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Royal Oak : In the News

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Oakland County surfs for new ideas via crowdsourcing site

Lots of politicians pay lip service to listening to their constituents' ideas and even implementing a few here and there. Oakland County is looking to take that a step further with its new online crowdsourcing initiative.

Excerpt:

Every city, county and state these days is faced with hard decisions about budget cuts and reorganization — and even harsher feedback from residents after the cuts are made. Oakland County, Mich., has found a way to use technology to spark that citizen-to-government communication during the decision-making process. County officials launched an online public forum so residents can be an integral part of making tough budget decisions.  

The website, http://oakgov.ideascale.com, gives citizens the opportunity to respond to questions, make suggestions and post comments. Citizens can also rank the county's proposals by voting for the ideas they like best on every issue, from technology to parks and recreation.

"Since we are using social media in so many different ways here, we thought … what is the next wave of how we engage our citizens in the process?" said Phil Bertolini, Oakland County's deputy county executive and CIO. "In a focus group, you put 20 people in a room, you ask the idea and you get 20 opinions. If you use crowdsourcing, you put out an idea and you get thousands of opinions. More minds and more ideas make for a better product."

Read the rest of the story here.

CNN/Money takes lessons from Detroit

CNN/Money magazine takes a look at entrepreneurship in Metro Detroit and how the down economy has prodded people toward that career path. It also alludes to the idea that the region should make entrepreneurship a real option at all times, not just when the economy is performing poorly.

Excerpt:

When Paula Batchelor took a buyout last year -- figuring she was likely to be laid off if she didn't -- she wasn't worried about landing another gig. Having worked 11 years as a graphic-design project manager for a health insurance company downtown, "I knew I had skills," she says.

But Batchelor, a single mother of a 6-year-old, quickly realized just what it meant to live in one of the worst job markets in the country. By year's end, the resident of Royal Oak -- a suburb north of the city -- still had no work and couldn't make her mortgage payment. "I was feeling the pressure," says Batchelor, who's now 55.

Months of financial struggle followed. Then, in June, her older sister, Karen, an attorney who'd gone into life coaching, had a proposal. She'd used social media, including Facebook, to market her own biz; Paula had skills in project management and graphic design. Why not combine their talents and help small businesses with social-media marketing?

The firm they founded, Color Me Social, had $1,500 in sales in August, a promising, if modest, start. While the money isn't coming in fast enough for Paula to save her home from foreclosure -- she and her daughter are moving in with Karen -- Paula is hopeful that this is the beginning of her turnaround. "You have to stick your neck out and take a chance," she says.

Read the rest of the story here and more here.

Chicago Sun-Times is on board with Michigan's high-speed rail

Metro Detroit recently received $161 million in federal funds to improve high-speed rail service on Amtrak's Wolverine line between Pontiac and Kalamazoo. The Chicago Sun-Times takes a good look at the potential of this investment and how it breaks down.

Excerpt:

About $150 million of the money awarded to Michigan will be for the section of track between Kalamazoo and Detroit. This is owned by Norfolk Southern, which wants to sell it, Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said.

Michigan may buy it with a portion of the high-speed rail money. Discussions are ongoing about how much of the funds would be for the track and how much for track improvement, Magliari said.

Track improvements would increase speeds from 79 mph to 110 mph, which would bring it in line with the track Amtrak owns from Kalamazoo to the state line.

At greater speeds, Amtrak could double the number of round trips from Chicago to Detroit from three to six, Magliari said. Ridership on this route already has increased 8 percent in the past year.

The rest of the high-speed funding would be used to improve the connection from Pontiac to the state line.

Read the rest of the story here.

Woodward corridor suburbs = inner ring renewal

The inner-ring suburbs along the Woodward corridor got some good national ink last week when The Wall Street Journal explored why older suburbs could be the launchpads for new growth in the U.S.

Excerpt:

In Lakewood, Colo., a long-shuttered mall is being rebuilt into a 22-block area with parks, bus lines, stores and 1,300 new households. Tysons Corner, Va., is undergoing a full transformation from an office park to a walkable, livable community. And officials in Ferndale, Mich., are promoting the arts scene and building affordable housing in an attempt to revitalize the small city outside Detroit. Remaking America's sprawling suburbs, with their enormous footprints, shoddy construction, hastily built infrastructure and dying malls, is shaping up to be the biggest urban revitalization challenge of modern times—far larger in scale, scope and cost than the revitalization of our inner cities.

Read the rest of the story here.

Xconomy discovers downtown Royal Oak's PixoFactor Entertainment

PixoFactor Entertainment sees video games and animation, rather than film production, as having a more positive permanent impact on the economy. Xconomy's Detroit bureau is the latest to recognize the entertainment firm's strategy for success.

Excerpt:

Michigan's highest-in-the-nation 42 percent tax credit for filmmakers is often called the "film incentive," but if you ask the folks at PixoFactor Entertainment in Royal Oak, MI, the bigger beneficiaries are those who work on videogame and animation productions. Plus, they argue, those jobs are longer-lasting and more local than movie production.

