room. EJ Scalzi, Barrio Tacos and Tequila’s new GM, headed back to Michigan from New York where he oversaw operations for the incredibly successful Bar Taco after several years with Rande Gerber’s Gerber Group. Jon Robinson also came aboard to oversee operations at The Hamilton Room. Robinson spent several years managing an Ann Arbor-based nightclub before taking on his own venture as a partner in The Hills Group restaurants including Rochester-based The Hills Bar & Grille, Hills City Grille and Penny Black. Under Eric’s and my leadership, this management team is committed to continuing to provide best-in-class service and enforcing industry best practices at every level. These key additions, coupled with employee training programs and new regulations on things like an earlier last call, we have already seen a significant decrease in the type and number of “incidents” reported in 2010. As business owners, operators and residents of the city of Birmingham, we continue to be staunch advocates for and supporters of the community in which we live and work. Aside from the millions of dollars in commercial investment, over the past decade here in Birmingham, Eric has always made corporate giving and philanthropic initiatives a priority. Our restaurants, their executive chefs, management teams and staff (totaling more than 250 employees,) are all committed to making contributions to local and regional charitable organizations. The team often donates not only their time but in many instances, the use of our venues and specially crafted menus at no cost. The Dali Group wholeheartedly believes that in order to effectively run a business, you must always give back. In the age of new media and the 24-hour news cycle, it is often easy to lose sight of the “good news stories” amidst a sea of eye-catching headlines. I appreciate the opportunity to share with your readers some of our good news. Michael Telford,Vice President, COO,The Dali Group
Vote yes for library services City of Bloomfield Hills Commissioners Patricia Hardy, Sarah McClure, Michael McCready, Connie Salloum and Michael Zambricki have unanimously approved a three-year contract with the Baldwin Public Library contingent upon a favorable vote of our residents on November 8. Full-service library cards would be available starting November 15. While all Michigan public libraries must open their doors to us as visitors, library director Doug Koschik and his staff would warmly welcome and serve us as equal partner members with full checkout privileges. The Baldwin Public Library offers nearly 200,000 books, CDs, DVDs, videogames and periodicals for all ages. For those who prefer digital access, over 8,000 audiobooks and ebooks, as well as hundreds of thousands of commercially-produced music tracks, are available to download on your favorite Internetenabled device free of charge. A Baldwin Public Library card could quickly become the smartest card in your wallet. Its extensive network of reciprocity means our new library cards would allow us to check out books and more at over 70 public libraries in southeast Michigan, including the Troy Public Library. Over 12 million items would be available via interloan from university, hospital and other specialized libraries. A convenient drop box at city hall would allow for quick return of items on time. Homebound residents could receive items by mail. As part of Baldwin’s official service area, we would receive quarterly newsletters highlighting library services and events. Baldwin would partner with our local schools to help ensure we do not end up with a generation of young people unfamiliar with the joys of reading for pleasure and learning responsibility through having a local library card. According to the 2010 census, over one in four of the city’s households have children. At .39 mill—the lowest rate ever proposed by our city for a library contract—a homeowner with a $950,000 residence would pay about $180 a year, the same as the average homeowner in Baldwin’s service area, which includes Birmingham and its contract communities of Beverly Hills and Bingham Farms. There would be no library board formed and the cost would be less than 25 percent
of the amount currently requested by the township library. Since Michigan’s Library Privacy Act prohibits the disclosure of actual usage, Baldwin will provide our city commission with quarterly statistical reports for ongoing oversight and review. The city may also appoint a liaison to Baldwin’s Library Board to ensure regular communication and updates. Detailed information about the proposal including an overview of services, a fact sheet, a copy of the contract, and the ballot language are available on the city’s website (www.bloomfieldhillsmi.net), at city hall or at the library. A solution to our city’s library problem is long overdue. This may be the last opportunity we have for fullservice, local library privileges for a long time. Whether it is for yourself, for your neighbors or for the future families we hope will want to buy our homes some day, the proposal unanimously put forth by our city commission is worthy of your favorable vote. Larry Neal, Bloomfield Hills
Library enriches community Years before I was assigned a social security number my sole piece of personal identification was my library card. It was a gift from a community that trusted me with its books, entrusted to me its cultural heritage, and issued me a passport to the whole wide world of ideas. It subtly acknowledged my intelligence, worth and potential. It helped fill the gaps in my schooling, freed me from narrow ideologies, stimulated my imagination and creativity, enriched my life each book in a different way. It led me to look on my community with pride, and on my fellow patrons and townsfolk with deeper respect for their intellectual and cultural interests and abilities. A library raises its community above a mere place to hoard and sleep and feed by adding the dimension of the spirit, of art, culture and civilization. That dimension makes us prouder of the place we live, makes a statement about who we are, and makes our neighborhood and company more attractive to potential home buyers. This November our vote can express our gratitude for how we have been enriched; it can determine how we define our community for ourselves and others. Let’s not waste the opportunity. Peter Fennessy, SJ, Manresa Jesuit Retreat House, Bloomfield Hills 11.11
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INCOMING Thanks for taking library away I would like to thank (former Bloomfield Hills commissioner Robert Toohey) for taking the library away from my family for about eight years now. Eight years that my children were growing up and could have had fond memories of times at their local library. For these long past years I have had to explain to them why they couldn't go to their library with their friends after school to work on projects and checkout materials. They could join study groups at the library, but they couldn't check out the materials used for their projects. They didn't understand why. It was very frustrating and very sad. We did buy a Troy Library card, but we live in the Bloomfield Hills School District. My children go to Bloomfield Hills Schools. Their schoolmates are from Bloomfield Hills and use the Bloomfield Township Library after school. It felt wrong driving them all the way to the Troy Library. Their friends weren't there. It wasn't convenient. They didn't use it. We stopped going. Soon they felt uncomfortable going to the township library with their friends when they knew they couldn't check out books. They stopped going to the study groups. As a parent it was very sad to see. The years have passed and now two of my three children are in college, and the last one will be soon. There are still people trying hard to restore our access to a local library. They're working very hard. And every year, just before the vote we get a letter from (Toohey) telling us why it just won't work and why it is just too much money. May I please ask why (Toohey) never helps with an actual plan to get our library back? He has had about eight years to try to get our library back after being very instrumental in having it taken away. I have never seen (Toohey's) library plan on the ballot, only his letter every year shooting down the ideas and hard work of others. Is it because the plan is $180 over what you expect to be reasonable? Are you still sore about losing the lawsuit? I think our families have suffered long enough. I assume those who support you have children who are grown and out of the house. When they were raising their children would they feel the same way about this issue? We are a community and we must think as a community. 14
I'm sure everyone in Bloomfield Hills has spent $180 on dinner out with their family a few times a year. Yet we won't spend the extra funds on our local library. I would not get as much out of the library today as I would have the past eight years, but I will still vote “yes” on a plan. I don't want other families to go through what we did. Please think of the young families and the future of our community. Maggie Jannott, Bloomfield Hills
Objections to article I am writing to request corrections to misinformation contained in the article (Planners turn down proposed synagogue/ October 2011). The Birmingham-Bloomfield Chai Center does not have a location. We have a post office box and rent space for public services at the Masonic Lodge on 37357 Woodward Ave. in Bloomfield Hills. The Lakeside Drive address, as you say in the article, is a parsonage, where the rabbi of the center lives. We are run by a board of local residents, and consider it an honor and privilege to serve the local community. We are one hundred percent homegrown. Current zoning would not allow official public Chai Center services at the parsonage. But as far as I understand, people are constitutionally allowed to gather together privately to pray in a private residence, parsonage or otherwise. Something that we have have done, for example - and it is only a handful of times during the course of year - is gather small groups together on the anniversary of the death of a loved one for memorial prayers. Unless the neighbors are peeking through the window, they have no idea what is going on inside the house, whether people inside are praying, eating, or watching a football game. The suggestion that “on occasion (people) have complained to the police, which have warned the center..." is total and absolute nonsense, denied unequivocally and categorically, and akin, if you're asking me, to defamation. The police came once, several years ago, to ask people not to park on both sides of our narrow street; since then, there has not been an issue. The Chai Center prides itself in being part of this community and in maintaining good relations with the
SPEAK OUT We welcome your opinion on issues facing the Birmingham/Bloomfield communities. Opinions can be sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to Downtown Publications, 124 West Maple Road, Birmingham MI 48009. While we don’t have a specific word limitation, we reserve the right to edit for length.
town. Anyone who knows us knows we are self-respecting people of integrity - and would not simply ignore warnings of any kind from the police or any other town official. This is an insult to me personally, the Chai Center as an institution, and the profession of rabbi in general. Those responsible for injecting this insulting nonsense into public discourse should be ashamed of some very irresponsible and sloppy work - and those perpetuating it should have the decency to find out whether it's true. For your information, by the way, the Chai Center board is putting the Lakeside Drive proposal on hold to explore other options. Rabbi Boruch Cohen, BirminghamBloomfield Chai Center, Birmingham
Teachers, not buildings I support recalling members of the Bloomfield Hills Schools' Board of Education. A sound curriculum and talented administrators and teachers are far more important than new buildings. Building a brand new high school because Lahser is too old makes no sense; crowding it onto the Andover property is preposterous. In Bloomfield Hills are the private Cranbrook Schools. All the original buildings, still in use, are 80 years old and part of one building was built in 1918 (it's 93 years old) and is still used. As needed, new technology has been installed and new facilities constructed as enrollment, at an all time high, grew. Maintaining the buildings has always been a priority. The point is: public or private, the age of school buildings is unimportant as long as they are maintained. Twenty one percent of Bloomfield Hills' graduates needing remedial help
proves that board members have not focused on their most important task, the quality of education inside the buildings. JoAnne Wheaton, Bloomfield Hills (Editor's note: Wheaton is a former member of Cranbrook Schools Board of Governors)
Opposition ignores data My family is new to the Bloomfield Hills School District, only living here two years this September. Therefore we had a lot of catching up to do regarding previous ballots and results, campaign issues, and pro/anti organization positioning. My wife and I are not affiliated with any group. We are a divided house politically, therefore we represent a net zero vote most of the time. This past election we both agreed that the proposals on the ballot were reasonable to keep this district's most critical equity element a leader in the state – heck, the country. It was recently published that we don’t want a “Lighthouse” in our school district. Says who? A top notch beacon for talented students receiving the best education because we have the facilities that support the next generation of teaching philosophy is exactly what we need. We need every college recruiter to hear Bloomfield Hills and stand in line for our students. Should we provide a student with a $2,000 gift or prepare them to receive scholarships amounting to tens of thousands of dollars? I have read articles and watched video of some that are angered by campaign contributions. Campaign contributions are not illegal and must be disclosed. So honestly this continued topic is a moot point that should disappear to make way for the true issues. Academy oriented is typically specialized, we have an academy in our district, so what next - charter! I have read the published works of a very vocal individual and her mention of a contractor who states that it can be built cheaper - possibly, but at what sacrifice? Renovation of existing structures and additions are more expensive than new buildings, that fact is documented in the industry. Most reputable and qualified companies employ union trades and or pay at a level commensurate with prevailing wage. Do we want a skilled laborer providing quality work or do we want an “entrepreneur” to do the 11.11
work. I have spent more money correcting “entrepreneur” work, than I would have by putting the proper qualified business in place the first time. Small projects are the perfect environment for the aforementioned entrepreneur. Many have amazing craft, so I am not discrediting some of their ability. The mere scope of what we need to consolidate, renovate, build new – whatever, removes most of them from submitting responsive, responsible, and reliable bid qualifications. What are the costs of analysis, programming, planning, schematic design, design development, construction document development, bidding, construction administration, permits, general contractor, commissioning, and more? It is the soft costs that so many forget to include in the overall scheme when they report the cost to build a structure. A building may be built for $50 million, but what does it include and what do the added years of preparation before it amount to? An average architect’s fees are a percentage of construction, with renovation percentages higher than new build designs. A community can expect 10 – 15 percent of the construction costs or more just for design fees. Analysis, programming, permits and jurisdictional reviews are all added costs above the design fee typically. Many reputable firms were interviewed to provide services for our community; to state that no selection process was performed is a complete lie. To argue their fee was too exorbitant; tell that to the next surgeon you visit – “I want the cheap procedure”- and see what kind of professional you get with that approach. You can imagine that my wife and I were stunned by the rejection of the sinking fund that replaces our current mils at a lower level. We were amazed at how many people thought they were voting against a consolidation because that is how anti-board groups spun their propaganda. The merger was already voted and a done deal, this community voted to not fund construction. So to state our students will be in trailers and subpar facilities – you are right, you voted for that. The professional data published publicly by reputable establishments provided concise scenarios based on empirical data and district vision. Our community has the budget analysis, educational design and metrics downtownpublications.com
measurements - all published documents for our understanding of the challenge we face in this district. Why is that ignored? Furthermore, where is the “professional data” that gets touted by anti-board organizations? Why aren’t their metrics published for review, and why aren’t their professionals standing on the soapbox professing the error of the board's ways? It is easy to state that “many professionals say…” Great . Publish it, prove it, and provide the metrics for how they quantified them. Steven Pecic, Bloomfield Hills (Editor's note: Pecic is the senior project manager for Wayne State University Design & Construction Services)
Send board a message Elections matter. Last November a wide majority of voters said "no" to a new high school on the Andover site. Instead the generous voters said "yes" to an additional $25 million millage to be spent upgrading and repairing our existing buildings. Ignoring the voters, this school board spent $863,114 of our sinking fund money with FNI to design a new high school on the Andover site. We need a better school board. Support the recall effort. Send them a message now. Eleanor Williams, Bloomfield Hills
Neglecting students The Free Press (Oct. 1/2011) published an article titled: "Report: 1 in 3 grads had to do remedial work." Despite the fact that the Bloomfield Hills School District is well-funded and spends over $22,000 per student per year, the report indicates that 21 percent of district graduates need to take remedial college classes. In my opinion, the most significant reason to recall the board of education is that they are neglecting the intellectual development and academic achievement of our K-12 mainstream students. I do not think that an expensive high school with a huge performing arts center will "solve" this problem. It is time for local taxpayers to get control of this well-funded school district. Our board is wasting tax dollars that are intended to educate our students. Please support the recall of all 7 school board trustees. Jenny Greenwell, Bloomfield Hills
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These are the crimes reported under select categories by police officials in Birmingham, Bloomfield Township and Bloomfield Hills through October 15, 2011. Placement of codes is approximate.
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COMPLETE STREETS REDESIGNING COMMUNITIES FOR TODAY'S LIFESTYLES BY LISA BRODY
t was a snowy Friday afternoon, a gray January day at that early twilight hour, around 4:30, when three local teenagers ran out into northbound traffic on Woodward Avenue just south of Maple, eager to buy candy at the Speedway station. Traffic was thick, and a prominent Birmingham attorney was anxious to get back to her office in Bloomfield Hills. Suddenly, horns blared, and in the middle lane of fast-moving Woodward, she hit something. It was a 15-year-old girl who had run across lanes of Woodward in her attempt to get across. Fortunately, the teen, rushed to Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, only lost a couple of teeth and suffered a few bruises. The attorney was rattled and shaken, but fine. Police, in retracing the accident, verified the driver could not have seen the teens criss-crossing traffic at such a high-volume time of day. While there is a painted crosswalk on the pavement in front of Jax Car Wash which continues past the median to the northbound side, there are no crosswalk signs, nor any traffic lights. In heavy traffic, it is impossible for drivers to see the painted lines on the road. The accident reinforced a known truth in Birmingham: in a city that espouses itself as a walkable community, there are areas that are not conducive to walking or biking.
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Enter Complete Streets, also known as livable streets, a federal initiative recently adopted by the city of Birmingham. Complete Streets' policies are designed and operated to enable safe access to streets for all users. “Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities must be able to safely move along and across a complete street. Complete Streets makes it easy to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to work. They allow buses to run on time and make it safe for people to walk to and from train stations,” says Complete Streets information. It is an enterprise that results in roadways which are designed and operated to enable safe and comfortable access and travel for all users of all ages and abilities. Proponents of complete streets policies say the initiative can improve safety, lower transportation costs, provide cost-effective alternatives to private cars, encourage health through walking and biking, create a sense of place, improve social interaction, and improve adjacent property values.
Birmingham is currently one of about 50 communities in Michigan which have adopted Complete Streets ordinance resolutions, including Detroit, Ann Arbor, East Lansing, Traverse City, Marquette, Jackson, Flint, Ypsilanti, Farmington, Ferndale, Clawson, and others, each seeking to accommodate all forms of transportation and redesign streets and streetscaping to benefit all users of transportation. On July 11, 2011, Birmingham's City Commission unanimously passed a Complete Streets resolution in support of multi-modal transportation planning to improve travel choices in the city. The resolution directs the city staff to develop a set of proposed policies and procedures to implement Complete Streets policies. What does that mean in reality to a community like Birmingham? As roads and streets are repaired and redeveloped, they will be looked at, analyzed, and redesigned with more than just cars in mind. Traffic on high-speed roads like Woodward will have traffic calming measures instituted, with speeds lowered, and designated bus lanes added. Pedestrian crossings will be maximized to encourage and permit pedestrians to cross the road. Clearly marked bike lanes will be added to facilitate travel by bicyclists. As other means of mass transit—such as light rail—are considered, there will be accommodations included for them. It becomes a complete street, rather than one that is designed just for cars. Currently, Woodward Avenue, and all other streets in Birmingham, are considered incomplete streets because they were designed in the last century with only cars in mind. Some have sidewalks, providing pedestrian access, but do not provide a full integration for all kinds of pedestrians, be they handicapped, or mothers with strollers, and other needs. They are not ADA compliant. They limit transportation choices by making walking, bicycling, and public transportation inconvenient, unattractive, and often, as for the Birmingham teens and attorney on that snowy day, downright dangerous. Complete Streets begins first and formost by changing governmental policies and mindsets, which then can trickle down to individual users in the community. Then, people of all ages, from
youth to senior citizens, will have options for traveling to work and school, to the grocery store, to restaurants, the library, and to visit friends and family. “Complete Streets sees streets as transportation vehicles for more than just cars. It's an opportunity to expand our view of what a roadway is,” said Holly Madill, Complete Streets Project Coordinator, Michigan Department of Community Health. “Streets are public places, to be maintained as public places, to be accessed as public places,” said Birmingham city planner Sue Weckerle. “The goal of complete streets is to allow people to recreate, meet people, shop, use them for commercial purposes—all of the things they need in their daily life.” It's important to note that making these other travel choices easier, more convenient and safe doesn't mean that people won't still need to rely on their cars. This is the Motor City, after all. The goal of Complete Streets is to replace some congestion-clogged trips in cars with swift bus rides, heart-healthy bike rides, or a nice walk. “Complete Streets improves the efficiency and capacity of existing roads by moving people in the same amount of space—just think of all the people who can fit on a bus or streetcar versus the same amount of people each driving their own car,” Complete Streets noted. “Getting more productivity out of the existing road and public transportation systems is vital to reducing congestion.” The term “complete streets” was coined in 2003 by cycling advocates, and the National Complete Streets Coalition was founded by a coalition of advocacy and trade groups around the country, including the American Planning Association, American Society of Landscape Architects, the American Heart Association, and AARP.
By 2011, complete streets policies have been adopted or endorsed by 224 U.S. municipalities, and 23 states, including Michigan, which passed it in July, 2010. Some of those municipalities, like Birmingham, have passed legislation or created ordinances to enact the policies into law, while others have implemented their policies by executive order or regulation. Some other cities have passed non-binding resolutions in favor of complete streets, or developed transportation plans which incorporate the principles of complete streets. The Oakland County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution in support of a Complete Streets transportation model for the county on August 18, 2011. Highways and some rural roads would be exempt from Complete Streets policies and legislation. Federal complete streets legislation was proposed in both 2008 and 2009, but both times failed in its efforts to become law. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a policy statement for bicycle and pedestrian accommodation, declaring its support of their inclusion in federal aid transportation projects and encouraging community organizations, public transportation agencies, and state and local governments to adopt similar policies. “This is the end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized,”
said Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
LaHood's key recommendations for state departments of transportation and local communities is to treat walking and biking as equal to other modes of transportation; to ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities; to collect data on walking and biking trips; to set a target for walking and bicycling; to protect sidewalks and shared use paths the same way roadways are protected, like with snow removal; and improve non-motorized facilities during maintenance projects. He also urged planners to go beyond minimum design standards when creating their plans. For those of us who live, work, shop and eat in Birmingham, having a Complete Streets ordinance going forward means creating roadways, walkways, and streetscapes for the way we will be living in this century. It is a plan for recreating the infrastructure of the city to not only accommodate the way we live now, but to anticipate the ways we will be living in the future. Birmingham city commissioner Scott Moore has said that the double step-up sidewalks in the downtown area of Birmingham along Old Woodward are remnants of the days of horse and buggies; as cars became the norm, the city paved the muddy streets, with steps up designed to tie up horses, and we learned to live with what we had. There is speculation that the water mains below Old Woodward in the center of the city, in urgent need of replacement, are wood. There are old streetcar tracks buried deep below the pavement under Woodward Avenue. For decades, Birmingham has been adapting its present needs from the past, rather than modifying to move forward. Complete Streets moves the city forward. “Birmingham has great potentials for improved transit facilities,” said Weckerle. She noted that certain older pre-World War II communities have the greatest potential for retrofitting as Complete Streets communities because they have “good bones” for multi-modal transportation. “Birmingham, Ann Arbor, Detroit—they were all designed along a grid street pattern. They are all pre-World War II communities, street car communities that were designed and utilized multi-modal uses of transportation.” Multi-modal transportation is also known as combined transportation, is used for different forms of transportation: by foot, bicycle, car, bus, and mass transit. It may be down the road, with an unknown amount of money and years to come, but there are proposals for light rail on Woodward Avenue to be incorporated into whatever designs are created. “Place marking, which is where you can create character or interest, economic or social activity by implementing certain designs, and the strongest markets in metropolitan Detroit already have these markers. Those are communities like Birmingham, Plymouth, Northville, Rochester, Wyandotte,” Weckerle noted. “A lot of these older communities have these distinctions because they were developed with these elements in mind. And that is exactly what people are seeking in a community.” At an August, 2011 Birmingham planning
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board meeting, a multi-modal master plan was approved. City planning director Jana Ecker said it highlights all of the places in the city planners would like to have improved in a Complete Streets manner when construction plans come up in the future. Planners are now working on a downtown bicycle plan at the request of city manager Bob Bruner, determining where in the downtown area bike racks would be most needed and most suitable, “so that when sidewalk improvement projects come up, we'll be able to integrate the bike racks in with them,” Ecker said. Commissioner Mark Nickita, an urban planner, noted the planning “assures us that the city will incorporate best practices for the infrastructure. That's good policy.”
The National Complete Streets Coalition, a pro-complete streets advocacy group, emphasizes that Complete Streets are those that are designed and operated to allow all users, not just drivers, to use them safely. Specific design elements vary from place to place depending on needs and local uses and ordinances, but usually include: • Pedestrian infrastructure, which includes sidewalks; crosswalks, which include median crossing islands and raised crosswalks; accessible pedestrian signals, including audible cues for people with low visions and pushbuttons that are at a reachable level for wheelchair users; and sidewalk bulb-outs. • Traffic calming measures which lower driving speeds and are designed to define the edges of car travel ways, including narrowing roads, adding more center medians, shortening curb corner radius, eliminating free flowing right turn lanes, staggering parking, adding more street trees, planter strips and ground cover. • Creating dedicated bicycle lanes or wide shoulders to ease and accommodate bicycle travel. • Mass transit accommodations, which could include special bus lanes or bus pullouts. Ultimately, the goal of Complete Streets policies are to improve safety, which studies show happens. A Federal Highway Administration safety review found that designing streets with pedestrians in mind by using sidewalks, raised medians, turning access controls, better bus stop placement, improved lighting, traffic calming measures and treatments for disabled travelers, improved not only pedestrian safety, but motorist and bicyclist safety as well. A study by the Transportation Research Board found that installing these features reduced pedestrian risk by 28 percent. In 2008, over 5,000 pedestrians and bicyclists died on the country's streets, with more than 120,000 injuries accompanying those fatalities. Pedestrian crashes are more than twice as likely to happen if there isn't a sidewalk. If a street has sidewalks on both sides, evidence shows there are significantly fewer crashes. As Complete Streets policies are implemented, encouraging more non-motorized travel and increasing the number of people walking and bicycling, deaths and injuries correspondingly decline.
