Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Bankole Thompson/Senior Editor
Anyone who is rooting for a better Detroit should be concerned about transparency and openness in the next Detroit government.
The struggles of everyday people and the efforts of those with genuine interest, including individuals and businesses invested in Detroit and its future, should not be squandered on the altar of secrecy, bureacracy and ineffectiveness where the public has little or no information regarding oversight of the government that purports to represent them.
That message was made clear Monday at Wayne State University Law School auditorium during the first "Detroit Good Governance Leadership Summit" where leaders in government, business, civic, labor, media and other segments of the community gathered to discuss tools and resources to ensure that there was transparency and accountability in local government, especially in light of what has taken place in Detroit in the last decade.
The arrival of the summit could not be more timely in light of the two mayoral contenders, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon and former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan, are vying for the top leadership of Detroit in the general election on Nov. 5. These candidates have an obligation to make transparency the central focus of their administration should, whichever one wins two weeks from now.
The cross-pollination of ideas at the summit underscored the strong interest from various individuals and groups concerned about the lack of transparency when dealing with government.
An example is Gov. Rick Snyder's secret Nerd Fund which was among the questions raised at the summit by panelist and labor leader Karla Swift, the newly minted president of the Michigan AFL-CIO who spoke candidly about the contradictory messages that political leaders send to their constituents. Public pressure forced the governor's office to declare this week that the fund was being shut down.
Detroit's newly appointed inspector general, James Heath, talked about the need for new municipal government to make openness and preventing waste a key element of how it does business on behalf of taxpayers.
According to Heath, the Office of Inspector General is uniquely positioned to play a prominent role in preventing wrongdoing before it drains valuable city resources.
"Toward that end, the OIG works cooperatively with city departments and agencies to institute the type of internal controls and best practices which can greatly deter waste, abuse, fraud, and corruption," Heath said.
He has assembled an impressive team of attorneys, auditors and investigators dedicated to the mission of accountability. The office is located at 65 Cadillac Square, suite 3210.
Consistent with the best practices of other investigatory agencies, Heath decided early on to locate the office outside of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center to allow city employees and the general public to feel more secure in making complaints concerning wrongdoing they have observed and to be interviewed confidentially outside of the glare of City Hall.
Politicians always have an issue coming out clear on things and it is no surprise that they end up running afoul of not only the law but the expectations of good governance they often preach on the campaign trail.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, whose office prosecuted former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick as well as many other city officials, was one of the summit organizers.
"Our city is ready to turn the page and move on from the corruption of the Kilpatrick administration, but it is important to learn from our history so that we do not repeat it. A government with integrity will ensure that the next chapter in our history is a positive one," McQuade said. "We are hopeful that rooting out public corruption will restore confidence in government and attract leaders with integrity. The city can attract businesses that were relegated to the sidelines during the days when bribery and extortion were part of our city's culture."
McQuade, who was appointed by President Obama continued, "Citizens who became cynical because of corruption can feel empowered to renew their engagement in civic life. There are many good and talented people in Detroit who are ready to step up and lead."
Dan Gilbert, Quicken Loans founder and chairman, appeared for a special conversation during which he spoke at length about Detroit and the need to change the narrative of the city.
Gilbert also took time to further dismiss the "60 Minutes" presentation on Detroit which he said underestimates the growth that is taking place in the city. He said he was ready to put the searchlight on helping rebuild Detroit's neighborhoods, citing as an example his willingness to be part of a three-person committee created to address blight in Detroit.
Bertram Marks, general counsel of the Detroit Council of Baptist Pators & Vicinity, highlighted the need for public trust. Detroiters, he said, want to have faith in their government.
"Those who wish to serve in public office can only be effective when they are trusted. Once trust is established, it must be maintained. Accountability to the needs and desires of the public should be the principal measure of how we screen and elect candidates for public service," Marks said. "We have all been both witness and victim to the wounds inflicted by corruption. It has been horrendous. Equally troubling is the rising tide of mistrust concerning the perceived agendas of political parties."
Marks said Detroit's revival cannot be a Republican or Democratic tool to promote the prowess of one party over another.
"Instead, the comeback story of Detroit must be an effort free from cronyism, racism, political wrangling and labeling. As Detroit rebuilds itself, those charged with the responsibility of governing must be bipartisan, multicultural and beyond pandering to wealth and power," Marks said. "The people who are most vulnerable in our community must be our top priority. Making sure these citizens have a high quality of life is how history will measure the revitalization of Detroit."
