Myth-busting the Detroit tax foreclosure crisis 

Detroit is Not for Sale

Originally published by Metro Times

At the time of this writing, Detroit is in the midst of yet another round of the staged cage-fight that is the tax foreclosure auction. In many ways this feels like an individual fight — one home at a time fighting to mitigate the harshest consequences such as eviction, homelessness, and permanent property damage. Yet this issue affects the city as a whole, and it’s important that we do not become desensitized to the routine social violence that it represents. The truth is that Detroit is for sale by our own local government, and it is time to challenge the convenient notions that help us fall asleep at night.

In its barest terms, here is how the tax foreclosure process functions in Detroit:

When you own a home, you have to pay taxes. Every year, the city of Detroit assesses the property value and issues two tax bills accordingly. Property taxes help pay for infrastructure, libraries, the zoo, schools, garbage pickup, and so on. If the city taxes are not paid, the debt gets passed on to the Wayne County Treasurer, which acts as a collections agency, tacking on 18 percent interest per each year if the taxes go unpaid. After three years, state law requires that the Wayne County Treasurer foreclose on the property and put it up for sale in an auction, where it is sold to the highest bidder.

Under this system, one out of every three Detroit properties has been put up for auction by the Wayne County Treasurer since 2002.

Understandably, the consequences of such massive forced turnover in property ownership are severe. The system provides a harsh penalty for violating the social contract: pay your taxes or lose your house. However, it fails to address the underlying reasons for tax delinquency or adequately recoup lost revenue, and leads to deep and enduring consequences that devastate the city as a whole.

Myth 1: The system is fair Continue reading

An eclipse poem

On the eve of the eclipse,

she slept with her head downhill,

and woke to the sound of woodpeckers chiseling their faces into the forest,

and, when she rose to look for them, she found, instead,

a green plump grasshopper, which she showed to another camper,

through the thin screen of his tent, with a smile.

For the first time, she took in the campsite:

a dozen clear pods rose up from the ground with sleeping bags and sleeping bodies inside.

One man lay on a low cot in the open air like a silent offering to a distracted god.

The trees rose high above the grounds, unreachable limbs framing the scene with a gentle grandeur.

She found her keys sitting obediently on the front seat of her unlocked car, and retrieved her worldly things.

Regarding the portable toiled warily from a distance, she squatted to pee on the forest floor,

and saw a shiny red on the inside of the fabric of her underwear.

Oh.

The same moon that would block today’s sun had taken the time to summon her tide.

She smiled at the endless bounty this day had already brought her, before she’d uttered a single word,

and returned to the tent with the notebook she had once given herself, and a pen, to write about the magic of the day.

There, she returned to her sloping recline, slipping beside the bodies of her friend and Luca the dog,

and as she lifted the pages above her to write, she caught sight of an identical version of the book she held in her hands floating just out of reach,

the notebook she had once given her friend, suspended from the top of the tent in a pouch.

And the trees crowned the sky above her and the stars shone without being seen. Shielded, for now, by the light of the uninterrupted sun.

 

 

written in the Shawnee National Forest

Paved Paradise

Outside my office window-
a flat patch of land
where a home once stood
no shadow, fresh dirt,
I cant remember it, exactly.

Outside my office window-
two police cars
lights flashing, sirens off
black tarp, solid form
still body-shaped, but still.

Outside my office window-
a big semi truck
from the deconstruction site
that rolled over that woman-
eighteen wheels-to-two
with blind spots
now she’s gone,-
but not buried yet.

I can still see her form there
right where I biked to work last Friday
singing loud enough to hear-
if you rolled your windows down-
riding fast enough to see-
if you checked your mirrors-
but soft enough to fall-
if you won’t, or don’t-
and small enough to be forgotten,
once they lay that pavement down.

The Moment

The moment is…

a kiss and not a word,
a what and not a why,
is you without your story,
unscripted.

The moment is
the drop of water you can taste on your tongue as you dive into the sea- you in the ocean, the ocean in you;
is the chorus of a flash rainstorm percussing off a dozen rooftops- teasing your ear with the impossible task of isolating a single sound
is the time in the parking lot between driving and walking- where you stop the car and the radio is silent and the key is dropping into your purse while the other hand opens the door and your face feels the motion of the outside air for the first time.
is the dream that hovers over you in wisps of color and light as you lie in bed just before you mind regains Time for the day
is any connection of any life with any other life, or with a unbodied element of god’s infrastructure;
is a place not rooted in geography,
that follows wherever you go;
is time that is free from time,
that disappears as soon as you name it;
is abundant,
elusive,
acoustic,
effusive;

The moment is
Is a dance and not a worry
Is a breath and not sigh
Is a kiss and not a story
Is a kiss and not a sorry
Is a kiss and not a word.

first memory

At the event when I couldn’t help but stand up and talk too much,

I opened myself up to judgment in order to speak the burning necessity that was bubbling up my throat, determined to be shared.