There are economic benefits to incorporating a complete streets program for a community, as well. It creates a more attractive and balanced community, which increases land values. Urban land experts acknowledge that creating infrastructure for non-motorized transportation and lowering the speed of automobile traffic going through the area by changing the road's conditions can improve the economic conditions for both business owners and residents. Street design that is inclusive of all modes of transportation not only improves the conditions for existing businesses, it's been shown, but has also been a proven method for revitalizing an area and attracting new development. The addition of sidewalks on both sides of the street in areas of Birmingham's Rail District is anticipated to provide just such a revitalization and help to bring that kind of new development, including restaurants, bistros and new retail. “People are buying not just a house, but a community,” said Weckerle. “Complete Streets is often cited as a tool for cities to leverage to attract people. It brings convenience and value to a place.” Complete Streets can also boost the economy by helping to boost local property values, especially residential properties because homeowners are willing to pay more to live in walkable communities. In Chicago, homes within a half-mile of a suburban rail station sell on average for about $36,000 more than houses that are located further away. Dallas has seen similar benefits, where the new public transportation rail line helped stimulate retail sales in downtown Dallas, seeing a whopping 33 percent growth in sales, while the rest of the city grew 3 percent, according to the American Public Transportation Association. Another often cited benefit to Complete Streets is in its public health efforts; by promoting the ability for people to walk and bike more, people are more active and thus, healthier. “It's active living by design,” said Weckerle. “Instead of having to drive to the gym to work out for two hours, it's having the ability to incorporate walking into daily living. It's the natural ability to incorporate activity into part of your lifestyle. So you can walk for 10 or 15 minutes to the store on a regular basis three or four times a week, getting that cumulative benefit, versus a five minute drive to the store.”
She noted that the Center for Disease Control has identified Complete Streets as one of it's effective tools into the fight against obesity. A study by the American Journal of Public Health found that 43 percent of people with safe places to walk within 10 minutes of their home met national recommended physical activity levels, whereas only 27 percent of those that didn't have safe places to walk met those physical activity levels. Changing ordinances to encourage the construction of sidewalks, bikeways, trails and other places for physical activity are encouraged for fighting childhood obesity. “Active transportation can combat the obesity epidemic,” said Michigan Department of Community Health's Madill. “A 2007 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study showed that people living in a neighborhood with a mix of shops and
businesses within easy walking distances have a 35 percent decreased risk of obesity. Just by creating the opportunity (for activity), you reduce the obesity risk by 35 percent. Complete Streets Policy looks at creating the opportunities for the person who is ready to use the infrastructure.” The National Conference of State Legislators reported that complete streets policies are the most effective policy for encouraging bicycling and walking. Birmingham, which only passed its Complete Streets ordinance in July, is looking at all of its road projects with an eye to Complete Streets. Two projects were undergoing current review, and one, new pedestrian crossings at N. Old Woodward and Oak Street, has been given the go-ahead. Under review is a road construction and sewer project for East Maple between Adams and Eton roads. LSL Planning and Parsons Brinkerhoff, community planning consultants, have both been hired by the city to prepare a Complete Streets study for the road, and help determine the best way to proceed and help the adjacent Triangle District grow and develop. “It doesn't cost anything to realign thinking towards different kinds of users,” said Madill. “It's more costly to retrofit a sidewalk or crosswalk after a project is finished. If you're putting in infrastructure, that's the time to plan and do it.”
Woodward Avenue is a prime focus for city planners for Complete Streets, where lower speeds, more crosswalks, signage, bulb outs, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, bus lanes, and possibly light rail, paved shoulders, and public transportation facilities, such as covered bus stops, would slow traffic as it progresses through Birmingham, provide greater safety for users of all forms of transportation, as well as create destinations and economic vitalization along the Woodward corridor. The Complete Streets policy guide offers ordinance guidelines, and notes that “Complete Streets Infrastructure means design features that contribute to a safe, convenient, or comfortable travel experience for users, including but not limited to features such as: sidewalks; shared use paths; bicycle lanes; automobile lanes; paved shoulders; street trees and landscaping; planting strips; curbs; accessible curb ramps; bulb outs; crosswalks; refuge islands; pedestrian and traffic signals, including countdown and accessible signals; signage; street furniture; bicycle parking facilities; public transportation facilities; transit priority signalization; traffic calming devices suc as rotary circles, traffic bumps, and surface treatments such as paving blocks, textured asphats, and concrete; narrow vehicle lanes; raised medians; and dedicated transit lanes.” “Wouldn't it be great if communities all across the state implemented Complete Streets policies and projects?” asked Madill. “It would create an active SCAN FOR AUDIO transportation system across the state. It would have an economic and developmental impact, as well as public health and safety benefits Holly Madill that would be huge.” Birmingham is on its way.
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REAL ESTATE TODAY %LUPLQJKDP %ORRPŹHOG 5HDO (VWDWH 0DUNHW 8SGDWH Written by Robert Taylor, Residential Real Estate Concepts & Consultants, Associate Broker
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The third quarter of 2011 is now on the books. Three months ago I talked about a real estate recovery in Birmingham/Bloomfield. Sales were up, inventory was down, foreclosures were down, and days on market and percent of asking price improved. So where are we now and are things back to “normal”? Through third quarter of 2011 all primary market indicators improved over 2010. September home sales closed at an average of 94.4% of asking price, unit sales were up 28.1% and days on market improved by 48.5%. September 2011 vs. September 2010 Unit sales increased
Percent of asking price improved
94.4% (was 92.8%)
Days on market improved
Third quarter 2011 also showed an improvement in sales units, percent of asking price and days on market over the same period for 2010. Third Quarter 2011 vs. Third Quarter 2010 Unit sales increased
Percent of asking price improved
93.5% (was 92.7%)
Days on market improved
Part of the reason for the improvement is the noticeable decline in both foreclosed resales and short sales as a percentage of all the homes that sold. Distressed sales in third quarter of 2011 accounted for 18% of all transactions while in third quarter of 2010 they represented 29% of all closed sales. The noticeable decline in distressed sale activity is supporting market stabilization.
the early 1980’s because interest rates were at record highs, demand was sufficiently high so, if financing could be obtained, homes sold. From 2000 through 2005 high demand and attractive mortgage products also fueled the sale of new and used homes to stratospheric price levels. During this time, prices were determined again primarily by the price of what was available (the supply). From the beginning of 2006 through the third quarter of 2008, however, conditions transitioned as fewer buyers were in the market, forcing prices to retreat. This was primarily in smaller, less expensive homes while strong demand for larger high priced homes allowed sellers to continue to set values. Then in the fourth quarter of 2008 the bottom fell out of the high-end market. The result was a shift from being supply based (the cost of the house) in all price ranges, to demand based (is anyone out there?) with the exception of speculators and investors who swooped in taking advantage of market conditions. The free falling market that ensued has now been replaced by a stabilized, but not necessarily normalized, market. We have not moved back to being supply based - “normal”. While the number of owner-buyers (as opposed to investor-owners) has improved, and the relationship between supply and demand has improved as well, the recovery in demand still leaves many homes sitting on the market for months. This phenomenon is typically due to improper pricing based on seller need rather than market reality. For example, as of this writing, approximately 48% of all the homes for sale have been on the market for 100 days or less with an average of 50 days each. Of the 52% on the market for 101 days or more, the average is 313 days. Even more telling of the split taking place is that, of all homes sold in the third quarter of 2011, 70% sold in under 100 days, receiving an average of 94.5% of their asking price in an average of 42 days. Of the 30% remaining sales, the percent of asking price received was 91% and the homes took an average of 292 days to sell. Current Homes For Sale - Days On The Market 1-100 Days on Market
101+ Days on Market
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52% of total
50 days on market
313 days on market
Sold Homes Third Quarter 2011 - Days On The Market 1-100 Days on Market
101+ Days on Market
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30% of total
Another plus relative to our market: From January 2011 through September 2011, new construction permits for single family homes improved by some 45% over the same period last year. This reflects both improved financing conditions and improved consumer confidence. There is sobering news. We have not returned to “normal”. Despite year over year improvement in market fundamentalism the sale of homes has not returned to a “supply based” market. What do I mean by a supply based market? As long as I have been in real estate, housing sales have been pretty much driven by the price seller’s set for their homes. Even when the market was terribly slow in
Finally, remember: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
All real estate is local. Homes are not all affected equally by market conditions. Homes are selling far better than a year ago. Compelling pricing will almost always create a sale in this market. Always consult with a trusted real estate advisor with specialized market knowledge of the area.
Robert Taylor welcomes your comments: 248-433-5432 | email@example.com
CBWeirManuel.com | 248-644-6300
%867(' 0<7+6 $%287 5($/ (67$7( Myths abound in the world of real estate. A group of the best and the brightest in real estate explore these myths in this article. Real estate is complex, and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s important to choose a RealtorÂŽ you can trust â&#x20AC;&#x201C; one who can help you navigate through the process with sound advice. Knowing the facts, not the fiction, is essential in making informed decisions when youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re buying or selling.
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Let me give you a couple of real life examples.
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Over the past 13 years selling residential real estate in Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and the neighboring communities, I have experienced appreciating, flat and depreciating market conditions including the devastating declining markets of the past several years. Fortunately, the tide is turning and we are beginning to see modest appreciation in many local neighborhoods. When meeting with sellers to discuss how to effectively price their homes, I am often confronted with the suggestion that â&#x20AC;&#x153;we need to build negotiating room into the asking price.â&#x20AC;? That notion is a long standing myth that frequently creates unintended consequences. Though it takes only one buyer to create a sale, the goal of the seller and listing agent must be to attract multiple interested parties who will, through submitting competitive offers, drive the sale price of a home to at or above its appraisable value. In addition to obtaining the highest possible value for the home, the property will sell quicker if a compelling asking price is used. Sellers sometimes fear that pricing their property at or near the actual value may produce â&#x20AC;&#x153;low-ballâ&#x20AC;? offers. Savvy sellers and practitioners understand that compelling pricing does just the opposite. Hereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s why: }
If a property is overpriced, it will simply not compare favorably to other properly priced homes in that price range. It will appear inadequate. The first few buyers who look at a new listing are usually the best prospects. They have seen everything else on the market and are waiting for their special home. If overpriced because of added â&#x20AC;&#x153;negotiating room,â&#x20AC;? it will not attract buyers in a higher price range and appear to have less value than that which is being sought.
Just last spring, I listed a home for exactly what I thought it should appraise for given the most recent comparable sales. The home was listed on a Friday and the seller had two full price offers from which to choose by the following Tuesday. All sale terms were similar in the competing offers and both were subject to mortgage approval, which included the scrutiny of an appraisal. We informed both buyers that we were willing to accept an offer similar to theirs but without the appraisal risk to the seller. We ultimately sold the home to the buyer who raised their offer by $10,000 over asking price and waived the appraisal contingency as long as the appraised value was at least the full asking price of the home. In the end, the home appraised for slightly above the asking price but below the sale price, so the transaction was perceived as a â&#x20AC;&#x153;win-winâ&#x20AC;? by both parties. This simply would not have happened had the home been over priced by adding negotiating room. There would not have been competing offers and it is doubtful that the property would have sold as quickly and for full value. In September, I closed another transaction in which my sellers were purchasing a home with an uncertain closing date due to the selling partyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s relocation. As it turned out, the transaction was delayed almost five months which my clients could not control. If they wanted the house, they simply had to wait. I also had their current home listed, and we ended up selling the home three times, as the first two buyers withdrew from the transaction because they could wait no longer. Each time we re-sold the home for above the asking price within a few days. My clients, who were both sellers and buyers, never felt uncertain that they might be left with two homes. At the time the third and final sales contract was struck, there were two other buyers prepared to offer at least full price. As a side note, my sellers had only purchased the home fifteen months earlier and they sold it for more than they paid in 2010. This pricing strategy did not leave money on the table, it did just the opposite.
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When you price with â&#x20AC;&#x153;room to negotiateâ&#x20AC;?, the only person you usually end up negotiating with is yourself as you struggle to lower your price and your home gets labeled â&#x20AC;&#x153;overpricedâ&#x20AC;?.
Dan Teahan welcomes your comments: 248-433-5456 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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â&#x20AC;&#x153;We have an offer!â&#x20AC;? Typically, these are the words a seller is waiting to hear, and a RealtorÂŽ is excited to deliver. But what happens when this good news is announced two days after a home has come onto the market? Did the real estate agent do a great job? Or was the home simply underpriced? RealtorsÂŽ are trained to know the market and most can determine, with accuracy, the price a home will sell given market conditions and comparable properties in the area. The truth in most cases, is that a home will sell exactly where it should sell, given the state of the market. RealtorsÂŽ cannot influence market value the role of a RealtorÂŽ is to determine the best pricing strategy to ensure the property sells at full market value. Those strategies vary with changing market conditions. During the strong sellers market of the 1980â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s and 1990â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, both sellers and practitioners became comfortable with setting asking prices well above actual market values. In an appreciating market driven by strong buyer demand, this strategy ensures that sellers receive the most money possible for their property. In a more fragile market such as we are experiencing today, overpricing strategies simply wonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t work. Not only do sellers not get the most
money possible, their homes usually end up in the pool of shopworn properties that linger on the market for hundreds of days, ultimately selling for less than they would have if priced properly from the outset.
Comparing some nearby communities, Ferndale is higher than Birmingham by five mills (a mill equals one-tenth of one cent), one school district in Madison Heights by 10 mills, and Lathrup Village by 12 mills.
The objectives of most sellers is to sell their home for the most money possible in the shortest period. Doing so requires an accurate determination of the homeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s actual market value. This can be accomplished only by a detailed analysis using properly adjusted comparable properties that have actually sold and closed.
These communities are certainly proud of the public services they provide. However, it would be difficult to imagine that any of them can match the schools, police, fire and emergency medical services provided by Birmingham, not to mention parks, golf courses and other community services.
So, it is important to hire the right RealtorÂŽ to give you trusted advice about where your home should be priced. Because most homeowners are personally invested in their own homes, they perceive the value to be much higher than the market bears. If you have confidence in your RealtorÂŽ and are comfortable with his or her advice, then pricing is best left to the skill and expertise of the RealtorÂŽ who researches the area regularly and is trained to protect your equity and get you the most money possible. Then, whether itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s two weeks or two months later, when you hear, â&#x20AC;&#x153;We have an offer!â&#x20AC;? you will know your home was priced exactly right!
Donna Bousson welcomes your comments: 248-515-1843 | email@example.com
So what are Birmingham property taxes really like? Based on falling assessed values over the past several years, you might be surprised at how affordable they really are. Some examples: a home on Fairway with property taxes of $12,564 in 2007 is taxed at $6,464 today. Another, on Puritan, was taxed $17,000 in 2007 and just $9,000 today. Taxes on a Lyonhurst property went from $19,663 to $10,570 in this same time period. Owning a home in Birmingham, with its topperforming schools and a thriving downtown, is a better value today than ever. Any pre-conceived (and incorrect!) notion of being burdened with arbitrarily high property taxes should not be your excuse to cross Birmingham off your list of places to buy.
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Everyone, everywhere thinks his own property taxes are too high. The surprising reality is that real estate taxes in every community are simply a function of the level of services provided, and how efficiently the local government can provide them. Property taxes are based on two factors: the value of oneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s property (assessed value) and the millage rate charged by local governments and school districts. For a multitude of reasons, Birmingham has relatively high property values and, therefore, relatively high assessed values. Offsetting that, however, is the fact that Birminghamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s millage rate is considerably lower than many surrounding communities.
Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been telling our clients for nearly two years there will never be a better time to buy real estate. Prices are low and interest rates are even lower. So when homes sell the first day on the market at or above the asking price, whose market is it, a sellerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s or a buyerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s? Many homes in the Birmingham/Bloomfield area are experiencing exactly that scenario. By listening to the trusted advice of their RealtorsÂŽ, sellers all over town are creating their own â&#x20AC;&#x153;sellers markets.â&#x20AC;? Consider this: through the third quarter of 2011, 45 Birmingham-Bloomfield sellers in my office alone listened to our trusted advice and helped us create a positive selling experience for them.
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% of List Price
Days on Market
There are hundreds of other properties that have sold in the same fashion by other offices, too. You might ask yourself how this is happening in a so-called â&#x20AC;&#x153;buyers market.â&#x20AC;? Letâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s explore that. Markets that favor buyers over sellers or vice versa are based upon simple economic supply and demand theory. Higher inventories normally favor buyers and low inventories tend to favor sellers. Even though the current market is generally considered a buyers market because prices and interest rates are so favorable, the fact is that inventory levels have been steadily declining for almost two years. When bank-owned and other distressed inventory is taken from the mix, one will actually find that inventories are quite low. So what we really have, for the first time in decades, is a market that favors both buyers and sellers! Buyers are experiencing great prices, great mortgage rates and ever declining property taxes, resulting in very low costs of ownership. Yet many sellers are able to sell and close on their homes in 30 days at prices very near asking. What may be confusing is the fact that there are indeed quite a number of homes that have lingered on the market for many months or even years without selling. These are typically properties that have been improperly priced based on seller emotions or needs rather than market statistics. There is excellent buyer demand right now. Sellers can create their own sellers market by: } } } }
Listing at a compelling price based on accurate current sales information Putting your best foot forward; make certain the home shows well Hiring a RealtorÂŽ who understands the strategy and knows how to negotiate Being prepared for a low appraisal
Whose market is it? Both a buyerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s and a sellerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s is the answer. The market today coupled with record low interest rates gives buyers great opportunities. However, homeowners, by taking their RealtorÂŽâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s advice and pricing their homes competitively can create their own sellers market.
Kathy Parker welcomes your comments: 248-433-5486 | email@example.com
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Natalie Taylor atalie Taylor was in her early 20s, in love and expecting her first child when she suddenly and tragically lost her husband, Josh. “Josh Taylor was just this very adventurous spirit,” she said. “He loved to do anything that involved excitement.” Taylor was five months pregnant when she received word that her husband had been killed in a carveboarding, akin to skateboarding, accident. The life she and Josh had envisioned was unexpectedly shattered. Taylor, a Groves High School graduate, and her husband, a Seaholm High School graduate, met at Albion College where Taylor studied to be an English teacher. “Once we bought a house and got married, he wanted to have kids,” said Taylor. “I was preparing for a really big family. That’s what both of us had wanted out of our lives together. We were totally unprepared, but that was part of the fun.” The couple had just discovered they would be having a boy, and Taylor’s husband had been elated, but suddenly she was left to bring her son, Kai, into the world and prepare for life as a single mother. “Even though Josh wasn’t there, it was pure joy. (Kai) was completely perfect and I was so happy that both of us got through that experience in one piece,” she said. “I think that every time a baby is born, it’s miraculous.” Taylor said she never felt as though she was picking up the pieces; she was only concerned with how she would survive in this new life. “I was scared to be a single mom, but Kai was a huge part of what helped me get through the grieving process.” Taylor began to journal, expressing her thoughts and fears resulting from her husband’s death and Kai’s life. “I never intended it to be for an audience or for it to be published,” she said. “A year after losing Josh, my brother said I should think about putting this all together in a book.” Out of those challenging circumstances Taylor penned “Signs of Life,” a documentation of her life from Josh’s death to her son’s first birthday, which has been for sale at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and the former Borders. “It’s a story of seeing new signs of life. It is about a loss, but it’s about these amazing parts of life I had never noticed before. After Josh died, it was like I was seeing everything for the first time.” The experience served as a reminder to Taylor to cherish every moment spent with loved ones. “I regret not spending more time with Josh, but there’s no way to have the foresight to know that his life would end so tragically.” Married just a year-and-a-half before the accident, Taylor said she is indebted to her late husband for teaching her so much about life. “The one thing he really taught me was to appreciate the present moment,” she said. “Whatever your goal is, the important part is getting there. Josh’s spirit always reminds me not to lose the present moment.”
Story: Katey Meisner
Photo: Laurie Tennent
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HOUSING REPORT EVALUATING THE REAL ESTATE MARKET
BY LISA BRODY
he end of 2011 is approaching, and we're all still standing. The sky didn't fall, the world didn't end, and it looks like the sun will come up tomorrow. While we're not exactly experiencing a boom cycle, for the real estate market in Birmingham, Bloomfield and Oakland County as a whole, things are definitely looking a little brighter. Real estate sales this past spring and summer bounced back up to highs not seen in a few years, and there are hopes that an economic recovery may be on the horizon. Local real estate experts—those in the trenches, owning real estate firms, dealing with customers and realtors, have seen a mild recovery in 2011. “Between September 2009 to now, housing inventory is down by a third, median sales prices are up by a third, and pending sales are up by 54 percent for the Birmingham Bloomfield area,” said Doug Hardy, chairman, SKBK Sotheby's and president of Realcomp II, the area's provider for multiple listing sources.