I have long maintained that the whole notion of government accountability is rooted in the idea of strong democratic governance. That those who seek public office must bring with them accountability as a virtue and a way of life. That elected and public officials sworn to protect the public's interests must conduct themselves always in and outside of their offices in a way that shows accountability, qualities and attributes deserving of anyone who should be trusted with the public coffers.
In our current political dispensation, the most visible and important example in seeking an honest government is the saga of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was convicted in a sweeping federal corruption trial and has now been sentenced.
TV One network aired the first national comprehensive documentary on the rise of fall of the former mayor Monday night that was very telling. The one hour film on Kilpatrick captured in details and facts the essence of that era and really put into context the temptations that accompany political office and how that leads to bad governance. It is a sad American story to come from Detroit. But the city should not be held hostage by that era.
Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, told the gathering at Wayne that it is time for Detroit to free itself from the Kilpatrick era and move on.
Federal Bar Association Chapter President Michael K. Lee applauded the summit, saying, "The power of elected officials is derived solely from the willingness of the people to agree to that governance. That willingness is contingent on the credibility of those in public office as seen through the eyes of that populace. A primary tool that a populace uses to measure that credibility is transparency, by which a populace can measure honesty and integrity."
Wayne Law Dean Jocelyn Benson also was a panelist at the summit, welcomed the opportunity for the law school to serve as the venue for the summit.
"An honest and open government is the most basic part of maintaining the public trust and reinforcing the democratic process," Benson said. "Wayne Law School is thrilled to be hosting this event focused on how the public, private and non-profit sectors can work together to ensure municipal government in Detroit is transparent and accountable."
Paul Tait, head of the Metropolitan Affairs Coalition (MAC), one of the summit sponsors who deputized for MAC chairperson and also chair of the Wayne State University Board of Governors Debbie Dingell, said it was timely that Detroit begins to look at public integrity in government with the next chapter of leadership.
Last Updated on Thursday, 24 October 2013 08:35
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by CNN News
Washington (CNN) -- The government-run health insurance exchanges have been open for business for 20 days. But a host of issues have plagued the highly anticipated launch, making it difficult for both consumers and insurance providers.
"There's no sugarcoating it," President Barack Obama said from the Rose Garden on Monday. "The problem has been that the website that's supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody."
What's not working
Error messages: HealthCare.gov is plagued with technical problems. The Obama administration hasn't completely released the cause or extent of the problems, likely because they haven't quite figured them out.
But people in all but 14 states and the District of Columbia are having trouble applying for the exchanges because the website isn't allowing them to complete the process.
"I put in my user name and password, it didn't recognize it," CNN's Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen reported Monday, saying that the website gave her error messages or said "page not found" or that the system was down.
Obamacare open enrollment: Here's everything you need to know
The problems appear to have been worse for those who signed up in the first days the exchanges opened.
Spinning icon: For others, the website is extremely slow. The spinning icon that indicates that the website is working, albeit slowly, is a huge frustration in the age of (relatively) fast connection speeds.
Faulty information: It's not only consumers wanting to sign up for health insurance who are having trouble, but the insurance companies that provide coverage are experiencing difficulties with the exchanges, too.
Insurance companies say the technical problems are causing the companies to receive both incomplete customer information and duplicate applications.
Internet overload: The White House indicated that the problems are exacerbated because of the large number of people who have visited HealthCare.gov. Obama said 20 million have visited the site since the exchanges opened on October 1.
While the President said he would not excuse the problem, he said half a million people have managed to sign up.
While that's a large number, it's only a fraction of the 48 million uninsured and 20 million who have visited HealthCare.gov.
Still, as some have been able to sign up, it's not all bad:
State-run exchanges: Fourteen states and the District of Columbia are running their own exchanges. Those websites are working much better.
Many of the states refused to implement their own exchanges in large part because of ideological opposition to the health care law, forcing the federal government to fill the void.
1-800-318-2596: That's the number to call if you want to sign up for health insurance by phone; by speaking to an actual person. It works.
Obama said wait times are "less than a minute." Cohen confirmed that receiving help via phone was a cinch.
"They're terrific. They're very helpful and they answer almost instantly," she said of the call operators.
5 things that have happened since Obamacare launched
Navigators: Recent polls suggest that the majority of people don't know much about the Affordable Care Act. A nonprofit set up to help people sign up for Obamcare, Enroll America, said they are seeing changes.
Justin Nisly, spokesman for Enroll America, said they have nearly doubled the number, from 4,000 to 7,000, working to educate the uninsured about the exchanges and health insurance.
Information: Before the exchanges opened, the cost and services provided were largely unknown. But both HealthCare.gov and the state-run exchange websites are providing detailed information about what people will get and how much it will cost.
