The Motor City to Vote on Legalizing Marijuana

July 11, 2012

If the ballot measure passes, people 21 and older could use or possess less than an ounce of pot on private property without facing arrest and prosecution under Detroit city code. Photo via

Detroit has had its share of disappointment and neglect from government over the years, but after a Michigan Supreme Court decision on June 1, many Detroiters may now feel their opinions are finally being considered.

After a prolonged legal battle, Detroiters will have the privilege to decide during the Nov. 6 general election whether they want to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana within the city boundaries.

If the ballot passes, people 21 years old and older would be allowed to possess and use up to one ounce of what Coalition for a Safer Detroit Chair, Tim Beck refers to as the “forbidden fruit” on private property.

The two-year effort by Detroit’s election commission to keep the measure off the 2012 ballot was rejected on Friday by the Michigan Supreme Court. A triumph for Coalition for a Safer Detroit. 

“No one has ever overdosed on weed, but countless deaths are reported each day on alcohol overdoses,” Beck said.

For the organization, the purpose behind their efforts is to educate society that marijuana is benign and that, legal or not, it will be distributed and used around the nation and world.

“This does not stop the city of Detroit from finding and using it. It is the drug of choice,” Beck continued.

Some Detroiters believe residents deserve the right to make the decision whether or not to decriminalize marijuana, but they are concerned this could lead to unfortunate results for the city.

“It makes no difference to me as a non-smoker, but I see it leading to issues with drug use in the workplace. Will companies allow their employees to fail random drug tests and continue working just because it’s legal,” Kyah Nichols asked.

“It’s difficult for me to see it making our city any better,” Nichols continued.

Members of the Coalition for a Safer Detroit say that legalizing marijuana within the city would do more good than people realize because it would allow police to focus on more serious crimes and issues.

Sgt. Eren Stephens told the Detroit Free Press that Detroit’s police department would adhere to the policy adjustment “if it’s handled in an appropriate way, and this is what the citizens of Detroit choose.”

Other supporters of moving the measure say it will have positive effects for the marijuana market that should have never been forced to be an underground business.

“It will make for better business in just as much a thriving market as any other. It can finally come to light,” Detroit native, Cameron Bowie said.

If passed, the proposal would become a law within the city of Detroit, but not statewide and marijuana users could still be arrested by Michigan State Police.























Police search for answers in Detroit girl’s mysterious death

17-month-old baby was found dead in family’s home

Blake Benberry

June 30, 2012

1-year-old Zyia Turner/Photo via WDIV-TV Local4


Police are questioning several people in the death of a 1-year-old from Detroit who was found dead inside a closest of her family’s home.

“My grandbaby, she was my heart,” said the victim’s grandmother Bridget Elam.

Seventeen-month-old. Zyia Turner vanished Friday afternoon from her grandmother’s East Detroit home.

“My son called my oldest daughter at 3:46 because he thought she was with us,” Elam said.

The baby’s grandmother told investigators little Zyia was left in her uncle’s care while she was out running errands. The baby’s mother was in the hospital undergoing surgery at the time. Elam says the family searched every inch of the home but the little girl was nowhere to be found.

“Honest to God we honestly thought someone seen her and picked her up,” said Elam.

Soon after, the family called police. Detectives began to investigate. Hours later, a Southfield cadaver dog found Zyia’s lifeless body hidden under a pile of clothes in a closet in the home.

“We never had the thought of the idea that that baby would have been in the closet the way they found her,” Elam said.

Police are now questioning the baby’s uncle, but Elam continued to tell investigators her son did nothing wrong.

“My son who was watching them, he has helped raise all his nieces and nephews. He would never do anything to them,” she said.

While just one year ago this family was celebrating the new life of one-year-old Zyia Turner, the family is now planning her funeral.

“No one here is in trouble because it was an accident. A freak accident that happened,” said Elam.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office completed an initial autopsy of baby Zyia on Saturday.

The exact cause of Zyia’s death is expected to be released Monday.






Toddler in Critical Condition, Father Jailed

DETROIT – A 2-year-old girl is in critical condition after her father’s car crashed into a utility pole in southwest Detroit Saturday night.

Police said that the man was driving eastbound on Vernor when he attempted to pass another car. At the Woodmere Street intersection, the father lost control of the car, which slammed into the utility poll.

His 2-year-old daughter was in the back seat at the time and was not strapped in to her car seat properly.

