DWSD Customer Beware!!!


Ok, so why has DWSD put a blue line on the sidewalk right near your water cutoff? Do they only do this when they plan to turn your water off? In the city of Detroit, the blue line on your sidewalk serves as a scarlet letter telling your neighbors you must not pay your water bill.

I had a really really busy day with work. Later in the day when I looked at activity picked up by my cameras, I saw that someone was walking around my house. Saw truck drive up to my house specifically. Although the doorbell sits at eye level, the DWSD tech never rings it. A simple ring of the doorbell would have triggered an interior chime and an alert on my phone that someone was at my front door. But on close inspection of my front door… I see that the tech put this in my front security door.

First let’s note how annoying it is when someone does not put a “door hanger” on the doorknob. But shoves it between your decorative rod iron and the storm window of your security door. Obviously, DWSD does not train their techs in how difficult it is to try and peel wet paper off a window covered by decorative rod iron. It’s not their property so why should they respect it.

Since I hadn’t made a meter appointment nor been made aware via a phone call, direct mail, email mail or anything else that a meter reading was upcoming I was quite surprised by the door hanger. I was even more surprised when over a decade ago, DWSD announced they had installed outdoor meter readers in homes such as mine.

Poor Communication

I call DWSD the next morning to inquire about the door hanger. “Why do you need to come into my home when the meter reader is outside?” I was told there was a meter error. No more explanation than that. I was then asked if I wanted to make a meter appointment. That was a very interesting offer. You can make an appointment? But why should DWSD be so inefficient by sending techs out Willy Neilly on the if come you maybe home. Wouldn’t it had been a more efficient use of manpower to email, direct mail, text or call a customer ahead of time to notify them of your needs and then make an appointment? Especially if when you make an appointment and miss it you will be charged $40 on your next bill. DWSD just shows up on the if come and they get nothing. Gives one perspective on how the ways DWSD is run inefficiently creates higher water bill fees Year after year.

The appointment is made and the tech comes the same day. Interestingly enough the tech comes early. As he walks up the driveway he has equipment in his hand. As I stand in my driveway watching the tech walk towards me I ask, “What were you told the issue was?” He responds, “You need a new meter installed.” My reply, “I was told there was a meter error. The communication between interior and exterior meter. That’s all.” In a matter of fact way he says, “They lie”. Point taken.


I lead the tech into the basement and direct him to the main. He pulls out a wrench and starts tugging at the main cutoff. He says “it’s stuck”. I think to myself don’t plumbers have a lubricant they use to get a knob to be turned? I don’t ask this question aloud. But then I get a better understanding of the tech’s mentality. He flips the cover on the meter and taps on it with his finger. In a pure misogamist tone, he says, “Well there you go, the meter is definitely not working. See when I tap my finger, they normally do something if they are working. You need a new meter. I can’t turn the water off. You have to get a plumber to fix it.” As he gets up and moves to pick up his toolbox and the replacement meter he brought in, for some strange reason he notices and grabs a can of WD40 I had on a chest. “Well thank your lucky stars you had this. Let me use some of it”

Now I noticed that training was not a priority with DWSD. A water meter’s main function is to record the amount of water the home is requesting at any given time.

If no appliances are running, someone hasn’t just flushed the toilet, you don’t have any faucets on or your hot water tank or humidifier aren’t filling, the meter doesn’t have any use going on at the time to read. It’s not my job to train DWSD workers in simple physics.

The WD40 loosened the handle on the turnoff. But the tech lamented that he couldn’t turn off the main. I responded, “interesting with how much money we pay on our water bills DWSD can’t afford to supply you folks with WD40.” Point made.

I went on to say, “what are the next steps?” Tech relied,”YOU have to get a plumber”. The intent of my question was will I need to contact DWSD to have my water cut off at the curb stop before my plumber arrives? Will I need to coordinate when plumber is done to schedule DWSD to come back to turn the water back on? He replied. “…you have no choice”


As I go back into my house after the tech leaves. I fume that I am doing most of the work for a vendor I am paying. I reach out to my regular plumber and I explain what is needed. Just as I am considering setting an appointment time it occurs to me that I have a day job with an employer who treats me well. So let me get on my next conference call and tell my plumber I will call them back later to schedule. Then it hits my memory, didn’t you sign up and pay for the first year coverage of some type of water service line/sewerage line insurance DWSD was promoting? Yes I did with a company called American Water Resources USA.

The interesting thing about insurance is that you pay for it and when you need it you watch them find ways to wiggle out of covering anything you need. I might as well go through the exercise before I setup the appointment with my usual plumber.


I locate the email AWR sent when I enrolled in the program and called the number. I explained what DWSD and the DWSD tech told me. AWR said they would set up an appointment. Told me that their contractor would reach out to me within 24 hours to schedule the exact appointment time. In their welcome packet they said,

“Stay up-to-the-minute on the day of your American Water Resources service appointment with the Dispatch Manager app. Ask your agent how to set-up your appointment with Dispatch so you get text message alerts”

I click on the link expecting to be sent to the Apple App Store to download the Dispatch app. But it sent me to a BtoB website focused on getting small businesses to use the Dispatch service for their customers. I inquire about the Dispatch app while I am on the phone with the customer service representative (CSR). She says, “oh no that just our communication system.”

The CSR goes on to say that her company is trying to get Detroit residents excited and happy about their current program in hopes that they can roll out more insurance programs to Detroit residents in the near future. I ask if the CSR could explain more about the AWR DWSD partnership, hoping there would be some coordination between the two so I wouldn’t have to serve as a project manager. While I am still speaking to the CSR via my mobile, my home phone rings. I check my email and notice AWR had triggered several emails while I was on the call. Dispatch is trigger happy and not in a good way.

