2005 Dubious Achievement Awards 

End-of-the-year pieces are a news media staple, giving us ink-monkeys the chance to hand in our work early and take a little extra holiday time off. In our somewhat demented Metro Times spin on this venerable tradition, we again turn our jaundiced eyes back on the preceding 12 months to hand out awards for dubious achievers. We reserve these awards for people and institutions whose acts are so stupid, foolish, pointless, greedy, quixotic, outrageous, ill-considered or otherwise ill-fated as to stand apart from run-of-the-mill dysfunction. And our metro Detroit newsmakers worked overtime in 2005 to ensure that we’d have plenty to consider. The auto industry threatened to slide into bankruptcy and oblivion. The Detroit City Council stood at loggerheads with a truth-challenged mayor who feuded with grandstanding suburban politicos. And later in the year, our youthful mayor won a circus of an election, practically guaranteeing plenty of dubious achievements for years to come. Meanwhile, Detroit’s numerically and ethically challenged city clerk Jackie Currie faced a court challenge over her management of the elections, only to find herself unseated, and finally shedding the last vestige of dignity by challenging the election that she herself ran. Add to this the population loss of the city, the flight of educated young professionals from the region, plus a cast of thousands of garden-variety nuts, miscreants and hapless victims, and you’ve got the Dubious Achievement Awards 2005.


On top of everything else, his McGriddle backed up on him
Three men interrupt a 20-year-old Grand Rapids area man while he’s chowing at McDonald’s with his girlfriend, take him outside, lay a beating on him and drive him away, soon after demanding an $800 ransom as repayment of a debt they claim he owes. When police arrest the men during the ransom drop, they also discover that the victim has an outstanding warrant, and throw them all in jail together. Referring to the victim, one of the cops comments to The Grand Rapids Press, “He had a bad day going there.”

We were flabbergasted, whatever that means.
In ranking 101 U.S. cities for the intelligence of their citizens, Men’s Health magazine lists Detroit as No. 78, just behind Bakersfield, Calif., and just ahead of San Antonio, Tex. Rankings are based on per capita bachelor’s degrees, SAT scores, number of universities and Nobel Prize-winning physicists and physicians born within the cities’ borders, among other measures. Just in case the list has any validity, Detroiters may want to know that they still have the standing to yell, “Hey, stoo-pid!” at Toledo, Ohio; Yonkers and Buffalo, N.Y.; Las Vegas; Newark, N.J., and, in the bottom slot, Fort Wayne, Ind., where residents still brag that Dan Quayle grew up nearby.

Who the fuck do we think we are?
No sooner have our snide words rolled off the presses than we realize we’ve gotten the year off to a dubious start with our Jan. 5 issue. Our “Dubious Achievements 2004” recap includes a photo teasing toilet-mouthed Christine Beatty, the Kilpatrick administration official who reportedly laid a little profanity on two cops who pulled her over for speeding. The caption reads, “It’s Christine Beatty, that’s who the fuck it is!” The only problem is that the photo is actually of the Detroit Law Department’s Ruth Carter. Instead of starting the year with a glass of Champagne, we kick it off with a serving of crow. Thanks to the alert reader who faxed us the photo to show us who the fuck’s who.

Because a Hummer would’ve been, you know, extravagant.
Despite a looming budget crisis that threatens to push the city of Detroit into receivership, all anyone wants to talk about is the Navigator. Sometimes we need something simple and concrete to wrap our minds around. If so, this is it. The city leases a 2005 luxury SUV at a wildly inflated price for Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s wife and then, when WXYZ-TV’s Steve Wilson breaks the story (one day after the mayor goes on TV to tell us we all have to tighten our belts to deal with the impending fiscal catastrophe), the mayor and administration deny and lie until they can’t cover the scandal up. Then the mayor blames the whole thing on a communications screw-up. The whole pitiful performance lands us on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

Are we still on the Navigator thing?
After vowing to answer questions “anywhere, anytime” Mayor Kilpatrick opens what’s promised to be a new era of candor with the first of what are projected to be weekly news conferences. The first question comes from Wilson, who wants to know why the mayor lied about the Navigator. Kwame refuses to answer.

And throw in a few cases of Dom Perignon while you’re at it
If you’re facing a $200 million budget deficit, the logical thing to do is raise your budget, no? Well, that’s how Detroit’s City Council sees it in late January. The council, though claiming to be willing to slash costs, seeks a 4 percent increase in its preliminary fiscal year ’05-’06 $17 million budget. That’s a total 48 percent increase since 2000, more than any other city department. The council’s head administrator claims the increase is necessary because of rising pension and health care costs, and other councilmembers say they need researchers, lawyers and analysts to “check and balance” the mayor. Or, you know, whatever. It’s hard to say where the money’s going because each councilmember has near-total discretion over the funds in his or her annual $732,000 budget, a methodology Council President Maryann Mahaffey tells the Free Press is “the honor system.”


Sometimes it takes a little smack to get a kid’s attention
A mom — and we use the term loosely — is arrested at Ferndale High School after she cooks up a bag of heroin in the parking lot for her son to inject inside a bathroom at school. The Daily Tribune reports that police set up surveillance of the woman after being tipped off that she planned to give her son the loaded syringe. She tells police her son threatened to harm himself unless she drove into Detroit, bought the dope and brought it to school. Hey, what’s a mother for?

For weapons he chose sand wedges at 20 paces
Oakland County Chief Executive L. Brooks Patterson challenges Keith Schneider, deputy director of the Michigan Land Use Institute, to a duel after an Institute study questions the long-term economic viability of sprawl in the county. In his State of the County address, Patterson calls Schneider out by name, saying that if dueling were legal, he’d smack Schneider’s face with his glove. Most amusingly, Patterson retorts to the report’s questioning the suburban quality of life by trumpeting Oakland County’s “nationally renowned shopping” and “75 golf courses.”

