Category: Top News Written by Michigan Chronicle
Chronicle Kicks Off Seventh Season of Pancakes & Politics with Gov. Rick Snyder
The Michigan Chronicle kicked off the seventh season of its annual Pancakes & Politics speakers’ series with Gov. Rick Snyder before a sold-out crowd at the Detroit Athletic Club.
Snyder, who is no stranger to the series having also headline last year’s opening forum, spoke candidly about a variety of topics impacting the state but focused his opening remarks on the state's economic recovery, saying that Michigan is on a "path of reinvention."
"You can feel the things that are going on in the state," he said during the event. Further outlining his vision for the state he emphasized two “ruling principals”; the need for more and better jobs and a bright future for our children."
Since its inception, Pancakes & Politics has grown to become the preeminent speakers’ forum where substantive topics are explored in depth by those who contribute to the region’s business community and those seeking solutions to inspire its growth.
The next session of the four-part series will be April 26, 2012 at the Detroit Athletic Club and is entitled “Urban Revitalization: Strengthening our Core Cities”. This panel will look at case studies from across the state for a robust discussion on what is necessary to strengthen the state’s largest cities.
The third session again moves to Birmingham’s Townsend Hotel on May 18, 2012 for the annual ‘Big Four’ event where the four regional leaders, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson; Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel come together to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the southeast Michigan region.
The Pancakes and Politics series concludes by returning to the DAC on June 15, 2012, for its season ending session.
Now in its seventh season, Pancakes & Politics is presented by Buick, Comcast Business Class, Strategic Staffing Solutions and Real Times Media. Additional event sponsors include medallion sponsors HAP and Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP and corporate contributors including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, PNC, Quicken Loans and UHY LLP.
Tickets for upcoming events can be purchased online by clicking here or calling (313) 963-5522.
Last Updated on Thursday, 22 March 2012 14:36
Category: Top News Written by Bankole Thompson
Some Detroit neighborhoods rapidly becoming killing fields
Is human life worth arguing over a seat at a baby shower?
Is it worth fighting over a cell phone or girlfriend?
That is where Detroit currently is as violent crime continues to steal the lives of innocent children, making them victims of conflicts — some so trivial that it is impossible to fathom — they had no role in.
The children were in the wrong place at the wrong time, some in a presumed safe place — their own homes.
The rate at which these atrocities are happening begs for a swift and lasting resolution. It is everyone’s problem in that we are all affected.
We cannot concede our neighborhoods to those who have decided to make them their killing fields. Something has to give. Our children cannot keep dying, our seniors cannot continue be prisoners in their own homes, fearing to step out because of the likelihood of their becoming the next crime statistic. Our schools must not be battlefields. Our businesses should not have to operate in an atmosphere of fear.
This is where the wisdom and the capability of the Detroit Police Department (DPD) is being put to the test. As these crimes are taking place almost every day, many are looking for answers from the police before taking the law into their own hands.
DPD should show us that under its leader, Chief Ralph Godbee Jr., it can stem the tide of violence.
We are always asked to have faith in the men and women in blue for putting their lives on the line to protect us.
At the same time we must ask of these men and women to give us a reason to have faith in them. Citizens have every right to expect quality work from its police force — and to feel safe on the streets and in their homes.
It is beyond a tragedy that children’s lives are being brought to an abrupt and violent end before they have even had a chance to really live. The shame is ours.
In the case of nine-month-old Delric Miller, we perhaps have lost a boy who could have grown up to be among this city’s leaders.
I’ve been listening to some of the analyses that have been given in the wake of the shootings, and I must confess some of it is just plain twisted. Most of them conclude that poverty is the root cause, so let’s just give up.
It should not matter what one’s background is. We have not declared in this city that protection should be based on the economic scale, and that is not what the men and women in blue are sworn to do. They are expected to serve residents and businesses in this city regardless of who they are or where they live.
That is why the intervention of U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade and the various federal law enforcement agencies is welcome news. Criminals, and those contemplating crimal activity, are cognizant of the fact that federal sentencing is stricter than local sentencing.
