We're number ... uh, never mind
Columbia Journalism Review recently polled newspaper executives around the country to learn which dailies are considered the nation's best. A total of 42 papers received at least four votes each. Noticeably absent from that list were our very own Detroit News and Free Press, which occupy a market much larger than many papers that landed in the Top 42. The News appeared among a large number of also-rans getting between one and three votes, putting it shoulder to shoulder with such journalistic giants as The Brazosport Facts of Clute, Texas, the Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and Michigan's own Jackson Citizen Patriot. The Free Press was absent entirely, meaning honchos at the Freep (which, like the News, was routinely rated a top tier paper in the good 'ol prestrike days) didn't even bother to vote for themselves.
Everett's blown fuse
If Detroit City Councilmember Kay Everett were mayor, Public Lighting Department Director Mark Petty might be looking for work elsewhere.
"I don't trust you. I don't trust the department," the hatted one shouted at Petty during a council hearing last week.
Petty was explaining why the city has had a natural gas contract with Texas Utilities for 11 years. Ronnie James, president of Energy Resource Management, requested the hearing, complaining that the lengthy contract prevented small Detroit-based companies like his from potentially doing business with the city.
During the discussion about James' complaint, Everett raised one of her own. Apparently the street lights along Seven Mile near her home were out recently. She said city workers appeared one evening and asked to go through her back yard to fix the problem. Problem was, the crew could not see what they were doing because they didn't have, of all things, proper lighting equipment. Declining Everett's proffered flashlight, the crew proceeded to gripe about the department and Petty, she said.
Petty attempted to defend himself, but Everett stormed off.
Richard Winslow, executive director of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, was next on the agenda. He came to talk some about mortgage companies charging low-income and minority customers exorbitant interest rates and fees. But before got started, he said with a smile, "I wish Ms. Everett was here. I would like to see how angry she gets about this."
Dying for answers
Detroit City Councilmember Maryann Mahaffey, following up on a problem exposed by Metro Times reporter Ann Mullen in September, has been trying to find out what the Police Department is doing to ensure that deaths of people held in city jail cells are properly investigated. Last week, in an interview with Mullen, Chief Benny Napoleon informed us that a new policy is being drafted. Investigative procedures will be formalized, and deaths tracked. Kudos to Mahaffey for demanding answers, and to Napoleon for recognizing a problem exists and moving to correct it.
Damn the jam
Michigan Environmental Council policy specialist Conan Smith planned to be among the several hundred people who attended an important public transportation summit in Ferndale last week to demand more state money for public transit in metro Detroit. The problem was, Smith got caught in a construction-related traffic jam on I-94 for approximately 45 minutes. Need we say more?
Just this: Lawmakers are going to be political roadkill if they don't start fully funding public transit
The perpetual vote
Persistence pays off in politics. Look at the multiple referendums that finally brought us casinos. But legislation to create district-based council seats in Detroit has taken things to a new low. As passed, Senate Bill 726 requires a vote August 2000 "and every four years thereafter" until the current at-large system is abolished (or city population drops below 750,000).
An aide to state Sen. Burton Leland, the Detroit Democrat who authored the bill, said the vote-until-it-passes language was added by Senate Republicans. The aide, Ken Brock, said the change was made "for a technical, legal reason," and that Leland is working to have it removed in the House. Nonetheless, there are suggestions that this is really a "Burton Leland retirement bill" in that: a) Term limits will eventually prevent him from running for the Senate again (he can seek re-election in 2002, but not in 2006) and b) One-on-one, district-based seats are seen as advantageous to challengers (as compared to running against an amorphous citywide field of nine).
While refusing to rule out a council seat in his future, Leland called it "not exactly a step up" for a senator.
Detroit voters might want to tuck that statement away for future use.