Who you gonna call?

While Dispatch gets overly excited in triggering notifications, knowing who and what number to call is not communicated well. Between the emails and CSR and the return numbers listed on my voicemail it’s hard to reconnect or return a phone call. I had 3-4 different numbers for the plumbing contractor AWR had made my appointment with. I made 4-5 different calls trying to reach someone. All, but one number went directly to voicemail. The one live body was an answering service not even located in this state.

Tell me a little about yourself

Being a homeowner in Detroit has it challenges. Your home is your biggest investment, so you do your due diligence to make sure any contractor is licensed, bonded and insured. And seeing the vendor’s previous work helps direct your selection and gives you peace of mind. The CSR told me that the contractor they were making me an appointment with was their only contractor who covered the state of Michigan. The name given was Hartmann & Sons Water and Sewer located in Livonia, Michigan. I asked the CSR if they were licensed, bonded and insured. The AWR CSR said yes and said I should check out the vendor’s website for more information.

But this contractor does not come up in a Google Search, Apple Maps Search, Michigan BBB search or a LARA search.

“Hartmann and Sons Water and Sewer, LLC”?????????????

I checked Michigan BBB and the contractor AWR has is not listed. I searched LARA and contractor does not come up to show that they have a license. I did several Googles and Apple Map searches and the contractor doesn’t come up to provide a company address or website. AWR is listed on the NYSE. AWR has a website. How can a company have secured a statewide contract and there is no information about them?

When their tech came for their appointment, he noted he was a new employee and also thought it odd there was no company website. The tech went on to say their parent company is based out of New Jersey. They have been in Michigan for 6 or 7 months because of support of AWRUSA business. They have another name they are registered as in New Jersey. But he couldn’t tell me the name. They only do vendor work for insurance companies. I told the tech to let his manager know I will require a copy of their

1. License

2. Bond

3. Certificate of Insurance

The tech told me his manager would call me this afternoon. NO CALL. But Dispatch sent an email to say I had an appointment scheduled for Friday. I called AWR and told them about the documents I needed and that I wanted the Hartmann & Sons Water and Sewer, LLC to call me to discuss.

In summary

DWSD tactics brings up many questions they have yet to really answer. Much of the problem deals with poor communication and a lack of training. It’s obvious that DWSD has not done their research when setting up this partnership with AWR. If DWSD had observed the Dispatch system in practice they would have seen red flags. And the most blatant problem is encouraging Detroit residents to use an insurance carrier who would contract with a vendor who shows itself to be extremely sketchy. Buyer beware!!!!!

When change depends on who you are.

As a realist you must acknowledge that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will not be attainable for everyone. The city of Detroit, like many other cities in the United States, is starting to see the first signs of gentrification. We are not as far along as say a San Francisco or Austin, TX, but because we have a vast amount of cheap land within Detroit’s 139sq. miles, gentrified areas are starting to emerge.

So you can anticipate the issues between stakeholders. New residents moving in that don’t look like the majority African American community which has lived here for 50+ years. Lower income residents moving out because affordable rental property is hard to get. New businesses coming online. Current stakeholders and power brokers looking to get their share of the land grab.

We have a new mayor, who has had two terms thus far and was just re-elected to a third. Mayor Mike Duggan, has not lived up to be the capable city manager I had envisioned, but more on that in another blog post. With much observation of Duggan’s administration and our current city council members there is a gap between marketed perception and day-to-day reality. Because the fights between city council and the previous mayors were televised as must watch wrestle mania matches, the last two political terms both Mayor Duggan and current City Councilpersons have tried to re-brand themselves as collaborative public servants.

Before the mayor’s first administration, the city voted to section the city into districts. Have seven districts with one dedicated city Councilperson plus two at large city Councilpersons. The hope was to have a dedicated city Councilperson who was well-versed with their assigned District. Because the Councilperson was elected by the stakeholders in that District it was anticipated the council rep would be responsive to the residents, neighborhoods and businesses within their District. When Mayor Duggan came to office, he mirrored the same District setup by appointing both a District Manager and Deputy District manager for each of the seven districts. The managers all fell under the administration’s Department of Neighborhoods (DON).

With this dual-redundancy of District coverage, between both City councilpersons and the mayor’s managers, residents had hoped that city services in their areas would improve because we had two dedicated groups with awareness to district issues. In reality, some Districts exhibited best practices while others were dysfunctional.

In District 1, the city Councilperson and the District manager joined together to host combined community meetings for their District residents. All issues were addressed and both councilperson and District 1 manager could hear and address the issues together. In my District 2, there is separation, backbiting, and open gamesmanship between the two District leaders. Councilperson and District 2 Manager provide separate meetings. Requests from District 2 residents, neighborhood associations and businesses have to go separately to both the Councilperson and District manager. This process does not yield successful resolution on the request, it just adds more exhaustive effort. The dysfunction between the two city parties is palatable.

However, I am coming to realize that this dysfunction maybe by design. As I started, I mentioned that Detroit is also going through gentrification. Typically, gentrification looks over the desires of long-time residents while focusing in on catering to the gentrifiers. I find myself sadly watching the script evolve in my own community. I have lived in my quiet Schaefer 7/8 Lodge Neighborhood Association Community for over 50 years. Attended the neighborhood’s elementary school as a child and now am a tax paying, regular voting, homeowner in the same community. I am a college-educated, working professional who could best be described in the gentrification narrative as a part of the “creative class”. While I have lived in my current home for about 22 years, many of my friends from advertising, marketing and creative services are quickly coming to my District 2 area. District 2 is one of the most densely populated districts in the city. District 2’s SES runs from upper middle to lower middle class. My Schaefer 7/8 Lodge Neighborhood Association Community (S78L) is basically middle to lower middle class with a majority of seniors and empty nesters.