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“It's the best we've seen it in the last four years,” said Dan Elsea, broker/owner for Real Estate One and Max Broock Realtors. “Real estate tends to be the last indicator to improve. Four years ago, when the economy hit our market the worst, the Big 3 were laying people off and people didn't know who was going to be next, so everyone stopped doing things. It was all about uncertainty and fear. Now, the feeling is, maybe you won't get a raise this year, but you're comfortable and secure in your job. Those who are working are feeling good about themselves. When you're less concerned about yourself, consumer indexes show, there's an improving feeling of confidence in buying.” In the last 25 to 30 years, dual income families have been necessary to maintain households, and for the first time in recent years, dual income households are stabilizing, “so people can begin to buy homes and cars again,” Elsea said. “We've seen home sales increase about 20 percent over the last year in our areas of Birmingham, Bloomfield, Beverly Hills, Troy and Oakland Township,” said Dennis Wolf, CEO and owner of Hall and Hunter Realtors. “But when we look at Oakland County as a whole, 2011 is down from 2010 because the first half of 2010 was driven by federal incentives (the first time home owners credit incentive of $8,000). The median prices over the last two years have been stagnant, at $120,000 to $140,000 for Oakland County. Our peak years were really 2004 and 2005.” “We really peaked, from a sales volume point-of-view, here in 20022003, with prices peaking in 2004, and we saw the beginnings of the decline in 2002-2003,” said Kelly Sweeney, chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel. “The free-fall really began in 2005, and by 2008, we were in complete free-fall. We were experiencing declines
years ago,” said Hardy. “But higher priced homeowners are leading us out of the economy because they're feeling confident and beginning to buy again.” Pat Jacobs, executive vice president, North Oakland County Board of Realtors, said, “According to everything I'm reading, there will be no rise in home prices until 2020. We're never going to see a situation like we saw in the last 12 years; that's disappeared. We rode a great wave to the top. But who said homes were supposed to sell for double? That was ridiculous. Never before in the history of this country could people with no credit histories, no jobs, get homes. It was wonderful. But it also collapsed our entire country. Banks caused the collapse, and they're now hindering the recovery.” According to a survey of bank risk managers, conducted by the Professional Risk Managers' International Association for FICO, home prices are unlikely to recover before 2020, and mortgage defaults will likely persist for years. Of those surveyed, 49 percent do not expect housing prices to rise back to 2007 levels for another nine years, while 21 percent said they would sooner. Daddow is even more pessimistic. “I don't think we'll be back to 2007 real estate levels until 2025, or the late 2020s, not adjusting for inflation,” he said. Out in the neighborhoods in Birmingham and Bloomfield, Wolf said, “currently, values are not declining, but they're not really increasing. The last four to six weeks we've noticed some weakening, likely from incoming financial data that's not as strong as we'd like, and it seems to be playing on people's psyche.” He likened today's real estate market to a stone skipping along the surface of a river. “We're sort of like a stone on the water, skipping up and down,” he said. “We not sinking, but we're not accelerating like
We're never going to see a situation like we saw in the last 12 years; that's disappeared. We rode a great wave to the top. But who said homes were supposed to sell for double? That was ridiculous. Never before in the history of this country could people with no credit histories, no jobs, get homes. It was wonderful. But it also collapsed our entire country. Banks caused the collapse, and they're now hindering the recovery. of 1 percent a month in values. Southeast Michigan generally saw declines of 50 percent, and by 2008, real estate plummeted 50 percent in value. Things then began to recover a little in 2009. Prices were still really low. I believe prices hit bottom in 2010; and in 2011, prices have begun creeping up a little, especially in the Birmingham, Bloomfield area. We're really seeing a dramatic turnaround in this area, with a shortage of inventory and a surplus of buyers.”
owever, not all experts agree with Sweeney. Oakland County Deputy Executive Robert Daddow does not think we've bottomed out, and that there's still more hurt out there before real estate values and prices stabilize, whether we're living in Birmingham or Hazel Park. Oakland County has the only centralized land records management system in the state, and the county performs assessments for 33 of the 52 communities in the county, giving it a birds-eye view on all property sales and valuations. Daddow said the county tracks all land transactions on a monthly and quarterly basis, so they know exactly where values are headed at any given time. “For the December 31, 2011 assessment rolls, which will be seen on taxpayers July 1, 2012 tax bills, we will be down 3 to 3.5 percent net decline countywide from the 2011 billing,” Daddow said. “We're seeing some stabilization manifestations in some southeastern Oakland communities, such as Birmingham and Bloomfield, but others, such as the Hazel Parks and Pontiacs, are still a major problem.” “Birmingham and Bloomfield are similar to everything else out there, in that they slid to about 50 percent of their value from five
we'd like, either.” Mitch Wolf, owner of Cranbrook Real Living, noted that it was a strong spring and summer, “but it's not where it once was. And the last couple of months, I'm seeing a slowdown again. It's surprising, coming after a really great spring and summer. I think there's a big concern about a double dip recession. Mortgage and bank rates are at historic lows, but the press has really played on people's fears.” A key component to lower home values is the continuing foreclosure crisis locally and throughout the nation. “Foreclosures are still driving sales downwards,” Hall and Hunter's Wolf said. “There will be foreclosures in the pipeline for quite a long time, and it's something we will have to deal with.” Elsea agreed. “They're not dumping them into the market; they're just trickling out. There's still a backlog to hit the market. I'd say they're about 15 percent of the business right now, with short sales about 35 percent, and leases making up 15 percent, so 65 percent of the business is related to distressed homes, and only 35 percent is a traditional market,” he said. “However, two years ago, distressed homes were 85 percent of the business. “If you have a nice home right now, that's updated, wellmaintained and priced to the market, without bank issues, you'll get three to four offers and sell within 30 days,” Elsea maintained. Sweeney agreed. “In Birmingham and Bloomfield, there is a shortage of good inventory and a surplus of buyers. If you have a good house, without needing a lender to approve it, with a traditional seller, and it's not a short sale or a foreclosure, we're seeing multiple offers, and sometimes offers over the asking price,” he said. “They are quick sales that sometimes take less than 30 days.” Another concern to Sweeney is the generational change taking
place among homeowners, from the baby boomers, who built or expanded the homes of the last 20 to 30 years, and the 30 and 40somethings who are in the market for family homes today. “Who is going to buy the drywall palaces, the 15,000 to 20,000 square foot homes in Oakland Township, Novi, Franklin and Bloomfield? The baby boomers were famous for their conspicuous consumption, but those days our over. We're all saving for retirement now. The Gen X, Yers, Millennial, they do not want to be house poor,” said Sweeney. “I do not see a recovery coming for those homes.” He noted that Bloomfield Hills, within its city limits, may be a caveat, “because it will always be what it is; it's old money.”
here's an added fallout from the foreclosure and short sale crisis and that is the problem from appraisals, and how they affect the valuations of local properties. Although foreclosed properties are not supposed to be included in property valuations when appraisers come out to determine the value of a sold property, appraisers, who often are not familiar with the area, or whose companies are owned by a bank or mortgage company, do include the significantly lower priced foreclosed or short-sold properties in their calculations, lowering appraisals and sometimes upsetting the apple cart for a sale. “Appraisers use the prices of foreclosures and short sales, so they do affect appraisals,” said Dennis Wolf. “They use those prices to come up with appraisals on good properties in a negative way. It keeps the market and values destabilized.” “Appraisals are coming in too low, and that's a huge problem,” said Sweeney. “We had a client recently who put a house up for $399,000.
of 2008, it dropped to almost zero; today, it's roughly 17 percent. Besides not moving as many people from city to city, and not having as many high level executives to move into affluent neighborhoods like Birmingham and Bloomfield, corporations are no longer spending the same money on moving expenses. “Our inbound transferees are up 25 to 30 percent from last year, and more of them are buying than renting,” Hardy said. He noted they are buying all over the metro Detroit area. “Although a lot are still renting, there are some coming back on the white collar side,” said Mitch Wolf. “Ford, Fiat and Chrysler are transferring people in. We're seeing people wanting Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and Bloomfield Township. You get the best bang for the buck in the township. In Birmingham, there's a little bit of a stigma because of the high taxes.” Dennis Wolf noted that many transferees are still renting because of the difficulty they are having in selling their existing homes. “But I anticipate that will change as the economy works its way out.” His company is primarily seeing middle management executives being transferred into the metro Detroit market. “As the economy improves, we'll see more upper management execs coming in.” Most of the real estate agency owners hope for the best in the coming year. “I am the eternal optimist,” Mitch Wolf said. “We've lived through the closest thing to the Great Depression, and it's gotta go up. As long as (mortgage) rates stay low, it should be good.” “We're going to be fluctuating up and down, and sales activity will continue to go up and down, with values and prices going down first for a period of time,” said Dennis Wolf. “We're skimming the bottom right now, based on economic and unemployment data. That data will
Two hundred thirty thousand are Fannie and Freddie, and they're beginning to dump them, and that's a problem and pulling down prices. If they decide to dump them, it will pull down prices even faster. But because of a mortgage backlog, if they slow the release of foreclosures, the prices won't plummet as fast and the trough won't be as deep. It will cause a more prolonged slowdown, though, because it won't be cleaned up. They had three offers immediately after 20 showings, and the house went for $400,000. But the house appraised out at $350,000. So the buyer renegotiates with the seller, and the house closed at $380,000, even though the market said it was worth $400,000. The comp will then show it at $380,000 for the neighborhood instead of $400,000.” Sweeney asserted that many appraisal management companies are owned by banks, “they're not independents, and they're not getting a guy who knows the market to do the appraisals. Instead, they get someone from 50 miles away to do a drive-by appraisal for $300. They lowball it, and it has a destabilizing effect on the entire market.” “The appraisal issue is significantly better than it was last year,” said Hardy. “Everyone in the market is more in tune to the impact of an appraisal's value, and everyone works to compare apples to apples. “The challenge,” Hardy continued, “is that 10 percent of the entire MLS are bank-owned, but those homes may make up 30 to 40 percent of all homes sold. So the challenge is that those are perceived to be better values, even though buyers will have to put in a significant amount of resources to bring a home up to a livable level. Unfortunately for neighbors (of a foreclosed home), appraisers are not supposed to use distressed properties in valuations, but they do. So a $1 million home is compared to a $300,000 distressed home.” The one way a buyer can avoid the pitfall of appraisals is by paying cash, as cash transactions do not require an appraisal. A small bright sign in the housing market is the return of transferees to the marketplace, after companies decreed a complete moratorium on them in the wake of the financial meltdown. At its peak, corporations like GM and Ford and their top tier suppliers transferred approximately 35 percent of their work force. In the wake
determine if prices appreciate or continue to depreciate for the next 12 to 18 months.” “What's challenging southeastern Michigan is the rest of the country's economy, or the world's,” said Elsea. “Right now, we're the strongest market in the nation. But if the rest of the country catches a cold, and autos are affected, we cannot sustain a recovery alone. We need the world to continue to buy automobiles.” Oakland County's Daddow said he believes we're in for a prolonged period of depreciation and uncertainty, depending on what the federal government does with the foreclosure backlog. “According to BusinessWeek, the FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are all sitting on about 800,000 foreclosures in this country,” Daddow said. “Two hundred thirty thousand are Fannie and Freddie, and they're beginning to dump them, and that's a problem and pulling down prices. If they decide to dump them, it will pull down prices even faster. But because of a mortgage backlog, if they slow the release of foreclosures, the prices won't plummet as fast and the trough won't be as deep. It will cause a more prolonged slowdown, though, because it won't be cleaned up. “Oakland County is betting on the prolonged release, or more prolonged pricing declines, that will not cause as deep a recession.” Daddow noted that since World War II, seven of the eight recessions, the recoveries were led by the housing industry, so he believes first and foremost, the housing issue needs to be solved. “I believe we still have a couple of years to go. I think we bottom out at the end of 2013, based on the marginal release of mortgage backed foreclosures.” If they're dumped? All bets are off.
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NOVEMBER 8 ELECTION City Commission candidate interviews Eight candidates are running for four open Birmingham City Commission seats in the Nov. 8 election. Candidates include incumbents George Dilgard, Tom McDaniel, Scott Moore and Gordon Rinschler, and challengers James Foxley, Steve Knox, Vicki Walsh and Doug Weaver. Commissioners serve for four years and are paid $5 a meeting, with a minimum of two commission meetings a month. They also serve on various committees within the commission. A slightly expanded version of Downtown's interview appears at downtownpublications.com. Parks and Recreation: The city has two municipal golf courses, Lincoln Hills and Springdale, both of which suffer losses each year, including this year. Lincoln Hills lost $122,177 and Springdale $22,381 in the most recently available reports. Should the city be looking at possibly contracting out the management services at golf courses to alleviate the losses that occurred in recent years? DILGARD: I think they’re excellent assets for the community; it’s another thing that makes Birmingham wonderful. The personnel costs are in line, and outsourcing that wouldn’t save a significant amount of money. We have an excellent general manager; the course was just restructured, so the costs are pretty skinny. The courses are in great shape, so you don’t want to degrade the quality of the experience. On the revenue side, we just approved, and are encouraging staff to utilize, an outside marketing firm, which has done work all over the state, to increase rounds, which is the key to long term viability. Golf goes in trends, and right now it’s in a trough, and with the new marketing, we hope to have it turn around. If not, it’s not the end of the world if we lose a little bit of money there. It’s an asset, and we have many assets in town. I’m very supportive of the golf courses. FOXLEY: Absolutely. Every time you put something into private entity, then that allows it for true capitalism to take over, and true capitalism will downtownpublications.com
always win the day. The government cannot be the solution for everything. When you have something taking a loss, and you invite in people who are probably very avid golfers and knowledgeable about and have probably run golf courses before and know where to cut or where to add, I think it’s worth going private and putting it up for bid. That would be the best bet for something taking a loss. KNOX: I have my leisure pass, and have played both courses many times this summer. I love the courses, and then you don’t have to belong to Oakland Hills for $60,000 down and $700 a month. I like the fact that they’re both different. I can’t answer your question because I don’t have the numbers, and I haven’t dug into the financials. But based on what the city spends on things, $120,000 doesn’t seem like a lot of money relatively in expenditures. Now if we could reduce that, that would be awesome, and I would be open to that, I just don’t know everything that goes into privatization. Anything that would preserve the golf courses would be great. MCDANIEL: I don’t know that that is the answer. Previous administrations have done that, and determined it was cheaper to do it ourselves, as we are doing today. We have served notice on the staff that these losses cannot continue forever. I have made a statement at an open meeting that perhaps consolidation of the two courses into one may be the answer, and it may be sooner than some people would realize. MOORE: To look into outside management, yes. We have to remember that there are two aspects, the golf courses and the clubhouses. I would certainly entertain the possibility of the clubhouse going into outside management. We actually did that in the ‘90s, and it was an absolute disaster. But times have changed, and there is the Billy Caspers group in Troy. The golf business is the golf business, and the courses are both gems, they provide intangibles in terms of quality of life and property values and attracting young families and professionals. We need to make them a success. We have a greenskeeper that’s second to none. As far as the clubhouses, we have two beautiful facilities that are
tremendously underutilized in use and revenue production. We have the software in place to do marketing and analysis, I don’t know if we have the right personnel, format or understanding of what it takes to produce revenue. The courses will take care of themselves. RINSCHLER: The question is not that simple. While I’m an advocate for outsourcing, part of the problem is that there is an oversupply of golf courses in Michigan, so it’s not that we have a particularly inefficient system or poorly run golf courses, it’s that there are more golf courses or golf rounds than there are golfers. The real question is, do we really need two 9-hole golf courses in Birmingham? If privatization of running it would be helpful, which I believe it’s run really well, the part that needs to be pumped up is marketing. It’s not on the costreduction side. We make sure we run very, very lean, and there’s not waste in any of our operations. It’s not like somebody can come in and clean house and all of a sudden we’d be profitable. The way to be profitable is to increase the number of rounds, and there are more ways to do that than just privatizing the operations. We might hire a marketing firm. The commission is trying to encourage the in-house people to be creative and find solutions and revenue sources, and that’s not the city’s strong point. It may be that the overcapacity problem is not insurmountable. We may have to look at like the other parks, that they just don’t make us money. WALSH: I’m not a golfer; I’m an environmentalist. I don’t agree with not finding a solution, whether it’s finding better management for the golf course or better utilization for the clubhouse, I would definitely explore that. But to just give up something that’s so beautiful and so pristine and harbors so much great landscape and animals, I think would diminish the beauty of the city. The whole point of Birmingham is it’s unique appreciation of trees and parks and that we’re recycling and preserving. A lot of cities don’t pay attention to those kinds of things, and often those are the first things to go when the economy is bad, so for us to maintain these areas of the city are really important because it sets us apart from everyone.
WEAVER: We could market these golf courses forever and never get where we want to be. There are hundreds of golf courses around here that are for revenue, and it’s not hard for people to find golf. I don’t think we can afford to subsidize it. Something has to be done to break even. We have other expenses that are increasing and I don’t think we can continue to subsidize this. I would like a third party to give us some options. City finances, staffing levels: Birmingham has been fiscally prudent over the last several years, both in preparation for a loss in property tax revenues, and then as a result of that loss in revenues. Is it time to lift the hiring freeze at city hall? If so, where do you see adding staff? DILGARD: Over the last ten years, we’ve reduced full time employees from 195 to about 150, which is quite a reduction, but it was done gradually. The city manager and commission looked at departments very carefully and the budget cycle, and those cuts have not impacted services; we’ve looked at ways of delivering services very carefully. Police and fire say they are comfortable where they are. Two years ago when things hit the trough, we had to make cuts to planning, and when things pick up, I can see we’re going to need people there to staff it properly. Going forward, we have to play it by ear, but always looking at efficiencies, using technologies we invested in so departments can improve. FOXLEY: It’s a supply and demand question; where it’s needed is where the money should go, and the word freeze should never be used. The police should get whatever they want, whenever they want it, no questions asked. Fire department also. Things are going to go up and down in a community, and I’m confident the commission will allocate appropriately. Things are changing by the day. KNOX: It’s important to look at what services are needed, and always grow with technology. I firmly believe technology is a good thing, and I embrace it. I would like to learn what is being done at the city, and I’m just getting up to speed with 39
what’s being done and a lot of the issues and current numbers. I would need to do more due diligence to see where people are needed; I didn’t know there was a freeze, so obviously resources are very precious and I wouldn’t want people working where you don’t need them. MCDANIEL: No, it’s not time to lift the hiring freeze. We’re expecting property values to continue declining, maybe at a smaller rate. We’re going to have continued pressure on revenues. To the extent that we continue to see housing starts and if there’s not a second recession, then I think we’re probably going to have to add, very carefully, people in the community development department. That’s where we’re going to see progress. But, it’s one or two people. MOORE: We peaked out at 192 employees; we’re currently at 135. We did it over 10 years, and it worked. Many communities are caught. They didn’t prepare—nobody could prepare for 2008; but we all knew in the ‘90s that Prop A wasn’t sustainable because of the way you collect revenue and you tax. We started in the ‘90s with pension costs and retirees. With employees, we started in 2000, and we didn’t have to lay anyone off, it was all attrition, reorganizing city hall, and introducing technology and efficiencies that allowed us to go forward. The city manager’s job is the CEO— he hires and fires. It’s his job to determine hiring. He would come to us and say I need somebody in this department. I can think of one area, and that’s community development. This past year we had new house construction up 70 percent, at 2005 levels. We had restoration work up 60 percent, to pre-2008 levels. It’s one area where I don’t want people to come and wait. We are at a safe level for police and fire, but community development, I can see having two people. RINSCHLER: That’s not really true that we’re losing revenue based on property tax revenues. We’re talking about operating costs. We determine what we have to spend, and then property tax values, and the millage rate to come up with that number. As property values have gone down, we could have conceivably kept raising the millage rate and kept right on going. Fortunately, we didn’t do that. We took the course that said we have to be more financially prudent. I don’t think there’s any reason to stop doing that just because things are getting better. Our residents expect very high levels of service at the least possible cost and that’s what we need to keep 40
doing. We’re hiring in the building department because we’re responding to requests. That’s a feefor-service department. I see no reason to throw the switch. There are areas we went to lean, and we need to recover. As the economy recovers, we need more help in the planning department. WALSH: I would like to examine the law enforcement needs. The Birmingham I grew up in isn’t the Birmingham we have today. When I first moved to Birmingham, we’d Rollerblade or walk to other houses, we’d walk into the unlocked homes of our friends, grab a snack or a drink out of their fridges, hang out a little bit and then go on our way. It was safe. People can’t do that anymore. Times have changed, the economy has changed, we have so many businesses that are attracting so many people from outside of Birmingham that I think if we address our law enforcement needs it would help with these public safety issues that we all see. I think having more police would help because we spend so much money on making (the city) beautiful, attracting and working with businesses, and that’s worked, but with growth come more people and more problems. To counteract all of this growth, we should have more foot traffic, and I believe the budget would allow for that, and I know hiring police and fire we’re talking about unions and pensions, but I think there’s room in the budget because Birmingham has been fiscally conservative the last few years. I work, I have a 15-month-old son who I want to grow up here, and before I had him, I went out on Friday and Saturday nights. I go out with friends now. I see a notable difference. And while we don’t have murders, there was an armed robbery at Booth Park last year. It’s not unique to Birmingham, but from personal experience, that’s what I notice. WEAVER: My evaluation is we have more challenges because our legacy costs have gone up tremendously and our health care costs have gone up. Yet, I don’t think we can get away with fewer services. Some things that have been mentioned, like someone facilitating with houses, with businesses, they can do better. I think I would look at alternative ways to get this done, to look seriously at outsourcing some activities, I don’t know if this one particularly, but some way to leverage our monies, but some way to get more with paying less. You’re not getting the pensions, and as your city morphs, you’re not tied in to people who are good at this, but we don’t need this right now.
