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Ferndale election hijacked?

It wasn’t enough for the Mississippi-based American Family Association and Auburn Hills Mayor Tom McMillin to team up at the 11th hour to help defeat Ferndale’s proposed human rights ordinance by a slim 117 votes last week.

Now American Family Association of Michigan President Gary Glenn says his organization is prepared to "assist" Ferndale residents in trying to nullify all future attempts to give homosexuals "special status" under the law.

"I think it would be appropriate, following the vote Feb. 22, to give Ferndale voters a chance to settle this issue once and for all by offering a charter amendment that very precisely and singularly addresses homosexual behavior," Glenn says.

Backers of the proposal are accusing AFA of hijacking the election by using a "front" committee called "Oakland County Residents for Equal Rights Not Special Rights." Sean Kosofsky, policy director for the gay advocacy Triangle Foundation, says the committee – which formed the week before the election and lists McMillin as its treasurer – used a $5,000 contribution from AFA for a phone-polling and direct mail campaign that misrepresented the ordinance. He says the committee falsely claimed the proposal would force churches to hire homosexual daycare workers and allow Ferndale’s mayor to perform same-sex marriages. Glenn defended the attacks as valid interpretations of the proposal.

Ordinance proponents said they planned to file a complaint with state elections officials Monday, alleging that the committee violated state law by not providing its address on some of its campaign literature. Proponents also mentioned possibly bringing the issue back before voters in November 2001. Unless, of course, the AFA succeeds in pre-empting all such elections.

Metro Times on trial

Well, not exactly. But this rag’s name did come up last week in a case before Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Edward M. Thomas. For several months now, Ameritech Corp. employees have been testifying about the phone company’s alleged discrimination against African-American employees and injured workers. Thomas must decide whether to certify the group as a class (which may include as many as 150 people) or require workers to pursue individual lawsuits.

The Metro Times came up when Ameritech attorney Larry Campbell cross-examined Gary Culver, who repairs Detroit phone lines for the company. Culver alleged in an MT article that Ameritech provided Detroit customers with inferior service compared to suburbanites ("Unwired Detroit?" MT, Nov. 18-24, 1998). A photo accompanying the story showed Culver next to a damaged "cross box" that stores phone lines for hundreds of customers. Like many Detroit cross boxes at the time, it had no door, causing service to go kaput during rain and snow storms. Campbell showed Culver photos of cross boxes that were intact and asked him if he’d seen them. Culver said yes, explaining that the doors were missing before the attention from MT and other media. And how did Culver know this, asked Campbell? According to attorney Jeanne Mirer, who represents the workers, Campbell was not prepared to hear Culver reply that after the media scrutiny, an Ameritech honcho asked for a list of all damaged cross boxes in the city so they could be repaired.

The Ameritech attorney, chided Mirer, "looked like someone punched him in the stomach. He didn’t say a word for two minutes."

Mixing pot and politics

Ann Arbor resident Renee Emry Wolfe was sitting in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum in the fall of 1998, hoping to discuss a pending anti-medical marijuana bill the Florida Republican planned to introduce. What made the visit less than routine was that Wolfe, who suffers from multiple scelrosis, put an exclamation point on the encounter by doing in public what she often does in private to deal with the degenerative disease attacking her central nervous system. She lit up a joint.

And the cops were promptly called.

Wolfe recently returned to D.C. for her day in court, where a judge ordered her to pay $50 in court costs and perform 50 hours of community service.

All of which has left Wolfe sounding less than repentant.

"I hope people get a good laugh out of this, because this whole thing is a farce," said Wolfe. "The judge felt bad in finding me guilty, and the prosecutor felt bad too. ..."

Although she called the penalty a mere "slap on the fingers," Wolfe said her attorney, Jeffrey Orchard, will still appeal the ruling.

In the meantime, Wolfe does see a way she and other medical marijuana users can avoid similar prosecutions in the future. "If they’d just fix the laws," observed Wolfe, "we wouldn’t have this problem now, would we?"

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