That's why Sean Hurwitz, PixoFactor's president, is in the business. "We feel like the digital side of this incentive has greater potential to create jobs and economy—or, Xconomy [Hurwitz motions over to me, and smiles]—here in Michigan." A Hollywood film crew comes in for a short time with their own directors and actors, "underpays a lot of interns and a lot of local crews," he says, shoots the film and then leaves. But it takes nine months to a year to produce a videogame, with local animators and programmers working the entire time.

Read the rest of the story here.

Start up the tractor; plowing in Royal Oak

When you hear about urban agriculture these days, Detroit usually follows, or precedes it - depending on the story. But not in this one. This time, it's Royal Oak. And they'll be plowing this week.

Excerpt:

The non-profit group Royal Oak Forward, which will manage farm operations and organic practices, is borrowing a tractor to start plowing later this week. Then, Johnson will plant about 25 kinds of herbs and vegetables that will be ready to eat from late May through October.

"We know the land is good to grow," Johnson said of environmental tests. "Now I'm checking for nutrients like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous so I'll know how much compost to add."

Volunteers will help tend the field and in about eight weeks they will have baskets of fresh produce ready for shareholders to pick up and to sell to the public at the market, which is less than a mile away.

Community-sponsored agriculture (CSA) is a growing trend in the United States as more people go green to cut waste, such as transportation fuel, and improve taste.

"You hear about the 100-mile diet challenge some food co-ops put out," Johnson said. "We're talking about the few-feet diet."

Read the entire article here.

It's not a dollhouse, it's an homage to Detroit

There hasn't been a shortage of interesting, weird, off-the-wall art coming out of Detroit lately. And this is no different. Local artist Clinton Snider has created "House 365." It's a small wooden cottage, modeled after some of the old housing stock still in Detroit. It's an homage to when vacancies weren't the norm. It's small like a dollhouse, but don't call it that.

Excerpt:

"House 365" is Snider's homage to old Detroit. As the city pulls down derelict homes, the result is a gap-toothed landscape he finds haunting and mournful.

So he decided to make his own weathered wreck, a talisman from a vanishing Detroit. (For the record, he applauds clearing out blight. He just regrets the loss of that turn-of-the-century clapboard landscape.)

So what do you do with a tiny house that looks like a prop from the opening credits of "The Beverly Hillbillies?"

First Snider thought he'd move the house every day and photograph it (hence the "365"), an idea he now calls "far-fetched." Instead, he presented the house at an opening last year at Hazel Park's Tank gallery and invited visitors to sign up for a month's "deed" to the property.

And that's how the wee house landed in artist Mary Fortuna's front yard in Royal Oak.
"I was totally engaged with the sweetness of it," she says. "It's like Clint's paintings in 3-D."

Read the entire article here.

Royal Oak studio putting comic book on the tube

The Royal Oak-based production firm PixoFactor is taking Dare Comics' acclaimed comic The Hunter from the pages and putting it on the tube, DVDs, and making an interactive downloadable game. All in a days work, eh?

Excerpt:

England's Dare Comics has announced that its critically acclaimed comic, The Hunter, is to be produced as a nine episode motion comic series by the Royal Oak production company PixoFactor.

PixoFactor is also developing a downloadable interactive game based on The Hunter, which will be released alongside the motion comic. 

Details of the game aren't being publicly released, but PixoFactor president Sean Hurwitz said that "The Hunter has a unique set of powers that have enabled us to incorporate some stunning gameplay. Linking the game to the motion comic series is going to allow us to do things the world has never seen before."

Read the entire article here.

From Chrysler to a Chinese tea shop

The Girlings went from automotive employees at Chrysler to entrepreneurial tea hounds, and all it took was a trip to Beijing. A story other Michiganders might take solace in. The Girlings made the transition to what Michigan was to what Michigan could be, maybe. No, not tea-slingers, small business owners.


Excerpt:


Chrysler has greatly affected life in the Detroit area over the decades, and now it has brought the Motor City a Chinese teashop—albeit indirectly.

Janice and Jim Girling, founders of Goldfish Tea, were both working for the automaker when they were offered the opportunity to go to China for two years to help build an assembly plant outside of Beijing.

"We were living in Beijing and on weekends we just liked to go out exploring," Janice says.

While on an exploration one day, a dragon-embossed tea set caught the couple's attention.

"We went to look at it inside what turned out to be a wholesale tea market," Janice says. "Two Chinese ladies motioned for us to sit down at the tea bar and we stayed for three hours sampling tea."

Read the entire article here.


Woodward Dream Cruise's beginnings in the New York Times

The Woodward Dream Cruise many things for many people. For car restorers it means a time to shine, for some it's a time for nostalgia, and yet for others, who live near Woodward, it's a time of car congestion and having your own street blocked off for parking. Regardless, what happens during the cruise is what made Detroit, well, Detroit. That's changing now-a-days... but, as the New York Times says, it's still the beating heart of the American automobile biz.

Excerpt:

Today, you won’t see much real racing on Woodward, and the Detroit Three are fighting their battles in other arenas. You will see some machinery that is obviously built more for go than show, and quiet negotiations are sometimes conducted at the side of the road. But if races take place, they’re probably held in some obscure and distant place.