And God said unto her, “Thou shalt not flip-flop”
In a taping of public television’s Off the Record, Gov. Jennifer Granholm says she doesn’t have a problem with having the Ten Command-ments displayed at the Capitol. “I know that will make some people mad,” the gutsy guv says. “That is just recognizing some universal values.

Three days later, Our Lady of Lansing is singing a different hymn. Seems her earlier comments drew an enthusiastic response from the American Family Association of Michigan, which says it wants the guv’s help in displaying the Ten Commandment Monument that was ordered out of the rotunda of the state judicial building in Montgomery, Ala., and making a national tour. At that point, a backpedaling Jen tells the Associated Press: “I’m not interested in violating the United States Constitution. I was really speaking personally.”

Then the state House passes a bill calling for posting the Ten Commandments on public land, if it can be done in compliance with recent court rulings. In October, a 12-member committee — which includes four Granholm appointees — begins meeting to consider the issue. The guv’s spokesgal, Liz Boyd, tells the AP her boss is open to displaying the commandments if it can be done in a constitutionally acceptable manner, but that there aren’t “many concrete answers at this time.”

From our “Let No Space Go to Waste” Department ...
Detroit Pistons star guard Rip Hamilton sells his head as commercial space to Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Neither side fesses up to the price Hamilton charged to have his hair styled to resemble a Goodyear tread pattern, but they do say he also got some free tires out of the deal. There’s also no word on whether Rip has a steel belt under his scalp.

Later, every available cop raided the home of Aloysius “Blinky”Milquetoast, Detroit’s most notorious library late-fee scofflaw
As part of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s crackdown on underage liquor sales at Detroit party stores, police set up a sting at the Beer Wagon Party Shoppe, send in a minor to buy some hooch, and prepare to swoop down on the owner with equal measures of shock and awe. But, as security cameras later show, the kid walks out without any alkyhol. They go in anyway, 11 cops with three marked cars parked in the lot. For 45 minutes they inspect the shop and finish up by writing two tickets: one for a missing food cart, one for expired lunchmeat. In a miserably failed stab at positive spin, department spokesman James Tate says only three of the cops actually inspected the place. The other eight, he said, just waited.

Take-backs! What the hell ya mean, take-backs?
A Detroit Free Press survey found that some 10,000 U.S. and Canadian hourly autoworkers were getting full pay and benefits despite having no jobs to go to. All were on the payrolls of the Big Three and Delphi Corp., who are now trying to figure out how and why Toyota is poised to become the No. 1 automaker in the world and the word “bankruptcy” has entered a segment of American manufacturing that’s rarely used it before.


Shout out to his peeps
Craig DeRoche, speaker of the state House, says, “We need to build roads where people live, work and pay their taxes,” instead of “fixing roads where people used to live, or where we want them to live.” Just to make sure everyone gets the code and knows DeRoche is really talking about building roads where white people live, the Novi Republican then demands that the House Transportation Committee hold public hearings on the matter, suggesting they take place in suburban Canton, Brighton and Waterford, and outstate Cadillac, Grand Rapids and Port Huron. But don’t give up hope. Maybe DeRoche will actually come to Detroit someday, in which case there’s a decent chance one of those non-people who don’t live here anymore will get off the bus they aren’t taking to the job they don’t work at and kick his asphalt up and down Woodward Avenue.

That thing she didn’t mean to say? Yeah, well, she didn’t say it.
First Sharon McPhail, a Detroit City Council member running for mayor, drops in on The Detroit News editorial board and tells them that, if elected, she’ll trim the city’s workforce by 6,000 within a year. Then the News writes a complimentary piece commending her for taking such a bold but necessary stand. At which point McPhail goes on a radio talk show and claims she never said that. The News responds with a blistering editorial, flat-out calling McPhail a “liar.” Apparently realizing that she’s impugned the integrity of people who buy ink by the barrel, McPhail writes the paper a letter saying, “When I told WCHB that ‘I didn’t say that’ relative to reducing city staffing levels from 18,000 to 12,000 in one year, it was an unfortunate choice of words on my part that misrepresented my intent.” Remarkably, she fails to make it past the August primary.

Just trying to get the poor girls off the streets
A Redford man is sentenced to 10 years in prison for employing the services of prostitutes. No, he wasn’t paying them for BJs; he hired the hookers to rob banks in Novi, Livonia, Farmington Hills and Plymouth. They’d get $1,000 a pop, plus a free disguise. But they should have just kept dressing up in hot pants and fishnets, because all three are now doing serious time. The man, Arthur “I Ain’t No Pimp” Payton, previously ran a similar scam in California. Which makes us wonder, does that make the Detroit operation a franchise?

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
The Rev. Mark Byers of the Calvary Christian Church in Royal Oak is a man of the cloth — but he isn’t a pussy. The rev preaches the Ten Commandments and the Second Amendment, singing the gospel of guns as he encourages his congregation to get concealed weapon permits, and carry their guns to church. Byers even admits that he’s armed at the pulpit, and one time his gun actually fell down his pants leg in the middle of a sermon (he surreptitiously kicked it under the pulpit and kept right on preachin’). While packin’ at church might prove useful in shushing a chatty choirboy, local law enforcement, after reading newspaper stories about Byers, stop in to inform him that the church’s school and day care center are classified under state law as “pistol-free zones,” which means that neither he nor his employees can go walking around accompanied by Messrs. Smith & Wesson when dealing with the kiddies. Police Chief Ted Quisenberry says Byers’ abbreviated understanding of the state’s concealed weapons provisions is like a “Reader’s Digest version of the law.” We suspect he might also be reading the King (Jesse) James version of the Bible.