Police discovered a cooler, a tire rim and other dangerous metal objects that were surrounding the daughter’s car seat.

“There’s a large amount of debris including some steel rims in the back of the vehicle that could have contributed to the injuries of the child,” Lt. Scott Sheets said.

Police gave the father a Breathalyzer test, but said alcohol was not a factor.

The man had several warrants out for his arrest and was driving on a suspended license. He was taken to jail.

The mother of the child was also involved in the wreck. She suffered minor injuries.

Both the mother and daughter are recovering at Oakwood Hospital.





WMU student robbed at gunpoint at California West Apartments

By Ian Kullgren

A suspect who robbed a Western Michigan University student outside of his car at California West apartments is still at large.

Kalamazoo, MICH. — Police are still looking for two suspects who robbed a man outside of his apartment near Western Michigan University.

At about 12:30 a.m. on Thursday, the 23-year old man was walking from his car to his apartment, located in California West Apartments,  when two men approached him. One brandished a silver handgun and told the victim to get on the ground, according to a statement from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.

The two suspects were a white man and a black man, both wearing bandanas and black-hooded sweatshirts to hide their faces, according to the victim. They fled on foot and disappeared out of sight after taking the man’s wallet and cell phone.

Officers who initially responded  conducted a search while they were waiting for the K9 unit, but were not able to locate the suspects. The K9 unit was able to track the scent, and the officers believe the men escaped in a car parked nearby, according the statement.

The armed robbery was the second to occur recently in the Vine Neighborhood. On May 30, the Circle K convenience store on Lovell Street — just a few blocks from California West Apartments — was robbed at gunpoint. Police have not found the suspect.

In downtown Kalamazoo, a man with a similar description robbed a city parking worker early Sunday Morning, although police have not yet said whether the incidents are related. According to public safety officers, a tall black male wearing a bandana robbed the worker at gunpoint around 1:30 a.m. However the weapon was described as a black, semi-automatic handgun, unlike the silver one used in the California West Apartments incident.

Police have not made an arrest in either case.

Neighbors said the incident was somewhat shocking. The apartment complex is nestled next to the WMU campus.

“It’s usually pretty safe,” said Sean McCauley, a WMU student who lives in a fraternity house across the street. “But all of Kalamazoo is shady, really.”

Trace Frandeson, another student who lives in the same building as the victim, said the incident “freaked him out.”

“It happened right over there,” he said, pointing the building’s side lot has he sat on his porch. “I always do basic things like lock my doors, but that’s really all you can do.”

Mike Roge, a friend of Frandeson’s who also is a resident in the same complex, agreed. He said the incident was the first of its kind in the time he lived there, but was probably an isolated occurrence.

Capstone Phase II Approval

MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP- The Lodges Phase II Development was approved at the June 19th Township Board Meeting.  The meeting lasted over five hours and required additional seating in the lobby to accommodate the large number of residents who came out to speak and listen to the discussion.  There was a great amount of opposition to the development by residents of the neighboring community, Indian Lakes Estates.  However, there was not much feedback from the township as a whole whether they were for or against the project or not.

The Lodges Phase II Development is for student housing apartments located on Hannah Boulevard.  There is already Phase 1 of the Lodges of East Lansing developed.  This is an expansion of that project.

Permit Approval

In order for the development to begin construction it has to have three items approved by the Board.  These items include the Mixed Use Plan Unit Development Permit, Wetland Permit, and Special Use Permit.  At the meeting two of the three items were approved.  The Mixed Use Plan Unit Development Permit was approved along with the Wetland Permit which permits discharge of runoff into a wetland litigation area.  The third approval needed is for the Special Use permit for permission to construct over 25,000 square feet.  Currently the development is 146,000 square feet.  At the meeting, the board voted 3 yes and 4 no to this permit.  Currently, construction on the development can not begin because it still needs the majority vote for the approval of the Special Use permit.  According to John Veenstra, Township Trustee, he does not think that the Project Developers will change the square feet in order to gain approval.  He said, “I hope that motion will be reconsidered at the next board meeting and voted on again.  Hopefully it will be passed at that meeting.  Because the project can not go forward without approval of all three permits.”