Taking my seat for the forth or fifth last time, a woman two rows back lifted her head and her hand to get my attention. “Hey”, she said. “We need to talk”, she said. “We’ve met before”, she said. Continue reading

To Go Nowhere


I climbed the mountain not to reach the top, but to cross over,
marking each morning with a new little bracelet on my wrist,
with colors of ascending frequency to note the mounting chakras,
simulating an elevated state in the thinning air.
I love me, I want to be me…. but not this way.
This me can’t be alone with herself, this me is flipping through her hair, her phone, a box of cookies to avoid that awkward small-talk with the ignored inner self.
I didn’t listen to her, but I did dress her up, one braided bangle at a time,
with all the attributes of a happy soul,
if not a body to put them in.

Wasn’t it one year ago the stranger gave me that kite?
A symbol of my freedom, she said.
But she didn’t give me the wind, or the way.
And the girl I was rose with the sun in the place where the horizon flexed acute,
lifted her childish pennant and begged the coldest winds of Africa to do for her what that year had not.
And when the flag had failed her, she replaced it with another sorry charm.
From a man to a mountain- the talisman shifts shape
but is always rooted in the same hope: change me, heal me, make me whole.
They have all failed and they always will
unless or until the hope can become the desire to be me, even as I already am
clutching a soggy bracelet of sincere hopes faded in chlorine and concessions.
I don’t feel like swimming any more.
Maybe I want to write-
first draft, fuck it-
and to go nowhere that I am not already.

Reparations 313

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[Originally published by ModelD. All photos depict homes that were occupied when they were acquired by Detroit Land Bank Authority but are now vacant.]

Detroit’s greatest paradox is its abundance of space and its scarcity of quality housing.

The massive stock of single family homes once sustained double the current population. Yet each year, more Detroit homeowners become renters, squatters or altogether homeless. The problem is complex but the solutions do not have to be: what is needed is an immediate, scalable solution that will create stability and an upward trajectory for people, property, and the city at large.

It’s time for Detroit to reinvent urban homesteading by selling homes to their current residents. Continue reading

It’s offensive if I’m offended

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Yesterday I took a trip to my small local grocery store and got a call from my best friend about her amazing time at the Women’s march in DC. She was giddy with excitement and we shared about our hopes and ideas and experiences participating in the actions of the day. As I left the store, a man who was checking out looked up at me and said “You’re so cute, so beautiful, what’s your name?” I looked at him but made no reaction and continued my phone call. He followed me out of the store and repeated the same line. I turned and said “I’m on the phone” and he said- loudly- “Oh, she’s too loud though, that’s too bad.” I was livid. I was almost to my car at that point but I turned back and approached him and said loudly: “You are incredibly rude. You are being extremely offensive.” His provocation had worked in getting me to talk to him so he went back to trying to be charming “You are so beautiful, so cute, what’s your name?” I repeated that he was being offensive and he said “No I’m not! I’m not offensive.” to which I shouted “It’s offensive if I’m offended!” Continue reading

They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds

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Above the land, exposed and hard
they’re aching just for touch.
They chase a thousand beaded dreams
but never have enough.

When aching grows, it overflows-
a sharp and biting cuss,
Our eyes showed their reflection,
so, they tried to bury us.

Inverted dome, we made it home-
a womb beneath the crust.
We bore so deep, in waking sleep,
like seeds with waterlust.

And when the river didn’t sate
We dug still lower wells,
unbudded branches lay in wait-
those fallow patient cells.

From depth restrained, and dark contained-
no count of nights gone by-
until that time, again we rise
roots first, and then the sky.

This poem is written as a message of solidarity from Detroit to Standing Rock, with particular recognition for the Pueblo Camp who taught me the significance of building shelter underground in the womb of the earth. The phrase that inspired it is derived from the poetry of Dinos Christianopoulos, who truly was a seed because his message has given hope to fighters from the Zapatistas to the LGBTQI community to anyone who felt frighted or violated by the ascension of the current President.

Reflections on Standing Rock

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“The battle has just begun. I will stand to protect the water, the land. I am asking each of you to come stand with us.” -LaDonna Brave Bull Allard

what it was like

I came to Standing Rock in answer to this call. I wanted to lend my energy to the beautiful movement that is being borne out of the glaring act of violence which is the Dakota Access Pipeline. I wanted to learn from those who were standing up to the environmental status quo. I wanted to spend my Thanksgiving in honor of native people rather than over a full plate of willful avoidance back home. The trip was less than a week, with two full days’ driving time, and yet it was a transformative experience. I have the tendency to romanticize and I don’t want to create the idea that it was some sort of fairy tale but in so many ways the place and the movement that is Standing Rock is entirely beautiful. The people, the attitude of work and service, the prayers, the songs, the hope, the solidarity, the reverence to the natural elements- it was all beautiful. I and many others came by choice but, at its heart, this movement is an obligatory act of self-preservation for the Dakota/Lacota/Natoka people. The camp and the movement that drives it is borne out of the very real threat that is the Dakota Access Pipeline. What follows are my observations from my short time at Oceti Sakowin camp. Continue reading