In a moment of holiday reverie fueled by a few flagons of high-test eggnog, the News Hits team began to ponder what the year just past would have been like had we been able to actually dictate events rather than merely report on them. Perhaps because of an overload of nutmeg in our nog, the whole concept struck us as a hoot. And so, in keeping in the spirit of this season, we offer you this special edition of News Hits as a gift. Think of it as a sort of Dickensian ghost, appearing on a cold, black night in the dead of winter to offer bright visions of the year as it could have been.
We start in January, in the year of our Lord, 2000.
Man of the people
Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer shocked the city when he began the New Year by firing Police Chief Benny Napoleon. “I began growing concerned with the situation regarding police shootings last year,” explained the mayor. “I looked at the number of people joining the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, and started to suspect that legitimate problems were fueling their efforts. Rather than wait and let the problem fester and grow worse, I decided to take decisive, proactive steps to address concerns.
“I also figured that sometime down the road — and probably not too far at that — the local media would begin to catch on and negative headlines would be splashed across every paper in town. To stave off the sort of press that would only tarnish the city’s image, I thought it vital that I move to nip this problem in the bud. If I didn’t — and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts on this one — we’d have the U.S. Justice Department in here trying to sort out what’s going on.”
As Napoleon’s replacement, Archer names attorney David Robinson, a former cop who racked up an impressive string of victories in civil cases filed by clients against his old department.
“Dave knows where the problems are, and he has the courage to correct them,” observes Archer. “The department will be in good hands with him at the helm.”
Twelve months later, Archer says he is humbled and honored that the Metro Times has designated him as our “Man of the Year.”
We are no less humbled and honored when the mayor takes the unprecedented step of personally nominating this column for a Pulitzer Prize which, much to our astonishment, we win.
Thanks, Mr. Mayor. You da man.
Mayor Archer again wins kudos from his favorite paper when he uses his considerable influence with the Clinton administration to secure funding for a regional light rail system that will provide ultramodern rapid transit for southeast Michigan. The plan unveiled in early March has lines running from a hub in downtown Detroit out to Ann Arbor, Pontiac and Mount Clemens.
“Of course I want to see Detroit become a vital city once again, but like anyone else with an ounce of sanity I don’t want to see traffic jams clogging Jefferson and Woodward. That doesn’t make any kind of sense, be it environmental or economic. Besides, my light rail plan is too logical not to implement. When you look at its costs compared to what it takes to build and maintain highway systems that quickly become unable to handle increasingly heavy traffic loads, this is a real no-brainer.”
During a press conference, Archer reveals that the project would never have materialized were it not for some heavy-duty arm twisting in Congress by lobbyists working for General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler.
“They’re good corporate citizens who only want what is best for this region,” praises Archer.
Mayor Archer completes what the Metro Times describes as the quintessential hat trick when, in July, he announces that the city is scrapping plans to cluster three casinos on prime riverfront property, instead keeping the gambling halls where they are.
“We’ll take some of those many millions we’ll save by avoiding inflated prices for riverfront property and put it into building People Mover extensions that will connect the three casinos,” announces Archer in a press conference. “We’ll also help Motor City and MGM build hotels we need to guarantee we don’t lose the Super Bowl. Then we’re going to work like heck to develop that riverfront property in a way that keeps it open and accessible to the public, like they’ve done in Chicago. They’ve set the standard, but we are going to exceed it.”
After supporters of the Personal Responsibility Amendment gathered twice as many signatures as necessary to put the measure on the ballot, Michigan voters by a 3-1 margin decide to make possession of small amounts of marijuana legal. At a victory party in the offices of Saginaw attorney Greg Schmid, who spearheaded the efforts, none were more surprised than News Hits to see Gov. John Engler make an appearance.
“I figured that now that this shit is finally legal, I’d give it a try,” says the guv. After several bong hits of Humboldt County high-test, a glassy-eyed Engler begins to reflect on some of the actions he’s taken during his tenure, especially in regard to environmental policies.
“Damn,” he says between bites from a huge fudge brownie, “I’ve really done some fucked-up things, haven’t I?”
Several high-ranking members of the state’s Green Party, touched by the sincerity of Engler’s epiphany, give him a group hug and tell him not to bum.
“It’s not too late to change,” they advise.
The governor, overcome with emotion, talks about how the most important legacy he can leave is a healthy environment. “I really want the triplets to grow up in a world where the air is clean, the water is safe, and the splendor of nature is unspoiled.”
As a fat one is passed around, the guv begins to ponder how he will reverse nearly a decade of damage he has wrought. The first target is the Department of Environmental Quality and its current director.
“That hack Russ Harding,” says Big J with a wry smile, “is history.”
In late December, after a host of news organizations report that an examination of Florida ballots conclusively proves Vice President Al Gore did indeed carry the Sunshine State, Texas Gov. George W. Bush wins the heartfelt gratitude of a deeply appreciative nation by declaring he will concede the presidency to his Democratic opponent.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” Bush tells a national television audience. “I could not, in good conscience, assume the presidency knowing I obtained this high and sacred office by illegitimate means. Doing so would cause incredible damage to this precious democracy of ours.”
Overcome by the magnanimity of Bush’s act, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announces that he will step down from his post so that Bush can take over the job.
“Everyone knows that this is really what he wanted to do all along,” says Selig. “This way, everyone is happy.”
Responding to Bush’s announcement, Al Gore says he will strive to be “the best darn president this country has ever seen.”
Asked if he thought he could mend the country’s wounds, Gore says he is hopeful.
“I think the people of this great country are ready to see cooperation,” explains the new president-elect. “There already have been some very encouraging signs. In fact, just a few minutes ago, I received a call from Michigan Gov. John Engler asking if I would consider appointing him as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. He also suggested I convene a top-level summit meeting in his home state, saying he thinks Michigan now has an atmosphere that, in his words, ‘is very conducive to high-minded cooperation.’
“But before I do anything else, I want to announce right here and now that my first act as president will be to nominate consumer advocate and Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader as my attorney general. Along with my pledge to institute sweeping campaign finance reform laws, the appointment of Mr. Nader as this nation’s top law enforcement officer should send the signal to every high-ranking corporate criminal in America that their ass is grass and I’m a 100-horsepower riding mower.”
News Hits wooed
Like the owner of a championship baseball team looking to add more heavy hitters to an already stellar lineup, Mark Silverman, publisher and editor of the Detroit News, called on the News Hits team just before the new year in an attempt to lure us away from the Metro Times.
“I was really impressed with the professionalism, integrity, and complete objectivity you all showed in covering the newspaper strike and other issues concerning our paper,” Silverman confesses to us.
We must admit we were tempted by the bushels of cash the highly respected Silverman waved under our noses, but decided to stay put when our deep-pocketed owners back in Scranton, Pa., match the News’ six-figure salary offer and throw in the luxury vehicle of our choice as a signing bonus if we remain with the team.
“Cool,” smiles News Hits editor Curt Guyette. “I think I’m going to get me a big ’ol Hummer.”To contact News Hits, send e-mail to [email protected] or phone