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The right to Plan B medication How local pharmacies are handling the morning after pill now that a 2013 federal law required easy access for all women.
Local face of hunger
Human trafficking of minors, be it for sex or labor, is taking place in Michigan and right here in Oakland County.
Food banks in the region and local food pantries are experiencing increasing year round demands and challenges.
9 CRIME LOCATOR A recap of select categories of crime occurring in the past month in Commerce, Walled Lake, Wolverine Lake and the Union Lake area, presented in map format.
32 MUNICIPAL New Commerce Community Development department interviews; library documentation center; DDA land purchase offer withdrawn; township water storage facility moves forward; village park plans; plus more
38 ENDNOTE Wolverine Lake's pocket park program; avoiding loss of developers in Commerce
FACES 11: Alex Zayid 19: Karen Czarnik
The marquee of the Commerce Drive-In Threatre, which opened in July of 1956 and closed in September 1990. The drive-in had a reported 1,0000 car capacity. Westend photo: Laurie Tennent DISTRIBUTION: Mailed monthly at no charge to homes in the Commerce, Walled Lake and Union Lake area. Additional free copies are distributed at high foot-traffic locations. For those not residing in the free mail distribution area, paid subscriptions are available for a $12 annual fee. Go to our website (westendmonthly.com) and click on “subscriptions” in the top index and place your order on-line or scan the QR Code here.
27: Evrod Cassimy
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INCOMING: We welcome feedback on both our publication and general issues of concern in the Commerce/Union Lake community. The traditional Letters to the Editor in Westend are published in our Incoming section, and can include traditional letters or electronic communication. Your opinions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org; or mailed to Downtown Publications, 124 West Maple Road, Birmingham MI, 48009. Letters must include your full name, address and daytime phone number for verification.
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he December passage in the Michigan House of Representatives of citizen initiated legislation restricting abortion coverage in both public and private health insurance plans in the closing days before lawmakers took a break for the holidays makes me long for the days when state house and senate members did not face term limitations. No, the anti-abortion initiative is not the only example of special interest pressure on state lawmakers, but it is the most recent, and probably most recognized, of issues that may not have turned out the same if house and senate members were not facing terms limits, something that I did not feel made sense when it first appeared on the ballot in 1992 as an amendment to the Michigan Constitution. In short, the Right To Life crowd, a potent force in elections, was able to garner over 300,000 signatures on petitions that force women to purchase a separate rider on their insurance policies to cover abortions. Lawmakers could have allowed the issue to go on the 2014 ballot for the state-wide electorate to decide or they could vote, which they did, to prohibit insurance policies from automatically including abortions as part of standard medical coverage. A similar measure was vetoed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder about a year ago on the grounds that such a measure was considered an interference in the private marketplace, let alone the fact it is an intrusion into the private doctor-patient relationship where such health matters are decided.
specific office would bring new ideas to state government, control the influence of special interest groups and bring a new sense of ethics to state government, which was not possible with lawmakers who serve an average of 10-12 years at the time term limits were introduced. Instead, what we have gotten from term limits is a definite loss of institutional knowledge and an increase in the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups. I never supported term limits, in part because I had the benefit of being mentored early on by some of the more innovative, as well as ethical, state lawmakers who held office in Lansing back in the early to mid 1970's, among them former state senator Kerry Kammer, a Democrat, and state representative James Defebaugh, a Republican. Kammer, whose state senate district encompassed much of the west Oakland area, served from 1974-1983 and was best known as a strong outdoor recreation enthusiast with an environmental ethic. His Kammer Land Trust Fund Act of 1976 helped set the framework for the regulation of oil and gas drilling funds that now help underwrite state-wide recreation land purchases and programs to this day. In the case of Defebaugh, a Birmingham resident, his house 65th district meandered into the West Bloomfield/Commerce areas where he was known as an attentive, hard-working representative with a reputation for forging coalitions, all against a background of an ethical track record.
But my concern has less to do with an illogical law restricting insurance policies than with my suspicion that special interests have gained a very strong foothold in the state house and senate, thanks in large part to term limits.
These lawmakers shared similar advice with me in the 1970's in terms of the prevailing ethics in Lansing. Length of service was not the problem in terms of a loss of ethics or innovative service. Kammer and Defebaugh both felt that crossing an ethical line and abuse of power from long-term service in Lansing had more to do with the character of those holding an office.
Just the opposite was supposed to happen, if you believed term limit supporters when the issue was put on the ballot and became an amendment to the Michigan Constitution effective in 1993.
Both of these leaders, each serving over a decade, felt that strong personal ethics were needed to fend off the special interests in Lansing, something that term limits cannot instill.
As it stands now, the offices of governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and state senators (who serve four-year terms), are restricted to two terms. State representatives are held to three two-year terms. Backers of term limits going into the 1992 vote on this issue claimed that limiting how long a public official could hold a
So as the special interests machinations on litmus test issues unfold in the house and senate, I continue to wonder whether longer terms lawmakers would be more immune to some of the pressure exerted by special interests. Just a thought.
David Hohendorf Publisher DavidHohendorf@downtownpublications.com
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Larceny from vehicle
These are the crimes reported under select categories by police officials in Commerce Township, Walled Lake and Wolverine Lake Village through Dec. 22, 2013. Placement of codes is approximate.
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Alex Zayid Alex Zayid lost his hero, his father, Geno, to cancer nearly three years ago and he is following in his philanthropic footsteps through the creation of his own charity, Youth For The Fight. “My dad was diagnosed with renal carcinoma,” Zayid said. “That was the most surreal day of my life. We were optimistic that he would make it through. He had become almost invincible. He played college baseball and I always looked up to him. He was genuine, giving and altruistic.” Zayid’s father had made a name for himself as a successful attorney and a respected humanitarian. Following his passing, Zayid came to the realization that it was not his father’s financial gains or athletic ability that left the biggest imprint on the community; it was his charitable and empathetic nature. “The whole idea was to honor my dad. I thought it would be a cool thing to continue the part of his legacy that meant the most to me: his giving back.” Zayid began volunteering at soup kitchens and with the American Red Cross. In May 2012, he and his friend Andi Numan launched Youth For The Fight by hosting charitable events. “The reason for all these (charity) events is to raise money. You aren’t going to see many charitable events with younger people because they don’t have money to spend on it.” Zayid’s vision was to create a typical evening out for young adults, but instead of money going into the pockets of bar owners, their money would fight cancer. Zayid and Numan vowed to change that. Their first charity dinner dance, held
at the Sheraton Hotel in Novi, raised $21,000 for the American Cancer Society through ticket sales, sponsors, donations and a silent auction. “I wanted to stick to my idea of just having a youth event,” he said. Zayid’s family was eager to attend, but his vision was only to invite a crowd under 30-years-old. “I wanted people to walk into the venue and have it be all young people. We set our goal for 250 people. We sold 75 tickets in the first two weeks and we ended up (with) over 560 people between the ages of 18 and 27. I took everything kids my age like. We had drinks and music,” he said. “I wanted to show people you can have fun and give back at the same time.” In 2013, Youth For The Fight held their second event at The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. It is Zayid’s intention to establish new chapters of Youth For The Fight across the nation and initiate altruism while broadening a philanthropic perspective in today’s youth. In November 2013, Zayid won the Detroit Pistons Game Changer Award for his outstanding work in the fight against cancer. At the same time, he is also applying to medical school. “I’ve learned that being a good person makes you happy. I wasn’t expecting to raise that money at all, but I got a glimpse of what my father had done. I thought, ‘Hell yeah, my dad would seriously be proud of me.’” Story: Katey Meisner
Photo: Laurie Tennent
PLAN B REALITY HOW LOCAL PHARMACIES HANDLE CONTRACEPTIVE BY ALLISON BATDORFF
ost every pharmacy in our community has a “sex” section. Condoms hang here in tidy boxes. Lubricants hawk security, friction and fruity flavors. Jellies found here are not for your toast. Perhaps you’re here to browse. To assert your sexual responsibility with your pocketbook. To giggle. Or you might be running in, crazy-eyed and blushing, scanning for the item that may calm the rising tide of panic within you. A pregnancy test. A home HIV test kit. Or to grab the Plan B emergency contraceptive pill. Plan B One-Step’s friendly pink, purple and green packaging blends in well with the other items, but its price tag - $39 to $49 - stands out amongst the $6 crowd. The package contains one pill only. And, if taken within 72 hours of sex, it can safely prevent pregnancy.
