Dubious achievement awards 2004 - June

What a dump: The administration of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who early on vowed to knock down 5,000 abandoned buildings in eight months, sets a 20-year low for demolishing such dangerous eyesores. As a result of the snail’s pace progress, Plymouth philanthropist Robert Thompson withholds a promised $10 million gift, saying the city’s demolition budget is simply too out-of-whack. “It was always the notion that this would be a contribution over and above budgeted funds to accelerate the process,” Thompson’s lawyer says. Kilpatrick requested $12.4 million in demolition funds for the year; the Detroit City Council approved only $8.9 million. “If I could take anything back from that initial speech, it would be to know more about this process and say, ‘Hey, we don’t need to demolish that many houses,’” Kilpatrick tells reporters.

Repeat: “Censorship will make it all go away!” After making a crack about the Motor City during the heated Pistons vs. Lakers NBA Finals, comedian Jimmy Kimmel is ripped from the airwaves. Kimmel, who scoffs, “They’re going to burn down the city if the Pistons win,” raises the hackles of many metro Detroiters, who flood the phone banks at the network’s Los Angeles offices and raise a ruckus on local radio call-in shows shortly after the comment is aired. Kimmel issues a written statement to address the hubbub: “What I said about Pistons fans during halftime last night was a joke, nothing more.” Nevertheless, local ABC affiliate WXYZ replaces Kimmel’s regularly scheduled talk show with an episode of The Wayne Brady Show.

One-way ticket out of Paloozaville: After lousy ticket sales, the once-feted Lollapalooza tour is canceled on June 22. The tour, scheduled to feature local rockers the Von Bondies as well as such heavy hitters as Modest Mouse, Morrissey, The Polyphonic Spree and Wilco, is scrapped for the first time in its seven-year run. Event organizer Perry Ferrell says in a statement, “Lollapalooza could no longer see fit to continue this year. Our plight is a true indication of the general health of the touring industry and it is across musical genres.” The world, miraculously, continues to spin on its axis.

More shots heard round the world: Nine people are shot at Hart Plaza during the Freedom Festival fireworks. No, wait, make that eight. Nine? Hell, we still don’t know for sure. And was there one gunman or two? Don’t ask the Detroit cops — they arrested the wrong guy, who’s now looking for a big payday. The only thing for certain is that shots rang out, people fell to the ground, chaos ensued, and representatives of the NFL, in town to make sure all is on track for the 2006 Super Bowl, witness the D suffer yet another hit to its already-trashed image.

La-Van, the man, may face the can: Super-sized Detroit restaurateur La-Van Hawkins is indicted in connection with a municipal corruption case in Philly. Hawkins, a former Burger King and Pizza Hut franchisee and owner of the chichi downtown jazz club and upscale restaurant Sweet Georgia Brown, is charged with conspiracy, four counts of wire fraud and four counts of lying to a federal grand jury. The perjury is alleged to be about two $5,000 checks Hawkins wrote to bribe Philadelphia City Treasurer Corey Kemp. If convicted, Hawkins faces a maximum of 125 years in prison and as much as $2.5 million in fines. No word yet if the feds can find an oversized prison cell with a corner booth.

Big hair, bad mama, dead babies … OK! America’s obsession with personal appearance has reached freakish, and sometimes tragic, proportions, but this week, the Michigan Supreme Court makes vanity and stupidity an acceptable legal defense. The Court unanimously rules that Tarajee Maynor did not purposely cause the deaths of her two children by leaving them locked inside her car for four hours on an 88-degree June day while she had her hair washed, relaxed and styled. Maynor, who left her son Adonis, 3, and daughter, Acadia, 10 months, belted inside the car in an asphalt parking lot, explains that she was “too stupid” to know that her babies could die. Though circumstantial evidence points to Maynor’s culpability, this ruling makes the case tougher for prosecutors to prove.

E. coli told you so: Both of St. Clair Shores’ beaches, Blossom Heath and Memorial Park, are closed for swimming once again due to high E. coli bacteria readings. But what’s a little poo in the water on a hot, sunny day? Actually, the fecal coliform bacteria can cause anything from severe diarrhea to death. So unless residents are interested in a dip in the open-air turd tank, all Marco Polo games have been downgraded to a tiptoe through the sprinkler.

Adieu, adieu, to you and you and you: The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that nearly 36,000 people have left the city of Detroit since the year 2000 — nearly half as many as left during all of the 1990s. In 2003 alone, 10,000 residents hit the road. Will the last person who leaves the city please turn off all the lights? On second thought, most of them are already off.

Whining whiteys win one: One year after the Supreme Court upholds the consideration of race in college admissions, other legal challenges and attacks on minority recruiting continue to threaten affirmative action. Reports say that not only are fewer minorities applying to colleges throughout Michigan, but also at Brown, Ohio State and others.

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