Our S78L, is blessed to have a single large Greenspace on our northwest corner, William A. Comstock Playfield. Mr. Comstock was the 33rd Governor of the State of Michigan and for a time served on the Detroit city council. While I personally never crossed paths with Mr. Comstock, since he passed away in 1949, I can consider him a kindred spirit, for we are both alumni of the University of Michigan. Well the green space is architecturally beautiful while still “a little worst from wear” attributed to neglected upkeep by the city. The surrounding residential area is unique with curved residential streets and mid-century homes. The residents value the solitude of the area. Many of the remaining middle class residents with quite a few retirees don’t care for noise and congestion in their area.

The residents have complained of various issues with the Comstock Playfield for several years now. These issues included a little league football group whose parents blocked the surrounding streets and illegally parked on the Playfield itself. Loud music, loitering during times when the Playfield is supposed to be closed. And illegal use of fireworks for the month leading up to and beyond the 4th of July holiday. The neighborhood association spoke with the District 2 manager and Detroit Police Department regarding these issue without a consistent resolution to any of them. The streets that surround the Playfield are very narrow and not suitable for parking and still allowing traffic to easily pass-through. While Detroit Police did send one of their Park police details to help curtail fireworks one year, because the Detroit Police has limited manpower, the residents could not have consistent patrols. A resident, also documented regular flooding in the park which blocked it’s walking path. The resident also noted the the filth and debris which was allowed to collect, with no clean-up by the city. An email with this information was sent to to the District 2 councilperson’s community relations lead (interestingly this person is also the current president of the Schaefer 7/8 Lodge Neighborhood Association), who sent the information to the city’s Parks and Recreation department.

Newer residents also selected this area as home because of the proximity to the park and the opportunity it brings for exercise and fun. However, after recently arriving to Detroit from other municipalities, they are immediately shocked to find the lack of city maintenance. As any resident new or old would do, they reached out to the District 2 Manager and District 2 Councilperson to express concern and seek help to correct the issues. Note letter below:

Mayor Mike Duggan and Councilperson Roy McCalister,

I am saddened to have to write this email again about the conditions of Comstock park. I want to continue to tell others that the best part about where I live is the park across the street. But unfortunately, as much as I want to love the park, every day I see it more and more littered. I am disappointed in the city as well as the residents. It hurts my heart to watch something I care so much about, be disrespected by the Public Works system and my neighbors. There is trash EVERYWHERE. Constantly. I challenge you to pick a spot in the park where you cannot spot trash with a quick glance around. Car parts, an abundance of alcoholic beverage bottles and cans, masks, bus tickets, old party decorations, people’s household trash, boxes, bags, shoes, torn clothes and much more. I have done my fair share of picking things up but I cannot do it anymore and watch it go right back to what it was just days before. On top of the trash, there are still broken trees that will not grow and fallen tree branches that will sit and get mowed around. The trash cans do not get emptied on a regular basis, and the tennis courts get no maintenance. I have watched a man, with a group of guys that play tennis almost every afternoon each summer, spray for weeds and maintain the court closest to the school. On his own dime. The park trail flooding also has not changed and I have yet to see any plan of action on that. People want to be in the park. But as tax paying

residents, they are doing more than they should, out of their own time and money, to help maintain areas so they can continue to be utilized.

It’s more than just the park. It’s the whole system. We pay so much in city taxes, yet city services lack, such as calling 911. I’ve never had to call 911 until I moved into the city. While that is not necessarily the issue, the police don’t even know where my house is. My address doesn’t exist in their system. I have to convince them each time that I live where I live. It took them over 4 hours to come one night when I really needed them. I report things in SeeClickFix and while the easy things do get fixed quickly, there is a very dangerous stretch of sidewalk I reported years ago in my neighborhood that still hasn’t been fixed. I’ve lived here 3 and a half years and we’ve had water main breaks on my street (there’s only 5 homes on my street) 3 different times, in the same spot. I cannot get water to stop seeping into my basement since those rains of June 25th and FEMA nor DWSD will help. For those of us who are trying, we are tired. I am at the point of looking into selling my house, that I have put so much work into, and leave.

Do you live in the city? Have you experienced how hard it is to get quality contractors and companies to perform services on your home? It’s infuriating. I’ve made so many phone calls just to end up disappointed because companies that are in neighboring cities “don’t work in Detroit”. What a shame. So you end up hiring a local company and end up with shoddy work. Things should not be this difficult.

I pay my taxes, I pick up my dog’s poop, I stop at stop signs, I follow the speed limit, I clean out storm drains, and I care for my neighbors. I do everything that I am supposed to be doing and more. Thankfully I am young and healthy and able to handle the wild things Detroit has thrown at me, but others are not so lucky. People’s homes are still being flooded because Detroit can’t get the water and sewage situation figured out. Cars are being lost to flooded highways or theft. Auto insurance rates are still crazy high. I am doing everything in my power to try and love the city but it’s hard to stay strong when it seems the city isn’t picking up their end of the deal. There are more of us out here, not just in the downtown area, that care. But instead we are stuck listening to race cars doing donuts in the middle of Vassar at midnight on a Tuesday because the police always seem to have something better to do.

Do we need more trash cans? An incentive program? More cameras? More police? What can I do to help this problem? And what is the plan of action from the city?

I know it’s not just Comstock park being trashed, I have heard and seen many other instances.

I have re-attached my initial email that I sent earlier this year regarding Comstock park. This includes the photos I took then, in January, and some new photos that I just took today. I have more, but am only able to attach 25mb worth.

Thank you for taking the time to read through my concerns.