That explains the new Mercedes parked in his cell
In 2003, rock star Kid Rock (a childhood chum) and a couple of retired FBI agents (former foes) went to bat before a parole board on behalf of Richard (White Boy Rick) Wershe Jr., saying the infamous Detroit coke dealer sentenced to life in prison had been rehabilitated. Their effort failed as the board voted 9-1 to let the federal prisons keep Wershe locked up, as he’d been since 1988 when he was busted at the ripe old age of 17. But it looks like Kid R and the G-men may have been a little premature in deeming White Boy a solid citizen. In late March, Florida authorities allege that Mr. Wershe, while behind bars, took part in a criminal network that stole hundreds of cars in south Florida. Oops.

She’s using the other one as a waterbed
The online casino GoldenPalace.com pays $16,766 for an implant removed from the copious bosom of former stripper Tawny Peaks, now retired from the pole and living as a homemaker in metro Detroit. The casino adds the massive mam to a collection that already included a 10-year-old cheese sandwich bearing grill marks in the image of the Virgin Mary, for which it forked over $28,000. A guy who claimed he suffered whiplash when she smacked him on the head with her bra-puppies during a performance once sued Ms. Peaks, who billed her boobs as 69-HH. He lost on TV’s The People’s Court after a bailiff checked the humongous hooters and found them too soft to be dangerous.

Once all those costly schools were closed, there was plenty of money left for public relations
Taxpayer-paid officials of Detroit Public Schools award a $568,000 no-bid contract to a longtime critic of the district who once did prison time for extortion. The contract is funded by federal Title I money meant to increase parent participation in school activities. Larry Nelson, the ex-con who was given the lucrative public relations contract, had no experience in PR and meets his obligations by having teens pass out fliers and brochures (a school official’s brother was paid to design the literature) in city neighborhoods. A well-known gadfly at Detroit School Board meetings before he got the contract, afterward Nelson stays quiet at meetings, to which he wears a fur coat to keep him warm when he steps out of his Cadillac.


Which is why there’s an especially hot corner of hell reserved for journalists
More than 20 local ministers gather before one of Kwame Kilpatrick’s regularly scheduled news briefings to condemn the aggressive tactics of TV reporter Steve Wilson, who had the audacity to tape the Detroit mayor during a commercial flight home from Boston. The ministers, upset at the way Wilson’s been hammering away at our fun-loving mayor, claim Kilpatrick didn’t ask them to get on Wilson’s ass en masse. They say they volunteered for the job of hurling a little fire and brimstone at the guy. But it’s not just Wilson the pastors are pissed at. They say they’re sick — sick! — of the “cannibalistic” nature of this area’s news media, which keep taking bites out of poor Kwame. Is it our fault KK keeps handing us a knife and fork every time he opens his mouth?

There’s gotta be a way to blame this on Steve Wilson too
Time magazine publishes a piece that names Kilpatrick as one of America’s worst big-city mayors. Kilpatrick is quick to spin, releasing a statement that counters, “Unfortunately, our city’s successes, such as driving crime down to a 40-year low, improving city services with less resources, slashing overtime across city government, and spurring hundreds of millions in development citywide were not a part of Time’s evaluation process.” As for that bankruptcy the city keeps slouching toward? There you go, gettin’ all negative again.

Purple hazing
The University of Michigan shuts down a sorority house for — gasp — drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana! Beer and reefer? On a college campus? Heaven forefend! The U-M chapter of Alpha Epsilon Phi was put on probation the previous fall by its national organization, for drinking and toking. But after U-M officials come into possession of photos of AEP members hitting the bottle and passing joints, the university closes the house. Here’s the really dumb part: U-M cites the activity as “hazing.” By most definitions, the act of hazing is Greek tradition, in which pledges to a fraternity or sorority must complete moderately unpleasant, occasionally humiliating acts as part of initiation rites — like frat pledges carrying cinder blocks around in their backpacks all day, or female pledges lining up in their underwear while their “sisters” use a black marker to circle all their fat parts. But drinking and smoking pot? That’s not hazing, man, that’s ... college!

Hold on there, it’s not nice to punch a munchkin when he’s down
Here’s item No. 1 from the Free Press ethics policy: “We tell the truth. We do not publish made-up material ... We don’t imply we have witnessed events we haven’t seen or been in places we haven’t been.

Unless, of course, you’re star columnist Mitch Albom, who was allowed to write a detailed piece describing the scene at a college basketball game — before it was played. Too bad for Mitch that the former Michigan State stars he said were in the stands — even providing a description of what they wore — never actually made it to the game. Darling Mitch receives a brief paid suspension (around here that’s called a vacation), and then writes a faux mea culpa in an attempt to downplay the severity of his transgression. Many, especially those who never forgot that Mitch scabbed his way back onto the payroll soon after the Detroit newspaper strike was launched in 1995, wanted him drummed out of the business. But there were also those who worried that their morning oatmeal would be too bland if unaccompanied by all that saccharine the diminutive author of Tuesdays with Morrie dishes out by the truckload.

The message was unmistakable: Tommy “Three Toes” sleeps with Luca Brasi
When cops and state agents seem helpless to stop the terrorism and marauding, the citizens of Menominee — “Where the Best of Michigan Begins,” in the remote Upper Peninsula — take matters into their own hands. State officers had captured two members of the gang — which had been chasing schoolkids, loitering ominously outside quiet homes, terrifying motorists and running amok throughout the town — but had to let them go. Then the lifeless carcass of one turned up on a city street. Another simply disappeared. For the most part, the law looks the other way, effectively declaring open season on a pack of turkeys that boisterously, and sometimes frighteningly, made themselves at home among townsfolk. In the end, the gentlepeople prove not to be so timid when it came to dealing with the Wild Bunch.