If it takes federal intervention to arrest the madness of violence in our communities, it should serve as an impetus on how to collaborate on other issues that may stretch out the resources of our local government. Or put simply, when the money isn’t there given the economic mess the city of Detroit is in.
But beyond what the Detroit police and the federal government can do, lies the most important partner — the community whose responsibility it is to take back their streets and neighborhoods from people who are hell-bent on transforming them into war zones.
Forget about the politics of whether you like Detroit Mayor Dave Bing or Chief Godbee.
What we need is community policing and that can only happen if Detroit police and other agencies seeking to put a break on the cycle of violent crime, can find meaningful partners. The need is crucial.
Finding such partners will require more than press conferences. It would mean really becoming part of the community by attending block club meetings and other community events that allow law enforcement to interact with the community in a non-threatening atmosphere.
When people are scared or afraid they will not give information.
Arriving at an incident scene hours after to get information from people will yield little result if officers in a particular district have not built a relationship of trust with that community before an incident. In simple terms, people talk to who they know. They don’t talk to strangers.
The ball is in our court. Looking the other way only serves to make a bad situation worse, as does playing the blame game. All of us can do something to stop the killing fields. Getting involved in some way is essential.
Your child or you could be the next victim.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 March 2012 16:08
Category: Top News Written by Michigan Chronicle
In late February, the Highland Park School District faced the prospect of not being able to pay its staff, even though the district receives higher than average per-pupil funding: about $14,000. The district had been spending an even larger amount, about $16,000 per student, and was out of money and options.
In a matter of days, the Legislature passed a measure, House Bill 4445, that included a finish-the-year payment to any entity but Highland Park that took in Highland Park students or operated classes in existing Highland Park buildings. The measure passed on largely party-line votes after a particularly heated debate in the House.
On March 2, the reappointed emergency manager for Highland Park had signed a deal to have the Detroit school district operate Highland Park through the rest of the 2011-12 school year.
The Michigan Chronicle Newspaper’s editorial partner Bridge Magazine reached out to House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, and House Minority Leader Richard Hammel, D-Mount Morris, to give their views on the resolution — and on why the inability of a school district to pay its bills became such a heated topic at the State Capitol.
Republicans voted to help children; Democrats did not
By House Speaker Jase Boger
Recently, every member of the House Republican Caucus voted to support emergency funding to save the Highland Park School District students and allow them to complete their education this year. Once again, the caucus sent the message to all who would listen that we will not continue to do business the way Michigan has in the past.I was incredibly proud of my fellow caucus members that day, but I have never been as disappointed by partisanship as I was by the partisan politics played by the House Democrats.
Their walking away from students in need due to purely political concerns is undeniable. All but one Democrat voted against the money that would save the children of Highland Park from being put out on the street when their school district collapsed due to the district’s mismanagement. Local leaders who had mismanaged the district’s finances had failed these children, and now the Democrats representing them in Lansing were adding to that victimization.
Those who voted to throw away the children of Highland Park for political gain showed how insincere they are when they publicly call for more bipartisanship. Democratic leadership in the House was included in discussions and involved in problem-solving for the Highland Park schools from the beginning. The bill we approved was changed after consultation with House Democrats and addressed every one of the demands and goals they had made privately and publicly in order to support it.
Specifically, before the bill was voted on, House Democratic Leader Rick Hammel said publicly: ”I think the number one thing, no matter what, is the kids stay where they are at.” Democrat Rep. Maureen Stapleton, who represents Highland Park students, said, “If there is success in another school district — which is often the issue — fine. But I think it should be up to those parents.” Both of these criteria were explicitly met through the options we included in the bill.
The larger issue, however, is how to address the future of the Highland Park students and others like them who are being let down by adults unwilling to make tough decisions and be accountable to taxpayers. Years and, in some cases, decades of mismanagement in some communities and school districts are bringing those entities to the brink of collapse, from which only state intervention can save them. Without such intervention, it is likely that bankruptcy would follow, placing all taxpayers across Michigan at risk for repayment of those debts.