This email, which was sent to both District 2 Manager and District 2 Councilperson along with the mayor’s office never received a reply at the time of this blog post. As you read, the email touches on many of the concerns all residents in District 2 have, slow police response, illegal dumping, high auto insurance, high property taxes, bad city services and an inability to get affordable contractors to work in the city. But concerns like this rarely get a reply, resolution or even discussion during a re-election campaign. During the mayor’s last campaign there were NO candidate debates. However, the mayor did coordinate small business openings and commercial groundbreakings, to serve as photo opportunities right before the election. The District 2 Councilperson made sure to attend all of those photo-ops. It was clear that this strategy to use these photo-ops to get timed news coverage would provide re-election success. Well the strategy did get the mayor re-elected, but the Councilperson’s re-election bid failed.

As mentioned earlier, the idea of council districts was to get a Councilperson who was well-versed on their assigned district. But it’s more accurate to say residents want a Councilperson who listens to residents and resolves issues in their assigned district. This means answering resident emails. It also means being aware of issues impacting communities in their district. The Councilperson should have awareness to all stakeholders around an issue.

William A. Comstock was a Detroit City Councilperson before the District system, but I think he would be appalled at how the green space which carries his name could be hurt. Gentrification typically brings those corporate stakeholders who leverage their relationship with local politicians to seek land despite the wishes of the residential community. A charter school who resides in the old Detroit Public School building on the park wants to expand and take some of the precious green space in order to lay concrete for a perimeter driveway. Now I am not aware of the Jalen Rose Academy (JRLA), a charter high school which purchase an old elementary school building from the Detroit Public School system, ever contacting the District 2 Manager, District 2 Councilperson or mayor’s office asking for better maintenance of the Comstock park. Nor have I be made aware of JRLA ever offering to join the cities corporate program called Adopt-A-Park in order to handle the needed upkeep the green space required. But within a year after community residents were given an letter from the city’s mayor’s office saying the land was protected and not assessable for JRLA proposed use, it appears corporate stakeholders leveraged their relationship with mayor’s office to change the rules.

The letter sent to residents by the city in January 2021 is listed below:

Dear District 2 Residents:

Thank you for your interest in recent discussions regarding the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy. As you know, the Academy has been exploring the possibility of expanding its campus to add a new gymnasium. Initially, the Academy proposed to purchase and utilize a small portion of what is currently Comstock Park to allow for the expansion.

We are writing to inform you that, as a result of a federal grant restriction on Comstock Park, it is not possible to use any of the park land for this purpose.

Specifically, Comstock Park was one of 50 parks improved in 1968 with a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) grant of Land and Water Conservation Funds (LWCF). LWCF grants are federally funded through the National Park Service (NPS) and administered through the MDNR. Properties acquired or improved with LWCF grants are subject to both the terms and conditions of the applicable MDNR grant agreement as well as the more stringent federal statutory and regulatory requirements.

Under these grant restrictions, Comstock Park is required to be used solely and exclusively for public outdoor recreational purposes in perpetuity. Any proposed change in the park’s use would be a conversion, requiring the prior approval of the MDNR and the NPS.

We want to thank all members of the community for their interest in this project, as well as the leaders of the Jalen Rose Academy for their steadfast and continuing commitment to our City’s youth.

Less than six months later, members of the JRLA made a community presentation to residents who live around and near the park seeking support to build a perimeter driveway. The reply was the stated letter was no applicable. During that meeting, residents responded that they did not give support to JRLA’s proposed endeavor. As in the letter from the resident highlighting problems at the park, other residents noted the same issues regarding lack of maintenance, lack of police presence, dumping. The community explained their concerns with the congestion the school’s traffic caused in the area. Previous officers of the surrounding neighborhood association reminded everyone of the caution they gave to JRLA when they proposed buying a facility built as an elementary school to be used as a high school and the land locked structure did not allow for any expansion.

Just another scenario which commonly occurs during gentrification. But the dysfunction between both the District 2 manager and District 2 Councilperson gave no opportunity to bring a functional solution for the residents. The problem solving and collaborative attitude is just not there. It seems that change depends on who you are. Global trends highlight the need for green space in urban areas. During this pandemic and climate change, green space is greatly valued by communities and should be preserved. Residents, no matter SES, race, age or length of time in the community, seek the value William A. Comstock playfield has the ability to bring. However, as a realist you must acknowledge that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will not be attainable for everyone.

Communication Infrastructure for Change

This post is a response to a neighbor who posted the following question to her fellow neighbors on the Nextdoor.com app,

“Brainstorming ideas: Action instead of complaining. {Long post but looking for those engaged in their communities to chime in} For all my Detroit neighbors near and far in all districts let’s talk! I often see on this app many concerned residents (as it should be) post about issues in their community. The question I have for ALL of us is what are the resolutions? We can complain all day but what will actually bring about change for our neighborhoods?”

One of the things that is needed is to reinforce the communication infrastructure already in place and then leverage technology to make it easier and more effective to mobilize. We already have established neighborhood associations and block clubs. For the city of Detroit’s District 2 most of the larger neighborhood associations have Facebook pages. I would suggest all residents to encourage their neighbors to join Nextdoor and “like” their neighborhood association Facebook page. Then I would recommend all block clubs to identify themselves to their neighborhood association. This would allow us to establish a communication network that would get down to the individual resident. Now as for those residents would are not and will not adapt to Nextdoor.com and Facebook, I suggest that both the block clubs and neighborhood association have emails and/or phone numbers so those residents can be contacted.

Now why is strengthening this communication infrastructure so important?