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A federal law in April 2013 mandated the pill be available over the counter – meaning on store shelves – to all persons of “childbearing age.” Even so, area pharmacies sport different interpretations of “access to all.” In Oakland County, you might have to ask the pharmacist for Plan B. One pharmacy we visited did not stock it at all. It might be put away in a security box, out of convenient access. Or it might be right there on the shelf, as easy to buy as a box of sinus medicine. Here’s our look at Plan B’s impact in our community. Planning is part of preparation. Do you know the location of the nearest exit? The closest defibrillator? Do you have a family plan in case of a fire, tornado and food shortage? Where is your nearest Plan B emergency contraception? No matter where your personal politics fall on the conception or abortion spectrum, most people agree on one thing: when you’re dealing with a time-oriented sexual intervention, every minute matters. That’s why there are prayer vigils outside clinics and ardent advocates ushering people inside the doors. Legal – and moral – distinctions are made in months, in weeks, and in Plan B’s case – hours. A woman has 72 hours after sex to take emergency contraception to be reasonably assured of its effectiveness, though its effects can last up to five days later. It’s a tight deadline, and research shows that the more hurdles there are between a person and the ability to gain its intervention, the less likely its purchase and use. This puts every step in purchasing the emergency contraception under a microscope. Seemingly small distinctions play a large role in the debate – on both sides of the issue. How easy is it to get Plan B in our community? How do people feel about its placement in our pharmacies? What is it anyway? Dr. Renee Horowitz doesn’t advocate for Plan B’s use as regular birth control, but supports the pill’s designed use for sexual accidents. “Anyone can have a mishap. A condom can break. A diaphragm can slip,” said Horowitz, a Farmington Hills-based OB/GYN specializing in sexual health. “It’s designed for a slip-up and it’s a good, safe tool if it is used responsibly.” She still fields calls to her office for emergency contraception, as many people don’t realize that they have non-prescription access, she said. “I explain that they should be able to walk into any drug store, find it on the shelf, pay for it and follow the directions on the box,” Horowitz said. Having failsafe birth control – especially in long-term partnerships – can actually improve sexual health, Horowitz said. “If we’re not worried about getting pregnant, we can enjoy sex more,” Horowitz said. “People who are partners for a long time may not want to have sex because of pregnancy worries. Having the ability to access emergency birth control helps us have a healthier sex life.” But children, who are too young and impressionable, misuse emergency contraception, and sexual predators misrepresent Plan B to convince young children to engage in risky sexual behavior, said Barb Yagley, the vigil coordinator for 40 Days for Life Southfield. Part of her group’s mission is to evict Planned Parenthood from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties in order to protect children, teens and women. “Having this access is fraught with abuse,” Yagley said. “It’s open season for child predators. They use emergency contraception to convince young girls to have sex with them.” nscrupulous predators may leave out important facts about Plan B – facts such as that it does not shield users from sexually transmitted diseases, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV transmission. She is also concerned about the health impacts of “super powerful” hormones on young bodies. “We’re seeing these children taking a steady diet of these pills and we don’t know yet what kind of havoc it is wreaking on the body,” Yagley said. Health impacts of Plan B made headlines last month when European regulators added a warning to the morning-after pill that it may not be as effective in heavier women. The pill’s European version, called Norlevo, will sport a warning to its label stating that: “in clinical trials, contraceptive efficacy was reduced in women weighing 75 kg (165 pounds) or more and levonorgestrel was not effective in women who weighed more than 80 kg (176 pounds).” The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has commented only that they would investigate the issue. The most recent research by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention places the average weight for an
American woman at 166 pounds and an American man at 195 pounds. Both European and American versions of the morning-after pill contain the same active ingredient in the same amount – 1.5 mg of levonorgestrel. Levonorgestrel is a form of progestin, a synthetic hormone widely used in birth control pills. Progestin is the patentable substance that mimics the body’s naturally occurring progesterone, a hormone made in the ovaries that balances out estrogen, maintains insulin and prevents cystic diseases. While other forms of emergency contraception contain other ingredients, Plan B’s levonorgestrel is considered “a second generation” progestin and is the most-widely distributed type of birth control pill worldwide due to its minimal side effects. That said, it still commonly causes “abdominal pain and cramping, irregular periods, bloating and spotting,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Like birth control pills, emergency contraception prevents pregnancy by stopping ovulation or making the lining of the uterus “inhospitable” to a fertilized egg. The latter impact upsets the pro-life camp, which compares emergency contraception to the “abortion pill,” known as RU-486 or mifepristone, which induces medical/chemical abortion in pregnant women within 49 days from the first day of their last menstrual period. Groups have also stated their concerns that emergency contraception can lead to a false sense of security, giving rise to risky sexual behavior and increases of sexually transmitted diseases and infections. A pro-life media group, Lifewatch, cites a Washington state-based study where more widespread use of the morning-after pill led “led to a statistically significant increase in STD rates (gonorrhea rates), both overall and for females.” Yagley said that young girls are most vulnerable to these risks and personally believes that emergency contraception should be used only with “informed consent.” Yagley said that she prays for those who undergo medical abortion, and personally attends and organizes prayer vigils outside Oakland County clinics where the procedures are performed. “I’m praying for these children, their parents, and the entire community that allows this to happen,” Yagley said. The emotionally charged nature of the issue gives rise to demarcations in odd places. resident Barak Obama’s administration, while supporting overthe-counter availability for some, made motions to impose age restrictions on Plan B under an operating principle that young people would find instructions “too complicated,” especially multi-pill contraceptive options. The generic and multi-pill versions of the pill retails for $10-20 less than Plan B One Step, which carries an average national price tag of $48. The FDA ruled in 2008 that Plan B One-Step could be sold over the counter to women over 18 without a prescription. Then, prompted by cases ruling that age limitations were arbitrary, the restrictions were removed by U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman in New York, who called the age restrictions “politically motivated” and “scientifically unjustified.” Korman’s April 5 th, 2013 ruling allowed the sale of the pill to any woman “of childbearing age.” Obama’s administration filed for a stay of the ruling, citing concerns that young women would not understand how to take the pill. Months later, the filing was dropped, leaving a strange situation in place. The generic two-dose version of the pill stays behind the counter with an age restriction, and Teva Pharmaceuticals was basically granted a government-sanctioned monopoly with the exclusive right to sell the drug without a prescription to individuals 17 and under. In our community, the price of the pill varies as does its placement and accessibility. Practices even vary store to store within the same franchise. At Walgreens in Commerce Township and Waterford, Plan B was on the shelf in the baby/family-planning aisle without a lock box. That said, Walgreens' stores and employees have some leeway on this issue, said Emily Hartwig, Walgreens Corporate Media Relations spokesperson. “In some stores, the product will be placed in lock boxes on the shelf. These locations are determined strictly on an individual store’s past experience with retail theft,” she said. “All of the products, regardless of the lock box, will have anti-theft sensor tagging.” Additionally, pharmacists and employees with moral qualms about selling Plan B may “step away” from the transaction, she said. “We allow pharmacists and other employees to step away from completing a transaction to which they have a moral objection,” Hartwig
said. “Our policy also requires the employee to refer the transaction to another employee or manager on duty who will complete the customer’s request.” The Walmart in White Lake sells Plan B One Step for $46.87. It is available on the shelf in a lock box. When asked, the pharmacist on duty said “anyone” could ring up the transaction and open the box. CVS in Commerce carried no Plan B on the shelf, though there was a tagged spot for it ($49.99). Additionally, there was a space for "Next Choice" single dose contraceptive with a card that a shopper could bring to the pharmacist for an over-17 years old identification check. “To comply with the FDA, in August we made Plan B One Step available as a non-pharmacy item and carry it either in the family planning or feminine care sections of our stores,” said Michael J. DeAngelis, the director of public relations in the CVS Pharmacy branch. These findings are fairly typical, said Jo Ellen Green Kaiser. As the executive director of The Media Consortium, she collects pharmacy reports in an investigative project called “Where’s Your Plan B?” The website publishes a national map with community-generated findings focused on the placement and accessibility of Plan B One Step. The variability seen in our region is common of what is being reported in Midwestern states with broad interpretations for “on the shelf.” “We found that ‘on the shelf’ in practice means that women still have to ask someone for assistance in order to buy the drug because stores keep it locked up due to theft concerns,” Kaiser said. “In middle America, we found a large number of stores were not complying – they had Plan B at the pharmacy and required ID.” But most of the time, pharmacists and clerks seemed to be acting out of inertia and misinformation as opposed to policy, she said. “For example, some store clerks told reporters that they kept Plan B at the pharmacy because they still had old supplies of Plan B One-Step that were labeled ‘prescription only.’ As they sold out of the old supplies, they would move the drug to the shelf,” Kaiser said. Some segments of the population are currently without any access whatsoever to emergency contraception, namely those in immigration detention, women on reservations and prisoners, she said. ori Lamerand is also concerned about the young women she sees at the health centers within the Planned Parenthood system. Many have been slipped date rape drugs, she said, and while the situation itself is devastating, emergency contraception does provide a certain comfort. “I met a young woman who wasn’t sure if she’d had sex or not because she’d been drugged,” Lamerand. “It was incredibly disconcerting for her not to know if she was part of an intimate act like that.” Most of the women who ask for Plan B in the health centers are ages 1925 and are trying to either shore up a birth control failure or who have had sex unexpectedly, Lamerand said. She is the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan “Our clients trend toward the better educated. They know they have options,” Lamerand said. “Sex is so complicated and we prepare people so poorly in this country. Anything we can do to give them tools to manage whether they want a child or not, or not at this moment, is really an important thing.” But should young kids who don’t really know what they want have easy access to Plan B? One Walled Lake big sister, who requested to remain nameless, made this comment. “My sister is 16-years-old. She is mostly responsible, but she is still 16 years old and doesn’t really understand consequences. Having Plan B on the shelf is an invitation to misuse the drug and to reinforce irresponsible behavior.” Still the $48 price tag would most likely curb most teens’ ability to use Plan B as regular birth control, she said. No matter who you are – your age, your beliefs or your community – the journey to the sex section of the pharmacy when you’re under stress is a horribly uncomfortable process, said Brittany Batell, a 23-year old college student from Dexter. She watches individuals and couples agonize over emergency contraception in her duties as a store manager in the University of Michigan’s Safe Sex Store. “There is often a good deal of worry and anxiety, tension between partners, embarrassment about going to a pharmacy to pick it up, and difficulty with the cost of it (emergency contraception).” Batell said. “It is not a pleasant experience, and it is not one that people typically want to repeat.”
The Plan B Journey – from OMG to OTC This timeline is reprinted with permission from Dr. James Trussell of Princeton University’s Office of Population Research and by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals.
History of Plan B OTC: May 1999: Plan B approved as Rx drug by the FDA April 2003: Application submitted to switch Plan B from Rx to OTC; FDA decision due February 2004 December 2003: FDA convenes advisory committee, which votes 23-4 in favor of taking Plan B OTC February 2004: FDA announces that it will delay decision on Plan B up to 90 days May 2004: FDA rejects application to switch Plan B from Rx to OTC, citing lack on data on females younger than 16 June 2004: Congress requests report on FDA decision not to switch Plan B from Rx to OTC (report released in October 2005). Report concludes that decision on Plan B was "highly unusual", and may well have been made months before it was formally announced July 2004: Barr Laboratories submits amended application to make Plan B Rx for females older than 16 and OTC otherwise January 2005: Deadline for FDA to respond to Barr's application July 2005: HHS Secretary Leavitt promises that FDA will act on Barr's application by September 1, 2005, to ensure a vote on Senate confirmation of Lester Crawford as FDA Commissioner August 2005: FDA announces that Plan B is safe for OTC use by women 17 and older, but announces an indefinite delay, citing three concerns (and allowing a 60-day public comment period on the first two questions): Can Plan B be both Rx and OTC depending on age? Can Rx and OTC versions of Plan B be marketed in the same package? Can an age restriction for Plan B be enforced? July 2006: The day before his confirmation hearing, acting FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach publicly invites Barr Labs to resubmit its application by changing the OTC age restriction for Plan B to 18 and older August 18, 2006: Barr labs resubmits its application to make Plan B available OTC to consumers 18 and older, and Rx to women aged 17 and younger August 24, 2006: FDA approves making Plan B available OTC to consumers 18 and older and Rx to women aged 17 and younger November 2006: Barr Labs begins shipping Plan B in new packaging to pharmacies March 23, 2009: Federal judge rules that the FDA must make Plan B available OTC to consumers 17 and older within 30 days and urges the agency to consider removing all age restrictions. April 22, 2009: The FDA announces that Plan B may be sold OTC to women and men aged 17 and older February 7, 2011: Teva submits actual-use study data and labelcomprehension study data on females older than 18 to the FDA December 7, 2011: the FDA is set to approve OTC status for Plan B with no age restriction based on the studies submitted by Teva. However, this action was overruled by the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. 2012: Teva files an amended application to make Plan B One-Step available without prescription to consumers aged 15 and over and to allow it to be available in the family planning section of a pharmacy rather than behind the pharmacy counter; proof of age would still be required at checkout. April 5, 2013: U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman orders the FDA to allow over-the-counter sales of Plan B One-Step with no age restriction. April 30, 2013: the FDA approves Teva’s amended application, allowing sale of Plan B One-Step on the shelf without prescription for women aged 15 and older. May 1, 2013: U.S. Department of Justice appeals Judge Korman's April 5 ruling, seeks a stay of this order to remove age and point-of-sale requirements. May 10, 2013: Judge Korman denies DOJ's request for a stay, reprimands Administration. June 5, 2013: A 3-judge appeals court denies the DOJ's motion for a stay, demands that 2-pill generic ECPs be made available without restrictions. June 10, 2013: DOJ drops its appeal, agrees to support unrestricted approval of Plan B One-Step if generics remain age-restricted and behind the counter. June 20, 2013: FDA approves Plan B One-Step for unrestricted sale on the shelf.
