News & Views » Columns

Bullets and ballots

by

Metro Times reported last week (“Schoolyard Brawl,” July 14) on how an intense struggle over the elected leadership of Hamtramck’s public schools has divided this town of 23,000.

Three of the school board’s seven members faced a recall election Tuesday.

Just how intense the struggle is, however, didn’t become apparent until after last week’s story went to press. One of the officials facing recall — Board President Camille Colatosti — reported being shot at while driving along Joseph Campau on the morning of Tuesday, July 13.

Luckily, neither she nor her vehicle were hit when two shots were allegedly fired from a car containing two men.

Colatosti says the incident is the latest (not to mention most violent) in a string of intimidation attempts, including vandalism and death threats, perpetrated against her and her husband, former Hamtramck City Councilman Phill Kwik.

Not everyone believes her. Recall supporters, led by Hamtramck resident Jennifer Tiedt, suggest that Colatosti’s accounts are some sort of ploy.

“Nobody pulls up to your car, takes two shots and misses,” she says.

But that’s exactly what Colatosti claims happened in a report filed with the Detroit Police Department.

This is Colatosti’s version of events:

She was driving along Joseph Campau in her Grand Prix around 9 a.m., heading to her job as dean of Davenport University’s Warren campus.

A white Chevrolet sedan pulled close behind her. After determining that the car was following her, she moved to the side of the road. As the Chevy pulled beside her, the passenger window was rolled down. Two white men — neither of whom she recognized — were inside the car. She saw a drawn gun and ducked just before two shots were fired. The car then sped off.

Colatosti says the shooter did not aim directly at her. “If he wanted to kill me, I’d be dead.”

Detroit Police are investigating and won’t comment.

Not surprisingly, Colatosti says she has been re-evaluating just how steep a price she is willing to pay to be a public servant.

“It causes me to think about whether the effort is worth it.”

Even so, Colatosti says that if she survives the recall she will continue serving on the board.

The Hamtramck school conflict is a tale of reformers versus traditionalists — with Colatosti and three fellow allies on the board putting the reformers in the majority. Increased diversity over the past few decades has transformed the town from a predominantly Polish enclave to a diverse community with large numbers of African-Americans, Yemenis and Pakistanis. Tempers have flared after the daily call to prayer began playing over loudspeakers at a mosque. This in a town whose main park features a statue of Pope John Paul II.

The school district has fought to overcome language barriers, religious differences and insufficient funding. Charter school openings in Hamtramck have caused enrollment to decline. And the district, facing a $2.8 million deficit, is planning on cutting teachers and other school personnel, a move vehemently opposed by its unions.

As we write this item, News Hits can’t help thinking about LAPD beating victim Rodney King, who once asked the most poignant of questions: “Can’t we all just get along?”

Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com

comment