That happens in health care a lot. Things change or needs change and you need to be able to be flexible. I think great services are key; I expect them, I think we have to offer them to all of our citizens. The question is can we do it in a cheaper way. Bistros: What changes, if any, would you recommend in the city bistro license process? Should the city be using the bistro license process to help in the revitalization of certain areas of the city, such as the Rail District, Triangle District and North Old Woodward Shopping District? Do you think that nightclubs and restaurants with a large bar presence belong in Birmingham? What suggestions do you have to alleviate problems the police and community are experiencing at some of the establishments? DILGARD: The city manager proactively had a meeting of all the liquor license holders this past Monday which went quite well, with a lot of good input from the established Class C license holders as well as bistro owners. Bob is going to come back to the commission by the end of the year with some recommendations about things like location, saturation point, licenses, you name it. Hopefully there’ll be some tangible recommendations from it. The bistros have been successful, but we’re changing it, with a significant change, to a more competitive process. We’ll see how it plays out. I’d like us focus more on the Triangle District and Rail District as a development tool. I’ve always been concerned about the balance downtown with the retail. We get mixed responses on the nightclubs, with some on the pro side and some on the nay side. They do a lot of benefits for the community that aren’t publicized, but there are some downsides, and they definitely get some headlines, and we don’t like that and the rowdiness. FOXLEY: I am complimentary of the current commission figuring out it’s not a first-come, first-served process, it’s the review, and we’re not just going to rubber stamp things. You can’t bring in Hollywood and $20,000 and outdo the other person. The Rail District would be great for these bistro licenses because it’s off the beaten track from downtown. I do frequent the nightclubs we have here. Safety is a big deal. Cameras are the way to prosecute people, and when you make an example of people that have done something wrong, that’s the stuff to read in the paper. Our town, at times, doesn’t feel like a
walkable community, and once people who do these raucous acts, because it’s not the police’s fault, it’s these people’s fault, when they are arrested and prosecuted, that takes care of that. They all belong here. KNOX: I think it’s great. I support the nightclubs, not only because I like to party at them, but because I think it adds some diversity to the city, but I think it has to be managed. Obviously safety is a huge issue. Some ideas I have are cameras, curfews for 18 and under, I’m not sure what all of the issues are for safety because I haven’t studied every call. Those nightclubs on Saturday night are pretty rowdy, and safety is an issue. Monitoring, not eliminating, is what it’s all about. I think it’s ultimately the responsibility of the parents, not the establishment, to do the monitoring. It could be the police. There has to be a conscious effort towards safety. I’ve heard people say there shouldn’t be nightclubs. That’s a mistake. I think it’s kinda cool that they attract all different kinds of people, all races, all genders, and from different places to our city. I’m friends with one of the owners of South, Steve Puertas, and the Dali family, but I don’t represent either of them. I think it’s great to allow people to put their name and their hat in the ring, and then make a decision (for the bistros), rather than whoever comes first. The other districts outside of the city should be considered, too. MCDANIEL: I think we have enough large nightclubs and big restaurants, especially in the downtown area, and I really wouldn’t recommend establishing them in any other areas because that just dilutes the police presence. We don’t take revocation lightly. Bistros have been a grand slam home run for the city. We went into it with our eyes open, and a number of cities have called to get our ordinance language and duplicate the experience. I, for one, think we shouldn’t have a limit. We put a limit initially to gain broad base acceptance. I think we should try to encourage the establishment of bistros in the Rail District, Triangle District, and we have one in the N. Old Woodward, but another one couldn’t hurt. I think the Triangle District is a bit problematic because buildings have to be created; the Rail District is different, so we want to encourage that. There is an ongoing dialogue between the operators (of the nightclubs) and chief Studt and deputy chief Clemence, and steps can be taken, have been taken, to change the way things have been operated. It’s no big secret that after the 11.11
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problems at Hamilton Room, they decided to stop serving liquor at 1:30 instead of 2:00 and they turn the lights up at the same time. I want these operations to succeed, because I don’t want any floor space. And they’ve done very well. City commission has started a dialogue with staff; some other steps that may be taken. We’re thinking and working on it. Studt has to have all the resources he wants and needs to have a very visible police presence. MOORE: We have absolute control over the bistro process. At some point, the Class C and the bistros, their interests don’t mesh. They’re all part of Birmingham, and we have to respect all of their interests. We had to set limitations, and I think we succeeded. If we had four bistros ready to go in the Rail District, which wasn’t originally zoned for bistros, I’d say, let’s go, let’s follow the money and the vision. But we haven’t had that yet. Before the bistros, we had expensive restaurants and coney dogs. We couldn’t allow entrepreneurs and young chefs to come in because it would cost them so much for a liquor license before they bought their first fork. The process is an evolving process, and I like how we’re changing it because it allows us to address the issue of destination. We have ultimate control. I’m prepared to say zero, one, two, depending on the concept and how it’s going to affect the city. Destination is a very important criteria. The sustainability and viability of Birmingham rests in the Rail District. I want the nightclubs to succeed. I think they stay downtown. But health, safety and welfare trumps private business interests, and the business owners need to be reminded of that. As for rowdiness, we’ve changed their criteria. You have a pattern of conduct where’s there’s unnecessary disruption of the public peace and/or violence, you’re going to lose your license. Everyone’s on notice. We’ve also started a roundtable of all Class C and liquor license holders, getting together with our city manager, with the chiefs, and they talk about where are we and what are we going to do. RINSCHLER: The bistro licenses are an incredible piece of legislation; a remarkable success. Before we started, we had a market study that said we were underserved in the food business, and second, we had too many kids in town. I’ve said, the problem isn’t too many kids, it was not enough adults. With bistros, we got adults, and people were walking and staying in town. We didn’t have the problem of two a year, because 42
we were (initially) clunking along. Now things are picking up, and four or five at a time, and let’s change the process. Absolutely we should be doing this strategically. I think the Rail District should be the first, because the Triangle District needs a major partner for buildings for bistros to go into. The Rail District has its own identity and could bring in more business. I could see another one in the N. Old Woodward area. I think two a year is reasonable; there are times we may want three, and times we might want zero. I’m not locked into a number. As for nightclubs, it’s not up to us to be kingmakers. We can’t only have family businesses. But we cannot tolerate criminal behavior. When it gets to the point when there are assaults, how does it integrate with the community? The commission is very sensitive to that. Our community has a very low tolerance for that kind of foolishness. Our police is very good at reacting to that. We have strengthened the ordinance. The next step is to be proactive, and see where we go in the future. One of the things I like with the bistro licenses is that we have an individual contract with the bistro owner, and maybe we develop something like that with (nightclub owners). WALSH: I love the bistros. They give the walkable community almost a European feel, so I really like that bistro licenses came about. I think they came about as an experiment, and that’s the beauty of the bistro licenses; if you wanted to dictate where they should go, you don’t have to put it in stone. If there is a desire to give unlimited licenses for a while to the rail district, we should try that. Bistros have added a completely different element to the city. Nightclubs on the other hand, have also brought their own flourish in the own way. As far as problems coming in, it might be happenstance, that too many people are going to a certain area and there are problems when people are drinking excessively, but drinking excessively can happen anywhere, even a bistro. If you put the nightclubs out of business, it’s another vacant spot, it’s less revenue. My remedy for safety concerns would be to look at what kind of police force do we have; do we have enough to respond, are we responding fast enough. I know there are security cameras, and things have been implemented, but maybe we need to re-examine that. And now, for cause, you can revoke the liquor licenses, and I agree with that. But we have to balance things. If you bring in these businesses, which bring in people, because we want people, which bring
in revenue, you have to balance are they putting more bad out into the community than good. WEAVER: I think the bistros have been great, and when I heard there have been four applicants sitting since April, it really disappointed me because these people have put in a lot of money, they’ve rented the properties, they don’t know if they’re going to have their businesses or not, and we are there to serve people who want to bring businesses here. The commission is going to have to make some real decisions over, are we going to stick to this two per year if we have reasonable applicants why not have them fill the storefronts? We can try to steer them to certain areas, but business people are business people, and if they don’t believe they’re going to be a success, they’re not going to invest in a certain area, and it’s hard to regulate successful business. Whatever we can do to facilite the process, to make it less burdensome for them is good. I think we have enough nightclubs right now, with more in the same areas, it would tax us a bit. I would prefer to take advantage of the bistros right now. It adds to the atmosphere here rather than large places. To help with the problems, I would talk with the owners, the police, and the people who live in the downtown, and get all of the issues on the table and find out if there are solutions from that group. Why you: Why should a voter select you over others on the ballot? What special plans do you have for the city of Birmingham? DILGARD: It’s been an enjoyable four years. We have different points of views, but we work well together to accomplish an incredible amount, and I look forward to the next four. The main things are maintain the quality of services, which we did during the downturn and it’s going to be a slow climb back up. Our revenue stream is not going to be that different over the next four years. Infrastructure; we have a six year capital plan, and to stay focused on that plan. I’m excited about all of the opportunities for Birmingham. FOXLEY: I am an owner of a construction company in Michigan; I am the most out-of-work person. I have the time to talk to voters and what they need. My background of building big, big construction sites or gas stations or a big box store, I’ve had to work with lots of different trades and know that city commission is not just working with building, but looking at different trades coming through and being
able to analyze that and money and bids, I can do that, so when it’s time to look at how the money is being spent, I have good insight. I also want to know what happens before the meetings. That interests me. And I truly have the time right now, and I’d like to have a voice. KNOX: I bring a fresh dose of thinking. I’m young, I have kids in the schools, I live here, I work here, I walk around during the day. I represent some of the more hip people who own bars. I know them, I associate with them, and I can help communicate with them, and on their behalf. I have some ideas, representing kids. I like the park downtown. I think it’s nice, but I think the play area is just so small. I’m not doggin’ it, because I like music and I like the that whole theater. But I thought it should have been more for kids. I’m here, so I see things, and I would bring a different perspective. MCDANIEL: I’m heavily invested in this city emotionally; I’ve lived here since I was three months old. It has been a pretty good eight years for Birmingham, and I’ve been part of encouraging us to do the right things. I want to continue. I’m still relevant, and in good health. There are still more things to be done, like where we are going to grow our tax base and evolve as a city. First and foremost, I think the Triangle District, and secondly, the Rail District. It’s terribly important to set the table, to make it relevant for businesses. We have a 95 percent retail occupancy and a 85 percent, or even higher, commercial occupancy. The city is on the right track. I want to keep it on the rails. We have to be careful how we spend taxpayer money. We have maintained our AAA rating, and that’s an enormous achievement, and we have room to raise our millage if we have to; I don’t want to, but we have the room. I think we’ve got to do something about senior housing. MOORE: I have experience, I am competent, I have been capable, I am analytical and I am fair. I have the respect of staff because I have earned that respect. I am a strategic leader, and I take pride in that. I feel proud in my work. I have a wish list; I have three things on it. The future is in the Rail District and the Triangle District, and as the economic clouds open up, we have to be there, and be there aggressively. Those master plans are brilliant. Secondly, I am concerned that teenagers don’t have a place. Our 2016 Plan called for a place. We need to address that. That’s why I voted for Play. And we need to 11.11
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address the seniors. Last year, when we revised our ordinances to facilitate senior housing, that went unnoticed. And always, we have to remember the young people coming in to buy our houses. RINSCHLER: The last four years, the commission has had a spectacular record. We have come through the worst economy since the Depression, and we are not just fiscally OK, we are solid as a rock. We are probably one of the best managed cities in the state, and we don’t have a hospital, university or auto plant or some big anchor; it’s done by good management and citizens who appreciate good level of services and are willing to work with us. The town looks better than it ever has. I’m proud of that, and my role in that. I think you want to keep a team that is working well together, without drama, very professionally, and has developed a process of airing different views and moving forward for Birmingham. Shain Park was my cause celebre, and I’ve achieved that. Now I just want to keep moving forward. WALSH: Being a city commissioner is essentially a volunteer position, and to criticize someone who devotes dozens of hours a month to whatever issues for their volunteer work would be terrible. But government should represent the people, and I can bring a new, fresher voice, as a young mother who takes her child to the parks, as a young person who likes to go shopping in the stores, who once in a while likes going to the nightclubs, going out to dinner. No one else here has a law enforcement background. You need to address public safety issues. That is an important concern, and would be advantageous to the city commission and the people of Birmingham. I would like to see more businesses coming into Birmingham. I would like to be a part of that process. Who better that an assistant prosecutor who has been in public service since she was 16 to represent the young professionals, to represent law enforcement? I have a lot of passion and energy. I juggle a lot of things, but I have a deep gratitude and appreciation for this city, and having a voice would be an honor. WEAVER: I represent change but I am a proven leader. I’ve taken on a lot of different things in my professional career, and succeeded. I’m a good listener, and a consensus builder. I have boundless energy for things I love, and I love this city, and I would love to make it better. I would make the will of the taxpayers my first priority. My priority issues are 46
being fiscally responsible without reducing services and without negatively impacting our employees. I’d like to see what I can do to reduce our health care costs, both for our employees as well as for our legacy costs. Facilitating new businesses and residents in our downtown, and regulating our approval processes are too long. We need businesses that are sustainable and pay taxes. I want our schools to be best in state, and our neighborhoods to be safe. We do have empty homes in the city, and we need to attract young professionals and families and new business people to the city because they will be the future.
The candidates GEORGE DILGARD Dilgard, 62, has a background in accounting and finance. He is a graduate of Ohio University, and received his MBA from Indiana University. He came to Birmingham to work for Burroughs, now Unisys, and until very recently, worked for the last 15 years as a consultant for many companies, primarily auto suppliers. He is currently employed with Ally Financial as a financial analyst. Approximately 10 years ago, Dilgard said he got very involved with Birmingham, first sitting on the Board of Zoning Appeals for a year, then with the planning board for five years, “so I’m very familiar with zoning issues and zoning ordinances and codes.” Currently finishing first term as city commissioner, where I worked on both the Shain Park committee and the ad hoc Barnum Park committee”.
Public Schools. My wife and I juggle kids. I live, work and play here.” He usually is on the opposite side of the city commission, taking on local governments on behalf of his clients as issues arise. “I’m viewing this from the other end. I’ve always wanted to get involved. I don’t have much experience on the other end, so I view this as a way to give back.” He’s on the board of directors for the Uptown Film Festival, which had its inaugural film festival this year. TOM MCDANIEL McDaniel, 72, is a long-time resident of Birmingham who is just finishing his second term as commissioner. He served the city as mayor in 20062007. Prior to being a commissioner, he spent seven years on the city’s Historic District and Design Review Committee, four years on the Historical Board, and worked to establish the Birmingham Historical Museum. A General Motors retiree, he is also a University of Michigan alum. McDaniel said if reelected, he is looking to keep Birmingham going forward.
JAMES FOXLEY Foxley, 39, has been married for four years, owns his own business, Detroit Welding and Fabricating for the last 11 years. He has been a resident for eight years.
SCOTT MOORE A lifelong resident, Moore, 59, has been active in community affairs for 20 years. He was first elected to city commission in 1995, and has served three terms, including two stints as mayor and mayor pro tem. He is married with 17year-old-daughter at Seaholm, his alma mater. He then attended Western Michigan University and Detroit College of Law, and is of counsel with Goldstein, Litt, Slinger, PLLC law firm. “People who know me know that I am in the business of creating success, not of tearing down or of being an everyday critic. I don’t dwell in the past, though I am a student of the history of this city. I’m always thinking about tomorrow,” Moore said. He is on the board of directors of BASCC and Cultural Council Birmingham/Bloomfield.
STEVE KNOX Knox, 39, is a business lawyer who opened an office in Birmingham two years ago. “I also live in Birmingham, with three kids in three different Birmingham
GORDON RINSCHLER A resident for 40 years, “I’m wellknown around town and involved in many activities.” A career engineer at Chrysler, when he retired he was a
vice president in charge of minivans. He is active in philanthropic endeavors, on both the board and executive board of the Detroit Science Center, Lighthouse of Oakland County, has been president and on the board of directors of Lighthouse Emergency Services and Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan. Rinschler, 64, has been involved with Birmingham’s Historic District Design and Review Commission, Design Review Board, worked on the new Shain Park, has sat on many advisory boards, and is finishing his first term as commissioner. He is the current mayor of Birmingham. VICKI WALSH Walsh, 32, has been an Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor the last seven years, and is currently assigned to the sex crimes unit dealing with sex crimes on children. She has also worked with domestic violence and child abuse while an assistant prosecutor. She has worked with the court system in various forms for several years, including helping to coordinate a Macomb County Teen Court Program. She noted she has been in public service since she was 16, and has lived in Birmingham for 20 years, where her parents still reside. She attended University of Michigan and Michigan State Law School. She is married with a young son. “I have a unique background in law enforcement which is very relevant to the issues we are dealing with today in Birmingham,” Walsh said. DOUG WEAVER Weaver, 66, has been a Birmingham resident for 10 years, living in the downtown area. He is a cardiologist, and is director of all of the heart and vascular services for Henry Ford Hospital. He is past president of Detroit Area American Heart Association, Detroit Area FAA Safety Counselor, and is past president and trustee of American College of Cardiology. He attended University of Maine and Tufts University School of Medicine. Weaver said, “I represent change. I don’t have a previous part of Birmingham I represent. I think I have new eyes, new ears, new ideas, and I’m a quick learner.” 11.11
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Birmingham School Board candidates Three candidates, incumbents Christopher Conti and Robert Lawrence and challenger John Connelly, are seeking two posts on the Birmingham Schools Board of Education in the November 8 election. Board members meet twice a month without pay, and serve fouryear terms. The board’s role is to oversee and set school policy, hire and work in partnership with the superintendent and oversee the district’s budget. Downtown Publications invited all three of the candidates on the ballot to answer questions which our editorial staff felt were important and relevant to the job. Birmingham Public Schools does not participate in Schools of Choice. The state legislature recently introduced legislation which would mandate opening up all districts to schools of choice. What is your point of view on that legislation, and what it could do to Birmingham schools? Connelly: The legislative intent is proficiency-based funding for access to quality education, rather than “seat time” requirement - where funding is determined by home-district boundaries. Opening boundaries is not a solution for failing schools/districts, nor a solution to a broad-based problem. BPS taxpayers make a funding commitment beyond what is provided by the state, which must be honored. Our first priority must be to our district students, maintaining our education legacy, small class size and retaining quality teachers. Out-ofdistrict acceptance would only be for our ‘open’ seats and we currently do this on a tuition basis. BPS students must come first. Conti: The key argument for mandating Schools of Choice is that it allows students from poorly performing school districts an opportunity to receive a better education. However, what’s concerning about Schools of Choice is what it could potentially mean for Birmingham Public Schools. For example, it could mean larger class sizes, a wider range of students’ abilities in the classroom, and a greater strain on teacher resources. Further, Schools of Choice often divide downtownpublications.com
communities and create additional funding issues. Lawrence: I am against this legislation as proposed. BPS district residents have voted to support higher standards of programming and district facilities through local millage support. This includes the hold harmless millage and the bonds that renovated our high schools, middle schools and elementary schools. Opening our district is unfair to our residents because there is no mechanism to address the inevitable funding difference which will occur as children from lower spending districts choose Birmingham. The bill will also increase our costs as we direct support resources to those that have not had the advantage of an ongoing Birmingham education. Education funding across the state was slashed for this current year by the state legislature, and signed into law by Gov. Snyder. What are the current ramifications in this school year to Birmingham Public Schools? Over the next five years? How do you recommend balancing the educational needs of students and the district with the realities of your new budget? Connelly: The ‘one-time’ federal stimulus dollar grants were a significant cause for funding reduction. This was an understood and anticipated national expectation. BPS was prepared and last year voted to use our reserved fund equity, keeping district operations funding whole, while most districts could not do this. We annually face a legacy burdened, structural deficit. There’s no simple local answer. A comprehensive state-level solution is imperative – one with a mindful-eye for retaining and recruiting quality teachers. Education needs are met by great teaching. We will continue pursuing innovative cost-efficient education delivery platforms, which
optimize academics, while advocating for a global address to this burden. Conti: For the 2011/2012 school year, Birmingham Public Schools will lose approximately $170 of funding per student. For the present school year, Birmingham Board of Education has agreed to fund any budget deficit through its fund equity/rainy day account. This will ensure a balanced budget for this fiscal year, but it is not a long-term solution. With the recent changes surrounding school funding, it’s difficult to get a pulse on exactly what will occur in the future. As such, Birmingham needs to continue to allocate each dollar wisely while working with public officials to create an equitable and predictable funding structure. Lawrence: We have seen lower state funding on the horizon for years. We were among the first in Oakland County to privatize custodial and transportation services. We also negotiated cost saving agreements with our teacher union to limit expense growth in healthcare costs. We’ve focused on lowering operating costs and administrative overhead. Our financial stewardship saved $28 million over the last seven years. This has allowed us to prudently utilize fund equity to offset cuts. We were ahead of the “new reality” and are positioned to continue our focus on student achievement and program excellence over the next five years. Gov. Snyder is creating incentives for districts and municipalities which engage in service sharing and consolidation. How is BPS exploring service sharing with other districts? There is a lot of overlap in both geography and educational services with Bloomfield Hills Schools, and both districts are facing decreasing enrollments due to a declining birth rate, an aging population and people moving away due to the economy. How is BPS exploring service sharing with other districts?
Connelly: BPS leads in this initiative. We engage in service sharing, as the International Academy and the environmental center are examples. We actively prospect for those opportunities where savings and efficiencies are produced and quality education is maintained. Pursuing all opportunities to service share, when mutually beneficial and within the constraints of our current obligations/commitments to our teachers, students and community, is a must. I do foresee more discussion between area districts, where ‘economies of scale’ approaches to bundled purchase opportunities and bidding consolidation exist, but only when outside our exceptional classroom/learning environment. We must balance service sharing without compromising academic excellence. Conti: To assist with cost cutting, Birmingham Public Schools presently shares the Bloomfield Hills nature center with Bloomfield Hills Schools. Birmingham is also investigating shared administrative services such as human resources management with bordering districts. Wherever it makes economic and administrative sense, Birmingham Public Schools is open to exploring the sharing of certain services with neighboring districts. Further, Birmingham Public Schools is one of the few districts in Oakland County that has seen flat to slight increases in student enrollment over the past couple of years. Lawrence: Birmingham continues to see increased enrollment; we have over 8,200 this year and we are one of only a few districts experiencing this trend. We’ve been sharing services for years with districts around Birmingham. We work with Bloomfield at the International Academy and the EL Johnson Nature Center, providing resources and opportunities for our students. We provided center-based learning services for autism students around Oakland County. We will continue to seek opportunities to share services or leverage our expertise where it makes sense to our students and taxpayers. Last spring, Seaholm experienced a series of racially threatening events. The school board has approved more security cameras for both Seaholm and Groves. Was that a sufficient response? In an environment where threats of any kind can create an impediment to learning, what else should the schools be doing? 49
Connelly: This incident was unfortunate and not typical. Our schools are safe. Discussions about security cameras were ongoing for several years, and not a product of this incident but an extension. My understanding is the young man who confessed was also bullied and racially threatened. That should not be tolerated. This regrettable event also became a teachable moment. The student population response was commendable and says a great deal. School bullying is a national concern including this district. We can do better. Having policies in place are not enough. We must continue to model, support and teach, to break this cycle. Conti: The Birmingham Board of Education recently approved the installation of more security cameras in the high schools. This was a collaborative decision that has been openly discussed for the past couple of years. The decision to install more security cameras in the high schools was done purely in an effort to ensure that student safety is the number one priority. Regarding the racially-related incidents that occurred last spring, Birmingham Public Schools believes that its character education program coupled with student/teacher/parent vigilance will ensure that Birmingham Public Schools continues to offer a safe and productive learning environment for everyone. Lawrence: Our students’ response to those events (student run rallies and school wide assembly) is a testament to the community and the long running character education initiative that is in the fabric of our district. The board voted to move forward with cameras to help support student safety, not to provide student safety. With over 2 million square feet of
Schools request millage renewal oters are being asked to renew a Birmingham Public Schools operating millage on November 8 which only applies to nonhomestead and commercial landowners in the district. The millage proposal will not raise the taxes for the average voter, as the current millage, expiring on June 30, 2012, was for 8.46 mills. The new millage rate is 7.98 mills, which is a rollback of taxes based on the Headlee Amendment. This millage will be in effect for ten years, from July 1, 2012 until June 20, 2022, on non-homestead and commercial properties. It is estimated it will provide $6.6 million in revenues to the schools. In 2006, the millage was split into a two-part millage to permit voters to renew a millage every five years, and this renewal does not impact homes that are considered homestead or the main residence. If it is not renewed, there is a danger of teacher layoffs, a reduction in bus services, cuts to academic programs and student services. “It's a zero tax increase,” district spokesperson Marcia Wilkinson said. “It has always been renewed by our voters.” “This proposal, if approved by the electors, will allow the school district to continue to levy up to 7.980 mills for general operating purposes, (which is) a reduction from the 8.460 mills previously authorized by the electors, on all taxable property in the school district to the extent that such property is not exempt from such levy,” said Stuart Jeffares of the Renew School Millage committee. “Under existing law, the school district would levy only that portion of the mills on taxable property necessary to allow the district to receive the mill revenue per pupil foundation allowance permitted by the state.” He noted that Birmingham Public Schools is not currently levying the 7.980 mills on homestead residences. A mill is equal to $1,000 for every $100,000 of taxable value, meaning that for a $200,000 non-homestead home or business ($100,000 appraised value), an owner would pay $798 in taxes.
space in the district, I see cameras as only one limited tool. I remain committed to our support of a culture that promotes positive attitude; honesty and integrity; respect and kindness and responsibly and accountability. There are no short cuts. Why you? Why should a voter select you over others on the ballot? What special plans do you have for BPS?
Library contract millage loomfield Hills residents will have the opportunity on November 8 to vote for a millage that would allow local residents to use the Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham. In July, Bloomfield Hills city commissioners unanimously approved an agreement with Birmingham's Baldwin Library for a three-year contract for full library services for residents, contingent upon the passage of a dedicated 0.39 library millage. If the millage passes, Bloomfield Hills residents would be able to begin having full Baldwin privileges on November 15. There would be not be reciprocal privileges at Bloomfield
Connelly: Public service is part of who I am. Direct international business operations responsibility, management of a national team, my military and life experience living and working all over the world have honed a needed skill-set and perspective, which complements the current board roster. Public education today faces tremendous financial instability, stressed by a state reinventing itself
Township Public Library. Leadership at Baldwin Library and some Bloomfield Hills commissioners as well as city manager Jay Cravens began discussions last winter, after a resident-sponsored library millage proposal failed last November, 60 percent to 40 percent. Cravens has noted that many residents have requested access to library services. Baldwin would benefit from providing services to Bloomfield Hills, as well, as the revenue would allow them to remain open more hours, retain more staff, and provide greater services. The agreement reached between the two entities in June would have Bloomfield Hills pay Baldwin $268,681 in the first year of the agreement. In successive years, the rate would increase by 5 DOWNTOWN
and a national economy in turmoil. I bring discipline, financial operations experience, integrity, and passion - a solid addition to the oversight board of the BPS district. I would be honored to serve my community as a BPS Board member. Conti: I am seeking re-election to the Birmingham Board of Education because I believe that excellent public schools are the cornerstone to every great community. Further, I believe that my solid financial background coupled with my objectivity, sound judgment, and willingness to question the statusquo makes me a strong candidate for re-election to the Birmingham Board of Education. Moving forward, the district needs to ensure that basic skills like writing, spelling, and appropriate social/emotional development are not overlooked with the implementation of 21st Century Learning. Lawrence: I want to continue serving on the Birmingham School Board to keep Birmingham schools among the best anywhere. My focus is always on student achievement and strong financial stewardship. My time dedicated to the Birmingham Education Foundation, the district’s strategic planning committee, and other community groups provides a broad perspective. I will continue to support the district’s strategic plan, which provides a long-range, globally relevant road map for our student’s future. Thoughtful, strategic, and visionary work is the hallmark of our district, staff, and community; I want to continue to be a part of the team.
percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. The initial figure was based on an average household cost of $180.44 per year multiplied by the 1,489 households in Bloomfield Hills, and the .39 millage proposal was drafted to meet the appropriate funding level, Cravens said. Bloomfield Hills residents have been without full-time library service since 2004, when a longterm agreement with Bloomfield Township Public Library was dissolved after the city and the library could not come to an agreement over how much residents would pay for library services. Since that time, some residents have paid for a library card at the Troy Library, but many residents have sought a more convenient library source. 11.11
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Scott Grant rom the sets of Michigan-filmed movie productions to the homes of his ailing patients, Dr. Scott Grant’s unique method to modern medicine takes him out of the office and into the community. “I think I run a very traditional practice, but it’s not traditional for the 21st century,” he said. Grant started his practice in downtown Birmingham in 1997, but his approach is more reminiscent of a 1950s practitioner. “I don’t have an answering service. I don’t like having a third person in the mix. I take calls in the evenings and on weekends,” he said. “In rare instances, I’ll go to people’s homes.” Ruth Plew, a Birmingham senior who recently turned 100-years-old, is a longtime patient who Grant sees at her residence. “If there is a child or adult who is too sick to come to the office, I will go to them.” Throughout his 15 years practicing in downtown Birmingham, Grant said he has been an on-call physician for the Townsend Hotel. From that experience, he has been retained to treat patients on 33 movie sets in Michigan. “The movie I’m currently providing medical care for is Oz: The Great and Powerful,” he said. “It’s the prequel to the Wizard of Oz movie from 1939. I take care of all the cast and crew for whatever their medical needs are. If they have to stop for a director or cinematographer who is sick, it can be costly.” Throughout the course of his work, Grant has had the opportunity to meet Sigourney Weaver, George Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Neil Patrick Harris, Hugh Jackman and Richard Gere. “My job is to keep these movies running from a medical standpoint,” he said. “I’ve been on movie sets at three in the morning.” Through the years Grant has earned the medical trust of thousands of patients in the community, but his attraction to medicine began to actualize when he was only a teenager. “I had a summer job at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak when I was 17 or 18,” he said. “I used to work in cardiology. I was putting Holter monitors on patients and doing EKGs.” Grant went on to study at Michigan State University and attended medical school at Wayne State University. According to Grant, he has patients on nearly every street in the city of Birmingham and can often be seen walking into the practice with the office mascot, Mitzie, his rescued yellow lab. “If I know I’ll be seeing a child that day, I’ll bring Mitzie. If I have a procedure to do, I leave her at home,” he said. “Mitzie has a little dog bed in the office.” Whether he is working with Hollywood’s elite or a treating a sick child, he said his mode of operation is to maintain accessibility to patients. “When patients call, I answer the phone. It’s what medicine is all about. What good is having a doctor when you can’t talk to them when you need them?”
