I usually feel a little theological the week after Easter, especially when it arrives at the same time as Passover. This may have to do with the aftereffects of all those ritual hamster sacrifices I perform in the backyard. But this all got me thinking about the nature of evil and, not coincidentally, of Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.
Now, my spiritual adviser tells me that Detroiters have, no doubt, committed their share of sin and accumulated a certain amount of bad karma. Many, for example, chose not to be born white and upper middle-class. But even after having two cars and one license plate stolen in the city, it is hard for me to believe that anyone deserves more ruin at the hands of the Kilpatrick family.
For even though the felon has been extracted from the mayor's office and shipped out of town, his mama, aka CCK and popularly known as the congresswoman for sale, is, yea, verily still with us.
Last year she faced a tough challenge in the Democratic primary from former state Rep. Mary Waters, one CCK might well have lost had not Martha Scott jumped in to dilute the sane vote. But Kilpatrick was on the ropes regardless when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi breezed in bizarrely to campaign for her in July.
"Carolyn Kilpatrick has been a leader, thinking in a visionary way into the future, and not stuck in the past," Pelosi told a gaggle of onlookers at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial. I was impressed. Even a highly experienced pol seldom tells three major lies in 20 words.
This was in reference to a mother who'd once begged Detroiters to stand behind "y'all's boy"; her son the mayor, was now under siege for lying under oath, assaulting sheriff's deputies and having the city fork out millions to cover up his crimes.
Nevertheless, La Pelosi's parachute drop helped mask reality in some minds. "I had no idea how influential (CCK) was," one Melinda Anderson told The Detroit News. Well, hey — nor did anybody else.
Although, it must be said, she has been a leader in setting the standard for abusing her privileges. Three years ago, The Kansas City Star did a study of congresspeople who lease cars at taxpayer expense. Only about a third of them did, many with huge sprawling Western districts. U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, whose district is one of the nation's largest, including all the UP and a big chunk of the north lower peninsula, refused to do so and just drove his own truck.
But CCK, whose district is the state's poorest and smallest in terms of area, leased a top-of-the-line Cadillac DeVille for when she was actually in town.
So why was Pelosi fawning all over her? Part of the answer became clear after the fall elections, when Kilpatrick helped stick the knife in John Dingell, joining the move to replace him as head of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee with Pelosi's protégé, U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman. Was this a blow to the auto industry?
They certainly think so. Still, I imagine that if GM goes out of business, CCK would be perfectly willing to lease a Lexus at our expense instead. What a traitor, oops, trouper!
Now, however, she is attempting to do real damage, by attempting to sabotage the planned new international bridge over the Detroit River. A new bridge is badly needed. The Ambassador Bridge, owned by notorious slumlord Matty Moroun, is, like him, 80 years old and hopelessly out of date.
A coalition of responsible people on both sides of the border known as the Detroit River International Crossing project, or DRIC, wants to build a modern publicly owned bridge a mile or so further downstream, in an area much better suited to traffic patterns.
Windsor's mayor, Eddie Francis, supports this project. So, for that matter, does Brooks Patterson, the most pro-business Republican in Michigan. For years, Moroun, best known as the owner of rotting buildings he won't demolish, insisted that a new bridge wasn't needed. Finally, he agreed one was. He then started trying to build one next to the Ambassador. The Canadian government said no thanks, but that so far hasn't stopped him. So how does the congresswoman for sale figure in?
The answer, quite literally, is the $64,000 question. That's how much Matty has shelled out over the last decade to her campaigns, though she has never had a serious challenge, with the exception of last year's primary. And Lord Matty expects payback.
So without even a blush, Cheeks Kilpatrick is attempting to stick something in the federal budget forbidding any spending on the DRIC bridge, so that Matty continues to be the only game in town.
Fortunately, this was actually discovered by what remains of Detroit's papers, and the one journalist who best knows the story, The Windsor Star's Dave Battagello. Hopefully, CCK will be foiled, as long as they continue to pay attention; trolls and other things under bridges generally do poorly in daylight.
The idea that an international bridge ought to be privately owned, let alone by a reclusive, Grosse Pointe greedhead, is nuts from the start, especially in the Age of Terrorism.
Here's an idea: Both governments — Detroit and Windsor — should order Matty to tear down the ruins of the Michigan Central Depot first, along with the rotting slums he owns and has created on both sides of the border. Until that happens, nobody should be negotiating with him about anything, except perhaps bail.
Why communism might be a good idea: Just kidding, comrades, but now that I've got your attention, it ought to be clear that most industries need a whole lot more regulation. Here are a couple recent examples that happened to precious little me.
Last week I flew a red-eye Northwest-soon-to-be-Delta-flight to Washington and my car key rolled out of my pocket. After I paid for an expensive cab ride home from Detroit Metro, I decided, for the sheer hell of it, to call Northwest and ask the lost and found office if by some chance someone found my key. The website directed me to the usual infamous automated recording. The robot told me to call back the next day after 9 a.m. I did, and it told me that if I had lost an item, I should press "1." I did, and it told me to press my mailbox code, or else hang up.
Was there any way to talk to a live person? Not on your life.
Example 2: I drive a lot. Occasionally I used a Shell credit card for gas, which I paid off every month. Suddenly, my Shell bill started showing a $2 monthly "finance charge." I did manage to get a person on the phone this time. Must be some mistake, I said. "No, we've just decided to collect a finance charge anyway, whether you pay off your bill or not."
Did they inform consumers in advance of this? Nope. "Cancel my account," I said. He refused to do that. I shredded my cards. They sent more, and I shredded those too.
Now — I can afford to replace my key, and was smart enough to figure out after three months that Shell was cheating me. But how many credit card customers didn't notice the extra charge? How many poor and desperate people have burst into tears or given up in frustration after trying to talk to a human at Northwest?
Don't believe the lies. We need more regulation, not less.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at [email protected]