Time: While the exchanges opened on October 1, coverage doesn't begin until January 1, and the deadline for having coverage in place is March 1, so there's still time to sign up. Officials are recommending people who need to sign up do so by February 15 to ensure the coverage will take effect in time.
Last Updated on Monday, 21 October 2013 23:38
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
The Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce, BTWBA and WXYZ-TV will host the final debate between Detroit mayoral candidates Benny Napoleon and Mike Duggan on Tuesday, Oct. 29. The debate takes place exactly one week before Detroiters go to the polls to choose their next mayor.
The candidates will face-off at Channel 7’s Broadcast House from 7-8 p.m. in front of a live studio audience. A larger audience of Detroit voters will watch and participate in the debate from the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History where Channel 7 anchor/reporter Glenda Lewis will be on hand. Channel 7 Action News anchor Stephen Clark will moderate a special post-debate webcast from 8-8:30 p.m. from the museum hosted by the Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce and Booker T. Washington Business Association.
“The Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce is committed to bringing value, leadership and advocacy to its members and partnering with WXYZ-TV and BTWBA for this mayoral debate shows that by working together we can better serve the residents of Detroit. This is the final mayoral debate, I personally urge each and every Detroit voter to make your voice heard on Nov. 5th,” said Tony Stovall, president of the DBCC.
Channel 7’s editorial and public affairs director Chuck Stokes will moderate this final Detroit mayoral debate. Questions will be asked by a panel that includes Carolyn Clifford, 7 Action News anchor; Lloyd Jackson, WJR News/Talk 760 assistant news director; Bankole Thompson, senior editor of the Michigan Chronicle; and Crain’s Detroit Business Publisher Mary Kramer. The Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce and Booker T. Washington Business Association are also participating sponsors of the debate.
Viewers will be able to watch the debate live on WXYZ-TV as well as on wxyz.com and the station’s mobile apps and us #7Debate.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 October 2013 09:46
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
The Detroit City Council voted on Monday unanimously against another deal organized by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr designed to save the city millions of dollar. A $350-million loan for bankruptcy financing secured by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, The Detroit News reports.
The state’s emergency manager law allows the City Council to accept or reject the deal. The six-member council now has seven days to propose an alternative to the state’s local emergency loan board that would reach the same financial result as Orr’s agreement or better.
It didn’t appear Monday the council would offer an alternative. Instead, it will let bankruptcy court proceedings play out.
“The reality is, it seems to me, that one could make the argument that an alternative plan is not to act on this at all, but rather to fight on this issue in bankruptcy court,” Councilman Kenneth Cockrel Jr. said, questioning the timing of Orr’s deal.
Last Updated on Monday, 21 October 2013 22:51
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by M Live
DETROIT, MI - Buses aren't running in Detroit Monday after drivers allegedly called in sick to protest dangerous working conditions.
A recording to on the Detroit Department of Transportation's hotline says buses won't run today.
"Sorry to announce the bus drivers union has scheduled a sick out on Monday, Oct. 21," a recorded message says. "Bus service will not be in operation." Continue to MLive.com
Last Updated on Monday, 21 October 2013 09:33
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Reuters
(Reuters) - Macy's Inc (M.N) said on Monday that most of its stores will open on the U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday for the first time in its history, in a sign of how competitive the holiday season is shaping up.
Macy's will open the doors at most of its 800 namesake department stores, at 8 p.m. on Thursday, November 28. The company said the shift was voluntary for workers and that the move was "consistent" with what many rivals are doing.
The name of company, which has sponsored New York's Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade since 1924, is virtually synonymous with the holiday.
Traditionally, retailers have waited until Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving, to start their big end-of-the-year push for sales.
U.S. retailers have extended their Black Friday hours every year in recent years to get a jump on the sales events that kick off the holiday season, when they earn more than a third of their annual sales in the holiday season.
Many retailers, including Macy's, reported disappointing second-quarter sales, pressuring them to try to make up those sales during the holiday season.
Macy's opened most of its stores at midnight in 2011 and 2012 to kick off the Black Friday sales after opening later in the morning in prior years. But some of its rivals have opened earlier and earlier, pressuring Macy's.
Last year, Macy's rival Lord & Taylor, owned by Hudson's Bay Co (HBC.TO), opened some stores for business on Thanksgiving for the first time. Sears Holdings Corp's (SHLD.O) namesake chain was also open.
In 2012, Target Corp (TGT.N) opened at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, three hours earlier than a year earlier, when it was closed on Thanksgiving.
Macy's said in a statement that the earlier opening was to cater to shoppers who prefer to start shopping earlier.