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213205158 - $159,400 IMAGINE A BRAND NEW HOME! Imagine a brand new home! Great Room has open floor plan; kitchen offers snack bar, breakfast room, and stainless steel appliances. www.realestateone.com
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213202703 - $339,000 STUNNING CAPE COD WITH OPEN FLOOR PLAN Main floor master with jetted tub & separate shower, spectacular kitchen w/granite counters & hardwood flrs, Huron Valley Schools! www.realestateone.com
213202623 - $159,900 EXCELLENT BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY! All brick 4 unit with plenty of room in the basement for storage. Each unit has a bedroom, full kitchen, large living space and one full bath, oak hardwood floors! www.realestateone.com
213201841 - $255,000 NATURE LOVER’S PARADISE ON 1.48 ACRES. Contemporary home features include neutral décor, great room w/vaulted ceilings & natural stone fireplace, finished lower level. www.realestateone.com
213108901 - $171,900 GORGEOUS CONDO IN MAPLES OF NOVI First floor Master Suite, spacious great room, cathedral ceilings, library w/French doors, bedroom in loft with private bath, Walled Lake Schools. www.realestateone.com
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Lakes Area (248) 363-8300
Karen Czarnik Karen Czarnik, a storyteller and producer of RED Thread Stories, has turned a unique hobby into a career. It began as a result of her animated family gatherings. “When I was a little girl, I remember my grandfather telling me stories about the little people in Ireland. He’d share fantasies about leprechauns,” she said. “I was a very imaginative child. I feel as though I’ve always been prey to fantasy and I’ve always had a performance bug. I became so intrigued by what stories do to us.” At Western Michigan University, Czarnik studied theater, writing and public relations. She worked for large corporations, but always knew she was destined for a more creative career. After she and her husband started a family, she opted to stay home with her children. “ I was at my son’s preschool program and was really intrigued watching this woman telling these stories. It was that moment of clarity that I thought that is what I want to do. I started volunteering at the Walled Lake Library and practicing.” Czarnik was soon telling stories at schools and libraries all over Michigan. In the fall of 2012, she began hosting and producing RED Thread Stories at the Uptown Grille in Commerce Township. The venue is typically sold out to a crowd of 50 to 60 people. Ten guests are allotted five minutes to tell their best story inspired by the topic of the month. The theme for the January Story Slam is “All in the Family.” Participants can share, but are not limited to, non-fiction stories inspired by the suggested theme.
Monthly Story Slams are hosted at the restaurant from October to April. Czarnik’s next event takes place on Tuesday, January 14, with an “All in the Family” theme. The doors open at 5 p.m. and the storytelling begins at 7:30 p.m. “We needed something like this out here,” she said. “People toss their name into the hat. Sometimes people will be prepared with a story; some will not. I try to choose themes that easily prompt story ideas.” The objective, according to Czarnik, is to have preceding stories prompt new stories as the thread weaves its way through the crowd, linking people to one another. “Stories can be a connection to people across the planet,” Czarnik said. Participation is voluntary and two winners are chosen by five judges at the end of the night. Winners go home with a bottle of red wine and are invited back in April for the final Slampionship. There, they compete for a gift certificate to Uptown Grille. For 17 years, the Commerce Township resident has made a living perfecting the art of storytelling. In 2012, Czarnik took first place at the National Storytelling Network’s Annual Story Slam. “It’s very satisfying. (Storytelling) is something that opens up people’s hearts, minds and souls, and that’s where I’ve always been most joyous,” she said. “I would like to take RED Thread into high schools and colleges. When we get to hear other people’s stories, walls fall down and it’s really a blessing.” Story: Katey Meisner
Photo: Laurie Tennent
We got worms.
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A NEW YEAR BRINGS ABOUT NEW BEGINNINGS! WHETHER YOUR NEW CHAPTER INCLUDES BUYING YOUR FIRST HOME, MOVING UP OR DOWN, OR BECOMING AN INVESTOR; THIS IS A GREAT YEAR TO INVEST IN YOURSELF AND IN REAL ESTATE. IT WOULD BE MY HONOR AND PLEASURE TO ASSIST YOU IN MAKING YOUR NEW BEGINNING BECOME A REALITY.
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BECOMING VICTIMS: Recognizing the child in crimes against children BY LISA BRODY ike parents of teenage kids across America, your 14-year old daughter is dropped off at the mall with her girlfriend, to hang out for the afternoon, shopping, gossiping, giggling and hanging out at the food court. You've armed her with a cell phone, a whistle on her key chain, and you've had numerous “talks” about strangers who do bad things. You've told her and her friend to stay together at all times. And they do. At the food court at the mall, there are lots of other teens and tweens milling about, talking, eating and flirting with one another. Your daughter and her friend are munching on fries and cokes, complaining about you and her parents, as teens do, when a cute older boy slides next to them. He flatters them, telling them how they look at least 17 or 18, that they're so cute and hot, and that he and his friends would really like to see them again next week. And they meet again at the food court the following week. In between, they stay in touch online and via that cell phone you gave her to keep her safe and in touch with you. They text all week. They become “friends” on Facebook. He sends her images and videos through the Internet. When they meet up at the mall the next week, perhaps he and his friends take them for a drive; maybe they make out a little. The next week, it goes a little farther, and perhaps a joint or an ecstasy pill is introduced. He tells your daughter how much he loves her, how much he wants her all the time, how great their life could be together if she would be with him. He's in her head. Then one week, when you drop your daughter off at the mall, she isn't there to be picked up. You search for her. The police search. You put up flyers, post rewards, cry on television. She has disappeared without a trace. You're sure she has been kidnapped, maybe by a sexual predator. And she has been. She has been caught in the human trafficking trade. Human trafficking of minors, for sex or labor, is circulated from Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus, and Asian countries, but it is also occurring here, in Michigan. And it's here in Oakland County. “The reality is that in the suburban areas of Michigan, including Oakland County, it is happening. In the majority of cases in Michigan, the girl is the victim. It's just that the laws haven't caught up with reality,” said Bridgette Carr, director of the Human Trafficking Clinic, noting girls are being forced and trapped into forced labor and sexual servitude, and then if they are caught, they are charged as criminals. “It is both happening to individuals from other countries as well as here in the United States with U.S. girls and boys.” As soon as they are together, the sexy boy no longer has any money, and tells your sweet, young, 14-year old daughter that for them to be together she has to go out and have sex with other older men. She has to be a prostitute. And if she objects, she may be threatened, beaten, raped, or otherwise physically and psychologically tortured. As Rep. Klint Kesto (R-West Bloomfield, Commerce Township, Wolverine Lake) pointed out, “We think it's something that happens in Eastern Europe, or in Asia. It's here in our backyards. It's not just in Hollywood movies.” Theresa Flores, today in her 40s and living in Cleveland, was a 15-year-old Birmingham student when she was blackmailed into a sex trafficking ring when she was in her freshman year at Groves High School. She spoke with Downtown's Hayley Beitman last spring, explaining that her family had just moved from Flushing, Michigan, and she had begun Groves when “I was targeted by a group of guys at my school who were older than me,” and flattered, she accepted a ride home one day. “He ended up taking me to his home and drugged me and raped me and the other guys there were taking pictures and blackmailing me,” Flores said. She ended up being forced to work as a prostitute in Birmingham for two years while simultaneously attending high school with the same boys. The entire time, she said she hid it from her parents and teachers. “My worst moment was being left for dead in a Detroit hotel,” she said.
Eventually, her father, a high-ranking automobile executive, was transferred, and she did her senior year “a thousand miles away without any of my friends knowing and I was able to heal and get counseling.” She eventually wrote two books on what happened and began to share her story, founding an organization, Trafficfree, to help create awareness that even kids from the best neighborhoods can be lured into prostitution or labor trafficking against their will. Flores was one of the few lucky ones. She got out and was successfully rehabilitated. But for the majority of youth caught in this sticky, tragic web, they are inextricably ensnared. And when offered an opportunity to leave, they are either afraid for themselves or their families, or believe their boyfriends – their captors – love them. Rep. Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake, Waterford) said that often, especially in the early stages, “the girls have Stockholm Syndrome. They're brainwashed that these guys, their pimps, love them, and if they're caught they want to go right back to them.” ut she stresses, there are no mistaking that they are pimps, and not boyfriends, and these girls are victims, and not criminals. “The pimps are so evil and insidious. One even admitted they lie awake at night thinking of ways to get young girls,” she said. “They admit that when they see a couple of girls at the mall, and hear a girl say 'I hate my parents', or 'I'm going to run away', they start grooming them.” “Human traffickers are luring Michigan children into dangerous situations where they will be sexually exploited,” said Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. “As a father and husband, it turns my stomach. It could be anyone's daughter or neighbor. Our daughters, friends, and neighbors are forced into prostitution, domestic servitude and other forced labor by criminals who take advantage of them. Recruiting children to work as prostitutes is illegal, reprehensible, and we will not tolerate it.” “It's called 'grooming'. They'll start grooming the girls by befriending them, or they have a female become one of their 'friends', or a pimp will become a boyfriend,” explained Kowall, who has been part of the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking, which released its findings in November 2013. “The girls will think the guys really love them, that it is a boyfriend, and then they turn them into a prostitute.” “Runaways are also prime targets. They get them as they're leaving home, along with the malls. Predators look for certain clues and signs, then they abuse and threaten them, and restrain them from leaving,” said Rep. Mike McCready (R-Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, West Bloomfield), who along with Kesto, has been holding town hall meetings on human trafficking. “They abuse them physically and sexually. These pimps brainwash the girls, and instill fear of harm to them and to their families. They use blackmail, telling them if they leave or don't do just what they tell them they'll not only harm them, they'll harm their families. Some almost bar code the kids with tattoos to keep them. These are kids that are 12, 13, 14 years-old, and they treat them like they're personal possessions. For example, they make them make $500 a day as a prostitute or tell them they will be
severely beaten, or put them them on drugs so they don't know what's going on.” Of course, this is only one way young girls, and sometimes, boys, become victims of crimes against them. Child pornography, sexual abuse, prostitution, sex trafficking, and labor trafficking are among the the crimes the Southeast Michigan Crimes Against Children (SEMCAC) Task Force works to combat in our backyards. According to the FBI Detroit, the SEMCAC Task Force was created in February 2007, as part of the Innocence Lost Initiative, a reaction to cases that Michigan law enforcement were encountering. Numerous law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies participate in the SEMCAC Task Force, including Michigan State Police, Wayne County Sheriff's Office, Detroit Police Department, Oakland County Prosecutor's Office, Southfield Police, Farmington Hills Police, Livonia Police, Highland Park Police, Roseville Police, Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office, Macomb County Sheriff, Macomb Area Computer Enforcement, and the United State's Attorney's Office, among others. SEMCAC Task Force works to recover juveniles and arrest pimps and those utilizing the services of the youths. “Today, many prostitution rings are sophisticated and interstate in nature. They rely on the Internet and other electronic media to advertise and solicit customers,”according to the FBI website. “The most egregious of these prostitution rings abduct or recruit juveniles from all walks of life. These juveniles are forced into working for pimps/ring leaders, often subjected to violence and relocated to areas where they know no one in order to strengthen the hold these groups have on the juveniles.” The Oakland County Sheriff's Office is not part of the SEMCAC Task Force, but has developed it's own computer crimes unit (CCU), where they have allocated three fulltime detectives and four support staff. “I could have more staff dedicated to it if I had the money,” Oakland Sheriff Michael Bouchard said. “There aren't the resources currently for many 'To Catch a Predator' opportunities,” referring to the former Dateline NBC component. Bouchard said Oakland County deputies receive the same training from all over the country as computer forensic examiners as the FBI in forensics, tracking and encryption. “We're finding that similar to the everyday person, the computer has become a staple to criminals' lives,” Bouchard pointed out. He said one of the key staples in a homicide investigation can lead to a motive being uncovered by a computer expert on a suspect's computer, or traced through the Internet. “It may be specific to another computer situation, such as burglary or homicides, and we discover child pornography.” Sadly, Bouchard said that “identity theft, cyberbullying, child pornography, predators – they're the meat-and-potatoes of the cases implemented and are how criminals are using computers as part of their crimes. There are hundreds and hundreds of cases. We're only limited by our resources. We could probably double our staff and still keep them busy.” “The Internet age has caused an explosion of child pornography because it's easier to transfer the image,” said Peter Henning, a professor at Wayne State University's Law School who specializes in criminal law. “It's