Don’t worry, next year they’ll just do Marilyn Manson covers
A middle school in Benton Harbor bans its marching band from playing “Louie Louie,” about a week before the kids are set to play the song in the big parade held during the city’s Blossomtime Festival. The school’s principal explains in a letter to parents that she doesn’t think the song is appropriate for students to play while representing the district. She’s concerned that the lyrics are too raunchy. What makes the decision especially bizarre is the fact that the kids are going to have trombones pressed to their lips, so there won’t actually be any singing going on. Students and parents whine that the decision comes too close to the festival for players to learn another song. The school’s principal says she’ll reverse her decision if enough parents protest. She should have checked with the feds — the FBI spent about two years during the 1960s investigating the song’s lyrics before coming to the conclusion not only that they weren’t obscene, they’re barely intelligible. The principal eventually reverses her equally unintelligible decision, but not before papers as far away as Australia pick up the story and have a good snigger at the idiocy.

But the state’s going to continue supplying them with free online porn, right?
It’s revealed that Michigan is one of 14 states where registered sex offenders are receiving Viagra or similar anti-impotency drugs courtesy of Medicaid. Gov. Jennifer Granholm announces that the state will institute background checks before authorizing Medicaid-covered Viagra scrips. The state also acts to limit the number of erectile dysfunction pills any Medicaid recipients can receive to four a month. Michigan’s Medicaid program had paid $76,000 over the previous six months for 302 prescriptions for Viagra or Viagra-type drugs, but state officials say most of the meds were prescribed to patients taking the drugs for legitimate medical complaints.

Things might have been OK if she didn’t take a bath in the stuff
A legal battle that dragged on for years ends when former top-ranked radio host Erin Weber wins a $10 million award against her one-time employer, local country music station WYCD (99.5-FM), and the station’s owner, Infinity Broadcasting. Weber was fired in September 2001 after a dispute over a colleague’s perfume, which Weber said made her sick. According to the suit, WYCD radio personality Linda Lee was fond of Lancôme’s Trésor perfume, which apparently caused Weber to lose her voice and miss time from work. Her doctors had told her that exposure to the scent’s fumes “could even result in death.” Weber claimed her firing was retaliation for filing a complaint with the feds. The award was handed down by a jury of six women, who deliberated for eight days without, we presume, the benefit of Chanel No. 5 to keep the situation fragrant when things got hot in the jury room.

Now we’re confused — are we cannibals or Nazis? Oh, we’re both.
Detroit mayoral pappy Bernard Kilpatrick sends shockwaves through metro Detroit’s Jewish community when he compares news stories about Kwame’s behavior to Nazi tactics. In an astounding bit of hyperbole, Kilpatrick the Elder equates the media’s “lies” about his boy with the fabrications used by folks like Third Reich propagandist Hermann Göring to spark the deaths of 6 million Jews. Because, you know, exposés of malfeasance in office are every bit as evil as the brutal extermination of millions of innocent people. The uproar forces daddy Kilpatrick to apologize, saying he would never “intentionally” trivialize a grievous atrocity like the Holocaust. The real problem, of course, is all those Nazi cannibals in the media who hate Kwame so much they’ll stoop to accurately reporting what his dad has to say.

What if you’re just talking dirty on a cell phone?
The Michigan Senate formulates and passes a bill that would make it illegal to “recklessly” watch porn in your car if other motorists can see it too. Three violations (of the law, not on the screen) could bring jail time. But to be guilty of an offense, whoever sees the porn from outside the vehicle has to have done so against their will while unable to take reasonable steps to avoid the horror. Apparently, that means if they’re nearsighted and can’t peel their noses off the inside of their car windows.

Maybe they can say it’s stolen, and then try to fence it
Modern art collectors Frank and Shirley Piku, a retired couple owning more than 200 works, bought a pricey piece by Detroit artist Eric Mesko and installed it in their Sylvan Lake yard. “Star Spangled Flag” is, simply, an American flag painted on a fence. So, what could be controversial about that? Plenty, apparently, when bureaucrats decide the Piku’s “fence” violates a zoning ordinance. The Pikus make the mistake of relying on logic, pointing out that the work of art is a work of art, not a fence. The case goes to court, where a jury finds Shirley Piku, 67, guilty of a misdemeanor. The bitch is she and her husband have to pay $4,000 in legal fees the city racked up. The $8,000 fence is de-installed, hanging out in the yard while they try to figure out where to put it.

Wait, this isn’t some elaborate euthanasia scheme, is it?
A four-year-old, 100-pound rottweiler affectionately named “Chopper” is certified as a medical therapy pooch, despite having once mauled his owner’s hand — ripping tendons and breaking several bones. The owner, Marietta Sprott of Beaverton, Mich., says her hand-mangling was an accident. She says she wants to clear Chopper’s good name by taking him into nursing homes to be cuddled by residents.

For just $100,000 more, you don’t even have to show up
The Palace of Auburn Hills leases all five of its new luxury suites, at $450,000 a pop, despite the fact that they’re underground and have no view of the court trod by the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and the WNBA’s Detroit Shock.


Population loss? We don’t have no stinkin’ population loss
Detroit drops off the list of the 10 most populous U.S. cities after being there for 95 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick says he doesn’t believe the numbers, and questions the methodology used to obtain them. “They’re making an estimate based on I don’t know what,” he’s quoted as saying. He’s probably right. They feds have only been keeping track of the country’s population since 1790. What do they know?