1. We do not need to recreate the wheel. We often waste time and energy trying to create a new group. In some cases we have too many new groups that are small and don’t have longevity because of the energy needed to create/maintain a group. It also reduces the financial resources we need for our end goals. Think of it this way, it’s hard enough to gather block club dues and neighborhood association membership donations, so why create yet another group and water down the support for what is already in place?

2. Nothing gets a local politician’s attention like a well organized block club and/or neighborhood association. At first the politician is like a cat sniffing catnip when they encounter a strong, solidly organized, well supported neighborhood association because they see it as a campaign opportunity. However, this is when the neighborhood association should realize that they have the ability to reinforce how politics is suppose to work. Politicians must be re-educated that their role is to support and WORK for the neighborhood association, block club residents.

3. It all boils down to setting the agenda to how money and resource are managed. While collecting block club dues and neighborhood association fees is difficult, we all have contributed income and property taxes which represent a substantial amount of money. A neighborhood association and block clubs which has shown itself to be well established has the ability to influence and dictate to politicians the agenda of issues that require most monetary attention.

4. We need a network that allows residents to communicate together quickly to a) bring awareness of safety concerns quickly, b) discuss issues, c) to identify needs at the most local residential level.

Steps each person can do in order to rebuild this communication infrastructure NOW.

  • Invite neighbors to join Nextdoor. Within the app/website, there is an ability for each user to invite others via email, text, address book or selecting homes that Nextdoor will automatically send invite letters to.

  • “Like” your neighborhood association page on Facebook. Here are links to some of our nearby neighborhood association’s Facebook pages.

1. Schaefer 7/8 Lodge Neighborhood Association https://www.facebook.com/203785789712803/

2. Bagley Community Council https://www.facebook.com/groups/bagleycommunity/?ref=share

3. Winship Community Association https://m.facebook.com/winship48235/

4. Sherwood Forest Association https://www.facebook.com/groups/151221158334857/?ref=share

5. University District Community Association https://www.facebook.com/udcaonline/

6. College Park Community Association https://www.facebook.com/groups/CPCASSOCIATIOND2/?ref=share

7. Greenwich Park Association https://www.facebook.com/GreenwichParkAssociation/

8. Greenacres Woodward Civic Association https://www.facebook.com/groups/797530303608361/?ref=share

9. Blackstone Park Neighborhood Association https://www.facebook.com/Blackstone-Park-Neighborhood-Association-1411808392452054/

This is not an exhaustive list. So if you have information on other neighborhoods association and/or block clubs please share that information.

Finally, leverage these resources to identify/communicate/ discuss neighborhood issues. I think we know what many of them are already. With a strengthen communication infrastructure we can then quickly and easily communicate when we need resident emails to be sent in mass to our local politicians regarding an issue. Just think of the statement it would make to city council and the mayor’s office if their offices received emails/texts/phone calls on a single day regarding one of these issues. They would take notice to the organizational strength we have established. We all understand that if residents work in numbers we can take action. This is just one suggestion that reinforcing our communication infrastructure can help us find the resolutions we all seek.

Real Change for 48235 after COVID-19

Meanwhile in Detroit…

1. The zip code I live in, 48235, has the highest number of COVID 19 cases in the city. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.detroitnews.com/amp/5160112002

2. My main neighborhood hospital, Sinai-Grace is the focus of a CNN article because dead bodies are piled up everywhere. https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/04/13/health/detroit-hospital-bodies-coronavirus-trnd/index.html

3. NYT has an article today about how devastated the Detroit Police Department was by the virus. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2020/04/20/us/coronavirus-detroit-police.amp.html

4. Residents are using social media to post how one neighborhood grocery store is price gouging. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1433172746925042/permalink/2568379006737738/


So imagine my surprise and horror to realize that I live in the ground zero zip code within the ground zero city in Michigan for the COVID19 pandemic. I mean it’s quite easy for a person with two degrees from The University of Michigan, a 30-year professional career, who lives in a quiet neighborhood with neighbors who are mostly middle classed, to just not connect the dots on the over looked signs that have gotten us to this state. So when we get on the other side of this pandemic some serious discussions need to be had.

My neighbors and myself are part of the problem. Our middle class existence, and the options this SES provides us, has left us in the quagmire of the COVID-19 ground zero we now find ourselves. We can afford cars and the excessive auto insurance that goes with them. This means we can take all the accessible routes out of the city limits into the suburbs to get the goods and services we want. Rather than saying anything, we easily turn up our noses to the rotting meat at the local grocery and hop in our cars to go buy the clean, fresh, variety of produce and meats from any market in the suburbs.

No need to complain to our city health department about the price gouging unsanitary local grocery store. Or demand that our city Councilperson do something tangible to bring reputable and quality businesses into our neighborhoods. It was just easier to let our foot traffic ride right out of the city. Every time we made a purchase in the suburbs, the cashier asked for our zip code. They didn’t ask so they could determine a good area in the city to open a new location. They asked so they could show corporate the range of the suburban store’s trade area.

Pre-pandemic, the 48235 and neighboring 48221 zip codes were showing the first signs of gentrification. New neighbors coming in. New small businesses trying to establish themselves. Housing prices steadily rising. The tale tail dumpsters showed up throughout the neighborhood as home renovations took place. But underneath we still had a local economy not being supported in a way residents could leverage it to combat the pandemic.

Some of the new businesses have been froward thinking. Farm-to-table menus. Use of organic ingredients. But the changes were too new to make a major dent in changing our overall traffic patterns out of the city to the suburbs for commerce. One major grocery chain, Meijers, has come into the area. Delivery services like Shipt, GrubHub, DoorDash and UberEats have become options. However, residents have not addressed the crux of the problem. Our ability to demand more of these amenities and demand more NOW.