produced everywhere. There are a lot of distributors in the former Soviet Union, like the Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, because it's not policed there like it is here, so the distribution and sales takes place where there is no real law enforcement. “These are sophisticated criminals,” Henning emphasized. “You cannot just accidentally participate. Sometimes someone says they 'accidentally' got child porn. That's almost impossible to do. They charge quite a bit for access. These are computer experts distributing it. They hide their IP addresses, and hide behind firewalls. And there has always had organized crime elements involved, so the ability of law enforcement to penetrate is difficult. The distributors are sophisticated criminals, the worst kind.” He emphasized child pornography purveyors are not typically trafficking in images of 15, 16 or 17-year-olds, but sometimes of children as young as 3, 4 or 5. enning continued, “Over here, the emphasis then is on the buyer because they're easier to find. Child porn appeals to people who are sexually turned on by children. They tend to be all male, and from the middle class. They're voyeurs, non-violent, and tend to not have any prior criminal sexual conduct convictions. As seedy a crime as it is, it is all people with money. Interestingly, as totally repulsive an offense as it is, often what happens is that someone is being investigated for one offense, and their computer is searched and the government finds something else, which is how these images often are discovered. And the penalties are quite substantial, with five to 10-year mandatory/minimum sentences.” Bouchard said these crimes, as well as prostitution being operated out of homes in Oakland neighborhoods, are being found in all areas of the county. “It's everywhere,” he said. While Bouchard laments that his department cannot be as proactive in combatting prostitution as he would like, “we're not typically hearing about it unless we receive tips or complaints,” he said. “We want to make sure there are no connections to cases with human or sex trafficking. We have an expert on the staff on human trafficking, because there are delegations coming here from all over the world. There was a case a couple of weeks ago from Israel. It's a global issue.” Human labor trafficking refers to young children and minors who are kept against their will and used in hair braiding clinics, massage parlors, restaurants, nail salons, even sometimes in homes. “A lot of hair braiding clinics (in African American communities) like to use little kids the best for hair braiding because of their little fingers,” Henning said. “They use 10 and 12year-olds. Child labor is great because it's cheap, and children don't know to complain, especially when you terrorize them. There are parents who will sell their own children because they need the money.” Some of these children are brought in from overseas, but some of these young children are “sold” locally, and then moved to where the labor needs are greatest. Experts emphasize that human trafficking turns its victims into modern-day slaves, whether it is as sex slaves or as labor slaves. The Michigan Abolitionist Project (MAP) notes that slavery, “was officially made illegal in the USA in 1865. But making something illegal
doesn't mean it ceases to exist. Slavery continues to be a reality in the USA today. It's a crime hidden in plain site and it's growing. Slavery may look differently over time, but it's just as inhumane.” MAP asserts that the main forms of slavery that exist in the USA, including in Michigan, are sex slavery and labor trafficking. “Often we hear the term 'human trafficking' used to refer to this crime. But we prefer to call it what it is: slavery. The term slavery is most widely used when referring to any form of modern slavery, bondage or human trafficking. Slavery means that a person is being held against his or her will and controlled physically or psychologically by violence or its threat for the purpose of appropriating their labor. Forms of slavery include sex slavery, sexual exploitation, forced labor, bonded labor, child soldiers, and organ trafficking.” Under Michigan law, recruiting a minor for the purposes of sexual exploitation is human trafficking. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 40 percent of human trafficking cases involve the sexual exploitation of a child. he U.S. State Department defines “severe forms of trafficking” as “sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose or subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another in order for the crime to fall within these definitions.” The Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking, convened in March by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and included state legislators, law enforcement officials, Bridgette Carr, a University of Michigan law professor who is the founder and director of Human Trafficking Clinic, and Jane White, chairwoman of Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force, met for six months over 60 times before issuing its report in November. It focuses on legislative initiatives and the need to review Michigan's legal framework governing human trafficking and determining if new legislation is needed; the need to increase public awareness of human trafficking; the need to develop and provide greater victim assistance at the state and local levels, including coordinating public and private sectors; reviewing the strategies of statewide data collection so that law enforcement and policymakers can accurately gauge progress; professional training for those who regularly deal with victims of human trafficking, from law enforcement, health care providers, social workers, hospitals, those in code enforcement and regulatory agencies in order to look for and identify victims; and victim recognition. That recognition is a key point, all participants point out, changing the viewpoint of everyone involved from seeing women and girls who have been forced into a life of prostitution, not as criminals, but as victims. “Whether through legislation, training or public awareness, innocent trafficking victims must be treated as victims,” Schuette said. “They must not be re-victimized by being punished for 'crimes' over which they had no
control. “There is an effort to recognize them as victims, rather than as criminals,” Kowall said. “It's an effort to change everyone's point of view. It's a sea change of change in viewpoints, from law enforcement to everyday citizens who would look at a prostitute with disgust. But in actuality, many of these girls have been abused as children. They're runaways. Often, within 48 to 72 hours of running away, they've been caught in a web by pimps and traffickers.” The Human Trafficking Clinic's Carr noted that technically, in Michigan, a person under 16 cannot be arrested for prostitution. But they can be for other crimes. “Last year, there was a case of a 14-year-old in Ann Arbor who was caught. Now, they couldn't arrest her as a prostitute, but they didn't look to see if she was being forced into this, if this was someone who was being sold for sex to older men,” Carr said. “Instead of getting her help, she was held in juvenile detection on charge of minor in possession of tobacco because she had cigarettes on her. So that was a case that was never marked down as human trafficking. We did not help her, and she was not marked down as a statistic, and she was back on the streets in a month, being exploited again by the same pimps as before.” Kowall said part of the commission's goal is to prepare hospital emergency rooms to recognize the symptoms that these girls are victims of human trafficking, to get them away from their pimps and to get them help. “Some hotel chains are training their staffs to recognize symptoms when victims come in, as well.” The Michigan Commission's effort to not only change the perception of the girls from criminals to victims means they can hopefully get help and become rehabilitated, as well as be marked as a statistic of sexual trafficking. Officials with the Detroit office of the FBI, which oversee the SEMCAC Task Force, declined to provide statistics for sexual or labor trafficking in southeastern Michigan. “There are no statistics, because no one has been counting,” asserts Carr. “This is the first year that the FBI will check off someone as a prostitute, or as an illegal immigrant, or a foster child. Before, they would get checked off in another box, and it wouldn't be an accurate reflection.” The FBI, through the SEMCAC Task Force, has conducted numerous operations and raids over the last six years of its existence, culminating in multi-jurisdictional arrests, where pimps are arrested and juveniles are recovered. They declined to divulge information on these raids, but information released in July 2013 following their annual three-day Operation Cross Country showed that Detroit ranked second of 76 cities in the successful recovery of juveniles. At that time, there were 59 total arrests made in Oakland, Macomb, Wayne and Genesee counties, with 10 youths recovered. Recently, Kowall introduced a “Safe Harbor” bill, House Bill 5012, and had it pass the Michigan House of Representatives, that if it passes the state Senate and is signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, will provide a safe harbor for victims of human trafficking if they are caught. “It's not immunity from a charge, but a rebuttal presumption against the charge, that they were coerced into commercial sexual activity against the Michigan Penal Code,” Kowall
said. “Then, they would be subject to temporary protective custody under the juvenile code. There is a mechanism in the bill, that a police officer taking someone into custody under 18 for prostitution must report it to the Department of Human Services. Then DHS has 24 hours to begin an investigation which would determine if the minor is in danger of substantial danger or harm. It makes it all about the victim.” ep. Kesto wants to take it further, and introduce legislation that would seize the assets of traffickers and pimps. “These predators are making millions and millions off of these children and their other endeavors. They buy homes. They buy cars,” Kesto said. “With narcotics, we seize the results of their endeavors.” “This is a business model for the traffickers,” Carr pointed out. “The reality is there are folks with money paying for these services. The traffickers sole goal is to make money, and so they go where the money is.” Kowall said it's critical to assess what is available to these victims. “There is proof that the prolonged trauma they undergo causes their brains to stop developing. They can see that on brain scans,” she said. “They have real problems with cognitive issues. Often they have real psychosis, so that it can take months for them to admit they've been victims. We're trying to develop protocols in dealing with them, because we have to deal with them carefully – they're emotionally and psychologically very fragile.” Kowall also pointed out that rarely can these girls go back to their families, because often “that's where the problems started.” Further, most have lost their education, skills and have become drug abusers, “so they have to be taught basic skills.” A key point is that theses victims can't be helped until they're ready to be helped, and to accept that they have been victimized. “It takes a lot to get them through, and often they go back to that life because it's easier and it's what they know,” Kowall said. “Emotionally, it's too big a hurdle for some of them to break free of.” Vista Maria in Dearborn Heights is one place that successfully provides the support, treatment and education to “vulnerable youth so that they heal, believe in their worth, and build the skills needed to succeed. Every girl is treated as a unique individual – worthy of love based on just who she is. Therapy is designed around each girl's individual experiences and needs. This encompasses a variety of activities that address the physical, spiritual, intellectual, and recreational well being of the girls.” Vista Maria provides a continuum of mental health care, intensive trauma recovery, substance abuse and aggressive behavior treatment, and community reintegration. They treat over 900 girls, ages 11 to 17, every year who are victims of abuse, neglect and trauma, with a special understanding on the treatment of sexually abused girls. “We all want the Lifetime movie ending when the cops walk in and everyone claps, and the girls go to college, but that's not what happens,” Carr said. “We do victims a terrible disservice by perpetuating that myth because until we understand the power and coercive control these traffickers have over these girls, they can't get help.”