Osama’s lucky he’s not an Oakland County schoolkid
A 14-year-old Holly High School honor student — who was charged in March as a terrorist for creating a “hit list” — is allowed to plead guilty to a lesser charge, proving that there’s at least someone in the local criminal-justice system who’s not totally insane. The teen, who was reportedly teased and bullied by students at school, created a “kill list” of people he said he planned to off. His fellow students, flouting the law of the playground, snitched him out to school authorities, who called the cops, who arrested the kid. OK, fair enough. But Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca charges the lad under the Michigan Anti-Terrorism Act with “threatening terrorism,” a felony with a maximum sentence of 20 years. Which prompts the question: Is anybody using the state’s anti-terrorism act to go after real terrorists?

The nice thing about being a lame-duck president is that a half-million people can ask you to provide some answers and you can tell them all to fuck off
The setting for this midmonth meeting isn’t typical for Capitol Hill. Instead of a cavernous room with mahogany tables, notes a reporter from Knight Ridder Newspapers, this gathering occurs in a basement office “roughly the size of a double-bed hotel room.” The reason for the downgrade is simple: Republicans just want the whole thing to go away. We’re talking about the infamous Downing Street Memo produced by British intelligence types. And we’re talking about U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a Detroit Democrat who wants our president to answer questions about the memo, which purportedly reveals that the Bush administration “fixed” intelligence info in its attempt to gain public support leading up to the invasion of Iraq. With his party’s leading figures sitting on the sidelines, Conyers is intent on raising a ruckus, delivering petitions signed by 105 members of Congress, along with about 540,000 signatures gathered from e-mails, to a security gate at the White House. The petitions urge Bush to thoroughly answer questions about the memo. The Bushies remain mum.


And there’re still no mints on the pillows at night
At the beginning of July, the Detroit Housing Commission is taken over by the feds. The action comes as a surprise to exactly no one. Poor conditions at the DHC’s properties — including but not limited to unsanitary conditions, overdue inspection fees and rodents — have recently been documented in this paper and elsewhere. HUD says the department has been troubled by problems like poor leadership and money mismanagement for at least three decades.

Medieval Kneivel
After a 42-year-old Royal Oak man speeds away from a crash at 12 Mile and Campbell roads, police track him to his home. When the cops approach his pad, he dons mesh armor and tries to fight them off with a cache of medieval weapons, including a large mallet and a 4-foot sword. He makes a daring boast to the police, saying, “I got 1,000 years of power. Come and get me.” His warlike bearing and medieval arsenal prove to be no match for the cops’ TASER gun. He’s zapped, carried off to jail and charged with assault.

His friends wish he’d have left town too.
The White Stripes’ Jack White, known to old friends as John Anthony Gillis, tells the world that he’s finally recovering from a “devastating period” in which he grappled with the realization that his international success, and jealousy, led old pals to hate him. “My mistake is, I continued living where I’m from, Detroit, after I got successful,” the white one says. “You’re not supposed to do that. ... I lost a lot of friends, a lot of people burned us. It seemed like the family of musicians that we’d found, that I’d loved and that had embraced us, had in some cases turned its back on me.”

When your city clerk’s half-baked, you get them puffy rolls
No one seems to pay much attention when this paper reports that there’s a big, big problem with Detroit’s voter rolls. But when Kurt Metzger, a demographer at Wayne State at the time, says it’s mathematically impossible to have 637,000 valid names, and that there are as many as 150,000 invalid names on the list, and political analyst Bill Ballenger says it all adds up to a lawsuit waiting to happen, we put the information out there, just so we can say “told you so” later on.

It’s tough being Mr. Clean when you can’t explain what looks like dirt under your fingernails
With the polls showing Detroit mayoral contender Freman Hendrix holds a significant lead over incumbent Kwame Kilpatrick and the two other serious contenders making a run for the job, the former deputy mayor during the Archer administration starts to draw more scrutiny. And almost immediately, the shine on Hendrix — who’s portraying himself as the mature and upstanding option to the youthfully indiscreet and problem-plagued Kilpatrick — begins to fade. Questions start getting raised about loans he and members of the McNamara political machine obtained for their troubled business venture, Mulligan’s golf facility in Oakland County. Hendrix could stop the questions by providing documentation showing the loans were legit, but he refuses to hand over the paperwork. The faint rattling some hear is the sound of the wheels just beginning to shake loose from what had been a smooth running campaign train.


Do they teach pistol-whipping at Wharton?
One of Kwame’s best buddies, Detroit businessman Bobby Ferguson, is accused of whacking an employee upside the head with a gun. Kwame, who previously defended his bud as being a good family man, is fighting for his political life at the same time Ferguson is trying to stay out of prison. The drama ends when Bobby F. — appointed by the mayor to be co-chair of his Motor City Makeover Campaign, as well as the recipient of millions of dollars in contract work from the city — pleads to a reduced charge of assault with intent to do bodily harm. It was the third time Ferguson faced felony gun charges, and he could have been sent away to the big house for as long as 12 years under the original charge. As it is, he gets 10 months in the Wayne County Jail, and his lawyer says he’ll be allowed out on work release during the day so that he can continue to run his businesses.

There is, of corpse, a perfectly rational explanation for all this
Cops responding to a vandalism complaint at an abandoned funeral home on Detroit’s West Side make a gruesome discovery. On the second floor of the shuttered building, police find two decomposing corpses, both male, sealed inside coffins. The Pope Funeral Home went out of business in 2004 after the owner died, and police have no clue how long the bodies have been there. Later, one of the men is identified as Leonard “Junior” Smith, whose body was not cremated and returned to the family due to a dispute over the bill.