Story: Katey Meisner
Photo: Laurie Tennent
CITY/ TOWNSHIP Restaurant, brewery okayed by planners Griffin Claw Brewery Company, a proposed new brewery, restaurant and tasting room at 563 and 575 S. Eton in Birmingham's Rail District, was approved Wednesday, October 12 at the city's planning board, and after executing certain conditions planners requested, the brewer will go before the city commission for final site plan approval. Griffin Claw Brewery Company, to be built and developed by Norm LePage, owner of Big Rock Chop House, also on Eton, would be constructed on 1.52 acres in the Rail District. The site currently houses an office building and a surface parking lot. The proposed project will consist of one building, including the brewing and bottling facility, a bar/restaurant, a tasting room and beer garden. There would also be adjacent space for parking. A special land use permit, provided from the city commission upon final approval of the project, will be required to allow construction of the facility as it exceeds 6,000 square feet in size. According to Jana Ecker, city planning director, the planning board recommended approval of a preliminary site plan, with 13 conditions LePage would need to correct or change before it moves on to the city commission, including vacating adjacent Palmer Court, or agreeing to a special assessment to pay for infrastructure improvements; detailing rooftop mechanicals and screening; increasing the size of the parking spaces or obtaining a variance; and providing detailed streetscaping plans, including ADAcompliant plans; and a new storm sewer, among other details. Preliminary design plans show clear glass storefront windows for the brewery, light yellow masonry walls with brown accents in the restaurant with a corrugated cement panel rooftop, and a retractable fabric awning and canopy over the proposed outdoor dining area. Painted metal railings and a steel archway would lead to the tasting area. Vera Day Rizer, general manager for Big Rock Chop House, said LePage has acquired a microbrewery liquor license from the state for the new establishment. A date has not yet been set for the brewery to come before the city commission. 54
Two bistros move for more review By Lisa Brody
he Birmingham City Commission heard proposals from four applicants for 2012 bistro license applicants at their meeting on Monday, October 10, and recommended two of the applications be moved to the planning commission for review. Bistro applicants giving five minute presentations were Zumba, Social Kitchen, What Crepe and Market. Birmingham Sushi, an existing restaurant on Hamilton Row, had completed all of the preliminary work and had been invited to the commission meeting, but did not show up, disqualifying itself for consideration. Previously, to receive a bistro license, which is a special land use zoning permit, it was a first-come, first-serve process before the planning board for preliminary approvals before heading to the city commission for final approval. Per city ordinance, only two bistro licenses can be given out to new businesses each year, with existing businesses allowed to receive consideration for extra licenses. In September, the city commission determined that anyone who has a full package, as determined by the planning department, in by October 1 would be under consideration for a 2012 bistro license. Applicants had to turn in a five-page summary to planning director Jana Ecker, which was sent to the city commission for review. All of the commissioners were dazzled by 25-year-old chef Zack Sklar's presentation for Social Kitchen, to be located at the former Tokyo Sushi at 255 E . Maple Road. Sklar, trained at the Culinary Institute of America, is the owner of Cutting Edge Cuisine Catering Company, which has two 4,000 square foot locations, one in Bloomfield Hills and the other in West Bloomfield. He initially started his catering company in New York, and has worked as an executive and sous chef in New York and Michigan, working previously at Tribute, the Ritz Carlton and Emily's restaurants. “Social is about small plates for guests to share, with out-of-the-box
Proposed site of the Social Kitchen bistro presented to city commissioners.
items,” Sklar told the commission. It would be open for lunch and dinner daily, and Saturday and Sunday brunch. He said the restaurant would have three dining areas: an indoor 3,000 square foot dining room with 65 seats, seven of which would be at the bar; an outdoor area that would be canopied in the neighboring alley with 26 seats; and a rooftop dining area that could potentially have 79 seats. “We want to showcase rooftop parties, and hope to do heated tents like Cafe Via to expand the experience for our guests,” he said. He said he and his architect, Ira Green, envision communal high tops, fireplaces and couches for a unique experience. Sklar presented a preliminary menu to commissioners with creative and unusual pairings of food, including lobster tacos with banana guacamole; Dr. Pepper braised short rib tempura; tomato soup shooters with mini grilled cheese sandwiches; corned flake crusted french toast; and breakfast sliders. He noted he took a chance by signing a five-year lease on the space “and praying that we get the license.” The commissioners unanimously voted to send Social Kitchen to the planning board for further development. Market, for the former Arkitektura and Root and Sprout location on N. Old Woodward, was proposed by Luxe managers Joe and Kristin Bongiovanni, who said they envision a casual, easygoing atmosphere with rustic, warm, unpretentious food enhanced by wine. The menu would have a Mediterranean flair, with a wood burning oven being the central focus. “We'll be using the wood burning
oven as the base, not just for pizzas, but for vegetables, meats, and fish. We see it as another part of the missing piece of the food puzzle that people can walk to as a great bistro,” Joe said. “We feel it is important to espouse value, from quality, to ingredients, to freshness. We'll be right across from Booth Park. We believe our most important guests are those closest to us, and then we expand from there.” They said they also plan to have a carry out area towards the back. “I see moms picking up a whole roasted chicken to feed a family of four on their way home,” Kristin said. “We see the need (for carry out) and we hope to fill the niche.” “We're very excited about adding something to the north end of town, and we feel very committed to the north end,” Joe said. In response to commissioner questions, they said it will be a fullservice restaurant, with waiters and waitresses, but family-style, with communal tables. Commissioners were split on the proposal, with some feeling the area, as well as the center of downtown, is saturated with restaurants. “I am disappointed because we want new businesses in the Rail and Triangle districts, and there was not one proposal for there. I'm not disappointed in the concepts, just the locations,” said commissioner Rackeline Hoff. “My preference would be to go for Social Kitchen and no more. You can make a strong case for Market, because the area can stand another restaurant,” said commissioner Tom McDaniel. “Possibly we want to wait to see what happens in April, if there would be other applicants for that area,” said commissioner George Dilgard. “I would just send one forward. We're looking for variety and to generate traffic in other areas of town. I wouldn't send two to the planning board and then not approve one. Let's see what happens in April,” said commissioner Stuart Sherman. McDaniel, contradicting himself, then made the motion to send Market, along with Social Kitchen, to the planning board for further development and review. It passed 42, with Sherman and Hoff opposing the motion. Commissioner Mark Nickita was absent. 11.11
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METROPOLITAN DETROIT IS ON THE REBOUND.
Let’s keep the economy going strong. It’s a good time to buy and sell. Lynn Baker
Your Hometown Realtors selling Cottages to Castles for a combined five decades.
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Estate home in private gated community, The Hills of Lone Pine. Enjoy tranquil view of Minnow Lake from inside and deck across entire home’s lake side. Beautiful mature setting, sweeping lawn and exquisite landscaping. Custom cherry cabinets, granite and top of the line appliances in Chef’s kitchen. 3,441 sq. ft. with 4 bedrooms and 4-1/2 baths has 1st floor master suite with fabulous closet and bath. Finished walk out and 3 car garage. WIC211092067
Bloomfield Hills $799,900 or lease for $5,000/month Original carriage house for the Chalmer’s Estate. Rich in history, renovated in 2007 with all of the details, charm & elegance to reflect the era. Oversize rooms, extensive limestone, hardwood, wainscoting and trim. First floor master plus 5 additional bedrooms, 4 1/2 baths, 3rd floor family room/game area, 7,611 sq. ft. Private, wooded 1.25 acre estate with perennial gardens and views/privileges on Chalmers Lake. CLA211076561
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Custom built home in desirable Birmingham neighborhood. Built in 1992 with all the custom features and architectural details you could imagine. 4,680 sq. ft. with 4 bedrooms, 4 baths and 2 lavs. Unbelievable master suite with 14’ x 13’ lounging area, enormous closet plus jack and jill and private suite up. Finished lower level with kitchen, bath, 2nd family room, exercise room and game room. Oversized Trex deck with spacious yard and perennial gardens. Short Sale. WES211076165
Fresh, bright neutral décor. 4,686 sq. ft. colonial with 5 bedrooms, 3 baths and 3 lavs. Multiple fireplaces, marble foyer, hardwood floors, extensive crown molding, judges paneled library, great room with volume ceilings and custom window treatments. Finished daylight basement with 2nd family room, game area, lav and storage. Large .68 acre private lot with invisible fence in front and rear. 3 car garage. BAY211101781
Elegant condo backing to Wabeek Golf Club. Enter through custom oak doors to view the serene golf course vistas. 2,310 sq. ft. with 3 bedrooms and 3 baths. 1st floor master suite, library with cathedral ceiling and bay window, living room has fireplace and wet bar. Oversize kitchen and breakfast room. Finished walk out with walls of windows, family room and plenty of storage. PIN211104664
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Bloomfield HillsListed & leased by Chris & Kelly Beautifully updated family home on professionally landscaped lot. Freshly painted and new hardwood floors throughout. Granite kitchen counters, high-end upgraded bathrooms. Partially finished basement with new 1/2 bath. Bloomfield Hills schools. Swim, tennis & clubhouse privileges.
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Beautiful & tranquil 23 acre lakefront parcel, conveniently located at the corner of I-69 and M-24, 45 min. from Bloomfield Hills. Opportunity to build your dream home or single family development on a spectacular 50 acre all sports deep lake (30-50 feet per owner) surrounded by rolling forest-covered land with only a few homes nearby. Property can be purchased in its entirety or can be subdivided.
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Gorgeous, 5100SF custom-built country estate on 11.9 acres w/private pond. Perfectly designed for large friend and family gatherings. Open island kitchen, sunroom with 360’ forested views, multiple fireplaces, wraparound porch, 2 bedroom suites with bonus sitting area plus huge finished workshop & antique-themed storage building. Zoned for horses.
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wooded ravine setting along private cul-de-sac in area of multimillion dollar homes. Survey available. Bloomfield Village $698,000 Estate Area of Bloomfield Village. Site is 0.83 acres with 150' frontage. Just minutes from downtown Birmingham and surrounded by multi-million dollar properties Birmingham Lakefront $995,000 Last remaining buildable site directly on Quarton Lake. Walk-out site may accommodate up to a 9,000 sq. ft. residence on three levels. Bloomfield Hills $3,250,000 to $6,800,000 Spectacular sites on the East shore of Turtle Lake from 1.6 acres to 4 acres, in the premier gated community of Turtle Lake.
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Beautiful colonial on nearly 2 acres in Chelmsleigh, one of Bloomfield’s most desirable neighborhoods. Majestic hilltop setting. Spacious entertaining areas. Family Room with fieldstone fireplace and 12' pine ceiling. 5 bedrooms. First floor Master with Sitting Room. Deck, Terrace and Pool.
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2002 built custom home overlooking Wing Lake. 5 Bedrooms, 5.2 Baths. Brazilian cherry & marble flooring. 1st & 2nd floor Master Suites. Professional Kitchen & Family Room combination. Outstanding Lower Level has Theatre, Rec & Fitness rooms, full Bath & 6th Bedroom option. Acre site, space for a pool. Also for lease $11,750/month.
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On a private landscaped hilltop overlooking Wing Lake, this historic property was restored & expanded in 2001 to extraordinary elegance & functionality. Over 6,000 sq. ft. with an additional 4,000 sq. ft. in a beautifully finished Lower Level. Outstanding Wine Cellar. 1st floor Master Suite with fieldstone fireplace and Sitting Room. 3 car garage.
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CITY/ TOWNSHIP Pappageorge recall effort goes nowhere
Old Woodward panel takes a break irmingham City Engineer Paul O'Meara recently put the Old Woodward Avenue Conceptual Design Ad Hoc Committee, tasked with coming up with plans for the reconstruction of South Old Woodward, on hiatus. The committee had been created in August by the Birmingham City Commission as a response to differing opinions as to how to proceed with the redesign and reconstruction of S. Old Woodward between Willits and Brown roads. The committee consisted of three city commissioners, two resident representatives, and representatives of various city boards and committees. O'Meara said he asked to have the committee in October take a hiatus â&#x20AC;&#x153;because of uncertainties at the federal level regarding road funding.â&#x20AC;? O'Meara initially began looking for funding for S. Old Woodward over a year ago, applying for federal funds which would create a boulevard along S. Old Woodward between Willits and Brown, which would match the boulevard created on N. Old Woodward from Oak Street and Willits. The city did not get the funding for the project in 2010, and O'Meara announced to the commission that he was pursuing funding again, but commissioners said they wanted various options explored as funding was sought. O'Meara said the ad hoc committee met once, in late September. â&#x20AC;&#x153;We did have discussions about the limitations of the road and it was very productive, but did not get into any detailed discussions and decisions,â&#x20AC;? he said. He said he has agreed to give the city commission an update on federal road funding in six months, and sooner if there is any change before then.
By Lisa Brody
A petition drive to recall state Sen. John Pappageorge (R-Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township) has died because the petitioner, Neil Yashinsky of Troy, failed to obtain signatures as required by state law. A petition to recall Pappageorge was approved by an Oakland County clarity hearing on Thursday, July 14. In order to hold a special recall election, petitioners were required to acquire 27,001 signatures within 90 days of filing the petition. The 90 days expired on Thursday, October 13. Yashinsky, when reached by phone on October 13, said, â&#x20AC;&#x153;I have not actively pursued the petitions. We're not going to get the signatures.â&#x20AC;? Yashinsky, a Troy resident, has worked in the past as a Democratic precinct chair for several elections, said in August he was motivated to begin the recall campaign because of Pappageorge's vote in favor of taxing
seniors' pensions and tax cuts to businesses in the state. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I was very upset about taxing pensions and tax cuts to businesses, and I still believe it's unconstitutional. Given the constraints that we're facing, the recall seemed (at the time) like the best channel to seek a redress of my grievances,â&#x20AC;? he said. At the time the recall petition language was approved, Pappageorge was the 17th member of the state Republican caucus to have a recall petition pulled because of their support of House Bill (HB) 4361 in May, which replaced Michigan's Business Tax with a set tax, raised the income tax, and changed other tax credits. Petitioners claim that it will be an increase of Michiganders' taxes. Justin Winslow, former chief-of-staff for Pappageorge, said in August about the recall, â&#x20AC;&#x153;The senator respects any citizen's right to disagree or recall him but it is not a distraction. The way he voted on tax reform is not different from the way he has acted his entire political career, and the way he was voted in to do this job.â&#x20AC;?
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Redistricting lawsuit set to be argued By Lisa Brody
A lawsuit filed with the Michigan Court of Appeals against the Oakland County Apportionment Commission challenging the commission's proposed plan for redrawing Oakland County's 25 commissioner districts has been accepted for oral arguments in November. Mike Bishop, attorney for the plaintiffs, said oral arguments are scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, November 2 at 10 a.m in Detroit in front of a three-judge panel. The Michigan Court of Appeal judges are Judge Deborah Servitto, Judge Mark Cavanaugh, and Judge Cynthia Diane Stevens. Traditionally, court of appeals rulings have not been given orally from the bench but are usually issued in writing at a future date. “Historically, these kinds of cases are difficult to legislate,” acknowledged Bishop. “You never know how the court will rule.” The plaintiffs, Oakland County Commissioner Dave Potts, Troy resident Janice Daniels and Southfield resident Mary Kathryn Decuir, contend the Democratic members of the committee, which held the majority in the apportionment commission, “Intentionally and systematically designed and approved a district map aimed at effecting partisan political advantage.” The lawsuit was written by Bishop, formerly state senate majority leader, now with Clark Hill of Birmingham. “I have been around the process for many years, and had the ability to work on the process in 2000, and this map may be the most blatantly gerrymandering maps I've ever seen,” Bishop said. “It's a blatant attempt to flip power in Oakland County.” Oakland County has been a Republican stronghold for many years. Due to President Obama's coattail effect in 2008, Democrats won the majority for 2010's redistricting, completed in May. The commission was comprised of Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, Oakland County Democratic chairman Frank Houston, all Democrats, and Republican county clerk Bill Bullard and Oakland County Republican chairman Jim Thienel. The Democrats prevailed, by a vote
of 3-2, on Cooper's second amended proposed map. In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs assert that Oakland County Democratic operatives were permitted to influence and ultimately play a prominent role in the map's adoption. They also have issue with the way two current commissioners, Dave Potts and Shelly Taub, had their district combined, which would ultimately pit them against one another.
Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse coming Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, a small, personalized chain of steakhouses out of Cleveland, Ohio, will be moving into the former Forte' location in downtown Birmingham in late spring 2012, the owners of the steakhouse confirmed. "We've been looking at Birmingham for 18 years. We've been looking for the right opportunity," said owner Joe Saccone of the Hyde Park Restaurant Group. "It's a great site. We're ecstatic. It's really us, and it fits our whole philosophy." Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse offers many of the same dishes as other local and chain steakhouses, from filet, bonein ribeye, porterhouse, and lamb chops, but Saccone said they have an emphasis on local favorites tailored to the restaurant's location, as well as lots of fresh fish which changes daily. "We have a black board featuring what we've gotten in as well as local favorites. We're good at fish, and we bring it in seasonally. We do it with a creative spin. We really step out of the traditional steakhouse zone to add local and seasonal creativity," Saccone said. Hyde Park currently has 12 locations, with three in Cleveland, four in Columbus, one each in Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Daytona Beach and Sarasota. Saccone said they had thought they were entering the local market a couple of years ago, with a signed lease in the now-defunct Bloomfield Park on Telegraph in Bloomfield Township. He said they are a small boutique company that is chef-driven in each location. "We try to give guests the experience of what's out there that they may not try at home," he said. A restaurant leasing representative for Ted Fuller, the owner and landlord for the building, said the liquor license transfer was completed, and the lease signing was expected to take place soon.
Commercials focus spotlight on area By Lisa Brody
f all the world's a stage, Birmingham and Bloomfield appears to be front and center, with several commercials and films choosing this area for their productions. The current film “Ides of March”, produced, directed and starring George Clooney, filmed a scene at Bloomfield Hill's Christ Church Cranbrook last March. A location scout came to Bloomfield Hills City Hall, filled out an application to film there, “and other than our asking if they needed any roads closed around there for the day, that was it,” said Bloomfield Hills City Manager Jay Cravens. Cravens said there is a special events permit for filming in the city which typically runs $150 for the application. The permit is available on the city's website, where it can be filled out. Often, he said, costs can run higher if the production company has to pay for police overtime or other expenses. “If they are requiring a street to be closed, of if there are going to be car chases, or something like that, then the application gives us the ability to require financial coverage to make us whole,” he said. Another extenuating circumstance for a production company, whether for a film or a commercial, can be when they want to use a private road in the city. “Residents have to all give them permission to film there,” Cravens said. Besides “Ides of March”, Cravens said two Chrysler commercials, one for the Chrysler 300 and another for the Chrysler 200, were filmed in the city. The 200 shoot just filmed Woodward Avenue action shots. The 300, which has been receiving active airing, features shots outside Brookside School Cranbrook and the gates to the Cranbrook Art Academy interspersed with various Detroit-area locations, including Birmingham locales. The last shot, featuring an elegant home, is the Frank Lloyd Wright home owned by Lawrence Institute of Technology on Woodward Avenue near Pinegate, just south of Hickory Grove Road, said Cravens. Birmingham has given out eight permits so far this year for commercials, including those two Chrysler commercials and two others for Chrysler; a Dodge commercial; a Buick commercial shot on Pierce Street; one filmed for Beaumont Hospital; and one for First Community Federal Credit Union. An independent film used the Birmingham Police Department's jail for a shoot. The HBO TV show “Hung” shot several scenes throughout Birmingham in May and June, including at Birmingham's Village Fair and at Booth Park. “We allowed an independent film into our lockup to film there,” said Birmingham Police Chief Don Studt. “They used our jail for a scene.” Birmingham planner Matt Baka said applicants must fill out the specific locations they intend to use and the date they would like to film in order to get approved. The permit is then circulated to all municipal departments, where department heads must sign off in order to receive approval. He said there have been instances where productions have not been approved. “There have also been instances where productions have gone away because they did not want to meet our demands, like we're not going to shut down all of Woodward,” Baka said. Application fees vary, he said, depending on if the location is on public or private space, running between $50 and $225 a day. He noted film crews are never the ones applying, but rather location scouts who are familiar with the allure of Birmingham. “There's usually a few location scouts who know Birmingham pretty well, and they're the ones who have been hired by the production companies,” Baka said. All eight of the commercials were filmed between May and September, he said.
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EDUCATION New proposal presented to BHS A plan to consolidate Andover and Lahser high schools into one high school for Bloomfield Hills Schools was presented to the public on Wednesday, October 19 by educational consultants Fielding Nair International, hired by the district last winter to first determine what the community wanted for the high schools in the district, and then develop plans for implementation. The presentation by Fielding Nair was for one high school capable of accommodating 1,650 students or more at either just the Andover campus, or the Andover campus and another school as well. The decision for one consolidated high school was made by the school board in spring 2010, and corroborated by Fielding Nair in March 2011 after four months of intensive study of the district. At
that time, they recommended two options for solving the high school conundrum, both based on one combined high school on the Andover High School campus. One solution was a phased-in hybrid of remodeling and new construction on the Andover site; the other for a completely new building at Andover. Due to costs and economic constraints, the district directed Fielding Nair to come up with a workable plan for the hybrid option, which is what they presented on October 19. Bloomfield Hills Superintendent Rob Glass said “the plan is for a unified high school that would feature about 64 percent new construction and 36 percent renovation. It will be much less expensive than our proposal last November (a failed millage proposal) for a new building for $97 million; our base price for this model is $65 million.” Included in the base price would be some new academic classrooms,
a new auditorium, a new pool, and a new “heart” of the school, including a new media center and cafeteria. Other upgrades, such as improving the remaining classrooms and renovating the athletic fields and replacing a field house and locker rooms, would cost extra. “It's like buying a car, with the base price and then the add-ons are a la carte,” Glass said. “It will all be based on what the community wants.” Glass said the new presentation utilizes a parking and traffic plan presented and approved by both the school board and Bloomfield Township last year. Feedback at the meeting, which was attended by approximately 50 people, was positive. “Overall, there was excitement and the feeling that Fielding Nair captured our community,” Glass said. “It's a very practical, very defined, very tasteful plan. It gets us on one campus at a reasonable cost.”