For most Detroiters, Woodward is more about entertainment than competition. And perhaps more about the past and the future than the moment. Today, Woodward is the cruise, the party, the celebration and the affirmation. It’s a place where car folk can go to dream about the way things were and hope for better days. It’s the beating heart of the American automobile business.

Read the entire article here.

Metro Detroit grows crowd of creperies with What Crepe? in Royal Oak

Detroit can boast two creperies - one downtown and one in Corktown. So, what do you have to show for it, suburbs? Well, look no further than Royal Oak. What Crepe? has opened its doors and is ready to sling some sweet and savory crepes.

Excerpt:

If you're a fan of crepes -- the delicate, filled French pancakes having a mini-renaissance in metro Detroit lately -- check out the area's newest destination in Royal Oak.

Opened by Paul Jenkins Jr., the tiny but elegantly appointed cafe at 317 S. Washington is called What Crepe? -- perhaps a reference to the wide variety of sweet and savory choices, including vegetarian and vegan options.

Jenkins opened the 28-seat restaurant May 30 in Café Muse's old location after giving the hall-like space a more polished, upscale look in a palette of black, gray, sage and burgundy. Small crystal chandeliers, fresh flowers and tables covered in black fabric with white butcher-paper toppers set a chic tone, but the vibe is still casual, fresh and fun.

Read the entire article here.

Downtown Royal Oak has first-run theater potential

Royal Oak already has the Main Art Theater, which is a gem of a place. Yet movie goers in the area still need to drive to Birmingham or the Star John R to see first-run flicks. Well, it's possible that this trek might not need to be made in the future, as Emagine Theaters is setting its sights on the RO.

Excerpt:

To go forward in Royal Oak, Glantz needs the approval of the City Commission to transfer a liquor license from Berkley. If accepted, he will apply for an amendment to the planned unit development for the vacant site where plans for a second high-rise condominium or Plum Market were scrapped, according to Tim Thwing, Royal Oak's director of planning.

A four-deck parking garage behind the condominium tower and on-site parking could serve theater patrons, Glantz said.

"It turns out to be an ideal site for us," he said.

Read the entire article here.

A culinary tour 'round Royal Oak

There are all kinds of tours. Music tours, museum tours, pub crawls (it's kind of like a tour), tours of duty, and even food tours. Enter Culinary Escapes, a food tour company here in the Great Lakes State. And they are close to home, too. Check out the Royal Oak experience. And if you go on a tour like this, you might want to wear your fat pants.

Excerpt:

I was a bit of a skeptic, at first, about the need for a walking tour -- to restaurants in Royal Oak, Mich., near Detroit Hip eateries in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak are within close proximity to one another. And I've never had much problem finding food.

But then I met up with our guide on this tour by Culinary Escapes, a company founded last summer. Marq Blanks handed us tiny earpieces with receivers we clipped onto our jackets.

And we soon were trailing behind him around town, through farm market booths, past charming bakeries, striking (even scandalous) sculptures and tempting eateries, feeling like a cross between campus tour-goer and undercover culinary spy as he transmits historic, food and celebrity trivia en route to each stop.

Read the entire article here.

Medical marijuana in Royal Oak

Royal Oak is considering a medical marijuana growing zone and requiring sellers to push the product out of a storefront. Stoners, hold on to your bongs -- this would be for medical purposes only.

Excerpt:

"It will allow patients a safe, reliable place to access their medicine," said medical marijuana user Nicholas Schantz.

The Royal Oak Planning Commission is considering a zoning ordinance that would make it mandatory for medical grass growers to sell their plant product in a store front dispensary in the city's busy business district.

"It's the wave of the future, and the economy in this segment is really going to boom. Michigan needs jobs right now and this is one way to put Michigan on the cutting edge of an exciting new industry," Schantz said.

Read the entire article here.

Royal Oak in Bloom expecting influx of locavores

New words are being invented all the time for all the new ideas and thoughts and movements that are popping up all over the place. And "locavore" -- Someone who only eats food grown within 100 miles of home -- is another one. Locavores are expected to pack the 16th annual Royal Oak in Bloom May 10.

Excerpt:

Locavores — people who eat food grown or raised within 100 miles of home — will find vegetables and herb plants offered by as many as half the 60 vendors at the 16th annual Royal Oak in Bloom.

This year, vendors expect an increase in locavores. Locavore was the Oxford American Dictionary’s 2007 Word of the Year.

From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 10, the parking lot by City Hall will be transformed into an open-air market for edible plants, flats of annuals, landscaping plants, and garden art and accessories.

The event has become a Mother's Day tradition for many families. They have breakfast or brunch at downtown restaurants before or after walking around the booths set up at the municipal lot south of 11 Mile Road and east of Main Street. "We think this year more people are interested in vegetable gardening," said Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce Event Coordinator Shelly Kemp. "They see it as a way to save money, eat the freshest possible food, save energy and gain a sense of personal satisfaction."

Read the entire article here.
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