Angels? Devils? Ready or not?

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Last week News Hits had the temerity to question whether Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is ready to take on Devil’s Night and the potential for pre-Halloween pyromania. At the time, public officials — who serve the people, not the mayor — gave us ample reason to believe that Kilpatrick may not be as prepared as one would hope. A mum mayor’s office did not return our numerous phone calls to offer its perspective.

However, we have since gotten an earful from Kilpatrick’s office, specifically Shannon McCarthy, the special project coordinator who has the awesome task of keeping the city from going up in smoke. She says that the mayor’s office has been preparing for the big event (renamed Angel’s Night by former Mayor Coleman Young) for nearly three months. McCarthy says that neighborhood city hall managers received special training; city department heads are strategizing; targets of arson — such as abandoned vehicles — are being cleared from the streets and volunteers are being recruited. She does not know how many volunteers have signed up so far, but the goal is 35,000. McCarthy says, “We are not reinventing the wheel. We are doing what works and are ahead of schedule.”

This news is heartening to Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel, who says that the only evidence she has seen regarding Angel’s Night preparations surfaced last month at a community meeting where volunteers were recruited.

“I was glad to see it, but it was in August,” says Cockrel. Before she joined the council, Cockrel worked on Devil’s Night with the Coleman A. Young administration. Under Young, preparations began in the spring, she says. She also is concerned that the demolition program is bankrupt, leaving abandoned houses (aka fire fodder).

Kilpatrick acknowledges that the lack of money for demolitions is a major problem for the city. He says he is looking for a solution. In the meantime, thanks to McCarthy’s call, we can do our own little bit to help by relaying the number to call if you’re interested in helping Angel’s Night live up to its new moniker: 313-224-4415.

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