As to a phrase heard throughout the district, “one school on two campus,” Glass said that it refers to possibilities the district may choose to utilize based on academic and athletic choices. “We're still envisioning what that can be. We might put three grades in one place, and put the 9th grade in another, like Lone Pine, and create a 9th grade academy. It would reduce transportation costs, allow for special programming and prepare them for higher grades. It would also create some savings. Or we might put the IB program at a different location. We could really hone in on specialties. “The idea is when we get to a vote, our preference is to get to one campus, but if you do not approve that, here is Plan B. We will put them on two campuses. It's so people will know what they're voting for, because we have to cut costs.” A millage vote is anticipated for November 2012. The amount is yet to be determined.
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Jennifer McMahan ecause Jennifer McMahan was once the victim of bullying, the all-American beauty is now using her platform as Mrs. Michigan International 2011 to advocate for others affected by bullying. “I got picked on for the fuzzy hair, my braces and I have two little moles on my face,” McMahan said. “Kids will pick on you for any little aspect that’s not normal or typical. I was actually bullied pretty much throughout high school.” McMahan eventually blossomed into a self-assured, undaunted woman who is now waging a fight against bullying through Champions Against Bullying (CAB), a Canadian-based charity. “It was something that was so near and dear to me,” she said. “CAB has been doing some amazing things. I chose them as my platform because I like what they’re all about. They have workshops that teach parents, as well as children, how to handle a bullying scenario.” As the mother of two, McMahan was again faced with the cruelties of bullying. “My daughter was being bullied last year,” she said. “You feel helpless. You don’t know exactly what to do when your child is being bullied. They’re not supposed to be afraid to go to school.” Through CAB, McMahan and her daughter gained tools to manage the situation.“I was so grateful that I knew what to do and who to call.” A model and actress by trade, McMahan had never competed in a pageant before entering into the Mrs. Michigan pageant, but she always had a hankering for entertainment. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to be in movies and model,” she said. Recently, McMahan was featured in a Chevy print ad and has appeared in commercials for World of Floors and Lazy Boy. “I’m also a featured extra in the (recently released) movie Real Steel with Hugh Jackman.” While she is thrilled to be fulfilling her professional vision, McMahan’s role as a mother and wife is what is paramount to her. Until recently a Birmingham resident, McMahan loved walking downtown with her daughter from their home on Ruffner Avenue to shop at her favorite store Anthropologie. She and her husband have moved to nearby Royal Oak, but she visits Birmingham often, recently making an appearance at South Bar for CAB. McMahan will be vying for the title of Mrs. Michigan United States in March 2012 and her hope is to have the opportunity to start a Michigan chapter for CAB. “I want kids to know that they don’t have to put up with bullying. I want them to know that they have somewhere to turn before they get to a point where they feel like they have nowhere to go except to hurt themselves.”
Story: Katey Meisner
Photo: Laurie Tennent
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PLACES TO EAT The Places To Eat for Downtown is a quick reference source to establishments offering a place for dining, either breakfast, lunch or dinner. The complete Places To Eat is available at downtownpublications.com and in an optimized format for your smart phone (downtownpublications.com/mobile), where you can actually map out locations and automatically dial a restaurant from our Places To Eat.
220: American. Lunch & Dinner, MondaySaturday. Reservations. Liquor. 220 Merrill Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.645.2150. Andiamo: Italian. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 6676 Telegraph Road, Bloomfield Township, 48301. 248.865.9300. Bangkok Thai Bistro: Thai. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 42805 Woodward Ave., Bloomfield township, 48304. 248.499.6867. Barrio Tacos & Tequila: Mexican. Lunch, Monday-Friday; Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 203 Hamilton Row, Birmingham, 48009. 248.593.6060. Beau Jacks: American. Lunch, MondaySaturday; Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 4108 W. Maple, Bloomfield Hills, 48301. 248.626.2630. Bella Piatti: Italian. Dinner, Tuesday-Saturday. Reservations. Liquor. 167 Townsend, Birmingham, 48009. 248.494.7110. Beyond Juice: Contemporary. Breakfast & Lunch daily; Dinner, Monday-Saturday. No reservations. 270 West Maple Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.594.7078. Big Boy: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 6675 Telegraph Road, Bloomfield Hills, 48301. 248.642.0717. Big Rock Chophouse: American. Lunch & Dinner, Monday-Saturday. Reservations. Liquor. 245 South Eaton Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.647.7774. Birmingham Sushi Cafe: Japanese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. 377 Hamilton Row, Birmingham, 48009. 248.593.8880. Bloomfield Deli: Deli. Breakfast & Lunch, Monday-Friday. No reservations. 71 W. Long Lake Road, Bloomfield Hills, 48304. 248.645.6879. Brooklyn Pizza: Pizza. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 111 Henrietta Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.258.6690. Cafe Via: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 310 East Maple Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.644.8800 Cameron’s Steakhouse: American. Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 115 Willits Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.723.1700. Chen Chow Brasserie: Japanese. Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 260 North Old Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.594.2469. Cityscape Deli: Deli. Lunch & Dinner, Monday-Saturday. No reservations. Beer. 877 W. Long Lake Road, Bloomfield Hills, 48302. 248.540.7220. Commonwealth: American. Breakfast & Lunch, daily. No reservations. 300 Hamilton Row, Birmingham, 48009. 248.792.9766. Cosi: American. Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Beer & wine. 101 N.
Old Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.203.9200. Crust Pizza and Wine Bar: Pizza. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 6622 Telegraph, Bloomfield, 48301. 248.855.5855. Deli Unique of Bloomfield Hills: Deli. Breakfast & Lunch, daily. No reservations. 39495 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, 48304. 248.646.7923. Dick O’Dow’s: Irish. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 160 West Maple Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.642.1135. Einstein Bros. Bagels: Deli. Breakfast & Lunch, daily. No reservations. 176 South Old Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.594.9888. Also 4089 West Maple Road, Bloomfield Hills, 48301. 248.258.9939. Elie’s Mediterranean Cuisine: Mediterranean. Lunch & Dinner, MondaySaturday. No reservations. Liquor. 263 Pierce Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.647.2420. Embers Deli & Restaurant: Deli. Breakfast & Lunch, daily. No reservations. 3598 West Maple Road, Bloomfield Hills, 48301. 248.645.1033. Flemings Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar: American. Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 323 N. Old Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.723.0134. Forest Grill: American. Lunch, Monday-
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FOCUS ON WINE Cabernet Sauvignon – holiday trophy bottles to bargains By Eleanor and Ray Heald
abernet sauvignon is touted as the king of red wines. It can stand alone as 100 percent varietal or more often blended with its Bordeaux varietal origin cousins, merlot, cabernet franc and less frequently petit verdot and malbec. Each varietal brings something to the party. Cabernet sauvignon is the main source of fruit and berry aromas. Cabernet franc lends earthiness, tea-like aromas and forest floor with spice. In addition to silkiness and suppleness, merlot offers a layer of perfume and floral notes. Malbec brings clove spice and some earth. Petit verdot is more of a structural component and can add some violet scents. Such blends are among the most heralded produced in California. Dry and full flavored upper tier (most expensive) cabernet sauvignons are crafted to be long lived under proper storage conditions. Aging potential is often cited as 10 to 20 years, but unless cellared at optimum conditions, it’s more like five to nine years. Lower-priced bargain buys can be appealing, but are not intended for long aging. They are drink-me-now wines.
shop’s display of California cabernets can be overwhelming. We’re suggesting cabernet sauvignons from a clash of the titans and trophy bottles to bargain buys, plus one 90 percent cabernet franc from Napa Valley’s Oakville Ranch (because it’s so good!). We’ve tasted each of our recommendations and list them by price along with two other red wine varietals, pinot noir and syrah – also perfect complements to a holiday table. Most cabernets are too “big” to complement turkey, so that’s where
the pinot noir suggestions are best. Ponzi 2009 Willamette Valley $35 cited below is that perfect lighter style. If you have venison from a successful hunting trip, consider syrah.
Perfect partners Cabernet sauvignon and beef are perfect partners. Lamb also begs for full-bodied red wines. When nicely marbled, such meats take to lots of tannin to cut through fat and richness. A more rounded, less robust cabernet makes a perfect pairing with less fatty filet mignon. Cabernets usually have balanced acidity which refreshes the palate between bites of hearty meats. Since holiday dinners often include beef or rich meats, cabernet sauvignon is a good choice. It’s also a welcome holiday gift. Unless you have producer preferences, a wine
Cabernet sauvignon 2008 Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Lot 1 $120, extraordinary 2008 Beringer Napa Valley Private Reserve $115, 22 months in new French oak; long-term aging potential 2007 Oakville Ranch Napa Valley Robert’s Blend $92, 90 percent cabernet franc 2008 Rodney Strong Alexander’s Crown $75, released as lot 1 for the first time in over 30 years 2008 Shafer One Point Five Napa Valley $70 2008 Joseph Phelps Napa Valley $56 2007 Jordan $52 2006 Chester Kidder Columbia Valley WA $50 2007 Benziger Signaterra Three Blocks Sonoma Valley Bordeaux Blend $49 2007 J. Lohr Carol’s Vineyard $40 2008 Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz $36
Friday; Dinner, Monday-Saturday. Reservations. Liquor. 735 Forest Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.258.9400. Fox Grill: American. Lunch, Monday through Friday; Dinner, daily. Sunday brunch. Reservations. Liquor. 39556 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48304. 248.792.6109.
Fuddrucker’s: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No Reservations. Beer & wine. 42757 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Township, 48302. 248.333.2400. Greek Island Coney Restaurant: Greek. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 221 Hamilton Row, Birmingham, 48009. 248.646.1222.
2008 Penfolds Bin 407 $33 2008 Roth $28 2008 Franciscan Napa Valley $27 2009 Rodney Strong Alexander Valley $25, great value 2008 Louis M. Martini Napa Valley $25 2009 Mandolin Central Coast $12 What's up with syrah? Not that long ago, syrah’s future was spotlighted with words and phrases such as positive sales forecast, recession-proof red, beating merlot to the punch, upwardly mobile, most food-friendly wine after pinot noir, garnering more space on retail shelves and appealing to adventuresome palates. In retrospect, this seems like hype. However, in our most recent tasting, we discovered a few syrahs that are not hype because they are balanced with moderated tannins and generous fruit without being overly extracted, a factor that turned many consumers away from this varietal. 2007 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Syrah $34 2008 Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz $26 2007 Zaca Mesa $25 2009 Mandolin Central Coast $10 exceptional value at this price Pinot noir Over the last few years, pinot noir is the varietal that has taken the wine-drinking world by storm. 2009 Sea Smoke Ten Pinot Noir $80 2009 Dutton Goldfield Freestone Hill Vineyard $58 2009 Dutton Goldfield Devil’s Gulch Vineyard $58 2009 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir $52 2009 Morgan Double L Vineyard $50 2009 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast $42 2009 DeLoach Skyview $40 2009 DeLoach Stubbs Vineyard $40 2009 Ponzi Willamette Valley $35 lighter style 2009 J.Lohr Fog’s Reach $35 2009 DeLoach Marin County $30 Eleanor & Ray Heald are contributing editors for the internationally respected Quarterly Review of Wines among other publications. Contact them by e-mail at email@example.com.
Hogan’s Restaurant: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 6450 Telegraph Road, Bloomfield Hills, 48301. 248.626.1800. Honey Tree Grille: Greek/American. Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, daily. No reservations. 3633 W. Maple Rd, Bloomfield, MI 48301. 248.203.9111.
House of India: Indian. Tuesday-Sunday; Lunch & Dinner. Reservations. 1615 Opdyke Road, Bloomfield Hills, 48304. 248.451.0201. Hunter House Hamburgers: American. Breakfast, Monday-Saturday; Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 35075 Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.646.7121. IHOP: American. Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 2187 S. Telegraph Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48301. 248.333.7522. Kerby’s Koney Island: American. Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 2160 N. Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, 48304. 248.333.1166. La Feast: Mediterranean. Lunch & Dinner, daily. 297 East Maple, Birmingham, 48009. 248.731.7768. Leo’s Coney Island: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 154 S. Old Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.593.9707. Also 6527 Telegraph Road, Bloomfield Hills, 48301. 248.646.8568. Little Daddy’s Parthenon: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 39500 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, 48301. 248.647.3400. Luxe Bar & Grill: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily; Late Night, 9 p.m.-closing. No reservations. Liquor. 525 N. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham, 48009. 248.792.6051. Max & Erma’s: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 250 Merrill Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.258.1188. Mitchell’s Fish Market: Seafood. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 117 Willits Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.646.3663. Mountain King: Chinese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 469 South Old Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.644.2913. New Bangkok Thai Bistro: Thai. Breakfast, Monday-Thursday; Lunch, Monday-Friday; Dinner, daily. No reservations. 183 North Old Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.644.2181. Northern Lakes Seafood Co.: Seafood. Lunch, Monday-Friday; Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 39495 North Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, 48304. 248.646.7900. Olga’s Kitchen: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 138 S. Old Woodward, Birmingham, 48009. 248.647.2760. Also 2075 S. Telegraph Road, Bloomfield Hills, 48302. 248.451.0500. Original Pancake House: American. Breakfast, Lunch, & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 33703 South Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.642.5775. Panera Bread: Deli. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 100 North Old Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.203.7966. Also 2125 S. Telegraph Road, Bloomfield Hills, 48302. 248.253.9877. Peabody’s: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 34965 Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.644.5222. Phoenicia: Middle Eastern. Lunch, MondayFriday; Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 588 South Old Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.644.3122. Pita Cafe: Middle Eastern. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 239 North Old Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.645.6999.
Qdoba: Mexican. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 795 East Maple Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.988.8941. Quiznos: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 185 N Old Woodward, Birmingham, 48009. 248.540.7827. Salvatore Scallopini: Italian. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Beer & Wine. 505 North Old Woodward Avenue, Birmingham, 48009. 248.644.8977. South: Mexican. Lunch, Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 210 S. Old Woodward, Birmingham, 48009. 248.593.8133. Stacked Deli: Deli. Lunch & Dinner, MondaySaturday. Delivery available. No reservations. 233 North Old Woodward, Birmingham, 48009. 248.593.5300. Steve’s Deli: Deli. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 6646 Telegraph Road, Bloomfield, 48301. 248.932.0800. Streetside Seafood: Seafood. Lunch, Monday-Friday; Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 273 Pierce Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.645.9123. Sushi Hana: Japanese. Lunch, MondayFriday; Dinner, Monday-Saturday. Reservations. 42656 Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, 48304. 248.333.3887. Sy Thai Cafe: Thai. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 315 Hamilton Row, Birmingham, 48009. 248.258.9830. Tallulah Wine Bar and Bistro: American. Dinner. Monday-Saturday. Sunday brunch. Reservations. Liquor. 55 S. Bates Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.731.7066. The Corner Bar: American. Dinner. Wednesday-Saturday. Reservations. Liquor. 100 Townsend Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.647.2958. The Gallery Restaurant: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. 6683 Telegraph Road, Bloomfield Hills, 48301. 248.851.0313. The Moose Preserve Bar & Grill: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 2395 S. Woodward Avenue, Bloomfield Hills, 48302. 248.858.7688. The Rugby Grille: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 100 Townsend Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.642.5999. Toast: American. Breakfast & Lunch, daily; Dinner, Monday-Saturday. Reservations. Liquor. 203 Pierce Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.258.6278. Tokyo Sushi & Grill: Japanese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 225 E. Maple Rd., Birmingham, 48009. 248.258.6501. Townhouse: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 180 Pierce Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.792.5241. Village Coney Island: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 653 S. Adams. Birmingham, 48009. 248.593.7964 Whistle Stop Cafe: American. Breakfast & Lunch, daily; Dinner, Monday-Friday. No reservations. 501 S. Eton Street, Birmingham, 48009. 248.647.5588 Zazios: Italian. Lunch, Monday-Friday; Dinner daily. Reservations. Liquor. 34977 Woodward Ave, Birmingham, 48009. Phone: 248.530.6400 Zumba Mexican Grille: Mexican. Lunch & Dinner, Monday-Saturday. No Reservations. 163 W. Maple Rd., Birmingham, 48009. 248.792.2775.
AT THE TABLE Ciao, Bella Piatti By Eleanor Heald
chef Marc St. Jacques, formerly at Detroit’s Saltwater and now at Auberge du Pommier in Toronto. Campbell considers both chefs his mentors. Working in tandem with Campbell is 33-year-old Bloomfield Hills native and Certified Sommelier Antoine Przekop, late of Saltwater and Bourbon Steak in Detroit. Because he, like Campbell, is also at Tallulah, Prezekop carries the title Director of Liquid Operations. He created the impressive 100 percent Italian varietal wine list. Sparklers, rosés, whites and reds range $9 to $15 by the glass and $33 to $60-plus by the bottle.
he owns the “farm to table” concept Tallulah Wine Bar & Bistro (155 South Bates Street, Birmingham), yet proprietor Mindy VanHellemont admits, “Italian is my favorite food.” Not abandoning the concept she adds, “Northern Italy is the birthplace of true farm to table menus.” In this spirit, Bella Piatti, VanHellemont’s newest Birmingham restaurant, opened October 6 with numerous northern Italian inspired dishes, prepared under the direc- Mangia tion of Corporate Executive Chef Daniel Campbell. Essential to the preparation of many Bella Piatti main Although opened under the Birmingham bistro license plates ($24 to $42) is a wood grill and rotisserie. Porchetta rules, Bella Piatti is not a bistro! It’s a purposeful merge of is the first iconic item Campbell mentions. Although popan Italian trattoria, osteria and taverna. “However,” says ular throughout Italy and often considered street food, chef Campbell, “it’s not a travelogue Italian restaurant. It porchetta originated in central Italy. In its simplest form, has a philosophical conit’s a boneless pork roast – cept incorporating small an Italian culinary tradiplates where our guests tion roasted over wood. can order lots of different Additionally, the menu things – as little or as much includes three fresh fish as they choose.” preps daily, a grass-fed The farm to table constrip steak, domestic Kobe cept is alive and well. Most and a 1-kilogram portion of products are domestic. bistecca, or Italian porter“Because of them in generhouse. Since 1 kilo is 2.2 al, cooking in America,” pounds, this is a steak for Campbell adds, “is better sharing. Chef Campbell than it has ever been.” indicates that he will serve Even mushrooms like it sliced to share. porcini? “The U.S. has the Consider the sliced best mushrooms in the option since the talented world,” he maintains. and well-known pastry “Another difference at chef Tanya Fallon prepares Bella Piatti is avoiding the desserts you’ll want to try use of Italian menu words - anything chocolate that and terms, except where she makes or a seasonal no other wording fits a con- Bella Piatti’s Daniel Campbell, Mindy VanHellemont, Antoine Przekop. fruit presentation are espeDowntown photo: Laurie Tennent cept, such as porchetta.” cially delicious.
Atmosphere Opposite the Townsend Hotel, Bella Piatti occupies the space of a former art gallery. It seats 65 indoors and 26 outdoors. A U-shaped bar in the rear seats 10. Natural stone accents add a rustic element to the butter-cream colored walls displaying large-format art from several Birmingham galleries, including David Klein, Hill and Robert Kidd. Oversize white linen napkins with red trim brighten tabletops. For main courses, service plates are oval. Rosewood dishes are used for antipasti, presented from a chef-attended antipasti station. These items run $6 to $12 and include a selection of cured and sliced salumi, cheeses and beet salad among other offerings. In charge Thirty-seven year old Detroit native chef Campbell earned hard knocks culinary certification, beginning as a dishwasher at age 20 and working his way to elevated kitchen positions with chef Takashi Yagihashi (formerly executive chef at Tribute and now chef-proprietor of Takashi in Chicago) and the towering six foot five inch
He’s not Italian, yet Master Chef Jacques Pepin is quoted as commenting, “Food, for me, is inseparable from sharing. There is no great meal unless it is shared with family or friends.” Bella Piatti – beautiful plates to share. Bella Piatti, 167 Townsend, Birmingham 248.494.7110. Reservations recommended. Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 5:3010 p.m. Friday and Saturday 5:30-11 p.m. Parking: street or structure at Pierce and Merrill streets.
QUICK BITES GAME DINNER Monday, November 21 7 p.m. sharp: Forest Grill (735 Forest, Birmingham) 248.258.9400, five courses $75 per person. An optional wine package is available for $30. At no additional cost, a special chef’s table limited seating is available at time of reservation. It’s a treat to have the chef explain courses at “his” table. Eleanor Heald is a nationally published writer who also writes the wine column in a double byline with her husband Ray for Downtown. Suggestions for Quick Bites section can be e-mailed to QuickBites@downtownpublications.com.
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BUSINESS MATTERS Renaissance Day Spa Renaissance Day Spa has moved from its 3617 West Maple Road location, at Maple and Lahser roads, to a new spot at 6405 Telegraph Road in Bloomfield Hills. The day spa, now at Maple and Telegraph roads, will occupy a more secluded space. After 12 years, the changing climate at the previous location had the spa situated between two eateries and owner Natalya Ostapenko said the West Maple space was no longer conducive to a serene, spa-like environment. “We are very exclusive and we have very loyal and established clients and the clients deserve the privacy.” With the move, Renaissance has added new services for clientele. “We have added spray tans, detoxification, new mud wraps and mild peels for facials.” The space will also provide patrons more solitude during treatments. “We put in separate rooms for different treatments. It’s a completely different layout.” Renaissance will continue to offer full body treatments, 12 different types of facials and full nail service. “All our girls and clients are excited about the new place,” Natalya said.
Astrein's anniversary Astrein’s Creative Jewelers has kept Birmingham sparkling for 35 years. The business began in the 500 square foot space above its current location at 120 West Maple Road. “In the ‘70s, there were a lot of young entrepreneurs starting businesses,” said Gary Astrein, co-owner and longtime Birmingham resident. The family business, once called What’s Upstairs, specialized in silver, turquoise, pottery, arts and craft items. “The business was doing very well and gold jewelry started becoming popular.” The Astreins decided to expand to the 2,500 square foot space in the lower portion of the building. They began selling fine jewelry and changed their name to Astrein’s Creative Jewelers. “It snowballed from there and here we are 35 years later.” Astrein, who owns the store with his brother Richard Astrein, said the shop has been more than simply a business opportunity. “You not only sell jewelry, but you downtownpublications.com
learn about people’s lives,” he said. “It’s pretty enriching.” Astrein said their longevity in Birmingham can be attributed, in part, to the owners' presence in the store. “Be on the floor. Know your customers and give them respect.”
Art Road fundraiser Laurie Tennent Studio is hosting a fundraiser for Art Road, an organization dedicated to bringing art back into inner city schools, in Birmingham's Rail District on Thursday, October 27 from 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. The event will take place at Tennent’s studio at 929 South Eton Street in Birmingham. The show will feature the art of students from Edison Elementary in Detroit and artists who have mentored students through Art Road. “Art Road is people and corporations in action,” Laurie Tennent said. “We’re not waiting around for the government to put art classes back in school.” Mitchell’s Fish Market in Birmingham will be providing refreshments. Visit artroadsnonprofit.org to purchase tickets for the event.