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FACES Evrod Cassimy Michigan native Evrod Cassimy is the fresh new face at the WDIV-Channel 4 morning news desk and he is elated to be reporting in his home state. “Midwest is the best. People say that for a reason,” he said. “Detroit, Michigan is a major market and it is a city I have learned that people don’t know enough about yet. When I got the call, I said, ‘Absolutely.’” Cassimy was born in Berrien Springs, Michigan and grew up just outside Chicago. He later attended Columbia College in Chicago where he majored in television broadcast journalism. Subsequently, Cassimy covered Madison, Wisconsin; Orlando, Florida; and Richmond, Virginia. He spent two years reporting out of Colorado, covering some challenging and often devastating events. “I was at the anchor desk during the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. I covered that for 13 hours with no commercials.” Cassimy witnessed a father’s desperation as he held up a picture of his son, begging for a call from anyone who had seen him. Sadly, the father later discovered his son had been killed during the shootings. During the Occupy Denver protests, Cassimy made national news after questioning filmmaker Michael Moore about what he was doing for the 99 percent as he stood amongst the protesters. Moore became somewhat hostile and responded sharply towards Cassimy. “Our job is to present the facts of both sides. It might make people uncomfortable, but it’s the question people may want to know. How is this man, who makes millions of dollars, supporting these people? That’s what people at home are wondering,” he said. “You have to ask the questions. It’s my job.” His work has earned him three Emmy Award nominations and the Virginia Associated Press Award for Best Coverage of Breaking News. Once offered the position with WDIV-Channel 4 in July 2013, Cassimy relocated his family to West Bloomfield, and he invited his parents to the Thanksgiving Day Parade in Detroit. “I didn’t realize it was going to be that big. It rivals the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. That was a proud moment for my parents. Afterwards, my dad texted me and said he was so proud of me and that I was the son he always wanted.” Cassimy, his wife, Danielle, and son, Malakai, have settled nicely into the area and are taking advantage of the local amenities. “It’s a quick shot over to Birmingham and Troy. Shopping isn’t too far. I absolutely love J. Alexander’s in West Bloomfield. We actually celebrated our four-year anniversary there.” For Cassimy, being invited into the homes of Detroiters every morning is an honor. “Detroit is everything I had hoped it would be. The rest of the country needs to know about this. I’m proud to call Detroit home and I’m proud to be able to do what I love. I get to wake up every single day and inform Detroit about what is being done and hopefully be able to entertain along the way.” Story: Katey Meisner
Photo: Laurie Tennent
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THE FACE OF HUNGER
INCREASED DEMAND AT FOOD BANKS, PANTRIES BY KEVIN ELLIOTT
e recognize the face of hunger when it's cold and blustery. But the reality is that for those seeking assistance, and for food banks and food pantries which provide aid and support for them, the need exists year round. Soup, vegetables, fish and fruit that are the staple of canned food drives account for only a small percentage of the million of pounds of food distributed to hungry people throughout southeast Michigan each year. The real meat and potatoes are donated by the truckload by food manufacturers, farms, grocery stores and restaurants who provide food pantries and food banks with surplus goods. Another 10,000 tons of food will be purchased in bulk at discounted rates and delivered to local agencies and food pantries where supply and demand often follows a roller coaster ride of feast or famine conditions.
"The biggest dip in food begins at the end of the summer through the fall. That's when it's hardest to keep the shelves stocked," said Robin Maloney, executive director of Open Door Outreach Center in Waterford. "By the middle of October, that's when you see the pace pick up on donations. By November 1, it really feels like a holiday. But there's really a need during the summer and early fall." Open Door's food pantry serves residents in Waterford, White Lake, West Bloomfield, Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake, Commerce, Walled Lake and parts of Wixom. And despite a reported uptick in economic conditions, Maloney said the center is seeing more families in need now than ever. "In terms of demand and the number of clients, we have seen a drastic increase over the past few months," Maloney said. "In October, we had an all time high in clients, with 305 households and over 12,000 pounds of food. We are continually taking appointments for new clients and existing clients as well. There is a steady need for food assistance." Seasonal food fluctuations are typical at most of the food pantries where food is available to people in need. The abundance of food during the winter months is particularly helpful at that time of year when freezing temperatures lead to increased gas bills for families struggling to make ends meet. In addition to those who have lost their jobs or their homes, there are those families in need who are living hand-to-mouth or paycheck to paycheck who must decide between paying existing or overdue bills and putting gas in their car, or buying groceries. Some families may be experiencing additional strains this winter, as federal stimulus funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the federal food stamps program, expired at the beginning of November 2013. That's a loss of about $7.5 million in the five county-area of southeast Michigan, and an estimated loss of about $1.2 million in Oakland County, or about 488,501 meals per month, said Anne Schenk, vice president of marketing and communications for Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan. leaners mission has been to fight hunger in southeast Michigan. They have broad community support, both from donors and member agencies, which include more than 522 partner pantries, soup kitchens and shelters in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Monroe Counties. There are more than 150 partners in Oakland County alone. Schenk said the cuts are currently the biggest factor impacting the emergency food system and causing an increase in needs. Additional SNAP cuts were approved in September by the U.S. House of Representatives, but have received little action in the senate. However, other factors, such as a cut in tax deductions for annual donations, may also have impacted the generosity of some private donors. Likewise, it's hard to predict exactly how the economy and unemployment will play out in the new year. "It's difficult to estimate hard numbers. It's hard to estimate what people are going to do, how long it will take to find employment to meet their needs, or if they move, so it's hard to get precise projections," Schenk said. "We know for certain that pressure on the emergency food system isn't going to let up until we see a real noticeable uptick in employment. We still have one of the highest unemployment rates in Michigan. That's the main thing that needs to change before we see a reduction in needs for food. Government cutbacks, particularly, makes it much more difficult for families to sustain and feed themselves." The largest amount of food (38 percent) distributed by Gleaners is purchased in bulk at a discounted price from suppliers. About 24 percent of the food comes from government sources; 15 percent comes from grocers, retailers and merchants; 8 percent from donations other than food drives; 6 percent from local food drives; 5 percent from food manufacturers; 3 percent from food bank networks; and about 1 percent from community gardens and farms. "Gleaners isn't going to run out of food," Schenk said. "We always carry an inventory that ranges between a million and three million (pounds). Certainly, the more we get in, the more we can get to our partners. We can never distribute enough for all the needs out there." Overall, Gleaners distributes about 42 million pounds of food per year to its partner agencies throughout southeast Michigan. The majority of Gleaner's partners include food pantries, which then make food directly available to clients and families in need.
Another model of hunger rescue is Forgotten Harvest, which began in 1990 to relieve hunger in metropolitan Detroit by rescuing surplus, prepared and perishable food and donating it to emergency food providers. "Forgotten Harvest isn't a food bank, it's a rescue organization. We fight hunger and waste," said John Owens, communications director. "We have about 34 trucks that run every day, and we rescue food that would otherwise be thrown out from grocery chains, farms and others, and we distribute to 280 agencies across the tri-county area." Forgotten Harvest provides food to the agencies free of charge, and specializes in fresh, healthy perishable foods, such as produce, meats and other items. "All the food we can rescue that has been surplus or close to expiration, for whatever reason – we pick it up in the morning and distribute it to agencies during the day," Owens said. “It's generally on the table by the end of the night." ll told, the organization rescued about 45.5 million pounds of food in 2012. That's nearly 50 million pounds of food that would otherwise be wasted. In total, it's estimated about 95 to 150 billion pounds of food is wasted each year across the nation. In 2010, 48.8 million Americans lived in food insecure households, meaning they weren't sure what and where they would be eating that day. "We serve people of all backgrounds, in every single neighborhood. The needs aren't diminishing, they continue to grow," Owens said. "It may grow larger due to many of the budget cuts that everyone is aware of." As with Gleaners and local food pantries, food donations at Forgotten Harvest tend to peak during the holidays and taper off throughout following year. The largest need of the organization, Owens said, is funding to keep operations steady. "The food is there, but in order to get to the food we have to keep our trucks running," he said. "The funds to keep that going are critical." Funding for Forgotten Harvest comes from individuals, foundations and corporations in southeast Michigan. Although the organization has grown its donor base from about 16,000 to 96,000 people over the past five years, a great deal of work is done by volunteers – which are in particular need during the winter months, Owens said. Donovan Neal, executive director of Hospitality House in Walled Lake, said staff at the organization runs on the lean side to save money. "I've been here for five months, and I've already seen the feast or famine type situations, where there's lots of food or very little," Neal said. "One thing we have done recently to get through the slumps is to join with the Emergency Food Assistance Program. That has bolstered our food by about 5,000 pounds. We purchase half, and the other half is donations." Hospitality House, like other food pantries, receives food from Gleaners, as well as other sources, including groceries, businesses, schools and religious organizations. The organization distributes more than 35,000 pounds of food to about 750 households each month. Hospitality House, which serves individuals and families within the Walled Lake Consolidated School District, serves about 600 families a month. Families must fall below 200 percent of the federal poverty guidelines to receive assistance from the organization. Neal said keeping staff levels low and tightening up on requirements is one way the organization copes with shortfalls. "We run very lean. There is only myself and a warehouse business manager. Everyone else is a volunteer," Neal said. "As food prices increase – Gleaners has difficulties at times, so their costs go up and we experience that on the backend – we have had to change some business parameters. There is more internal verifying of who is eligible within the district. We only service those within the Walled Lake school district, so we have to make sure they fit in that boundary. We are doing our due diligence." Lynn Martin, director of the Ladies of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul at St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic Church in Bloomfield Hills, said the organization serves about 18,000 people in Oakland County each year. The Ladies provide food, clothing and household items to those in need. The organization is entirely run by volunteers, with at least 70 active each week. "It stays fairly steady, but we only have so much space, resources and funds," Martin said. "We can only deal with social service agencies, not the client directly. If we have items to give, the case or social worker
has to pick them up and drop them off to the client. People can donate by dropping items off here." Martin said the organization helps about 500 to 600 clients each month with food. Like other food pantries, Yad Ezra's primary source of food and groceries is through Gleaners, which provides them with items for about 12 cents a pound, sometimes more, depending on how much the items cost Gleaners or what the food pantry had to pay for it. Yad Ezra, in Berkley, is Michigan's only Kosher food pantry and is a member of the Food Bank Council of Michigan. "From a logical and practical standpoint, if we go to a supermarket and price out items and what it would cost in retail versus what it costs Yad Ezra, because of our buying power and discounts, for a family of five, a package that would cost $170 retail costs about $80 at Yad Ezra," said Lea Luger, development director for Yad Ezra. The pantry serves about 1,300 families each month, which represents about 3,000 people, who are able to choose items they want while visiting the pantry. Most of the food available to clients is purchased by Yad Ezra, as it is a kosher pantry and the cost of items may be slightly higher. "Thank God we have a lot of generous, dedicated supporters. We are able to meet the demand by supplying enough food for everyone who comes through our doors for assistance," Luger said. "The Farm Bill is still being debated, and who knows what will happen with Detroit. We don't know what's in store for us, but we feel morally obligated to help anyone who comes to our door in need." Luger said the need from clients is slightly lower than it was at the peak of the economic crisis, when the pantry served about 1,700 families a month. Still, she said, there is large number of people having trouble making ends meet. "There were times after the economy tanked when people called us crying saying that they were former donors and now needed our assistance," Luger said. The demand remains high. Like other pantries, those receiving
LOSS AND REDEMPTION By Kevin Elliott
hile thousands of families in Oakland County were settling into their couches to watch the Detroit Lions trounce the Green Bay Packers before digging into a pile of mashed potatoes, gravy and stack of roasted turkey, Duane Duke and Jessica Williams were sharing their stories of loss and redemption at the Grace Centers of Hope in Pontiac over their Thanksgiving meal. "Be thankful," said Duke, a 29-year-old recovering heroin addict. "There is a reason you're here. God is using my testimony and your skills to help someone else." Four months into a one-year program that aims to take people from homelessness to homeownership, Duke found himself at Grace Centers of Hope after running into trouble and living on the streets of Detroit's Cass corridor. "By trouble, I mean I had a barrel of a .45 in my mouth and a needle sticking out of my arm," he said. "I had nowhere to go." Eventually, Duke turned himself in to authorities for outstanding warrants. He served 90 days in the Oakland County Jail, and went through 90 days of drug treatment. With six months of sobriety behind him, Duke turned to Grace Centers of Hope to help get out of the revolving nature of the system and open new doors. Despite a three-month waiting list, the center was able to bring him into the program and help him start facing his problems directly.
help from Yad Ezra must fall within 200 percent of the federal poverty guideline. That means while federal guidelines don't consider a family of four making $23,500 annually to be impoverished, Yad Ezra helps the same family making up to $47,000. The qualifications and continued economic hardships, Luger said, has brought in new clients that haven't navigated the system before now. "They don't know where to turn, and they are embarrassed. They sometimes wait too long to ask for help before their situation has almost hit rock bottom," Luger said. "At this point, it's been a couple years already, so they are learning to deal with things, but we still have people every week who just lost a job or are going into foreclosure. It's not as dramatic as three or four years ago when we were getting those calls daily." Doris Nelson, director of Troy People Concerned, said the number of people still needing help is higher than people often expect, particularly in areas where incomes have traditionally been well above the poverty guidelines. Nelson said the organization works strictly with families and individuals in Troy. Among the assistance the organization offers is holiday gift baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas time to help ensure that families can have a holiday meal. The organization served more than 55 families this Thanksgiving, or more than 200 people in Troy. The baskets, Nelson said, help families who are struggling to survive. Troy People Concerned also assists with emergency situations, such as helping with one-time payments to keep utilities on or avoid eviction. "People have said, 'Troy? You must be kidding, if you live in Troy you are doing alright,'" Nelson said. "But that's not the case." The majority of resources the organization offers comes from donations from Troy-area churches and individuals. "They lose jobs or have lost jobs in the past when we had the big economic downturn, and they never got back up to where they were," Nelson said. "They took temporary jobs and they never got back up. That's what they are striving to do. In the meantime, it's hard to get there. People have taken jobs at McDonald's or wherever they can because they can. It's difficult to ask for assistance."