Indian Lakes Estates Opposition

Right away, it was clear that this is a complex decision and has brought up many issues.  Starting with the flooding in Indian Lakes Estates.  Residents there are worried about the new development affecting them negatively because they are already experiencing flooding and an increased water table in their backyards.  The neighborhood is already surrounded by a forested floodplain and about 30 percent of the neighborhood is in the 100 year flood plain, according to Ingham County Drain Commissioner, Pat Lindemann.  Therefore, some residents are already paying for flood insurance.  They have been noticing over the past two years that the water table has been rising in their backyards.

Red Cedar Log Jam

At the Township Board meeting on May 15th, many residents of the neighborhood came to the meeting to express what has been going on in their backyards.  It was at that meeting that Lindemann brought attention to one of the root problems, which was a log jam in the Red Cedar River.  He said that he would make sure that these logs were removed.  After these logs are removed, the water table should lower by 2-3 feet.  This will decrease the problem in the neighborhood.

Effects of Red Cedar Log Jam

This jam in the river has been caused by construction and a number of other factors.  It is not natural, Lindemann clearly stated that this change in the ecosystem is happening prematurely not naturally.  The trees in the actual jam fell over because of a loosening in the banks of the river.  They could not stand and eventually fell.  The trees kept falling until it created a jam which led to many other problems like the increase in the water in the neighborhood.

This increase in the water table is causing the trees in the neighborhood to become over saturated and fall over as well.  The trees are still alive and should not be falling over.  Therefore, this increase in the water table is causing the ecosystem to change prematurely.  This change is also affecting wildlife.  Since the ecosystem is changing it is causing an increase of deer in the neighborhood.  Austin Chapman, a resident of Indian Lakes Estates said, “Two years ago we never saw any deer in this neighborhood.  Now at night we have to put our brights on because we might be hitting a deer.”

In addition, some trees are falling over onto homes.  One resident spoke at the May 15th board meeting said she had over $80,000 of damage to her home when a tree fell onto it as she and three others were playing cards in her living room.  Furthermore, another woman did not have to buy flood insurance when she first bought her home.  Now, her house has been inspected and she receives a bill for an extra $2,000 a year she has to pay in insurance.  These residents are also worried about their property value of their homes decreasing which would affect future selling.

Residents Concerns

At the meeting on June 19th, residents expressed other concerns in addition to flooding.  Residents of Indian Lakes expressed concern over not wanting to live next to student housing.  Township Trustee Veenstra said, “They need to expect to have students live in their community because it is next to a university.  A majority of residents are employed by the university and you cannot have a university without students.

Next Steps

Construction is expected to begin on the student housing apartments, the Lodges Phase II located off of Hannah Boulevard in late August or early September.  However, preparations for the site will begin before that.  The logs in the log jam are expected to be removed in July.  The third approval of the Special Use Permit required for the project will be voted on again at the next Township Board meeting on July 3rd, 2012.


The full interview with Indian Lakes Resident Austin Chapman is available at:

Part one of two interviews with Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann in the backyard of an Indian Lakes Estate home is available at:

and the second part of the interview taken place at the site of the Red Cedar Log Jam is available at:

Recreation Programs

MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP- Recently, Meridian Township was granted a summer lunch program funded by a state and federal grant.  They were given this grant because one of the elementary schools reached over 50 percent of their students eligible for  reduced lunches.  This means students can receive free lunch over the summer at the nearby Snell Towar Recreation Center.  Greg Grothous, Park and Recreation Specialist, said, “Today was yogurt, fruit, a vegetable, milk, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  There is always a fruit and a vegetable or two fruits or two vegetables.”

Snell Towar Recreation is located in the middle of 4 acre Towar Park and spans over 13 city lots that have been donated by the township.  The center has a billiards table, two foosball tables, air hockey table, three computers, and a Nintendo WII system.

The Parks Department is also in the process of implementing a scholarship fund.  Due to an increase in requests for scholarships for recreation and sports activities, the township is creating a fund that will be based on donations.  In the past, the township was able to fund the scholarships, but they are no longer able to do so but will still be managing the fund and helping organize fundraisers.  One recent fundraiser was held at Douglas J  Aveda Institute in East Lansing from May 22-24th where 20 percent of sales were donated to the fund.  Scholarship applicants are able to  receive one scholarship per season that will cover up to 50 percent of the program cost.

The Recreation Center and Scholarship fund are a few of the many ways that Meridian Township is reaching out to help kids stay busy.  David Caszatt, President of the Towar Community Concerns Committee (TC3) said, “It gives an option to kids that in some cases wouldn’t have options, they would be in trouble choosing some options that aren’t exactly what you would like them getting involved with.”  These kids are at risk to bad influences and Meridian Township is committed to helping these kids thrive.