Palladium 12 celebrates The Palladium 12 movie theater has been bringing the magic of Hollywood to Birmingham for a decade. The theater, located at 250 North Old Woodward Avenue, will celebrate its 10-year anniversary with a Family Fun Spectacular on Saturday, November 12 beginning at 10:30 am. The first 250 people at the event will receive free admission as well as a free pop, popcorn, a hot dog and a dessert. Mascots from Detroit’s professional sports will attend the event, as well. “We’ll have Paws (Tigers), Roary (Lions) and Hooper (Pistons), along with a guest appearance by Detroit Tiger legend Willie Horton,” said Laura BayoffElkins, director of marketing for the Palladium. According to Bayoff-Elkins, the theater brings nearly one million people to the area each year. “It’s a movie complex that is unlike most movie complexes,” Bayoff-Elkins said. “We do first-run Hollywood films, we have gourmet concessions and we’re always doing private screenings for filmmakers.” Throughout the past 10 years, Bayoff-Elkins said, the Palladium has managed to maintain tradition while keeping up with new technology. “We’re very communityminded,” she said.
J. McLaughlin opens Birmingham's retail ambiance keeps heating up. J. McLaughlin, a boutique known for its high-quality, classic American clothing, just opened a 1,000 square foot space at 268 West Maple Road in Birmingham. “For years, customers from the Birmingham area have been begging us to open up a shop in their town and we are thrilled to now be a part of the eclectic mixture of interesting restaurants, small retailers and large national chains that this downtown offers,” said Jay McLaughlin, chief merchandising officer. The shop, joining J. McLaughlin’s 52 locations nationwide, offers clothing and accessories for both men and women. “The store will be chock-full of urbaninspired pieces that will meld nicely with the active lifestyle of the Birmingham shopper,” said Kevin McLaughlin, chief creative director. The interior of the store combines modern elements such as whitewashed cerused oak fixtures and shelving with traditional highlights including decorative hand painted lattice work on the walls. “We decided to paint the interior of the store in a peachy color to balance out the more modern cerused oak accents,” said Jay McLaughlin.
Law firm expands Witzke Berry & Carter PLLC, a law firm specializing in estate and business planning, has moved its offices to a larger space at 2550 South Telegraph Road, south of Square Lake Road, in Bloomfield Hills from 3883 Telegraph Road, north of Long Lake Road. “We’ve doubled our space,” said owner Mike Witzke. “We added four new attorneys.” Witzke started the firm in 2004 and chose Bloomfield Hills for its central location, proximity to the Oakland County courthouse and its clientele. “We’re excited to be growing and have additional capacities to service our current clients and new clients.”
Businesses closing Two Birmingham retail businesses, Claire's and Beadz 'N Bagz, are closing their doors. Claire's at 175 West Maple Road in Birmingham is closing its doors by the
end of October. The fashion boutique is known for its jewelry, handbags, belts, sunglasses and other accessories. While it's emptying its Birmingham location, everything in the store is 50 percent off. The nearest Claire's is located in Troy at The Somerset Collection at 2800 West Big Beaver Road. Around the corner, Beadz 'N Bagz, a jewelry and accessory boutique, recently closed its location at 152 North Old Woodward Avenue after four years in Birmingham. "The Birmingham store was a challenge," said Tom Wiebell, owner. "The closing of our Birmingham store is just a downsizing as a result of a challenging retail environment." Wiebell, who owns Beadz 'N Bagz locations in Auburn Hills, Rochester and Clinton Township, is considering a different fourth location. "The other stores are thriving and we may open another store out-of-state," he said.
Sanders ready to open It's time for a hot fudge sundae! Sanders will be opening their new downtown store at 167 North Old Woodward, formerly the Schakolad location, in November. “We’re shooting to open by November 1,” said Brian Jefferson, chairman and CEO. “We’re closing our other location at the same time.” Previously, Sanders operated at 745 E. Maple Road in Birmingham, by the Kroger's at Maple and Woodward. “We love the new location and we wanted to have a more traditional, downtown feel. It’s close to the Palladium so movie goers can stop in.” The new Sanders location will be bringing back their classic egg salad, chicken and tuna salad sandwiches. “We will also have ice cream, of course, bulk chocolates and baked goods.” The new space is roughly 30 percent larger, according to Jefferson. “We’ll have some outdoor seating as well as seating inside and a counter. We’re very excited about the new location.”
Moving, opening Clear Rate Communications recently relocated to a larger space at 555 South Old Woodward Avenue in Birmingham from their previous location at 24700 Northwestern Highway in Southfield. Clear Rate Communications has been in business for 10 years. Idesign is slated to move into the space at 160 Elm Street in Birmingham by November 1. The 73
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Expanded offerings The downtown Birmingham beauty boutique Ecology has added Wink eyelash bar to their offerings of organic and natural skin care products and cosmetics. Marla Shapiro and Carra Stoller, co-owners and sistersin-law, opened the store just over a year ago and want to offer their patrons a healthy alternative to dangerous eyelash-enhancing solutions on the market today. “Other eyelash-enhancing solutions have potentially harmful side effects. Some products can be absorbed into your bloodstream. Our eyelashes are glued with medical adhesive, only to your eyelashes,” said Stroller. “We’ll do whatever we can to help people get healthy, stay healthy and celebrate life,” said Shapiro. Ecology’s 1,200square-foot boutique is located at 239 South Old Woodward Avenue in the heart of downtown Birmingham.
Hard to believe the holidays are around the corner, and the Rail District is hosting a Holiday Express Open House on Thursday, November 10 from 5 p.m-9 p.m. “It will give people the opportunity walk the Rail District and discover what great stores are there,” said Laurie Tennent, owner of Laurie Tennent Studio. “The area is getting so interesting and we have to get more people over here.” A tent, provided by Gerych’s, will be set up on Cole Street. “Robert Dempster’s band is going to play,” Tennent said. The event is sponsored by the following Birmingham businesses: Laurie Tennent Studio, Restyle Child, Dempster Designs, Miss Kates Maids, Gerych's, Colorworks Studio, Priss Salon, Moran’s Flora, Marlaina Stone Jewelry, Essentials of Eton Street, Arkitektura, Canine Academy, Festivities.
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Business Matters for the Birmingham Bloomfield area are reported by Katey Meisner. Send items for consideration to KathleenMeisner@downtownpublications.com. Items should be received three weeks prior to publication.
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THE COMMUNITY HOUSE am excited to join The Community House (TCH) as the president and CEO, working alongside Debbie Schrot, our Executive Director, to lead our dedicated TCH team. When I ask many of you what The Community House “does,” I get a great range of answers based on your particular experience with us. I am glad that no matter what, TCH stirs up “good feelings.” Interestingly, many people don’t realize we are a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit. Perhaps that is because we have fee based classes and programs. Or possibly because many people choose to have their weddings, showers, bat/bar mitzvahs or business conferences in our historic and charming venue. Perhaps you have sent your children to our Early Childhood Center, which by the way, is one of only nine licensed ECCs or Camille Jayne homes out of 410 in the surrounding areas to be NAEYC accredited. We are not part of the city, and thus, do not get any funding from tax assessments. Our fees do not cover our operating costs to provide outreach programs for those who cannot afford to pay for them throughout all SE Michigan, but rather are dependent on our fundraising efforts. Without the help from donors, we have no ability to reach out to other communities to meet the need. Our mission is to help strengthen all communities by providing educational, cultural and wellness programs – and scholarships for these programs. We are very fortunate that our 21st Century Leadership Program for 7th graders in Wayne and Oakland counties is sponsored by Trott & Trott, P.C. But for every 40 students whose lives this program changes each year, there are hundreds more who we would like to touch. We need your donations to help us do that. We want you to know TCH has identified some critical outreach programs we plan to implement starting in 2012 in SE Michigan. One is to join the effort to fight childhood and teen obesity as part of our wellness mission. Programs that are fun and measurable are key to success. We are excited that TCH has been awarded exclusive, threeyear rights as the only nonprofit offering the WalkStyles iCount™ Kids Count™ program in SE Michigan. The iCount program is based on converting any form of exercise or movement into step points, and uploading those into personal, family or class web pages, along with contests and nutritional food guidance. The iCount program is proven to work. Job Corps is taking the iCount program across the U.S. With the help of funding, we hope to collaborate with other nonprofits and partners to take the iCount program to many communities. In the first quarter 2012, TCH will offer the Success Pitstop™ business educational programs. Our goal is to educate, showcase and connect the area’s business professionals to each other. We will host a monthly business lecture series called “Bulletproof Your Success™.” We are excited that Oakland University’s School of Business will be one of our Bulletproof Lecture sponsors. It is monies from these programs that will help raise funding for our second main outreach program: to provide training to help people stay working, and scholarships to help others get back to work with new skill sets. We appreciate our sponsors, our donors, and volunteers whose generosity allows us to stay on mission. While TCH is the acronym for The Community House, it truly reflects what we, at our core, are truly about: Teach ∙ Connect ∙ Help. As we do this, we will accomplish our goal to improve people’s personal and professional lives. Please join us in our mission.
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SOCIAL LIGHTS/SALLY GERAK Here is the update on the social scene from the past month. Many more photos from each event appear online each week at downtownpublications.com where readers can sign up for an e-mail notice when the latest social scene column is posted. Past columns and photos are also archived at the website for Downtown.
TCH Community Service Award Reception
TCH Community Service Award Reception More than 200 flocked to The Community House Sept. 8 for the cocktail reception that Sally Gerak honored 2011 Community Service Award winner Shelley Roberts, who recently retired after 13 years as the President & CEO at the house. TCH board vice chair Meg Ferron, who first thanked event sponsors Trott & Trott and Dickinson Wright, saluted Roberts as “a mentor…friend…and one who made working for the community a career.” The award was established in 1988 to recognize those who go beyond the normal duties of their jobs to enhance peoples’ lives. The guest list included Shelley’s predecessor Gale Colwell and past award recipients: retired BPS superintendent John Hoeffler with his wife Judy, looking very much like their new home in Suttons Bay agrees with them, Carol and John Aubrey, Jacquie Carney, Geoff Hochman, Tom Denomme, and this reporter.
1 1. George Roberts (left) of NYC & his parents Geoffrey & honoree Shelley Roberts of Birmingham with TCH board vice chair Meg Ferron of Bloomfield. 2. Event sponsor Dickinson Wright’s Dan Quick (left) of Bloomfield and Trott & Trott’s Dave Trott & his wife Kappy of Birmingham. 3. Dr. Ken Urwiller (left) and Senior Men’s Club president John Flintosh of Bloomfield and John Horiszny of Birmingham. 4. Bob (left) & Pam Rossiter and Lee & Judy Gardner of Birmingham. 5. Bob & Susie Ufer of Bloomfield. 6. TCH Board member Michelle Schwab (left) with Mike & Lynn Stenback of Birmingham. 7. Honoree Shelley Roberts (right) of Birmingham with her predecessor Gale Colwell of Bloomfield. 8. Carolyn Rands of Birmingham & her mother Sandra Moers with Holly Schulte of Bloomfield.
Birmingham-Bloomfield Cultural Arts Awards The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center hosted award presentations Sept. 9 and hundreds of people attended. They applauded two people honored by the Cultural Council of Birmingham-Bloomfield. The 2011 Cultural Arts Award recipient was Maury Okun, executive director of the Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings. Under Okun’s visionary leadership the arts organization, which began in 1982, was named 2010 Best Managed NonProfit by Detroit Business. His award was presented by Maggie Allesee, who not only founded the award 16 years ago and received it in 1999, but also nominated Okun. Not surprisingly Judy Adelman, who received the CCBB Lifetime Achievement award, had a large fan club in the audience because presenter Cindy Cheaves, in an impressive litany of Adelman’s service, described her as the worker bee who may not lead but is the glue that holds so many groups together. Adelman credited Joel Adelman, her husband of 50 years, for supporting all her activities and said she was thankful to live in a community of wonderful people doing wonderful things. People also devoured comestibles catered by members of the Birmingham Women Painters Society and viewed three new exhibitions including the BSWP’s 67th annual. The exhibition was juried by artist / professor Rick Vian, who gave the Best of Show award to Colleen Hilzinger’s watercolor and honorable mentions to Raenette McManus, Julie Braverman, Sylvia Clark, Katherine Harra and Fran Wolok.
Birmingham-Bloomfield Cultural Arts Awards
1. Maggie Allesee (left) of Bloomfield with honoree Maury Okun & his wife Tina Topalian of Novi. 2. Cultural Council president Cindy Cheaves (left) of Bloomfield with Lifetime Achievements Awardee Judy Adelman of Birmingham and board member Bill Tomanek of Waterford. 3. Award designer Link Wachler (left) of Troy, event chair Marcy Heller Fisher of Bloomfield and BBAC director Annie VanGelderen of Commerce. 4. Birmingham Society of Women Painters members Gwen Tomkow (left) of Farmington Hills, Katherine Harra & reception chair Betty Sylvester of Beverly Hills, Sonia Molnar of Troy and Carolyn Hall of Bloomfield.
Dance Theatre: 40 Years of Firsts Gala Until Dec. 31, Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is hosting a multimedia exhibit showcasing 40 years of the remarkable Dance Theatre of Harlem’s art and accomplishments. On Sept. 9, more than 400 people attended a gala that celebrated the exhibit. It was chaired by Yvette Bing, Jo Coleman, Jennifer Fischer, Cynthia Ford and Kim Reuss. The evening included two performances by twelve dancers comprising the DTH Ensemble. Their kicky costuming and some of their jazzy, hip hop movements in toe shoes brought the audience to their feet with applause. Artistic director Virgina Johnson confirmed, “Detroit is a sister city for Dance Theatre of Harlem.” Following the second show, the dancers changed into party clothes to join guests on the dance floor in the museum’s beautiful rotunda, where earlier Opus One had offered diners such savories as fried green tomatoes and shrimp with grits, and jazz violinist Miri Ben-Ari had demonstrated her Grammy Award-wining talent. The partying did not stop until 1 a.m. and the soiree grossed $430,000 for the museum. Go to for more information about the world’s largest museum of African Americam history. DOWNTOWN
DSO Bubbles & Beauty Dozens of Detroit Symphony Orchestra Volunteer Council members and their friends sipped champagne and sampled services in the Neiman Marcus beauty aisles Sept. 12. Although the ladies night out event did raise some dollars for the VC, it was essentially an excuse to socialize with other music lovers before the DSO 2011-2012 season launches with the Community Week of free concerts around the metro area. Brown Adult Day Care Celebrating Beauty More than 140 supporters of the Dorothy & Peter Brown Adult Day Care Program attended Celebrate Beauty, A Shopping Extravaganza at Neiman Marcus on Sept. 14. They sipped, supped, socialized and shopped, both at the store counters and at the display of artful objects created by participants in the program. More than 100 creations ranging from paintings to jewelry to greeting cards to delicate bowls of Japanese rice paper were sold, raising more than $1,000. Most of the women guests also experimented with new products being offered by the beauty specialists. They also spent thousands of dollars on raffle tickets. Marlene Lafer, Kathy Finkel, Dr. Susan Gormezano, Lisa Schwartz and Gail Bennett were lucky winners of the top prizes. The award-winning Brown program comprises the JVS Center in Southfield and the Jewish Senior Life center in West Bloomfield. The loving care available there was evidenced by staffer Jennifer Kellman. She recalled the late Sylvia Perlman, a participant whose daughter Zina Kramer has written “Hugging Grandma, Loving Those with Memory Disorders”. “Zina’s mom was an absolute angel,” said Kellman. Bipolar Research Fund Anniversary Celebration “Forward thinking and audacious…Wally Prechter is the true hero here tonight,” Dr. Ora Pescovitz told the 275 guests gathered Sept. 15 in the guest / pool house of the Prechter Grosse Ile estate. They were there to celebrate the fund established to change the lives of people with Bipolar disorder. The mental illness caused Wally’s husband to commit suicide at the age of 59. Less than three months later, Wally and her children, as Governor Rick Snyder noted,”…turned grief into action.” They established a research fund that, since its inception, has raised more than $10 million in private donations for projects at the University of Michigan Depression Center. The celebration party was a generous, classy and fun thank you to all those contributors for a decade of making a difference. It included socializing and dining throughout the 9,000 sq. ft. gem which was built by one of the Body by Fisher brothers in the 1920s and is notable for its Pewabic tiles. At sunset, guests strolled to the lawn, past a shining display of luxury cars, for a smashing fireworks downtownpublications.com
Dance Theatre: 40 Years of Firsts Gala
5 1. Charles H. Wright Museum CEO Juanita Moore (left) of Detroit with event co-chair Jennifer Fisher & sponsor David Fisher and co-chair Kim Reuss of Bloomfield. 2. Maggie Allesee (left) of Bloomfield with event sponsors Dave & chair Yvette Bing. 3. Event co-chairs Kim Reuss (left) of Bloomfield & sponsor Cynthia Ford of Grosse Pointe. 4. Event sponsor GM’s Mark Reuss (left) of Bloomfield with Kirk Lewis of Detroit. 5. Beth Gotthelf (left) of Birmingham & Pat & Sharon Dreisig of Bloomfield. 6. Fair Radom (left) of Bloomfield and sponsor Stephanie Zekelman of Winsor, ON.
DSO Bubbles & Beauty
1. VC president Janet Ankers (center) of Beverly Hills with event cochairs Debbie Savoie (left) of Bloomfield and Ginny Lundquist. 2. Trish McElvoy’s Debbie Graff (left) of Windsor, ON with Varsnie Walsh of Bloomfield & Irene Davis of Beverly Hills. 3. Sandy Nahm (left) & Bonnie Larson of Bloomfield with Orlane Paris’ Donna Hollingworth of Royal Oak. 4. Orlane Paris’ Joann Russo (left) of Macomb with Sandie Knollenberg of Bloomfield. 5. Guerlain’s Gordana Feres (left) of Rochester Hills with Carol Wipp of Bloomfield and Ellie Tholen of Birmingham. 6. Laura Mercier’s Suzanne Skorich of Oakland with Karla Sherry of Bloomfield.
Brown Adult Day Care Celebrating Beauty
1. Event co-chairs Lainie Lipschutz (left) of Bloomfield and Dana Loewenstein of W. Bloomfield. 2. Event sponsor Susan Brown Lewis (center) with her granddaughter Allison (left) & her daughter Lainie Lipschutz and daughter Julie & granddaughter Lauren Winkelman of Bloomfield. 3. Bart Lewis (left) and his son-in-law Kenny Lipschutz with Guy Barron of Bloomfield.
SOCIAL LIGHTS/SALLY GERAK show over the river. Many capped the evening by dancing on the tented dance floor to Mel Ball’s music. The web site has much information about the landmark research ongoing in memory of the popular entrepreneur Heinz Prechter who was known for his generous spirit and business savvy.
Bipolar Research Fund Anniversary Celebration
Hospice Crystal Rose Ball The annual black tie fund raiser for Hospice of Michigan at the Westin Book Cadillac Sept. 16 had more than one shining moment. The first was the predinner entertainment – the performance of the last scene from Mitch Albom’s play about the late Ernie Harwell. It was a perfect call. It not only spotlighted the hospice end-of-life mission but also Harwell’s beloved Detroit Tigers who were in the process of winning their division. The 360 guests sang “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with gusto. They also applauded the four Crystal Rose Award recipients, including Outstanding Volunteer Lois Pincus Cohn, whose moving story about a dying friend was a shining moment. Likewise Dr. Evan Fonger’s story relating to the Milton. M. Ratner Foundation, another recipient along with the Vellmure Family and Oakwood Healthcare. When he accepted Oakwood’s award, Brian Connolly told hospice CEO Dottie Deremo, “Your team does sacred work.” The program was coemceed by Skip Roberts and Justin Hiller, who wisely introduced glass sculptor April Wagner. She created the shining centerpieces and donated 20percent of their sales proceeds to HOM. See her work at . The 26th annual gala raised $150,000 for HOM, which serves 5,000 families each year, including this reporter’s.
1. Nancy & Bobby Schostak of Bloomfield. 2. John Booth (left) & Curtis Posuniak and Val Straith of Bloomfield with Cheryl Hall Lindsay of W. Bloomfield. 3. Event hostess and fund founder Wally Prechter of Grosse Ile with Governor Rick Snyder of Ann Arbor. 4. Rita (left) & Siegfried Buschmann and Tonia Victor of Bloomfield with Al Lucarelli and Roger & Henrietta Fridholm of Grosse Pointe. 5. Bob & Millie Pastor (center) of Bloomfield with Tom (left) & Diane Schoenith of Grosse Pointe. 6. Debbie Dingell (center) of Dearborn with Joe & Sandie Knollenberg of Bloomfield.
Hospice Crystal Rose Ball
1. Honoree Lois Pincus Cohn (center) with her girlfriends Marianne Schwartz (left) and Dede Feldman of Bloomfield. 2. Committee members Laurie Hughet-Hiller & her husband Justin Hiller of Bloomfield and co-chair Linda Juracek-Lipa of Birmingham. 3. Event co-chair Skip Roberts (left) of Bloomfield with honorees Fred Vellmure of Riverview, Liz Vellmure Garey of St. Joseph and Tim Vellmure of Grosse Ile. 4. HOM medical director Dr. Evan Fonger of Grosse Pointe and honoree Ratner Foundation’s Therese Thorn of Bloomfield. 5. Doug (left) & committee member Cindy Monroe of Bloomfield with Cindy’s parents Dick & Linda Kughn of Dearborn. 6. Nanci Rands (left) and Carol Roberts of Bloomfield. 7. Linda & Rod Gillum of Bloomfield. 8. Larry & Linda Juracek-Lipa of Birmingham.
Karmanos Cancer Institute Partners’ Event Some 800 supporters of the youthful Karmanos Partners flocked to Ford Field Sept. 18 for the second part of the group’s two-part annual fundraiser, the first being Partners’ Golf at Franklin Hills CC. The casual, Detroit theme was popular as was honoree Kid Rock and his Kid Rock Foundation. Some, like Danialle Karmanos, even mimicked Kid Rock’s trademark fedora. People sipped the signature drink, Redpop Drop, and cruised self serve food stations that offered iconic Motor City cuisine. Eric & Andrea Morganroth were partial to the barbeque (like Slow’s), but this reporter could not resist the perch served in a sardine-like tin at the Belle Isle station. Guests had received “Kid Rock bucks” to redeem for souvenirs and Kid’s Made in Detroit products were popular. All con11.11
vened for the brief program during which Karmanos boss Dr. Gerold Bepler cited some significant research advances and sponsor Ford’s Jim Vella introduced Peter Karmanos to introduce the honoree Bob Ritchie (Kid Rock). He didn’t repeat his event program ad that said “F*** Cancer.” Rather the generous-toDetroit star said, “It’s nice to be honored. Have a good time.” Folks partied and danced until midnight. The 18th annual Partners event raised nearly $700,000. Holiday Tables Benefactor Party Benefactors of Cranbrook House & Gardens Auxiliary’s upcoming Holiday Tables fundraising exhibition sipped, supped and socialized recently at Troy’s Tre Monti restaurant. Two of the table exhibitors, Bonnie Jobe and Andrea Mitra, were among the 40 benefactors at the prelude event. The Italian cuisine was in keeping with the Holiday Tables 2011 theme “The World Awaits You...A Passport to Design.” The event committee anticipates many of the exhibitors will be showcasing inherited family treasures from the lands of their ancestors. Holiday Tables will open with two sit-down high Patron Teas on Thursday, Nov. 1, for which advance reservations ($75) are required, and continue through 4 p.m., Sunday ($20-general touring) with educational seminars slated for Saturday. Call the auxiliary office at (248) 645-3149.