But should we? We never asked for better in our own 48235 before. As long as our middle class SES allowed for the ride to the suburbs to buy what we wanted we were just fine. But did we think about how our silence was impacting other residents in 48235? Those not in the higher SES group with their own transportation. Stuck with the price gouging unsanitary grocery as their only food source. If we started to make demands it would help the entire 48235 community. We all would have had stronger immune systems because we would have been eating a fresh clean diet of produce. 48235 residents would have had lower incidences of diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. We all would have been in a much better position to combat the COVID19 pandemic’s assault.

We now understand that we are all in this together. All of us in 48235 COVID19 ground zero. So the silent ones need to start to speak up. Not just for themselves. But speak up and ask for what WE need for everyone to be better off.

But when I say I want discussions on changes, I am not talking about the same old, “them folks are poor, let’s say we are sending money until they shut up blah blah” narrative which has been the Democratic politician mantra since the 1960’s. I want

1) Sinai-Grace to be sold to a reputable medical provider with proven management skill.

2) I want the Glory Foods grocery shut down and the property sold back to Kroger so they can establish a delivery/pickup only store. Or let Whole Foods put their long promised second store in Detroit there.

3) Before the city allows current and/or new restaurants to open, they should ALL go through health inspections to verify cleanliness and adherence to proper food safety. Some of these places should have been closed before COVID-19 came along. Farm-to-table menu restaurants should be given priority in the small business assistance they need to reopen.

4) Finally, the city knows

a) some small businesses just will not be able to open again.

b) the study has been done on retail traffic in our neighborhoods going to the suburbs for most purchases. The dollar amount is estimated at over $2 million annually.

So we need the city to leverage this information to get more reputable businesses established in our area. This includes new entrepreneurs, strong metro businesses, regional and national businesses. The emphasis should be on farm-to-table restaurants. More fresh food options. Local fresh food stands that cater to a variety of SES levels.

And yes, what I am suggesting will be brutal. But no need giving handouts to businesses who haven’t updated their business plans to cater to the residents in the neighborhoods. We need the businesses near our homes to be similar to ones that we go to the suburbs to patronize. We must break our silence and speak up and demand the best for our neighborhood. We are more than just a postal zip code.


Is anyone listening???

I have noticed a great divide between our politicians and our neighbors. The nice thing about social media sites like Nextdoor.com and Ring Neighbors.com is that we are virtually coming out of our homes to talk with one another. But I think it is noticeable that the politicians are not listening to what citizens are discussing.

Yes we are definitely on our own. Detroit Police Department PR folks just made a post on Nextdoor.com tooting their own horn about some black market marijuana busts they made. One person commented that their car had been stolen 3 times in the past 8 months and his new auto insurance premiums are more than the cost of the marijuana Detroit Police recovered. The person’s post mysteriously disappeared from the thread. I guess the Detroit Police Department didn’t like their PR questioned.

I read Nextdoor.com community comments on crime. I notice the crime stats via Neighbors.com in my area and I look at a post from Detroit Police Department PR saying they aim to “… improve the quality of life for residents in the city of Detroit”. I just SMDH. I don’t believe we are seeing the crime enforcement we should. I never see DPD patrolling our neighborhoods. They just want us to set up citizen patrols and be paid cents on a mile for gas. What’s worst is that none of our elected politicians are addressing the increased crime we are seeing in our area.

Being watchful of our fellow residents is a good thing. Neighborhood patrols can be a good thing. But let’s not take our mind off the fact that we pay our income and property tax dollars to the city expecting a certain level of police protection. As we all heard, our property values have gone up in this area and our property taxes will go up at least by the state’s 2% requirement. There is money for the quality of police protection we need. However, we must take time to focus our politicians on the tasks of 1) Better management of the budget they have to make crime a priority, 2) Focus the budget on residential patrols, 3) Better resource management so we have police actually on our residential streets. 4) Bring the rates of the traffic violations, car theft and property theft down in our area in order to keep our auto insurance and home insurance from going up via “redlining with crime data”.

These are macro issues that if addressed would provide a higher return on investment in our community. If we focus the city’s resources on crime in our area, residents would feel comfortable going to the businesses on Livernois and other areas. The commerce would increase and more small businesses would want to enter our area. The increased economic base would give more funding to the city. We just need our politicians and residents to be more targeted in what we ask for in order to improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit.


I recently sent out the following tweet:

“@swattsbulb: Love shopping @Nordstrom & would be happy to have a store in the actual city of #Detroit #DetroitsOpenForBusiness http://t.co/DQe4XmTk1V”

Now I want to explain the #DetroitsOpenForBusiness hashtag I used and what I created it for, so you can….Ponder and Participate. The idea is to start a grassroots hashtag people can use to invite their favorite companies to open an office or retail location in the city of Detroit. I think it will be more impactful if actual customers ask their favorite store to open in the city. So far I have used this hashtag to reach out to J.Jill, Whole Foods and Starbucks to encourage them to set up in Detroit or come specifically to my zip code of 48235. It actually get’s their attention. Nordstrom’s response:

” @Nordstrom: @swattsbulb We appreciate the suggestion and will let our teams know!”

The secondary advantage of this hashtag is that, if it gains wide use, it starts to create buzz amongst all companies so they start seeing Detroit as a city on the move and encourage them to join in also. But remember that no matter how much I love Nordstrom’s merchandise and super customer service, I have to provide information that makes a good business pitch. So also consider sharing beneficial facts about the city of Detroit’s progress.

  • Share information about other retailers establishing a location in Detroit. As I see it, if John Varvatos can sell in the city, Nordstrom can too.
  •  Share information about successful small businesses in Detroit.
  • Share information on the city’s infrastructure and service improvements. A full fleet of DDOT buses assures a retailer that their workers will have reliable transportation to work.
  • Share information regarding increased STEM training in the city. Talk about the city’s collaborative nature. Mention all the innovative programs in the city.
  • Finally, share the personal testimonies and success stories of Detroit’s numerous entrepreneurs.