"I was in trouble as much as you can be, and I've found there's something in my heart for helping others," Duke said, who discovered the healing power of helping others. "I've grown closer with God, and can work on my own issues of abandonment, loneliness and abuse." The gratefulness Duke expressed isn't just air for Thanksgiving Day. He knows his spot in the program is in high demand. Each month, the center turns away between 400 and 500 people hoping to get into the center's 30day temporary assistance program or one-year program, said Pastor Kent Clark, CEO of Grace Centers of Hope. "We just don't have enough room," Clark said of the center, which provides a home to about 200 men, women and children, making it the largest homeless shelter in Oakland County. In order to better meet the demand for help, the center recently purchased the former Clutch Cargo property at 65 E. Huron Street. About 99 percent of the food cooked each day at the shelter is donated, said Mickey Dodge, director of food services for the center. Roughly 100 additional plates are served on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas, as staff encourages residents to invite family for lunch and dinner services if they don't have a home of their own. Clark said clients come to the center through different paths, including word of mouth, referrals from other agencies, as well as the court system.
Jessica Williams said she had been in and out of jail for probation offenses when her probation officer guided her to Grace Centers of Hope. "I was getting ready to get probation and told my probation officer I needed help," she said. "I said, 'I need you to save my life because I don't know how.'" On Thanksgiving, Williams was nine months into the year long program and had been drug free for 10 months. The program, she said, has helped her realize she has the ability to change her life for the better, including establishing a better relationship with her 18-year-old daughter and other family members. "I don't say that I'm going to change anymore. Now, I just work to do it," she said. "My sister told me she is proud of me, and it's real." Nine months into the program, Williams started steps toward transitioning out of the shelter, which includes finding employment and housing. Throughout the entire time, the shelter has provided warm meals to her and other clients in the one-year and 30-day programs. "It's not a food kitchen, so we feed people every day," Dodge said, who added the center is fortunate to have adequate storage space to help make it through the peaks and valleys of the year. "From Thanksgiving to the first of the year, we probably receive more donations in those six weeks than in the following four months."
MUNICIPAL Village awards new waste services pact Waste and recycling items will be collected every week in the village of Wolverine Lake under a new contract awarded to Republic Services on Wednesday, December 18, at a special Wolverine Lake council meeting. Village council members voted unanimously to approve the community's solid waste, yard waste, bulk leaf service and recycling collection contract with Republic for $770,949. The agreement replaces the village's current contract for services with Waste Management, which expires at the end of December. Republic's bid was about $60,000 less than the bid for services by Waste Management, and the lowest among five service providers who submitted bids to the village for consideration. Village council members said they believe changing recycling pickups from every other week to every week will benefit residents. "In terms of service, having recycling done every week is important to many people," said councilman Ron Cumbo. "There's also a fiduciary issue and it's substantial. I think that's what tips the scale. I think the service has been great with Waste Management and I expect it to be great with Republic. There is no disappointment with Waste Management, but we pass the costs on to the property owners and I think that's important." Village Administrator Sharon Miller also said the level of service hasn't been an issue with the community's current service provider. "We have had wonderful service and we appreciate that, so it has nothing to do with Waste Management,â€? she stated. Council president John Magee said the village administrative committee spoke with Republic, which has had positive reviews in neighboring communities and that he expects the service will be on the same level as residents are accustomed to receiving. "Everyone is doing a good job recycling in the village and with collections every other week, it appears to be overflowing some," he said. "Also, collecting every week alleviates some confusion as to when it will be picked up." The schedule of pickup and collection days will remain the same, on Tuesdays. 32
New development director chosen By Kevin Elliott
he Commerce Township Board of Trustees on Thursday, December 19, selected Terry Carroll to head up the township's new community development department, effective January 6, 2014. Carroll has worked in the public sector for more than 25 years, most recently serving as the director of planning and economic development for Van Buren Township. As community development director for Commerce Township, Carroll will be paid $60,000 annually to oversee the new department created by the merger of the township's planning department with the building, water and sewer department. Township board members made the decision to hire Carroll following a series of interviews at a special meeting December 20 with three other candidates who were under consideration for the position. Following the interviews, four board members said Carroll was their first choice for the position, while two members voted for another candidate, and one board member expressed interest in a third candidate. "It was a tough decision. I thought we had four good candidates, but there were two that really stuck out," said trustee David Law. "In the end, I was more comfortable with his experience as a manager." Trustee Rick Sovel said Carroll appeared to be well polished, experienced and compassionate. Township Clerk Vanessa Magner said she believes Carroll "will be good for the township." Carroll, who described Commerce as one of the "premier" townships in southeast Michigan, indicated during his interview that he was already familiar with the township's software system, as well as many of the duties and responsibilities that come with being a municipal department director. He also spoke candidly about his departure from his position in Van Buren Township, which he said occurred in February when a new township supervisor was elected who chose not to renew his contract when it expired. Township supervisor Tom Zoner said each of Carroll's municipal positions appeared to have been a good experience and that he didn't suspect that he left his last position due to any problems related to poor job performance. Plans to create the director's position were finalized in October when board members approved a description for the job. Among the responsibilities and duties included with the job will be coordinating activities for building inspectors, planning consultants and township engineers. The director also will oversee and enforce field inspections of building construction; inspections and repairs within the township to determine that homes, commercial buildings and other structures meet local and state codes; reviewing building permit issuances; and other related tasks. The new department should be able to provide efficiencies to the township by cross-training staff to perform functions currently handled by the two departments. Zoner said adding a director in the slower winter months will provide time for the new director to learn the position before development picks up in the spring.
Water storage facility moving forward The Commerce Township Board of Trustees on Tuesday, December 10, granted engineering consultants authorization to move forward with plans to construct a two-million gallon water storage facility behind the township's fire station on E. Commerce Road, across from DMC Huron-Valley Sinai Hospital. Board members voted 5 to 1 to approve engineers with Giffels Webster
to proceed with the development of site plans for the facility, with trustees David Law, Robert Berkheiser, Susan Gross, Tom Zoner, and Vanessa Magner voting to approve the action, and trustee Rick Sovel voting against. Trustee Robert Long wasn't present at the meeting. Engineering consultant Jason Mayer said the purpose of the facility is to lower water rates charged by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD). Rates charged by the department are based on several variables, including the elevation of the
destination to where the water is going; the distance from the department's water facility; and peaktime usage, or how much water is used during times when water is in highest demand, which is typically in the morning before people go to work, and in the evening, after people return home from work. By creating a water storage facility, the township hopes to offset peak-time usage by filling the storage facility during off-peak times and using it to supplement demand during peak hours. Engineers estimate the facility will provide a 20 percent savings to customers. The overall cost to build the facility will be about $5 million, which includes constructing a brick exterior with artificial windows on the outside of the facility to make it more appealing to passersby and residents in the area. Money to build the facility will come from the water fund, which is funded by water customers. Sovel, who voted against moving forward with the facility, said he is concerned about the future of the DWSD and how it would set rates if the system is sold to a private equity firm, as has been discussed by Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr as a possibility as the city looks to liquidate assets and find new streams of revenue. "This (project) is based on the way the rate structure has been in the past, so the question is: can that structure be broken?" Sovel asked. "What if someone buys it and they change the rate structure. How do we know we will have any savings if they change the formula?" Mayer said he believes any rate structure, regardless of who owns the system, will have to account for peak usage times. Mayer further stated that delaying the planning of the project would push back the date to when the facility would be able to begin operating. The facility must operate for about a year to show a drop in peak-time usage before water rates can be adjusted. Since construction of the facility will take about two years, the earliest that rates could be adjusted could be in 2016. Delaying the project to next year could mean pushing rate adjustments back another year, Mayer indicated. The facility is estimated to save the township about $1.3 million per year on its wholesale water purchase rate from the DWSD. 1.14
Developer withdraws DDA purchase offer By Kevin Elliott
A Bloomfield Hills developer has withdrawn a $4.5 million purchase offer for about 43 acres of land owned by the Commerce Township Downtown Development Authority (DDA) due to perceived planning difficulties. Edward Rose and Sons Development submitted the offer earlier this year for two parcels within the Commerce Towne Place project area, located north of M-5 and Pontiac Trail, between Haggerty and Welch Roads. Rose had proposed constructing about 11 three-story apartment buildings containing nearly 400 units, as well as a high-density senior living facility. The offer was the third in the DDA's 330-acre project area, which has long been planned to include a mix of retail, commercial, residential and parks developments aimed to establish a downtown area for the community and provide long-term tax revenues. The Commerce Towne Place project is comprised of two former golf courses and another 50 acres of parkland purchased by the DDA, which has placed the taxing authority about $73 million in debt. While the property had been planned to be resold and developed to pay for the debt, the collapse of the real estate market and subsequent recession has stalled sales until recently. Randy Thomas, president of Insite Commercial, who has been contracted to market the property, said at the Tuesday, December 17, DDA meeting that Rose had withdrawn the offer following an October 21 Commerce Township Board of Trustees meeting where some trustees raised concern about the number of multiple family developments being planned in the township, despite previous zoning recommendations for the DDA land. "They feel they have a significant uphill battle in getting the project approved," Thomas said. â€œThey have elected to walk away at this point." Thomas said four other parties that have expressed interest in the two parcels, but a formal purchase offer hasn't been presented. Commerce Township Trustee Rick Sovel said at the October meeting that the proposal appeared to have too many apartment units for his liking. "There are too many units, and it's too dense," Sovel said. "I understand we are to have several hundred (units) westendmonthly.com
Village to establish pocket parks By Kevin Elliott