C’mon, you bearly knew the guy
An opinion piece by conservative Detroit News columnist Thomas Bray discusses the new film from German director Werner Herzog, Grizzly Man. Bray writes, “It’s a documentary that seems almost fictional — the story of Lance Craighead, a protector of grizzlies who spent 13 seasons in Alaska’s Katmai wilderness filming the creatures,” an obsession that ended in his death by mauling. Bray then makes an impressive leap of logic, arguing that such animal-hugging worldviews lead to “forms of terrorism in the name of animals and wilderness,” citing “more than 1,200 instances of eco-terrorism in recent years.” Perhaps if Bray weren’t so busy trying to use the sad demise of a well-intentioned weirdo to try to link environmentalism with terrorism, he might have had enough time to get his facts straight instead. The “grizzly man” was Timothy Treadwell, not Lance Craighead, who is the director of the Craighead Environmental Research Institute. The paper runs a correction online.

Then again, the guy is a living argument against the idea that mankind is evolving to a higher level
During an interview, our smartest president ever advances the theory that “intelligent design” should be taught alongside evolution in public school science classes. Intelligent design, which is really only gussied-up creationism, hangs its crown of thorns on the notion that human life is so complex that natural selection can’t account for it. Rather, say proponents, an “intelligent designer” must have been responsible for guiding the process. Proponents say that it’s not a Christian theory because no designer is identified. Uh, OK. But back to the story: Bush tells reporters that he thinks children should be exposed to both sides of the debate. One assumes he means the debate about evolution — which we naively thought ended around the time of the Scopes Monkey trial that took place early in the last century. Silly us. The White House’s science team tries to downplay Bush’s remarks, saying they’re not pro-Christian because there’s no designer specified (what designer are we talking about then, Prada?) and that the remarks aren’t a sop for the conservative Christian movement. It is, of course, all pure crapola.

An upcoming court case set in Dover, Pa., is set to open in late September, and taking the lead in support of ID is Ann Arbor’s Thomas More Law Center, a right-wing Christian outfit that has as its lead counsel Richard Thompson, the former Oakland County prosecutor who gained fame repeatedly getting his Jesus-lovin’ ass kicked back in the day when Geoffrey Fieger was still defending serial euthanizer Jack Kevorkian

Please, just once, can’t someone else finish first?
Detroit has risen to the top of the list of the country’s most impoverished metropolises, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The data shows that 33.6 percent of Detroit residents live in poverty, topping (or would that be bottoming?) El Paso, Texas; Miami; Newark, N.J.; Atlanta; and Long Beach, Calif., in the rankings. Cleveland, which had been the nation’s poorest big city, falls from No. 1 to No. 12 on the list, Census Bureau researchers say. The report says the percentage of Cleveland residents living in poverty fell to 23.2 percent from 31.3 percent.


Livonia, where people are happy ’cause everything is all white
Thanks to the good people of Livonia, metro Detroit’s usually subterranean racial tensions burst to the surface during a discussion about, of all things, a Wal-Mart. At a hearing over plans to develop a shopping plaza that would include a Wal-Mart at the old Wonderland Mall, some Livonia residents voice concerns that “those people” would come from Detroit to shop at the store, making Livonia into “a ghetto.” One meeting attendee who refuses to be identified says, “I was at Wal-Mart. You know who shops there? I was the only white person.” Following the 2000 Census, Livonia was named America’s whitest city with a population over 100,000. And it looks like that’s not a coincidence.

What’s a little vote tampering among friends?
Remember those pesky Detroit voter rolls? Now things heat up as City Council candidate Maureen Taylor, who didn’t make the cut to advance to the general election, files suit against City Clerk Jackie Currie. Taylor wanted to do a recount of 49 absentee ballot boxes, but things are so screwed up that ballots in 29 of those boxes can’t be examined. The mainstream continues to ignore what’s going on until Currie violates a judge’s order not to send out absentee voter applications en masse for the general election.

Move to Oakland County, we hear they’re into dueling
Two Mt. Clemens men are charged with dueling after a 19-year-old and his 32-year-old uncle fight with knives in an argument over $30. The anti-dueling law, passed in 1846, is used because it carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. The two knife fighters, being close-knit relatives and all, refuse to cooperate with authorities.

Finally, a city we can look better than
Bending over backward in a futile attempt to avoid appearing ghoulish, the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau hopes to cash in on Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans, a top location for trade shows and conventions. Speaking to Crain’s Detroit Business, bureau director of communications Renee Monforton phrases it delicately, saying, “A lot of groups need somewhere to go. We’re making it known that if they want to reconsider, Detroit is willing.”

You’re ready for some foooooot-ball? Then move.
The Lions kick off a new season filled with hope. Before year’s end, the coach is gone, starting quarterback Joey Harrington spends more time on the bench than a Supreme Court justice, and fans take to wearing paper bags over their heads to get across the message they want team president Matt Millen fired. In other words, another typical season for the boys in Honolulu blue and silver.

Kwame reaches his hand across Eight Mile —and starts slapping people around
Fighting a come-from-behind battle, Kwame Kilpatrick starts playing the race card in an attempt to keep Freman Hendrix, who posted a decisive victory in the August primary, from taking his job. When he first ran for the office four years ago, KK portrayed himself as the kind of young man unencumbered by racial baggage, the kind of leader who could build political bridges throughout the polarized metro area. But when the going gets tough, he resorts to a tried-and-true tactic, lashing out during a debate, saying, “In Birmingham, in Bloomfield Hills and all these places they do more meth, they do more ecstasy and they do more acid than all the schools in the city of Detroit put together.” The words would have provoked an outraged response even if the Kwamster had hard stats to back up his assertion. But there are no data to support his claim.