Karmanos Cancer Institute Partners’ Event
4 Detroit Public Television’s Premiere Night Phillip and Lauren Fisher not only chaired Detroit Public Television’s PBS Premiere Night, they also hosted the Benefactor Dinner for 100 supporters the week before the main event. Highlights included the couple’s warm hospitality, Phillip’s heartfelt remarks about what a jewel DPTV is for the community, radio veteran Bob Allison’s tunes on the grand piano and the displays of art throughout the home. The sold out (325) main event at the Detroit Athletic Club was notable for two hallmarks of DPTV Channel 56 – auctions and videos. In cocktail hour auction action, which raised $40,000, auctioneer Fred Nahhat got $10,000 for the gourmet dinner for 8 in Stephen and Bobbi Polk’s private wine cellar served by DPTV staff. The videos highlighted the dinner program. In one, Phillip Fisher’s sister Mary Fisher, who produced the first Channel 56 auction in the late ‘60s, wished Channel 56, which went on the air 10/3/55, a happy 56th birthday. The others, all top quality of course, spotlighted four award recipients before DPTV president and GM Rich Homberg presented them. The downtownpublications.com
5 1. Partners event co-chairs Dave Thewes (left) & J.J. Modell of Bloomfield. 2. Event cochair Michelle Mio of Birmingham with Chris Lewis of Lapeer. 3. KCI President / CEO Dr. Gerold Bepler & his wife Tracey of Bloomfield. 4. Partners committee members Andrea & Erik Morganroth of Birmingham. 5. Danialle & Peter Karmanos of Orchard Lake. 6. Bob Stone (left) of Bloomfield and Mark Colton of Birmingham. 7. Loren Stone (left) of Bloomfield & Courtney Colton of Birmingham. 8. Dan & Candy Sebold of Birmingham. 9. Laynie (left) & Josh Bryant and Laynie’s mother Myra Moreland of Birmingham. 10. Fair Radom (left) of Bloomfield and David & Elyse Foltyn of Birmingham.
SOCIAL LIGHTS/SALLY GERAK Leadership Award went to Butzel Long’s Richard E. Rassel for years of outstanding chairmanship and counsel on the DPTV board of trustees. The Stewardship Award went to philanthropists Rosalie and Bruce Rosen for being the lead donors for DPTV’s Jewish Programming Initiative. The Partnership Award went to The Center for Michigan and Phil Power (co-founder with his wife Kathy) for bringing the non-profit think-and-do tank to the broadcasting table to cure Michigan’s broken public policy apparatus. The Visionary Award went to Wayne State University president Allan Gilmour for establishing DPTV’s new Midtown Studio on the WSU campus. All got standing ovations from their many friends and colleagues in the audience. This included Maggie Allesee, who was still beaming because Gilmour had recently surprised her on her 83rd birthday during a WSU football game by having the WSU band play Happy Birthday to her. The 10th annual event raised $160,000.
Detroit Public Television’s Premiere Night
1. Event co-chairs & benefactor party hosts Lauren & Phillip Fisher of Bloomfield. 2. Awardee Butzel Long’s Dick Rassel with his wife Dawn of Bloomfield. 3. Awardees Phil Power (left) of Ann Arbor and Allan Gilmour of Birmingham. 4. Doreen (left) & Dan Alpert of Troy with awardees Bruce & Rosie Rosen of Bloomfield. 5. Peter (left) & Anne Vestevich with 2007 awardee Ed & Joanne Deeb of Bloomfield. 6. Sesame Street’s Grover (center) with Tom (left) & Lissie Rassel Wright and Patty & Rick Rassel of Bloomfield. 7. Lauren Rassel of Bloomfield and her brother Brian Rassel of Chicago. 8. Steven Miesowicz and his wife Beth Gotthelf of Birmingham.
DIFFA: Dining by Design The three-day benefit co-chaired by Ann Duke, Kelly Deines and Bruce MacDonald to benefit the Michigan Aids Coalition was a feast for all the senses. It got off to a rousing start as 978 flocked to the Willys Overland Lofts for Cocktails by Design ($100 ticket) chaired by Gail Gotthelf and Mike McDonald. The evening offered the first view of the 26 designer dining installations, silent and live auctions, entertainment by Detroit Flyhouse, dancing to DJPowderBlu and dining on the stroll at 25 stations generously donated by culinary stars who were competing for awards. Tam O’Shanter Country Club won First Place. Barrio Tacos & Tequila took Second. D’Amato’s Restaurant and Northern Lakes Seafood Company tied for Third. Best Dressed Table title went to Angelina’s Italian Bistro and Healthiest went to Tam O’Shanter CC. The exhibition was open for public viewing the next day. That evening at Party by Design ($10 ticket), 320 reveled well past midnight. The event concluded Saturday night with the Gala Dinner ($250 ticket). Before the 320 guests enjoyed a Matt Prentice five-course gourmet dinner in the installations, The Style Channel’s Joel Steingold emceed a brief program. It included remarks by sponsor AIDS Foundation Chicago CEO David Munar whose main message was that the AIDS infection rate grows as funds are being cut. Quick bidding on an African Safari trip was topped by $8,000, bringing the threeday event total to more than $100,000 for MAC’s education and outreach services.
DIFFA: Dining by Design
1. Architect Karen Swanson (left) with Lynn Halper & Marc Rosen of Birmingham. 2. Jan Heidel (left) of Birmingham, Whitney Rogers of Waterford and Sarah Cooper of Birmingham. 3. Designers Mark Johnson (left) and Jill Schumacher of Pleasant Ridge and Michelle Mio of Birmingham with Chris Lewis of Lapeer. 4. Dr. Mike Sherbin (left) of Bloomfield, Judy Eliyas of Ferndale, auction donor/artist Lenore Gimpert of Birmingham, Lori & Sergio De Giusto of Redford Twp. 5. Sherrie Thomas (left) of Royal Oak, Karen Thomas of Troy, Carrie Barnes of Bloomfield, Sandy Mulqueen of Waterford and Crystal Oram of Beverly Hills. 6. Birmingham designer Jimmy Angell (right) and Steve Lyukasik of Pleasant Ridge. 7. Chen Chow Brasserie’s Robert Copher (left), John Lee and executive chef Benjamin Meyer of Birmingham. 8. Barrio Tacos & Tequila’s Mishan Andonian (left) and chef Hammond Lawton of Bloomfield.
Irene Ambrose Memorial Exhibition One year after her death, more than 200 people who’d had the fun of knowing the late Irene Ambrose attended the opening 11.11
of an exhibition of her art in photo artist Laurie Tennent’s Birmingham gallery. Attorney Casey Ambrose, Irene’s husband of almost 56 years, seven of their eight children, and friends and colleagues from the art world were there to toast the memory of the slightly eccentric, creative, talented woman who began her career as a fashion illustrator. She continued to teach and learn at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center, created invitations and party designs for charities, and won first place in the Naples (FL) Fine Art Show in 2009. Her zest for creativity was legendary. As one guest said, “Wow, I can’t wait to get to heaven to see what Irene she has done with the place.” Carmelites Auxiliary’s Annual Cocktail Buffet Carolyn and Michael Moore hosted the annual Cocktail Buffet staged by the Discalced Carmelite Auxiliary and, according to event co-chair Kay Browne, “Our prayers for good weather were answered.” More than 110 people gathered on the terrace to socialize, sip and savor the cuisine donated by committee members. Included were auxiliary co-president Connie Sfire and committee member Ann Malleis whose mother Justine McKnight also attended, and Mary Ann McManus Harahan and Patty McManus Cogan and Sally Gorman Grierson and Theresa Gorman Mayer who followed their late mothers into the auxiliary. Browne’s daughter Katie Neinstedt attended and her co-chair Mary Giradort Gallant has been a friend since kindergarten at Doty School in Detroit. Once a year the old friends, together with new supporters, cocktail to help the cloistered, contemplative nuns at the Monastery of St. Therese. This year they raised $11,000. Director’s Circle’s Annual Dinner On the same perfect fall afternoon as the event reported above, Barbara and Michael Kratchman hosted the annual dinner for members of the Michigan Opera Theatre General Director’s Circle and nearly 100 people attended. Guests included Toby and Sam Haberman, whose former Palmer Woods home is now the home of MOT General Director David DiChiera. The terrace overlooking Wing Lake was an ideal setting for the cocktail hour and the Kratchman’s art-accented great room was likewise for the mini concert by opera singers Martha Guth and her husband Ricardo Lugo. The couple recently moved to Ann Arbor from NYC and DiChiera declared the intimate venue was “...a wonderful way to hear someone for the first time.” Go to to read about the perks of MOT’s General Director’s Circle. The previous evening DiChiera and members of his company had provided a preview of the MOT season to 300 guests at the new downtownpublications.com
Irene Ambrose Memorial Exhibition
1. Casey Ambrose of Bloomfield with his daughters Eileen Tesch (left) of Algonac, Vera Ambrose of W. Bloomfield and Laura Ambrose of Naples, FL. 2. Christy (left) & Casey Ambrose of Walled Lake, Dan Ambrose of Bloomfield and Mark Ambrose of Birmingham. 3. Event host photographer Laurie Tennent (left) and Janis Walker of Bloomfield and Laura Host of Birmingham. 4. Tom & Laurie Cunnington (left) of Birmingham and Pam McCarthy of Bloomfield.
Carmelites Auxiliary’s Annual Cocktail Buffet
1. Even co-chairs Mary Girardot Gallant (left) of Grosse Pointe and Kay Browne of Bloomfield with event host Michael Moore of Bloomfield. 2. Committee members Sally Grierson (left) of Bloomfield, Mary Ann Harahan of Troy and Joan Frear of Grosse Pointe. 3. Jesse (left) & auxiliary co-president Pat Cardelleio of Grosse Pointe and committee member Theresa Mayer of Bloomfield. 4. Bob (left) & auxiliary co-president Connie Sfire of Grosse Pointe with committee member Mary Ann Hocher of Birmingham.
4 Director’s Circle’s Annual Dinner
1. Event host Barbara Kratchman (center) of Bloomfield with event co-chairs Dodie David (left) of Metamora and Barbara Frankel of W. Bloomfield. 2. GDC member Betty Bright (center) of Bloomfield with opera singers Martha Guth and her husband Ricardo Lugo of Ann Arbor. 3. MOT general director David DiChiera (left) of Detroit with event host Michael Kratchman of Bloomfield.
SOCIAL LIGHTS/SALLY GERAK Berman Center for the Performing Arts () at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield. The world class theatre, an extraordinary gift of Mandel and Madeleine Berman, opened last spring.
Oakland Family Services’ 90th Birthday
Hope Network New Passages’ Inspiration! Nearly 250 supporters of New Passages and Hope Network turned out at the Townsend for the gala that marked the merger of the two behavioral health agencies that now will serve the entire state. Highlights included keynote speaker Scott Nychay, a political cartoonist, who shared his moving personal mental illness experience and the art he has produced because of it. Auctioneer Greg Bator later auctioned 11 copies of Nychay’s book, “Drawing Strength”, raising $1,100. The silent auction included a demonstration of iPad art by Birmingham attorney-turned-artist Rick Shulman (). Shulman made quick portraits of guests and also donated a custom full-fledged portrait in the silent auction. Overall, the gala evening raised more than $95,000.
Oakland Family Services’ 90th Birthday “Hats off for 90 years of doing a great job,” declared Dee Wright-Masilotti, chair of the OFS Friends advisory board. She was speaking at the Friends’ annual fall fundraiser which attracted 235 guests to the Townsend. Sylvia Hagenlocker and Susan O’Brien chaired the party that was notable for several reasons. It honored Brenda and OFS CEO Michael Earl, who got a standing ovation. Donna Roberts, who co-founded the Friends in 1995 with Brigitte Harris, came from afar. The party was really pretty, thanks to the design of Mood Events’ Mikki Gardner Mood. The program book contained the interesting history of the social service agency, which was started in 1921 by Carolyn Booth and Gertrude Miller. Rennie Kaufmann’s dance music made it fun. The event raised more than $173,000, There was even a giggle at one table when WrightMasilotti announced that the jars of jelly beans in the centerpieces were for the OFS kid clients after past board chair Ken Whipple had helped himself to some.
1. Honorary chairs Michael & Brenda Earl of Birmingham. 2. Event co-chairs Susan O’Brien (left) & Sylvia Hagenlocker of Bloomfield. 3. Honorary co-chair Brenda Earl (center) of Birmingham with OFS Friends co-founders Donna Roberts (left) of Bay Harbor and Brigitte Harris of Bloomfield. 4. Event sponsor Kirk Martin (left) of Bloomfield with Scott Ulmer & Tom Prior of Birmingham. 5. Past Friends board chairs Lynn (left) with J. Ferron and Kate with Larry Gladchun of Bloomfield. 6. Joanne Ulmer (left) of Birmingham, committee member Elise Hayes and her mother Sis Fisher of Bloomfield and Mary Scharff of Bev Hills. 7. Joel & Charlene Grandelius of Bloomfield. 8. Ralph & Janice Nichols of Bloomfield. 9. Marge (left) & Norm Fredericks with By & John Fauver of Bloomfield. 10. John & Martha Quay of Bloomfield.
Children’s Leukemia CRUSH Birmingham According to Children’s Leukemia Foundation president and CEO William Seklar, the 2011 CRUSH Birmingham attendance of 380 was the largest in the four years of the wine and food classic. One-hundredfifty of them began the evening at the Patron Champagne Prelude sponsored by Brooks Brothers, where some remarked on the excellence of the Friday night benefactor wine dinner. It was hosted by Tom and Vickii Celani in their wine cellar and presented by event honorary executive Chef Paul Kahan, one of 14 honorary event chefs. Also on Friday night, Zazio’s hosted a dinner for 40 adult family members of CLF patients completely underwritten by generous CLF supporters. After two hours of savoring the truly gourmet food and wine at the serving stations, folks took their seats for dessert and auctioneer Dan Stall got someone to pay $8,000 for a California wine country package. This brought the live auction total to almost $55,000. And after cancer survivor/former CLF patient/new CLF social worker Jessica Carty Chapman told her story, guests pledged another $10,000 to fund CLF patient services. Then awards were presented. The Celanis got the Humanitarian Award. Nigel and Cherie Barnett got the Leadership Award from CLF board president Gary Gonzales. Former University of Michigan football 11.11
team kicker Phil Brabbs, who is now fighting blood cancer, gave the Pioneer in Medicine Award to founding director of the event sponsor U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Dr. Max Wixcha,. Those with staying power, more than 225, then strolled to the Remy Cointreau USA CRUSH After Hours party in the Regency Room where Simone Vitale played for dancing and Hunter House sent over late night bites. The evening raised $200,000, bringing to $275,000 the total for both CRUSH events – Northern Michigan and Birmingham. In addition to their satiation, guests got a recipe from each of the 14 event chefs. Guess what. Reservations would be easier to make. Grand Jester’s Reception As they have for the past five years, members of the Thanksgiving Parade Distinguished Clown Corps sipped, supped and socialized at The Parade Company’s Grand Jester reception generously hosted by Norm and Scott LePage at their Reserve. A costumed volunteer greeted arrivals at the entry to Big Rock‘s special event venue. More than 120 of the 2,000 corps members attended. Some of the guests were potential DCs. All applauded when Parade Company CEO Tony Michaels thanked the LePages for their hospitality and when 2011 Grand Jester Pat Fleming noted, “…the Distinguished Clowns are truly a cherished part of the parade.”. Distinguished Clowns make an annual donation of $1,000 for the privilege of acting silly, making children laugh and passing out beads along the parade route. Because all clown costumes are custom made, the deadline to join is Friday, Oct. 28. Call Carol Ann at (313) 432-7831. A week after the reception, Dana Sorensen was named America’s Thanksgiving Parade® Queen and is the recipient of a $1,000 scholarship furnished by the Michigan Thanksgiving Parade Foundation. This is an especially gratifying accomplishment for the 2009 Birmingham Seaholm graduate because last spring she was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC). Complications of the disease necessitated multiple hospitalizations. According to her mother Becky Sorensen, thanks to Henry Ford doctors and the miracle of modern medicine Dana’s UC is now under control and she was able to return to her studies at Albion College last month. But she’ll be home for Thanksgiving and wearing the Queen’s crown on the Princess Fairytale Float during the 85th annual parade. Classical Brunch Series Concert DSO flutists Jeffery Zook and Sharon Sparrow’s “A Journey Through Time with the Flute” earned a standing ovation from the 150 people at The Community House’s first concert in the Classical Brunch series. Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn was the principal sponsor of the event chaired by Sandi Reitelman. For the next concert on Sunday, Oct. 23, Classical Brunch artistic director Robert deMaine, who is DSO principal cellist, has lined up David Everson and Rob Conway to showcase the French horn and piano. Five more concerts in the series will follow. Go to events at for tickets and details. Send ideas for this column to Sally Gerak, 28 Barbour Lane, Bloomfield Hills, 48304; email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 248.646.6390. downtownpublications.com
Children’s Leukemia CRUSH Birmingham
1. Event chairs Denice (left) & Greg Richmond of Bloomfield with their sons Alex & Ted of Chicago, IL. 2. CLF executive director Bill Sekler (left) with honorees Vicki & Tom Celani of Bloomfield. 3. Rachel (left) & honorary Master Pastry Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer of Chicago with Sid & Elizabeth Ross of Bloomfield. 4. David Lafrate & Asia Nieprawska of Bloomfield. 5. Trattoria Stella Executive Chef Myles Anton (left) of Traverse City with Mindy VanHellemont & Rick Lopus of Birmingham. 6. Susie Sillman of Birmingham & Westin Book Cadillac Chef Jim Barnett of Birmingham. 7. Susie & Tom Betrus of Bloomfield. 8. Kelli Rapaski (left) and Katrina Desmond of Birmingham, Mick Jallos of Plymouth, Ben Bator of Royal Oak, Lindsay Cumming of Waterford.
Grand Jester’s Reception
1. Event host Norm LePage (left) of W. Bloomfield, 2011 Grand Jester Pat Fenton of Birmingham and Parade Company CEO Tony Michaels of Rochester. 2. Event sponsor Ernst & Young’s Lisa Bower (left) with Becky & Rich Sorensen of Bloomfield. 3. Jeff Sadowski (left) of Birmingham and Bloomfield attorney Kelly Allen of Rochester Hills. 4. Linda Orlans (left) of Birmingham and George Johnson of Detroit. 5. Penny & Rick Persiani of Birmingham. 6. Dr. Larry Walsh, Tammy Alberts and Bonnie Jobe of Bloomfield. 7. Tarik Daoud (center) of Bloomfield with Dorothy & Tom Carson of Dearborn. 8. Past Grand Jesters Eric Larson (left) & Sid Ross of Bloomfield, John Landis of Livonia and Bill White of Troy.
November 8 election candidates, issues n November 8, Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills residents will go to the polls. Birmingham residents are being asked to choose four of their seven city commissioners; two school board members; two library board members; and to pass a millage. In Bloomfield Hills, a millage request is before residents to allow all city residents to have complete use of Birmingham's Baldwin Library.
Birmingham City Commission In Birmingham, all four incumbents with terms expiring, George Dilgard, Tom McDaniel, Scott Moore, and Gordon Rinschler, are running for reelection, challenged by political newcomers James Foxley, Steve Knox, Vicki Walsh and Doug Weaver. Each of the current city commissioners impressed us with their knowledge of the issues and their commitment to the city. Before becoming a city commissioner, each held some kind of political office in the city or participated in local community work. SCOTT MOORE, a city commissioner for 12 years, particularly impressed us with not only his knowledge of Birmingham and its history, but the way he thinks an issue out thoroughly and carefully before rendering a decision. Moore is looking to the city's Rail District and Triangle District for future development, and is concerned about seniors and that young people don't have a place to go, which is why he said he voted for the now-tabled Play development in downtown. Moore is a proven leader Birmingham needs to keep. While not one of the most vocal or animated commissioners at commission meetings, we feel GEORGE DILGARD's views are solid and focused on the bottom line, and he should be returned for a second term. He has an MBA and is a financial analyst, which is an asset in these still-unsettled financial times. He feels it is important for Birmingham to maintain its quality level, and that the city and commissioners must be worried about the city's aging infrastructure. TOM MCDANIEL has served two terms as commissioner, and while at times is indecisive at meetings, is still a relevant player on the commission. He does not think there should be a limit on bistros, letting the market make that determination, and would like to see bistros used as economic and development catalysts in the Triangle and Rail Districts and that the N. Old Woodward area could likely handle another one besides Luxe and Salvatore Scallopini. Current mayor GORDON RINSCHLER should be re-elected, as well, as he is knowledgeable of the various governmental and social workings of Birmingham, and was a key driver, and co-chair, in the redevelopment of the new Shain Park. In all fairness to citizens and fellow commissioners, we
would suggest that perhaps he not be made mayor again, as he has had a tendency towards dismissiveness on two notable public occasions (that we saw) towards the Principal Shopping District (PSD), which the commission must work hand-in-hand with to maximize the returns of the business and retail community; and on a couple of occasions towards his fellow commissioners. Leadership is an important trait on a small board, and condescension is rude and inappropriate. We have also been concerned at times at the disorganization over who was running the commission meetings, and while well-intentioned, the lack of follow-up on certain issues. None of the challengers convinced us to not return an incumbent to office by pointing out any reasons they were superior to any of the individuals they would replace. Unfortunately, simply saying they would offer a “fresh set of eyes” or “new blood” is not a sufficient reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. However, we were very impressed with two challengers who we would recommend staff and the commission groom for future commission spots. JAMES FOXLEY and VICKI WALSH both impressed us with their relative youth, intelligence and insights. We suggest you find a board or commission for them to sit on, bringing them into the system now to help them learn more about city government so their fresh ideas have a place to take root.
Birmingham School District Current Birmingham Public School Board of Education members CHRISTOPHER CONTI and ROBERT LAWRENCE are being challenged by John Connelly. While we are endorsing the incumbents, we were equally impressed with Connelly but we have not heard any reason to replace those now on the board. All three impressed us with their knowledge of the issues, from Schools of Choice before the state legislature to school budget cuts and service sharing and consolidation. Conti and Lawrence have done a good job as board members, and Connelly did not lay out a case for why either should be replaced. However, the community would be well-served by any of the men.
School millage renewal Residents of Birmingham are being asked to pass a non-homestead and commercial property millage which will not raise the taxes for the average voter. The current schools' millage, expiring on June 30, 2012, was for 8.46 mills. The new millage rate is 7.98 mills, which is a rollback of taxes based on the Headlee Amendment. This millage will be in effect for ten years, from July 1, 2012 until June
20, 2022, on non-homestead and commercial properties, not on primary residences. It is estimated it will provide $6.6 million in revenues to the schools. If it is not renewed, there is a danger of teacher layoffs, a reduction in bus services, cuts to academic programs and student services. A mill is equal to $1,000 for every $100,000 of taxable value, meaning that for a $200,000 home or business ($100,000 appraised value), the annual tax bill would be $798. We encourage all Birmingham Schools District voters to vote YES on this millage to maintain important school services.
Bloomfield Hills library service Bloomfield Hills has had an unfortunate time maintaining and paying for library services for its residents. Bloomfield Hills residents have been without full-time library service since 2004, when a longterm agreement with Bloomfield Township Public Library was dissolved after the city and the library could not come to an agreement over how much residents would pay for library services. Since that time, some residents have paid for a library card at the Troy Library, but many residents have sought a more convenient library source. Worse, it often seems as if one resident, former city commissioner Robert Toohey, has had a mission to deprive all of his neighbors from possessing a library card of their own in a neighboring locale. Toohey lost a lawsuit against Bloomfield Township Library a few years ago, and now he has paid for mailings out of his own pocket to every Bloomfield Hills household, trying to dissuade residents from voting for the library millage. Toohey's assertion? That libraries should be free and available to all in every community. Perhaps in a more perfect world, that would be lovely. But in the real world, libraries have bills to pay and staff who need paychecks. Many Bloomfield Hills residents have regularly said that they would like library access, and the city has done an excellent job working out a solid, reasonable three-year deal with Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham. The dedicated library millage is for 0.39 mills, which would average $156 a year for a resident with a home valued at $800,000. We urge Bloomfield Hills voters to vote YES on the library millage so that all residents, young and old, can benefit from a library. If the millage passes, residents will be able to obtain their library cards beginning November 15. For those who have no interest in using a library, think of it much like a good school system. Although you may not have children in the schools, strong public institutions and services help maintain the quality of life in a community. Approving this library millage is the right thing for the community.
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