One associate in the men's sportswear section at the Macy's flagship in Manhattan said he volunteered to work on Thanksgiving.
"I'm going to gladly work that shift because I don't want to work on Black Friday," he said.
But another associate said Thanksgiving with her family was too "sacred" for her to go to work.
Last year, several petitions were created on website Change.org suggesting that chains keep their doors shut on Thanksgiving, which is a major national, non-denominational holiday in the United States. Change.org is a website that allows people to create and sign petitions.
Rowland H. Macy opened R.H. Macy & Co as a dry goods store in New York City in 1858.
(Reporting by Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Carol Bishopric)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 October 2013 09:38
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Donald James
First of Two Parts
Bishop Allyson D. Nelson Abrams, outgoing secretary of the Detroit Council of Baptist Pastors, is a Christian spiritual leader, national speaker, theological teacher and author who has built a strong reputation in African American faith-based communities around Detroit and across the nation. For more than five years, she has served as pastor of Zion Progress Baptist Church, located in downtown Detroit. On Friday, October 18, 2013, Bishop Abrams will officially step down as pastor.
Abrams’ decision to leave Zion Progress is based on the revelation she made to her congregation on Sunday, Oct. 6. She announced that she is now in a same-sex marriage. “With some buzz going around about my same-sex marriage, I wanted my church to hear from me before members heard it from other sources. I had already talked with my deacons,” said Abrams. “I knew that it would eventually get to my congregation. So I stood in my pulpit and openly talked about love, Christ, and that I was married, and it was a same-gender marriage.”
According to the 43-year-old pastor, there were a myriad of reactions from the congregation. She said some expressed disappointment and many expressed love and support. Abrams said the next day, a groundswell of calls poured in, some, said Abrams, from members who have not actively attended Zion Progress Baptist Church in years.
“Some members asked me to stay. Some said if I was leaving, they would go with me to another church. Some members even said that if I was going out of the state, they would go to another church.”
Abrams quickly realized that her same-gender marriage had the potential to cause a deep divide, so deep that even families in the church were split on which side of the issue to stand on.
“It is not my desire to split the church,” Abrams said, during an exclusive interview at the Michigan Chronicle office.
“It really hurts me because I don’t want to be the reason for the church to split, and potentially for family members to be at odds with one another. Therefore, I felt that it was in the best interest of everyone to resign.”
Abrams also severed ties with other faith-based organizations in the region. After a nine-year stint with the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit, she stepped down, citing that she didn’t want to be the topic of proposed meetings on the issue, which could have ultimately caused a rift within the Council.
“I want to make it clear that I was not forced out or put out as some rumors have suggested,” said Abrams. “I’ve had many calls from people in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and other places who have asked me about leaving the Council. I was not put out; I resigned.”
In addition, Abrams removed her church from the Baptist Missionary and Education State Convention, as well as the Progressive National Baptist Convention. She also stepped down from her co-editorship of the nationally published Progress National Baptist Convention magazine, The Baptist Progress.
After several decades of serving and leading in the African-American faith community, Abrams knew that her marital status would not sit well with everyone.
Nevertheless, Abrams has proudly identified her new spouse as Bishop Emeritus Diana Williams of the Imani Temple of the African-American Catholic Congregation in Washington, D..C. The couple married in March of 2013 in Iowa.
“She is definitely my best friend, a wonderful person and is a support system to me in tremendous ways,” Abrams said. “We have a lot in common. We have similar visions, missions and goals. We complement each other very well in how best to serve God.”
Abrams added that when she (Abrams) was consecrated as bishop on April 14, 2012, the topic of same-sex marriage or gay relationships was never brought up, as it was not on her heart or in her spirit at the time. About a year or so before she was married, she became open for love, and love not necessarily from a certain gender.
“At some point you have to be honest with yourself,” said Abrams. “This is my first same-gender relationship. I knew the person before, but we were just friends. We had a great relationship where I began to ask questions of myself about a year ago.”
Abrams believes, “We are all made in God’s image and in God’s likeness, which means whoever you are, whatever you look like, whatever your gender is, whatever your color, whatever your culture, whatever you orientation (sexual), everybody is made in God’s image.
“There are so many people who are wounded, so many people who are hurt, so many people have been cast out; people have been pushed to the point where they actually have tried to hurt themselves and have even killed themselves because of what the religious community says about who they are.”
She continued, “One of the things that really hurts me is that for so many years, African-American churches, and maybe White churches as well, are saying that these people (gay) are going to hell. Some ministers (male) are being hypocrites because behind the scenes they are right there doing stuff. Many people, especially young people and the unchurched, when they come to church, want to be welcomed and affirmed.