Where are Carter’s election monitors when you need them?
Making a strong bid to become our Dubious Achiever of the Year, Jackie Currie, incurring the expense of dismissing city attorneys and hiring outside counsel, continues to fight Maureen Taylor’s lawsuit. That seems to be a tactical mistake because (a) the bad shit that’s been going on in her office starts pouring out into the open as a result and (b) those high-priced outside attorneys keep losing battles in the courtroom. The mainstream media are paying close attention by now, and the dirt really starts to fly. An investigation by The Detroit News finds, among other things, that the city’s master voter list has 380,000 names and addresses on it. Even more damning is the report that Currie’s “ambassadors” are going into nursing homes and filling out absentee ballots for folks who think one of those nice Roosevelt boys is still president. Taylor, taking the stand for what’s supposed to be a grilling by Currie’s lawyers, testifies that she and other candidates were virtually assured a strong finish in the primary — for a price. She names names. The judge appoints two people to investigate what exactly went on with absentee ballots during the primary, and the state and county step in to keep a close eye on the general election.

So cannibals, Nazis and — oh! — we’re a racist, homicidal lynch mob too!
Just when you think things can’t get any weirder, they do. In the weeks immediately preceding Detroit’s mayoral election, what should be a highly offensive ad pops up in two local African-American weeklies, The Michigan Citizen and the Michigan Chronicle. The ad features a faded photo of black corpses hanging from trees with the headline “Lynching is still legal in America.” Beneath are pictures of four area commentators — the Freep’s Brian Dickerson, the News’ Nolan Finley, WCHB’s Mildred Gaddis and Metro Times’ very own Jack Lessenberry, all of whom have been critical of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s administration. It’s a vile piece of race-baiting, and no one is willing to claim it as their handiwork. The head of the political action committee supposedly responsible for the ad denies any involvement, and Kwame’s mild rebuke of the thing only fuels (as yet still unproven) speculation that his campaign placed the ad. We may never know for certain, because the Secretary of State’s Office eventually decides there are no grounds for investigating the matter.

No. 1 again, damnit
The transportation consultants at Runzheimer International release a report comparing the cost of car ownership in various U.S. cities. Few are surprised that the survey ranks Detroit as the costliest city for car owners. Even fewer are surprised that the most expensive part of owning a car in the Motor City is the insurance, which came to $5,162 a year for liability, collision and comprehensive coverage for a 2006 Ford 500 SEL. The insurance bill alone approaches 70 percent of the total cost of owning a car in Knoxville, Tenn. ($7,399) and Sioux Falls, S.D. ($7,401)

A hint for Hawkins: In prison, don’t order the tossed salad
A judge in Philadelphia suggests a new chapter for restaurateur La-Van Hawkins’ life story. Unless Hawkins’ appeal succeeds, the yarn will be rags-to-riches-to-prison duds. Facing a possible 125 years in the joint, Hawkins pulls 33 months following his conviction in a Philly corruption scandal; he’s accused of providing the city treasurer with a $58,000 plane ride (now that’s flying!) and other goodies, then lying (“spectacularly”) to a grand jury. The year of bad news for Hawkins includes a raid on his Harbortown condo to collect on a debt, and the one-day closure of his swank restaurant, Sweet Georgia Brown, for nonpayment of taxes. He also may have made journalistic history by sitting for an interview by the Philadelphia Inquirer on condition that it be done at one of the city’s top eateries. If you’re curious, he went for the perch, Caesar with prosciutto and shrimp, lemon tart with coconut cream and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


Sooner or later someone’s going to notice that fat lady over there in the corner singing
She’s over the top, even for Detroit. And that cements her grip on Dubious Achiever of the Year honors. The winner is — Jackie Currie, who loses the election and then calls for a recount — of an election she was in charge of supervising! She may not have ethics, and competency sure isn’t her strong suit, but the old gal has some cojones. She wasn’t the only one asking to recheck the ballots. Freman Hendrix, who mounted a stunning come-from-ahead collapse, refused to call it quits. Under other circumstances, his challenge might be considered quixotic, but considering the cost to a city already facing dire financial straits, it somehow seemed desperate and sad.

That probably nixes the seventh-graders’ minstrel show too, huh?
Schoolchildren at Anderson Middle School in Berkley are asked to sing the old Southern folk song “Pick a Bale of Cotton” at a school recital. Not surprisingly, some of the African-American families in the district don’t take too kindly to the idea, since they see the song as glorifying slavery. The school district’s communications officer doesn’t get it, describing the song as more of a “perky” tune that people sang “for fun.” Yeah, those were the days. The song is pulled from the concert.

So they lost one lousy envelope — how big a deal could it be?
A computer tape containing the names, addresses and Social Security numbers of more than 2 million LaSalle Bank mortgage customers, including 320,000 in Michigan, disappears Nov. 18, somewhere between Chicago and Texas. Fortunately for officials at LaSalle Bank subsidiary ABM AMRO Mortgage Group Inc., the package is found in an Ohio storage facility by an employee of the DHL courier service transporting it. Special agents don’t have to break down a door, ransack an apartment or bust open any locked briefcases. The info is located in a blank envelope, tossed in a pile with other blank envelopes. Unfortunately, bank officials are still looking for the package containing information about all their customers’ freaky sex fantasies.