fforts to establish a system of neighborhood parks throughout Wolverine Lake Village are moving forward, as the village council on Wednesday, December 11, unanimously agreed to recommendations from the parks and recreation board to provide basic amenities at neighborhood parks. Under the recommendation, each neighborhood, or pocket, park the village establishes in the future would contain a bench or picnic table, small swing, trash receptacle and park signage. The recommendation establishes a "minimum standard" for future pocket parks in the village. The measure was unanimously approved by the village council. Council president John Magee said the village is working to establish a number of smaller neighborhood, or pocket, parks throughout the community to provide recreational spaces that are close to different neighborhoods in the village. The first of such parks is expected to be established next year on Oak Island Drive. Magee said the idea is to create one or two of the pocket parks each year by using land already owned by the village, or perhaps by acquiring additional land if necessary. He said efforts to create a system of smaller parks has been talked about for several years and would provide additional opportunities to residents, who are currently limited to Clara Miller park in the northwest area of the village. Village council member Ed Sienkiewicz said he is concerned that some of the neighborhoods where parks may be planned don't have many children who would utilize them. "You're assuming people are going to walk by and use the park," he said. "I think it's important to have a consensus from the people that live in that neighborhood whether they want a park or not." "That's not the idea," responded council member Pam Kaznecki. "We aren't shoving it down anyone's throat." Kaznecki also said that while a neighborhood may not have many children at the moment, the demographics are always changing. "On my street alone, we have had three new, young families move in with little children, which there haven't been there in years," she said. "Things change. Dynamics change. People move and new people come in. Just because there aren't any young children there today, doesn't mean that next year there might not be." Council member John Scott, who said he lives near where the Oak Island park would be created, agreed with Kaznecki. "In the past 12 months, we've had five new purchases there, and out of those, two are bringing young children," he said. "I grew up in a neighborhood where there was a park, and you could say 'go to the park' and we would go for eight hours. The point is, if we are going to put a footprint down, we should be consistent with what we are doing." there, but to me, this is too much. We have too many units in here that are multiple-family units, whether they are owner occupied or rental units, there are too many." Sovel said at the time that he felt higher density developments would lead to increased calls for service from police and fire, and would place a heavy burden on the local infrastructure. Trustee Robert Berkheiser also said that he wasn't happy with the high density of the residential portion of the plan, instead preferring single-family residential properties in the specific area. Dan Lublin, a longstanding member of the DDA board, said the Commerce Towne Place project had always included a mix of single-family and multiple-family residential
developments since it was originally planned. The DDA in June 2013 accepted a $5.15 million offer from M. Shapiro Development Company for 59.5 acres of land in the project area to construct about 400 "stacked ranch" townhouse units, as well as mixed-use development that would include restaurants, senior living, banking, rental apartments and hospitality. The DDA also accepted a proposal from Hunter Pasteur Homes of Novi to construct about 38 to 40 single-family homes in the project area. In November, Rose agreed to lower the number of buildings they planned to construct from 11 to seven in order to lower the overall density of the project, in addition to lowering the number of senior units from 180 to 140. Still, Thomas said the developer felt it
would be best to withdraw the offer. DDA Director Kathleen Jackson said while there have been plans in the past to build some multiple-family developments in the Commerce Towne Place project area, she said the township board and planning commission have been clear that they would like more single-family developments. "That plan was formulated years ago, and is no longer in effect with the economic changes and development we have seen in the township. We have seen an influx of multiples, so that plan isn't a guiding force in the development of the DDA," she said. "The planning commission, the township board and DDA all have the right to change their minds and make their voices heard. When that plan was developed years ago, we didn't have the multiple-family residential developments we have now." Jackson said building single-family homes rather than multiple family wouldn't necessarily set the stage for a lower tax base. "There are some single family developments that would have a higher tax base than multiple," she said. "From a planning perspective, to say that we have to stick with a plan that was generated eight years ago isn't necessarily the right thing to do. Part of it has to be market driven, and we have seen so many new developments come in and fill the need (for multiple-family units). The plan has to change."
Township seeks $65K to help community Commerce Township is seeking more than $65,000 in federal funds to help underwrite several community development programs intended to help seniors, children and battered and abused spouses. The funds would come from the annual Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds disbursed by the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department. Funds from the CDBG program are provided to Oakland County and then funneled to local communities based on the county's annual action plan, which identifies specific projects that meet federal program requirements. Local projects that would receive funding under the plan include $45,659 to be used for senior center projects in Commerce Township; $11,567 for senior services; $4,000 for youth services; and $4,000 to assist battered and abused spouses. 33
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City approves CDBG funding requests Walled Lake City Council members on Tuesday, December 3, approved $21,458 in requests from the city's 2014 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. Under the city's sub-recipient agreement with Oakland County, federal funds under the program are funneled to the city through the county. The CDBG program provides communities within Oakland County with resources to address a wide range of unique community development needs, particularly to provide decent housing, a suitable living environment, and opportunities to expand economic opportunities, principally for low and moderate income individuals. First created in 1974 as a compilation of several existing federal programs during the Nixon administration, the CDBG program is one of the longest continuously run programs at the Housing and Urban Development department. The city council approved funding from the program to provide a total of $2,500 for HAVEN to allow for the assistance of battered and abused spouses and children. The funding will assist those needing emergency provisions such as food, rent/mortgage payments, medical expenses and transportation. The non-profit organization provided about 20 Walled Lake residents with assistance last year and received eight crisis calls from people in Walled Lake. The grants will also provide $2,500 for public service emergency services. The funds will allow for assistance to low income, disadvantaged residents needing emergency provisions. A total of $12,000 is allocated for public facilities and improvements. The funds, which will go through the city of Wixom's Senior Center, will be used to provide services to the senior citizens of Walled Lake. About $4,458 will be available through the Oakland County Home Improvement Program for housing rehabilitation. The funds will provide assistance to low income residents to be able to bring their homes up to decent, safe and sanitary conditions established by the government.
From horse farm to new soccer facility? By Kevin Elliott
The future of a 30-acre horse farm in Commerce Township could include a WESTEND
soccer facility, complete with concessions, storage, restrooms, meeting areas and parking lots, according to representatives from a soccer organization who presented an overview of potential plans for the site to the Commerce Township Board of Trustees on Tuesday, December 10. The farm, located near Wixom and N. Wixom Roads, was purchased in October for about $382,000 from Oakland County, which sells property each year that has been foreclosed due to delinquent tax payments. Representatives from CW3 Soccer presented potential recreational plans for the property. The township would need to establish the land as dedicated park property before CW3 could consider the land for use as a soccer field and related facilities. An additional study of the land also would need to be conducted by CW3, which would include wetland investigation and soil testing. Currently, the property is leased to a private tenant who uses the land as a horse farm, with about 25 horses housed at the property. CW3 is a non-profit organization that offers facilities and programs to allow children to develop and improve soccer skills. The organization serves communities primarily within the Walled Lake School District. The organization provides facilities and conducts supervised soccer programs that encourage family involvement, and fosters physical, mental and emotional growth through soccer. The soccer organization currently has game fields at Geisler Middle School in Walled Lake; Clifford Smart Middle School in Commerce Township; Sarah Banks Middle School in Wixom; Walled Lake Northern High School in Commerce; and Dodge Park No. 5, also in Commerce. Township Supervisor Tom Zoner said at the time of the purchase that the property may be used for parkland or recreational purposes in the future. "They know that it's a two-year project to get everything set, have a field open and have everything in there," Zoner said. "They understand that this isn't an easy thing. It's a big deal, and they know they have six to eight years of use on that land, and that we have people in there that are using the property, and that would take maybe two years to get that moved." 1.14
PLACES TO EAT
Amazing House Chinese Restaurant: Chinese. Lunch & Dinner, Monday–Friday, 3-10 p.m. No reservations. 1130 E. West Maple Road, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.669.8896. Anaam’s Palate: Middle Eastern. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 2534 Union Lake Road, Commerce Township, 48382. 248.242.6326. Applebees Neighborhood Grill: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 9100 Highland Road, White Lake, 48386. 248.698.0901. Backyard Coney Island: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 49378 Pontiac Trail, Wixom, 48393. 248.926.9508. Bayside Sports Grille: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 142 E. Walled Lake Drive, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.669.3322. Biffs Coney Island: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 3050 Union Lake Road, Commerce Township, 48382. 248.366.7400. Big Boy Restaurant: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Beer & Wine. 5834 Highland Road, Waterford, 48328. 248.674.4631. Big Boy Restaurant: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 800 N. Pontiac Trail, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.624.2323. Big Boy Restaurant: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Beer & Wine. 7726 Cooley Lake Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.363.1573. Billy’s Tip N Inn: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 6707 Highland Road, White Lake Township, 48383. 248.889.7885. Blu Nectar: American. Lunch & Dinner, Monday - Saturday. Reservations. Liquor. 1050 Benstein Road, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.859.5506. Boon Kai Restaurant: Chinese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 1257 S. Commerce Road, Commerce, 48390. 248.624.5353. Buffalo Wild Wings: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 5223 Highland Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.674.9464. Carino’s Italian Restaurant: Italian. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 500 Loop Road, Commerce Township, 48390. 248.926.5300. Carrie Lee’s of Waterford: Chinese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 7890 Highland Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.666.9045. Casey’s Sports Pub & Grill: Deli. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 1003
E West Maple Road, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.669.5200. CAYA Smokehouse Grille: Barbeque. Dinner, Tuesday - Sunday. No reservations. Liquor. 1403 S. Commerce Road, Wolverine Lake, 48390. 248.438.6741. China Garden: Chinese. Lunch & Dinner daily. No reservations. 49414 Pontiac Trail, Wixom, 48393. 248.960.8877. China House: Chinese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 901 Nordic Drive, White Lake Township, 48386. 248.889.2880. China King: Chinese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 4785 Carroll Lake Road, Commerce Township, 48390. 248.363.9966. China Queen: Chinese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 1130 E. Maple Road, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.669.8896. CJ’s Brewing Company: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 8115 Richardson Road, Commerce Township, 48390. 248.366.7979. Coffee Time Café: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 1001 Welch Road, Commerce Township, 48390. 248.624.0097. Coyote Grille: American. Lunch, MondayFriday; Dinner, Monday-Sunday. No reservations. Liquor. 1990 Hiller Road, West Bloomfield, 48324. 248.681.6195. Dairy Queen: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 10531 Highland Road, White Lake, 48386. 248.698.2899. Daniel’s Pizza Bistro: Pizza. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 2510 Union Lake Road, Commerce Township, 48382. 248.363.7000. Dave and Amy’s: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 9595 Highland Road, White Lake, 48386. 248.698.2010. Dave’s Coney Island: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No Reservations. 901 Nordick Drive, White Lake, 48383. 248.889.3600. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit: Barbecue. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 4825 Carroll Lake Road, Commerce Township, 48382. 248.360.4055. Dobski’s: American, Polish. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 6565 Cooley Lake Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.363.6565. Eddie’s Coney Island: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 1749 Haggerty Road, Commerce Township, 48390. 248.960.1430. El Nibble Nook: Mexican. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations for 6 or more. Liquor. 2750 Haggerty Road, West Bloomfield, 48323. 248.669.3344. El Patio Mexican Restaurant: Mexican. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 7622 Highland Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.666.5231. Five Guys Burgers & Fries: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 5134 Highland Road, 48327. 248.673.5557. Gest Omelets: American. Breakfast & Lunch, daily until 4 p.m. No reservations.