There is also an interview with Greg Grothous, Park and Recreation Specialist, available at:

Douglas J Expansion

OKEMOS- Douglas J Salon and Spa located on Hamilton Road is making plans for a new development.  The proposed plan is for the corner of Hamilton and Okemos Road in Downtown Okemos.  If approved, the plan includes tearing down the existing Traveler’s Club, White Brothers Music and Triple Goddess Bookstore.  Their proposed plan is for a three story, 25,000 square feet building.  Their existing salon across the street will still be used, but instead for educational and corporate office space.

Douglas J Salon and Spa has been in Okemos for 35 years.  Over the years they have outgrown their facility and their corporate offices have been spread out to different locations in East Lansing.  Kathy Kelly, Director of Salon Services, said she is excited to connect a little more and have them back in Okemos.  Christina Minnis, Marketing Director, said about the new location, “Everything will be new, larger, and more technology.  We really want to offer a state of the art facility to our guests and employees.”

Overall, the consensus is that they feel they need more space.  The proposal will go before the Planning Commission on June 25 and the Township Board will hear it on July 3.  Douglas J is confident the plans will be approved and hopes to start breaking ground before the end of the year with expected completion in 2014.

The interview with Marketing Director, Christina Minnis is available at:

Okemos High School Receives Top Ranking

OKEMOS- Okemos High School was recently ranked by US News as one of the best high schools in the country.  They received a national rank of #392 in the country and 4th around Michigan.  The    Advanced Placement rate is 53 percent meaning over half of the school is taking college prep classes.  The rating was based on several factors including College Readiness, Math and Reading proficiency, and Student to Teacher ratio.  They have been ranked high in the past.

Okemos High School has achieved this ranking despite some budget cuts.  They experienced a budget cut in 2011, and the school is looking to cut 1.2 million dollars for 2012.  However, the state is saying they need to offer full days to kindergartners in  order to receive full funding.  Going from half day to full day will cost up to 600,000.   This is requiring some changes and the school needs to make a decision and have the budget finalized for next year by the end of this month.

Millage Proposals

MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP- For the upcoming election in Meridian Township, there a several millages to be voted on, both for renewal and new changes.

Among them are the Ingham County Proposals which are the Juvenile Millage Renewal, Emergency Telephone Service (911 Service) Renewal, and a question to increase the millage for the Public Transportation System for Elderly and Disabled.  The Juvenile Millage is for a renewal of .60 mill, the Emergency Service is for a renewal of .85 mill, and the Public Transportation is for an increase of .12 mill.

Some millage proposals for Meridian Township are the Road Renewal and the Senior Center.  The Road Improvement Millage is just a renewal keeping it at .25 mill.  This millage fixes and maintains roads in the township.  The Community Activities Millage would help fund the Senior Center so it could be open for longer hours.  This proposed millage is for an increase to .15 mill.

Look for these millage proposals on the ballot this August.

Jimmy Johns Robbery

MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP- Police are searching for the man who took off with an unknown amount of cash from Jimmy John’s Restaurant on 4790 South Hagadorn Road.  Officers arrived at the scene within a minute of the call but the robber had already exited out the back door and into a vehicle waiting on Hannah Boulevard.

The suspect entered the business around 11:28 p.m. on May 22nd and displayed a handgun.  He was last seen wearing a dark sweatshirt, gray sweatpants, and red Converse tennis shoes, sunglasses, and a red baseball hat.  He is described as a black male with a thin build around six feet tall.  No one was injured during the robbery.

Lieutenant Greg Frenger of Meridian Township Police said, “They have continued to follow up and are still working on solving the case.  They still have some information they are following through on.  If there is a break in the case, we will update the public.”  Lieutenant Frenger also said they appreciate the help they get from neighboring agencies like the East Lansing Police who also responded to the call.  Jimmy Johns declined to comment.

Lieutenant Frenger also recommended some advice,  “We always encourage people that if they are in a similar situation either working somewhere and robbed or walking down the street and someone threatens them with violence that they simply comply with the demands and give over the property because no amount of money is worth being hurt over.”

If you have any information about this crime you are encouraged to contact the Meridian Township Police Department at 517-853-4800 or Crime Stoppers at 517-483-STOP.

The full interview with Lieutenant Frenger can be found at