News Hits

The scoop that pooped

The story in the Macomb Daily on Dec. 1 had Doug Martz going bonkers. The Great Lakes Commission was holding a conference about Lake St. Clair, with more than 230 experts attending. The paper sent a reporter, who came back with a story that appeared under the headline: "Lake Pollution Blamed on Birds."

Martz, who heads the Macomb County Water Quality Board, couldn't believe what he was reading. Sure, a small part of the program had been devoted to a report detailing the effect bird droppings have on beach closings along the lake, but that was far from the overarching message of the conference, says Martz. Others, including Matt Doss, conference coordinator for the Great Lakes Commission, agreed, sending letters to the paper criticizing the coverage.

According to Doss, "the article trivialized the complexity of Lake St. Clair's environmental problems." Among the other conclusions expressed at the conference was the fact that "major environmental concerns include urban and agricultural runoff; combined sewer overflows; airborne deposition of contaminants; aquatic nuisance species; and irresponsible development practices in the watershed that compromise habitat, biodiversity and overall environmental quality."

But written protests weren't enough for Martz, who wanted to convey just how ridiculous it is to focus blame on birds while "billions of gallons of sewage and waste" get poured into the lake. So he talked his brother-in-law, Lloyd Okaji, into drawing a cartoon showing gullible reporters buying the bird shit theory while ignoring the human waste. News Hits thought the flying hippo was such a nice touch the cartoon just had to get printed somewhere.

Rose-colored blues

In hopes of bringing Gary Rose to his senses, former Weathervane Windows employees picketed his Novi home last Saturday with signs that read, "Gary, you sure don't smell like a Rose," and "How many millions do you need, Gary?"

Rose owned the Brighton-based window manufacturing company which closed its doors last June without notice. Employees say that the company promised to pay health care costs incurred prior to the plant closing, but left many with thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills that Rose refuses to cover.

"We wanted to embarrass Gary Rose somewhat," says former employee Bob Portwood, who participated in the picket with about 20 of the 240 workers who lost their jobs.

Portwood says that he owes $62,300 in medical bills incurred when he had heart surgery June 9, three weeks before the plant closed.

Insider Business Journal reported that Comerica Bank, Weathervane's lender, seized control of the company's bank accounts and cut off funding June 14. Rose and his attorney, Harry Eisenberg, could not be reached for comment. Portwood says a lawsuit is pending, but is not optimistic that they can force Rose to pay the bills. In the meantime, Portwood says they intend to continue paying him back with public shame sessions.

Rudolph the Red

For those of you who like a little unionism to go along with the usual holly and tinsel of this holiday season, the Labor Heritage Foundation has just the ticket: traditional Christmas songs with a pro-labor twist written by Julie McCall.

The songs include "I'm Dreaming of a Just Workplace" and "God Rest Ye Merry Union Members." We especially liked "Rudolph the Union Reindeer," which contains the memorable lines:

"All of the other reindeer / Worked long hours around the clock /

They paid no heed to Rudolph / They worked in nonunion shops

Then one year on Christmas Eve / They all came to say,

'We will do what you advise / Rudolph, help us organize!'"

McCall, however, left out the part about a union-busting Santa sending a sleigh-load of specially hired security elves to bust a few reindeer legs in order to keep Dasher and crew in place.

We think McCall is on to something, though, and propose another project: Retelling Dickens' A Christmas Carol featuring Detroit Newspapers honcho Frank Vega as Ebenezer Scrooge, with a multitude of locked-out workers playing the ghosts who will continue to haunt him until this ugly labor dispute is finally settled.

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