“There is a difference. If I’m affirming you, that means that I am accepting you as you are and that you are free to serve in any capacity in the church as a member. If a same-gender loving person can clean the church, play the organ, sing in the choir, they should be able to lead the church…teach, preach and do all of that.”
Abrams, who holds Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from United Theological Seminary as well as a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Howard University, believes that two Scriptures are important to read as “scriptural references” as it relates to same-gender relationships: Luke 7: 1-10 and Matthew 8: 5-13 (about the Centurion’s servant). She also believed the Greek words “entimos duolos pais” when seen together mean beloved servant, which means male lover. This, according to Abrams, is different from the other servants in nature of the relationship.
Abrams also said that during this time in history, the law did not consider it adultery when men had sex with men; it was only viewed as adultery when men had sex with other women.
“The references in the Bible that discussed ‘homosexual acts’ referred to popular male prostitution during that time,” said Abrams. “The men would have sex with the male prostitutes, often. This is what was discouraged in Scriptures.
“However, nowhere does Jesus or any text discuss males who engaged in loving committed relationships with other males that were not totally sexual in nature, but were simply love between two consenting individuals. This is what we see between many same-sex couples on today, and what is being fought on today.”
Editor’s Note: Bishop Abrams has much more to say about her groundbreaking decision, the future of the Black church on this issue, and her plans moving forward in part 2 of this exclusive interview
Last Updated on Monday, 21 October 2013 19:43
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by Michigan Chronicle Staff
The Michigan Chronicle is proud to announce it is teaming up with CBS 62 and Newsradio950 in the first televised mayoral debate airing Sunday in the historic election between former Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan and Sheriff Benny Napoleon.
The highly anticipated debate between the two candidates will air as a special hour long “Michigan Matters” 11 a.m. Sunday October 20 on CBS 62. It will also be simulcast on WWJNewsradio 950. The debate will be repeated at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct 27 on WKBD-TV CW50 and also on WWJ Newsradio at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 22.
“At this critical time in our city, we are proud to be involved with this event which will showcase the two candidates and give voters in Detroit a chance to see and hear from them,” said Hiram Jackson, Chronicle Publisher and CEO of Real Times Media.
“We are also thrilled to partner with the Michigan Chronicle and WWJ Newsradio 950 in putting on this important debate,” said Tom Canedo , Vice President and General Manager of CBS 62/CW50.
“CBS 62 is proud to continue its rich tradition of making an impact in Metro Detroit by helping to bring the candidates before viewers with our programming,” Canedo added.
“Michigan Matters” Senior Producer and Host Carol Cain will moderate the debate. Michigan Chronicle Senior Editor Bankole Thompson will join her on the panel to pose questions as will Tom Jordan, WWJ Newsradio 950 morning news anchor, and Cliff Russell, longtime political pundit.
Duggan and Napoleon agreed to participate in two televised debates and a “Conversation” between them before the Detroit Economic Club luncheon on Wednesday, Oct 23 at Cobo Center. DEC tickets are available by calling 313-963-8547 or econclub.org.
The DEC candidate forum will be moderated by Cain with Judge Damon Keith serving as the presiding officer.
The final televised debate will be hosted by WXYZ-TV as “Spotlight on the News” Executive Producer Chuck Stokes serves as moderator. It airs 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct 29.
Bankole Thompson will be among the panel posing questions of Duggan and Napoleon that night.
The general election will be held Tuesday, Nov 5.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 20:13
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
The City Council on Monday rejected Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s agreement with the state for the lease of Belle Isle according to reports by Fox 2 News:
Detroit City Council approved an alternate plan, a shorter lease of 10 years, by a vote of 4 - 2. JoAnne Watson and Brenda Jones voted no. The council says a shorter lease is better for the people of Detroit.
The state will review the plan and has 30-days to decide.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 08:45
Category: News Briefs - Original Written by AJ Williams, Chronicle Web Editor
According to reports, Dan Gilbert, owner of Quicken Loans, Bedrock Real Estate and recently majority owner of Greektown Casino, now has another Detroit property in his sights.
According to Fox 2 News:
Dan Gilbert is considering a purchase of the National Theatre and Bates Garage, the properties are located in downtown Detroit on Randolph and Farmer.<.blockquote>
The News reported that Eric Larson, managing partner of Bedrock Real Estate Services, said Monday in an email:
“We have had conversations with the city about the National Theatre and are exploring options to preserve the architectural history and legacy it represents.”
No deal has been struck yet.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 October 2013 08:41
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