Maybe Detroit Public Schools’ PR department is hiring
Though it took seven months before the system decided to do something with one of its own, the executive boss of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission recommends that 36th District Judge David Bradfield be disciplined for “civil and criminal assault and battery” during an argument with Detroit Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams over a parking space outside the courthouse. Adams, parked in a spot reserved for judges, was there to meet his wife, Judge Deborah Ross Adams, for lunch when, he says, Bradfield pulled up in his car, cussed him out and told him to move. In August, a visiting judge found that Bradfield had committed judicial misconduct and the case went to tenure commission executive director Paul Fischer for a recommendation. He writes that Bradfield “shouted, screamed profanities, attempted to engage in a fight and thumped Deputy Mayor Adams in the chest,” and should be thrown off the bench. Maybe his record had something to do with it. In 1993, Bradfield was spanked with public censure when a security guard at Dearborn’s Fairlane Town Center said the judge smacked him one during an argument about — a parking space.

These boots where made for whompin’
In an unsuccessful attempt to rob him, several attackers pull an Ypsilanti Township man’s cowboy boots off his feet and use them to beat him about the face. He manages to get away, but not before, police say, suffering serious hurt.

That explains all the resolutions to ban snoring
Warren City Council meetings are notoriously long, regularly running into the wee hours of the morning. This would be fine if just the members were affected — a sleepless James Fouts is probably just as grumpy as a well-rested one — but the long hours sometimes force residents to wait until 3 a.m. to voice their concerns. It has gotten to the point where Councilwoman Melinda Moore is awarding a pound of coffee to anyone correctly guessing what time the meetings will end. So, in an attempt to clamp down on the long-windedness, shameless self-aggrandizing and the plain old foot-dragging that extend the meetings, councilmembers agree in November to take the drastic measure of ... starting the meetings an hour earlier. Not everyone is impressed. As Councilwoman Mary Kamp tells the Detroit Free Press, “Our meetings consistently end at 3 a.m.; ending them at 2 a.m. is not a great benefit.”


Message to Council: Do not fuck with Monica, ever
She hasn’t even attended her first meeting, but it seems Detroit councilwoman-elect Monica Conyers will fit right in with that storied body. News reports allege that Conyers, wife of Rep. John Conyers Jr., engaged in some late-night fisticuffs with a Walled Lake resident at Crossroads Lounge in Detroit on Dec. 22. Though reports vary as to who started the swinging, all accounts point to a full-on brawl that raises city-suburban political spats to a new level. No charges have been filed as of this writing, but it’s safe to say no one comes out of the affair looking good. Then again, if Conyers is willing to go to the mat this way for her constituents, she might be a force for civic good.

But is it OK if they drive Pintos?
Ford Motor Company performs a rare feat by caving in to both sides of a boycott. When the automaker announces that ads for Jaguars and Land Rovers will no longer be placed in gay publications, most people figure it’s capitulating to a boycott threat issued by the conservative American Family Association. Not so, Ford says. Times are tough and advertising dollars are scarce. That sounds at least plausible until Ford turns around two weeks later and says it will continue advertising in the publications, presumably after getting an earful from gay rights activists. Either that, or business suddenly got way better. The AFA threatens immediate retaliation. We know that all these Christian fundamentalists hate gays, but we don’t get what they have against queers driving around in pricey British cars.

Careful — in a few years, the girls may be begging for a boyfriend sleepover
A divorced Ferndale man is challenging Michigan’s 74-year-old law against cohabitation — did you know Michigan has a 74-year-old law against shacking up? — after an Oakland County judge rules that his girlfriend can’t sleep under the same roof when his daughters visit every other weekend. The state appeals court upholds the ruling, but Christian Muller, 35, is trying to take the case to the Michigan Supreme Court, with the help of the ACLU. Meantime, Muller’s girlfriend, Michelle Moon, either sleeps in a van parked outside his home or drives to Cincinnati to stay with her folks while the kids are over. Incidentally, Muller’s ex-wife, Nicolette, said she shacked up with Christian before their kids were born.

Tramps like us, baby, we were born to guns.
Any time authors, actors or politicians start up rock bands, the results can be confidently counted as flops. It’s even worse when taxpayers have to pick up the tab for this sort of ego-feeding self-indulgence, as is the case with U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter. The Livonia Republican joins four other congressmen in packing their instruments and going on a one-week tour through U.S. military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Pakistan and Germany. The band is called The Second Amendments, and as the name suggests, they’re not just promoting the Constitutional right to rock. Bob Jackson, the congressman’s press secretary, makes it clear that this trip isn’t just about getting groupies for the politicians. “They’re going on a congressional delegation ... as a working trip,” he says. “They’ll be getting briefed and talking to leaders. But there’s nothing saying that at the end of the day they can’t unpack their instruments” and play to a packed base. One thing’s for sure: With the U.S. treasury behind it, the band won’t have to worry about earning enough gas money to get back home.

If God’s on their side, how could they lose?
That intelligent design trial wraps up in Pennsylvania with Richard Thompson and his pals on the religious right suffering a complete and stinging defeat. The federal judge hearing the case says that just because you can’t explain something doesn’t mean it’s OK to go laying responsibility for it in the hands of some unfathomable intelligent designer. He also finds it ironic that, for folks who claim to be motivated by a higher moral calling, some of the IDers “would time and again lie and cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID policy.” One thing we’re certain of is that this well-reasoned ruling will do nothing to shake the fundamentalist faith of our science-doubtin’ president. When you go ’round claiming to have God on your side, every action, no matter how terribly misguided, is justified as righteous. Just ask all those dead Iraqis and Americans.

Sources: Grand Rapids Press, Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, clickondetroit.com, msnbc.com, thesmokinggun.com, The New York Times, Associated Press, UPI, cnn.com, Crain’s Detroit Business, Buffalo News, Eagle Herald, Reuters, Oakland Press.

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