Ask and you shall receive, knock and the door shall be opened. So if you feel the need for your favorite store to be near your house, give them a shout out on Twitter and use this hastag, #DetroitsOpenForBusiness. Thanks Wattsbulb

Detroit’s Fanfare for the Common Man

I have always loved Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. A very majestic piece of music which tells the story of the westward migration which built out the United States. As I listened to this music, as I traveled home from a social media meeting, I started to hear similarities to the current state of Detroit.

If you recall how striking the trumpets are in Aaron Copland’s masterpiece. They musically highlight the purity of the strong americans who branched out all over the western half of our country to lay claim to their piece of land. Once claimed, they strongly banded together to build their parcel, their town, their city, their state and ultimately our country. Tonight, at the meeting, I met fellow Detroit residents, who all also displayed a purity of purpose to build their various entrepreneurial endeavors, their community, their neighborhoods and ultimately their city.

One particular resident was the owner of Motor City Java. The best way to describe her is to say she is the human representation of Hebrews 11:1 For those who don’t know the scripture, see it below:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things now seen.“

She told us the story of how over five long years she was able to realize the evidence of her faith by establishing her own neighborhood coffee shop, Motor City Java. She established her business without the naysayers who questioned why she wanted to be in a neighborhood many had written off as blighted. She established her business without a single loan. She established her business with a supportive community who passed the hat at times to build capital for the numerous rehab projects she needed to build the beautiful space she has today. The purity of her faith sounded just like the purity of the trumpets in Aaron Copland’s fanfare.

But Copland authored a fanfare, of multiple trumpets, with a pure sound, in unison, building together to a majesty of their own. So it is in Detroit. The owner of Motor City Java is not alone. Residents in and around Detroit are ready to join the chorus. To stake their parcel. To reach their community. To build a Detroit neighborhood. To play their part in Detroit’s fanfare for the common man.

And yes, as far as Detroit is concerned, you can be a common man. Just a person with a business idea you are passionate about and an entrepreneurial purity of heart. Detroit opens their arms to you. The city has initiated a program called, “Motor City Match”. You can start as simply as Copland started to author his fanfare….with a blank page. Motor City Match will help you fill in the notes. The program focuses on two groups of trumpeting entrepreneurs, property owners of potential retail spaces and small businesses looking for a storefront. On a quarterly basis both groups can apply for competitive financial assistance and support services to help them through build-out and startup. Technical assistance for building owners includes  design/build assistance, priority permitting and financial planning assistance. Business owners receive free business planning class, match-making with top real estate, financial planning assistance, design, build assistance, and priority permitting.

Entrepreneurs are always said to play by a different tune. Detroit is gathering various entrepreneurs, with a purity of purpose and passion, ready to sound far and wide in the city’s great fanfare. Come join the faithful Motor City Java. Come and play your part in Detroit’s Fanfare for a Common Man.

Ford: Innovation … Always

“Innovation is the development of new customers value through solutions that meet new needs…” — Wikipedia

Lately when we use the word “innovation”, we use it to label the new, young, startup company. We tag “innovation” to Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and LinkedIn, companies which are all well under 50 years old. Most companies who have been in existence upwards of 50 years are seldom described as innovative. But Ford Motor Company which was started in 1903, is just as innovative now as it was with the sale of its first Ford Model A. In 2013, Ford’s contribution to solutions that meet new needs includes the Fusion, Escape, Fiesta, Mustang and F-150 to name a few.

I have said in previous blog posts that visiting the Ford Auto Show display at the North American International Auto Show is like visiting an Apple store. It’s a way for families to see the new, the future, the innovations to come. Exhibit participants swarm each vehicle, like they were iPads, iPhones or MacBook Pros. Not because they are wow gadgets, but because they offer functions which can help me today and are easy enough for “even me to get the hang of”. Ford has shown that they are a company that understands it’s customer because they live in the same time the customer lives in.

While at the Ford display, you can play trivia games via your cell phone. Just be the first to text the correct answer to win a prize. Download the Ford Auto Show App for either Apple or Android to really have fun. (https://www.blueovalcard.com/naias2013/mobile-app/) With it you can collect badges, click on a QR code to access detailed information on the vehicle. (My only small aside, is that the vehicle display should have made it more clear that the QR code you want to scan is the “blue” one on the vehicle and not the b&w code on the pricing-feature label) A far cry from the loads of car brochures you would lug around the exhibit center in years past. Or you can grab a credit card sized loyalty card you can load with your email address via computer stations on site. As you take the card around the displays, just swipe it by the vehicle you are interested in and information can be emailed to you. How cool is that?

Yes, Ford Motor Company, new customer value through solutions that meet new needs.

#Detroit #Neighborhood Renewal brings sense of Community.

Can we talk? Recently I have noted just how few options Detroit residents in my neighborhood had to talk to one another. The usual routine was work and then back home. You might happen across your next door neighbor to wave to as you rushed to or from your car. Opportunities for real conversation were limited. They say, “Communication is power”. But our neighborhoods had suffered the effects of limited and/or dwindling power for quite sometime.

Luckily now, some neighborhoods are starting to see the rebirth of small business in our area. Word is slowly getting out and trial is starting to take place. The biggest impact is that we have places to gather and talk. The quick wave is leading to a conversation over coffee & pastries or a breakfast of chicken & waffles. The talk is positive. The positive is palatable as we all share our observations of the city. The positive spirit is growing through the acknowledgement that we can now talk.