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39560 W. 14 Mile Road, Commerce Township, 48390. 248.926.0717. Golden Chop Sticks: Chinese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 47516 Pontiac Trail, Wixom, 48393. 248.960.3888. Grand Aztecha: Mexican. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 6041 Haggerty Road, West Bloomfield, 48322. 248.669.7555. Greek Jalapeno: Greek, Mexican. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 6636 Cooley Lake Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.363.3322. Green Apple Restaurant: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 7156 Cooley Lake Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.366.9100. Haang's Bistro: Chinese/Thai. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. 225 E. Walled Lake Drive, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.926.1100. Highland Grille: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 7265 Highland Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.666.8830. Highland House: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 2630 E. Highland Road, Highland, 48356. 248.887.4161. Highland House Café: American, Pizza. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 10719 Highland Road, White Lake, 48386. 248.698.4100. Hong Kong Express: Chinese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 5158 Highland Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.673.7200. It’s a Matter of Taste: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 2323 Union Lake Road, Commerce, 48390. 248.360.4150. Jennifer’s Café: Middle Eastern. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 4052 Haggerty Road, Commerce Township, 48390. 248.360.0190. Jenny’s Restaurant: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 1186 E. West Maple Road, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.669.8240. Kennedy’s Irish Pub: Irish/American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 1055 W. Huron Street, Waterford, 48328. 248.681.1050. L George’s: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 1203 S. Commerce Road, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.960.5700. Leo’s Coney Island: American/Greek. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 6845 Highland Road, White Lake, 484386. 248.889.5361. Leo’s Coney Island: American/Greek. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 4895 Carroll Lake Road, Commerce Township, 48382. 248.366.8360. Leo’s Coney Island: American/Greek. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 2210 Teggerdine, White Lake, 48386. 248.779.7085. Leon’s Food & Spirits: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 29710 S. Wixom
Road, Wixom, 48393. 248.926.5880. Lion’s Den: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 4444 Highland Road, Waterford, 48328. 248.674.2251. Lulu’s Coney Island: Greek. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 1001 Welch Road, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.669.1937. Maria’s Restaurant: Italian. Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 2080 Walnut Lake Road, West Bloomfield, 48323. 248.851.2500. Mexico Lindo: Mexican. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 6225 Highland Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.666.3460. Mezza Mediterranean Grille: Mediterranean. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 1001 Welch Road, Commerce Township, 48390. 248.926.2190. Moonlight Mediterranean Cuisine: Mediterranean. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 1123 E. West Maple Road, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.859.5352. Nick & Toney’s: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, Monday-Saturday; Sunday until 3 p.m. No reservations. 9260 Cooley Lake Road, White Lake, 48386. 248.363.1162. North Szechuan Empire: Chinese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 39450 W. 14 Mile Road, Commerce Township, 48390. 248.960.7666. On The Waterfront: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 8635 Cooley Lake Road, Commerce Township, 48382. 248.363.9469. Panera Bread: Bakery, Deli. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 5175 Highland Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.618.0617. Pepino’s Restaurant & Lounge: Italian. Dinner, Tuesday-Sunday. No reservations. Liquor. 118 W. Walled Lake Drive, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.624.1033. Red Lobster: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 479 N. Telegraph Road, Waterford, 48328. 248.682.5146. Red Robin: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 3003 Commerce Crossing, Commerce Township, 48390. 248.926.2990. Root Restaurant & Bar: American. Lunch & Dinner, Monday-Saturday. No reservations. Liquor. 340 Town Center Blvd., White Lake, 48386. 248.698.2400. Rudy’s Waffle House: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 674 N. Pontiac Trail, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.669.7550. Samuri Steakhouse: Japanese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 7390 Haggerty Road, West Bloomfield, 48322. 248.661.8898. Shark Club: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 6665 Highland Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.666.4161. SIAM Fushion: Thai. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 6845 Highland
Road, White Lake Township, 48386. 248.887.1300. Siegel’s Deli: Deli. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 3426 E. West Maple Road, Commerce Township, 48390. 248.926.9555. Sizzl in Subs & Salads: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 2051 N. Wixom Road, Wixom, 48393. 248.960.0009. Swasdee Thai Restaurant: Thai. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 6175 Haggerty Road, West Bloomfield, 48322. 248.926.1012. Sweet Water Bar & Grille: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 7760 Cooley Lake Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.363.0400. Taqueria La Casita: Mexican. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 49070 Pontiac Trail, Wixom, 48393. 248.926.1980. Thai Kitchen: Thai. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 7108 Highland Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.886.0397. The Lake’s Bar & Grill: American. Lunch, Tuesday - Sunday; Dinner daily. Reservations. Liquor. 2528 Union Lake Road, Commerce Township, 48382. 248.366.3311. The Library Pub: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 6363 Haggerty Road, West Bloomfield, 48322. 248.896.0333. TJ’s Sushi & Chinese Restaurant: Japanese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 8143 Commerce Road, Commerce Township, 48382. 248.363.3388. Town Lake Family Restaurant: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner daily. No reservations. 1186 E. West Maple Road, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.669.7550. Uptown Grill: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 3100 West Maple Road, Commerce Township, 48382. 248.960.3344. Village Grill: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 1243 N. Commerce Road, Commerce Township, 48382. 248.366.3290. Volare Risorante: Italian. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 49115 Pontiac Trail, Wixom, 48393. 248.960.7771. VR Famous Fried Chicken: American, Cajun. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 47520 Pontiac Trail, Wixom, 48393. 248.926.6620. White Palace: Mediterranean. Lunch & Dinner, daily. Reservations. Liquor. 6123 Haggerty Restaurant, West Bloomfield, 48322. 248.313.9656. Wilson’s Pub n Grill: American. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. Liquor. 2256 Union Lake Road, Commerce Township, 48382. 248.363.1849. Wonton Palace: Chinese. Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 5562 Cooley Lake Road, Waterford, 48327. 248.683.5073. Woody’s Café: American. Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner, daily. No reservations. 235 N. Pontiac Trail, Walled Lake, 48390. 248.624.4379.
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Don't send wrong message to developers he recent decision by a Bloomfield Hills developer to withdraw a $4.5 million offer to purchase approximately 43 acres of land owned by the Commerce Township Downtown Development Authority (DDA) should give township officials reason to consider how it will proceed with the development of a 330-acre project area known as the Commerce Towne Place. Commerce Towne Place was created as an endeavor by the DDA to establish a planned development area with residential, commercial and retail sites coexisting, in fact, supporting one another, much as a downtown community does. Edward Rose and Sons Development had submitted what appeared to be, by DDA and zoning standards, an excellent offer for two parcels of land in the Commerce Towne Place project area, located north of M-5 and Pontiac Trail, between Haggerty and Welch Roads. Rose, which manages thousands of rental units across the country, made the offer for a 34.4acre parcel with zoned uses for multiple-family and single-family residential use, commercial development, high-density senior living, and research and development. The offer also included a 9-acre parcel zoned for recreational and residential uses, as well as research and development, commercial and high tech industry. Rose said it intended to construct about 390 apartments and a senior-housing facility on the land. Rose withdrew its offer based upon comments made in October by at least two Commerce Township board of trustee members who, concerned over development issues at the DDA, may not fully comprehend the goals of
creating Commerce Towne Place and the financial ramifications of chasing qualified developers away. Trustees Robert Berkheiser, a newcomer to the township board, and Rick Sovel both said they opposed the project, citing the density of the multiple-housing project as too high for their tastes, particularly any project that had more than two stories. Rose proposed threestory apartment buildings. Concerns about increased police and fire calls, as well as additional stress on local infrastructure was cited by the trustees, who both said they preferred single-family developments in the area, as the township has seen an influx of multiple-family units recently. DDA Director Kathleen Jackson, who also serves as the township's planning consultant, said original plans on how the DDA would be developed may not be relevant with the economic changes and development that has taken place in other areas of the township, as the multiplefamily developments going forward in other areas of the township didn't exist when the original DDA project plan was developed. While we agree that plans change, the township should look carefully at how reducing the number of multiple-family units planned in the DDA area will effect the overall revenue base and functionality of the project area before rejecting them on aesthetics alone. Just across Commerce's border are multi-family and commercial in West Bloomfield, and previous DDA leaders had, we assume, addressed road and traffic issues when designating the original zoning for Commerce Towne Place.
Commerce Township is no longer a pastoral community. Commerce Towne Place is being built upon the grounds of former golf courses. Farm land has been turned into subdivisions and shopping centers. The decisions to create a downtown-like area in density, housing and commercial activity already was made a decade or so ago when the land was purchased and bonds were floated by the DDA and the township. Those bonds must be repaid and development is key to that repayment, and to Commerce's future tax base growth. Obstructionist trustees do not help the process, but hinder them. While DDA officials have said there are other developers interested in the parcels, Rose's decision to withdraw could signal a concern by developers that Commerce Township may be a difficult community to build in, even when land they purchase is zoned for such use. As stated in this publication before, purchase offers should be carefully assessed for their ability to not only to meet the recommended and zoned property uses, but also to determine if that use would provide enough revenue to the township to support services over the long term. Board members should also realize that Commerce isn't the only community that developers can seek out for development, and that if the township gains a reputation for putting up impediments to builders, there are other communities that will put out the welcome mat for them. It's important for all leaders in Commerce to think long term in their planning for Commerce Towne Place.
Neighborhood parks and quality of life fforts to establish a system of passive, neighborhood parks in Wolverine Lake Village should not only be applauded, but should be considered by other municipalities looking to attract young families and improve the quality of life in their community. Wolverine Lake Village council members in December approved recommendations by their parks and recreation board to provide basic amenities to smaller â€œpocket parks" in the community. The parks, which are intended to provide recreational opportunities within walking distance throughout the community, will contain the minimum features of a bench or picnic table, small swing or slide, trash receptacles and park signage. The first of such parks in Wolverine Lake
Village would utilize land already owned by the village along Oak Island Drive. Additional parks could use other lands, such as road endings or small open spaces, or possibly even land that is donated or purchased by the municipality. The Oak Island park, as with others planned in the village, will be passive in nature, in that they won't require parking lots or the type of upkeep and maintenance that come with larger parks or baseball fields. They are designed to be relatively unobtrusive to homes neighboring such locations. Village council president John Magee said the idea is to create one or two such pocket parks a year by using land already owned by the village. Efforts to create a system of smaller parks has been talked about for years, and provide additional opportunities to residents, who are currently
limited to Clara Miller Park, in the northwest area of the village. Such parks are utilized by many communities throughout Oakland County, and are indeed a unique concept that other communities may want to embrace. Not only do pocket parks provide additional quality of life to those who live near them, they are great community marketing tools which can be used to attract young families to the area, and help establish a greater sense of community for neighborhoods. While some residents may oppose the concept, suggesting that such parks wouldn't be utilized by older residents, we feel such parks offer a kind of "Field of Dreams" appeal, in that if you build it, they will come, which is a beneficial notion for residents and members of any community.
THE STOCKTON TEAM
Wishing Everyone a Healthy and Prosperous New Year
2900 Union Lake Road, Suite 210 Commerce, MI 48382
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STUNNING HOME AND 125’ FRONTAGE TO ALL SPORTS COMMERCE LAKE
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HIDDEN PARADISE PRIVATE 19.75 ACRE HORSE FARM • 2,103 Sq Ft, 3Bedroom, 2 Bath, In-Gound Pool, Covered Deck • Dining & Great Rooms With Fireplace & Hardwood Floor • Basement, 2 Car Garage, Mulitple Barns/Outbuildings #213093470 Ext. 141
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Published on Jan 3, 2014
WESTEND is an upscale newsmagazine mailed each month to 24,000 homes in the Oakland County area of Commerce, Walled Lake, Wolverine Lake and...