Jubilant Detroit and Wayne County officials gave each other hugs and high fives Friday as they stood in front of a house owned by one of slumlord Ernest Karr’s companies.
The officials were at 19153 Cardoni on Detroit’s east side for a news conference trumpeting an April 25 decision by Circuit Court Judge Michael Sapala, who set precedent by having the court order Karr to pay for the demolition of four abandoned homes he owns. Until now, the city’s practice has been to tear down homes, which usually means taxpayers are left footing the bill. The problem with that approach is that the number of homes has far outstripped the funds available to demolish them.
The case was brought by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the City of Detroit Corporation Counsel. Karr could have avoided a trial by agreeing to either renovate the properties or tear them down within 90 days.
“He said, ‘Screw you, take us to court,’” said Prosecutor Michael Duggan. Having won the decision, Duggan said his office is now “going to roll through the city” and force problem property owners to tear down slum housing.
News Hits can’t resist throwing a few props in the direction of Metro Times reporter Lisa M. Collins, whose exposé on Karr (“This cold house,” Metro Times, Nov. 6-12, 2002) was distributed at the news conference. And assistant prosecutor Mojisola “Nikki” Clement, who tried the case against Karr, told us she read Collins’ piece for inspiration prior to facing Detroit’s most notorious slumlord in court.
Our question for Duggan was, “What happens if Karr ignores the court order and doesn’t tear these places down?”
Then he’ll be in contempt, explained the prosecutor, and subject to fines or even jail.
We think a more fitting punishment would be to have Ernie sentenced to do some hard time in one of his own hovels. He’d be suitable company for the rats and opossums neighbors say have been the Cardoni property’s only recent residents.Send comments to [email protected]