Hiding the sausage at city hall

Detroit’s unlikely to regain its place as a world-class city as long as its leadership includes someone who’d risk going to the federal joint for 17 pounds of sausage.

But if I had to pick anyone among the current cast of lightweights and ethical nitwits who show Detroit’s face to the world, it would be City Councilwoman Kay Everett. It’s pro forma at this point to remind you that Everett is innocent under the law until proven guilty, and of course she is. But the specificity of the smoky-links bribe (and the fact that the feds apparently recorded the councilwoman extorting it) somehow rings true. Who could make this stuff up?

In the context of the rest of the bribes she’s charged with squeezing out of a city contractor, the sausages are small potatoes (oops, mixed metaphor). In total, Everett is accused of pocketing more than $145,000 to pimp for the contractor, Frank Vallecorsa, at the council table. That’s even more than the mayor’s favorite mortgagee, chief of staff Christine “Speedo” Beatty, is paid by taxpayers in a year.

Vallecorsa seems to be pretty busy off the job site these days, having contributed what information he could toward the conviction of a husband/wife team of bribe takers who practiced their illegal sideline while on the county payroll. Seems there’s a lot of this stuff going around. You have to wonder if there isn’t more, don’t you?

But back to Kay, or “The Mad Hatter,” as she’s called in the discussion forum on DetroitYES.com. If her buffoonery in council sessions were an inside joke, something homers could chuckle about quietly, that would be one thing. But when you’re in that job, or any other elected office here or elsewhere, you’re playing to a much bigger audience than just your constituents.

In Everett’s case, those are people outside the city and across the country who are actively looking for things to bolster their already grimly critical view of Detroit. So when Kay wears Captain Jolly hats to council sessions, or invites another councilmember outside for an East Side-style smackdown, she’s inviting millions of critics who know little or nothing about the city to say, “See? No wonder they’re in the shape they’re in. Detroit’s a sad joke and deserves what it gets.” (For the record, as a born-and-bred West Sider, I’m compelled to say that if Kay picked her fight on that side of Woodward, she’d get her lunch eaten, and a bag of chips.)

But now the stakes have risen seriously, much higher than her laxity with campaign finance reports, her use of city stipends to print self-promoting calendars and such, her putting a clown face on what should at least be a serious, deliberative body, albeit a largely impotent one under our strong-mayor charter.

It’ll be fascinating to see how the case plays out, if for no other reason than to learn how somebody goes about extorting a couple of grill-loads of tube steak.

Kay says she’s putting it in the hands of the Lord, but that could be a very risky tactic. He may be busy granting hip-hop groups and bare-assed rock divas their MTV awards.

Ric Bohy is editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]
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