Case in point, I stopped by Kuzzos Chicken & Waffles on the Livernois Avenue of Fashion. This is the historic retail area in my neighborhood. In its heyday, it was the place for every fashionista. In the past 40 years, it had become a place to drive by while shaking your head in disgust as you traveled to one of the shining malls in the northern suburbs. In the last few years, the Livernois area is starting to establish itself as an artistic retail area. Pottery and classes at “Art in Motion”. One of a kind merchandise fashioned by artisans can be had from “Love Travels Imports” and “Detroit Fiber Works”. Satisfy your sweet tooth with organic bake goods at “Good Cakes and Bakes”. Buy paintings and sculptures from the up and coming artists in the city when you shop “Jo’s Gallery”. Video games from “GamesVille”. Delightful children’s clothing from “DeCreated”. An eclectic retail experience is starting to take shape in this neighborhood. The third restaurant to open on the “Ave.” is Kuzzos. It joins “Nona” and “1917 American Bistro”.

Because I want my neighborhood to grow and thrive, I have taken the time to visit, get to know the owners and make purchases at these businesses. At this point I feel like a character from “Cheers” when I walk into an establishment on the Ave. These enterprising business owners call me by my first name, as I do them. An experience as unique as their merchandise, that a northern suburban mall can’t replicate. They tell me of their business successes. They tell me of new ideas they have to support their business growth. In our discussions, many of the owners noted how important restaurants are to build foot traffic which leads to increased business for all of them.

So during the first week of Kuzzos opening, I stopped by to give it a try. The place was packed. For this restaurant, it wasn’t so much “word of mouth”, but more accurately “word of anticipation” that had everyone waiting for the doors to open. I wasn’t the only resident in this Detroit neighborhood who wished for a breakfast place that wasn’t a McDonalds. I sat at the bar and immediately conversations erupted with my neighbors. An older gentleman, who sat on my right, said hello. He used to live in our neighborhood, but had moved to the suburbs some years back. As he talked and glanced at his newspaper, he gave a relaxed smile with the approval of the positive developments he is now seeing in this neighborhood. “I wish I could come back”, he said.

The neighbor to my left at the counter was a middle-aged woman. She told me how optimistic she was about the property values increasing near her home. She told me about a recent health scare she had, where she had to call Detroit EMS. She smiled broadly and said, “They were so supportive and good to me. I was so thankful for them that day.” She told me she called the mayors office to tell him of her good experience. She noted the mayor’s office was very effective at giving her the name and number of the head of the EMS department. She called the EMS office and told them “thank you”. She said they told her how grateful they were to get her call. “They always hear about complaints, but it’s nice to hear a thank you”, she beamed.

So now that we are starting to have businesses that we frequent. We can now talk to one another. We can share our positive stories. We can reinforce our individual sense that positive things are happening in the city of Detroit. Our communication can rebuild our power. And this power can rebuild our community.

Change is not gonna come. It hasn’t just arrived. It’s been here all the time.

Change is the constant state of the world. Just like the seasons, year after year, changes are always happening. But many people have problems with change. We are comfortable and feel a sense of control over the predictable. Even when the predictable becomes staid and boring, we cling to it like a security blanket.

Recently, the business buzz word is innovation. Change yields innovation. Have you been in a company-wide meeting in the last year, where some executive is talking about the importance of innovation in your industry? I am sure the executive starts the presentation by saying “we are in an age of accelerated technological changes”. The executive is right.
During the presentation you will see a lot of employees nod their heads.

There are a few distinct groups you can spot in the room.
1) The Tech Group – I don’t give them this name because they are associated with tech. I define this group as the employees who work on projects which are either new initiatives to the company or are the current major profit centers. People in this group nod their heads because they believe they are already part of the cutting edge work that will support the company’s future growth.
2) The Dinosaurs Group – this group of employees nod because that’s what they always do at these meetings. These employees are oblivious to and have no plans to consider the impact of the executive’s comments, regarding change, could have on them.
3) The Heavy Lift Group – this group of employees nod because they know the executive just notified them that change is coming their way. These employees may have already come to the same conclusion before the executive brought it up. They may have noticed the operational pressures impacting their current processes.
By this point you may or may not have identified the group you belong. However, breath a little easier, because no matter what group you are in now, the advice to you will be the same. Accept change as a constant. Tech group, don’t become complacent, thinking that you have arrived. Because change is constant, you may find yourself new to the Dinosaur group quicker than you think. For a member of the Heavy Lift group, I applaud you if you have the ability to notice when changes need to occur. However, remember that change is constant, so you need to make the critical leap to accept establishing an environment where you can exist with constant change.
Make the leap. Are you ready? Do you know how? Here are some steps that I am learning to practice that will help you out.
1. Identify the predictable and boring stuff. Do you still need to do them?. Should these things be changed? Can they be done more efficiently if you leverage technology to streamline the process?
2. Overcome your fear? Just close your eyes and jump in for the water is fine. Just do it? Don’t be afraid to try something new. Have faith. This might sound cliche to you. But the point of these simple sayings is to tell you to do whatever you have to do to leave paralyzing fear behind.
3. Get your mind right. Yes, when all is said and done, constant change is all about you. You can choose to be part of the solution and not harp on the problem. Yes, one more cliche coming here, “Be the change you want to see”.
4. Think out of the box and embrace the possibilities. Constant change is a testimonial to the fact that anything is possible. This is your time to “Dream a little bigger darling”
5. Be open to collaborate. If you get your mind right, identify those other out of the box thinkers who have no fear and talk it out. You will be amazed what a group like this can accomplish.

So as you nod at the next company-wide meeting on change. Be ready to back it up with real change that leads to impressive innovations for your industry.