Bidding Archer adieu

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. As News Hits previously mentioned, Archer’s reign soon ends. To get in our final pot shots and praise, we decided to wish him a “world-class” goodbye by drafting a few brief chapters about his eight-year legacy, which he is more than welcome to include in his memoirs.

Chapter One: An overview

On Jan. 3, 1994, Archer stood before a gleeful crowd at the Fox Theatre delivering his inaugural address. News Hits recently reviewed a copy of it to see how many promises have been fulfilled and how many have been broken.

“We will pick up the garbage,” Archer assured. Hands down, the mayor did a superb job making sure garbage was collected. Too bad that we have to applaud the leader of a so-called “world-class” city for getting the trash picked up.

As for the streetlights, suffice it to say that News Hits attended neighborhood meetings where irate residents loudly booed the lighting department director, Mark Petty.

Good thing Archer did not promise to remove the snow from city streets. When the snow kept falling in January 1999, Archer made a fool of himself threatening to ticket people for not shoveling their sidewalks when he couldn’t keep the streets cleared. The mayor also made the nasty mistake of tearing down part of the controversial Heidelberg Project just one day after Wayne County Circuit Court judge Amy Hathaway lifted an injunction filed on behalf of artist Tyree Guyton that temporarily staved off destruction of the polka-dotted kingdom — though Archer couldn’t get major streets plowed that same winter.

He also promised “to make the revitalization of our neighborhoods one of my highest priorities.” Well, he did manage to get Detroit $100 million for the Empowerment Zone. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to have made a bit of difference. Maybe Archer meant to do more for the blighted hoods. But it’s the big-ticket items that give mayors a name, which may be one reason why most of Archer’s attention went downtown.

Though Archer didn’t mention word one about casinos in his inaugural address, he vowed to keep them out of Detroit when he ran for mayor. It seems he got his just desserts for betraying the voters. After supporting a ballot proposal that allowed casinos in the city, the Community Coalition gave him hell for not choosing local businessman Don Barden as one of the casino developers. The coalition supporters wanted the Don because they wanted at least one casino to have majority-black ownership and he was the only chance. The grassroots group didn’t let up and unsuccessfully attempted to recall the mayor.

News Hits thought a recall over this issue was over the top, especially when there was no mention of getting rid of Archer when reports surfaced about the Detroit Police Department having the highest rate of fatal shootings among the nation’s largest cities. Now, that is something to get enraged about.

Archer promised to get more police officers on the streets at his inauguration, which he may well have done. It’s just too bad that he couldn’t keep them from shooting and killing so many people. Maybe the U.S. Justice Department investigation will change that. Maybe the investigation Justice is also doing of people who died in Detroit jails will also keep the department in line. And then there’s the new team in the prosecutor’s office to bird dog the police on these matters.

Not much else was included in the inaugural speech, except for this: Archer insisted that the only way to make this city better is if we all, the suburbs included, work together. And on that point, the man who was superb at building bridges with burbs is absolutely correct.

Chapter Two: Who's the boss?

News Hits would be remiss to not give a fond farewell to Archer’s sister-in-law C. Beth DunCombe. After all, the stout, bossy woman headed every major development project in the city, including Comerica Park, the casinos and Campus Martius. Much like her brother-in-law, DunCombe was incensed when the public dared inquire about any of the projects. Oh, and let’s not forget Graimark, which DunCombe had her hands on too. Graimark is a market-rate housing project that the city insisted had to be done in order to attract residents to Detroit and boost the 2000 Census count. To build the homes, however, the city booted out many longtime elderly residents and renters from the Graimark neighborhood. What is so maddening about this is that not a single shovel touched the ground before the census count concluded that Detroit has less than a million residents. So when we say we bid you a fond farewell, Beth, we mean it. Though we suspect we’ll see you around.

Final Chapter: Thin-skinned

Just days before Archer’s departure from office, he granted this publication one of only a few face-to-face interviews. But it took some persuasion. After exchanging a few demanding e-mails with his press secretary Greg Bowens, the master of obfuscation, Archer granted us 20 minutes on the topic of a future MetroTimes article. Suffice it to say that his office is big and the conversation was a major yawn. However, having to wrestle with the man for his time reminded us of a more telling phone conversation we had with Archer more than three years ago. It was the first time he personally returned one of our many calls. When we asked him why he did not speak directly to Metro Times — instead sending Bowens to do his spin work — he said, "You got a guy over there by the name of Lessenberry who likes to have a field day at my expense." Metro Times weekly columnist Jack Lessenberry, who told us that he is going to miss Archer, has taken some swipes at the thin-skinned chap. But as they say, Denny, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the office. Oh, that’s right, you did. We just say thanks for providing News Hits with such rich fodder. We only hope that Mayor-elect Kwame Kilpatrick will do the same. News Hits is fully confident that he will.

Ann Mullen and Lisa M. Collins contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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