The Highland Park School District is a classic example of this mismanagement. The district has been receiving $14,000 per pupil in combined state and federal funding. This is in comparison to an estimated average of $9,800 per pupil at other school districts in Michigan. Clearly a lack of funding was not the problem, excess spending was.
Despite that disproportionate share of funding, the district still found itself in need of multiple hardship loans from the state, and even after these hardship loans, the district was still unable to meet payroll at the end of February.
Instead of seeking to help, Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, and Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, sought partisan blame in claiming the failure of Highland Park schools was Republicans’ fault. However, local residents and those closest to the situation clearly disagreed.
Doreen Larson, a math teacher at Highland Park Community High School, told a local newspaper the district is burdened with corruption and she supports someone new taking over the school. Keonia Ridley, 17, a student at Highland Park Community High School, told the same newspaper she thinks the issues start from the school board and an emergency manager is needed. She was quoted as saying, “We probably wouldn’t be in this situation if they thought more about the students and put our education first.
The legislation approved for Highland Park schools put the children first, providing money that would follow them to another district or allow them to stay in the Highland Park school buildings if another school district or intermediate school district were operating them. We believed strongly in the principle that no more money should go to the district that got these students into this mess in the first place.
There is no excuse for the adults who let down the children of Highland Park, or those who refused to work to help those kids, whether those adults are in Highland Park or serving in the Democratic caucus in Lansing.
The reality is that after the Highland Park solution had been negotiated, the powerful union bosses could not have the Democrats vote for a bill that shows the importance of the emergency manager legislation. They could not be seen participating in validating an emergency manager or participate in a solution that involved an emergency manager.
I believe there is no question the legislative Democrats rejected education in favor of politics. Nevertheless, the House Republicans remain committed to standing up for what is right. We will continue to put children first, we will continue to turn this state around and we will continue do so with integrity.
GOP ‘fix’ muddied issue; left door open to for-profits
By House Minority Leader Richard Hammel
Michigan House Democrats have never been opposed to early intervention with troubled school districts or municipalities to try to help them correct any financial problems. The first two questions posed today are really meant for someone with financial expertise who has had a chance to examine the financial records of Highland Park. The Legislature cannot and should not get in to the minutia of every district that is having difficulties.In my discussions about Highland Park, I focused on how the Legislature could best help students continue their education through the end of the year with as little disruption as possible. Remember, no one has complained that the classroom education is the big problem in Highland Park. It was mismanagement of the finances. So it made sense for the Legislature to find a way to pay the bills through the end of the year in a responsible manner and keep the kids in the classroom.
So the tenor of all my discussions in Lansing was to allow Highland Park children to finish the year at Highland Park and I thought legislators would be able to work out a solution that embodied that goal. Instead, a bill was presented to me at the last minute that included a multitude of other issues that did not need to be included. Issues like starting a mid-year voucher system and allowing the state treasurer to pick any fiduciary he chose — even possibly picking a for-profit company — to manage the bills for Highland Park.
I was clear in stating the problems I saw in the legislation and clear in stating that I still thought we could reach agreement on the main goal. However, I was told take it or leave it. My caucus decided to leave it. Not only was the “fix” for Highland Park not a fix, not a simple solution, and not focused on the immediate problem, but it was not a negotiation.
We were far from convinced in this instance. Remember that vouchers have been defeated three times in public votes here in Michigan by an average of 69 percent-31 percent. And the Detroit schools, who were being pushed as a possible fiduciary and who since have signed a Memo of Understanding to fill that role for Highland Park have had their own financial problems. Their emergency manager has not engendered an atmosphere of trust and respect. I fail to see how shifting the financial responsibilities from one failing district to another that has yet to prove its mettle helps the public to have any confidence in finishing the rest of this school year.
The possibility of moving that responsibility to a for-profit company was equally as distasteful. Add to that putting on parents the responsibility of first deciding if they should move their children, then deciding where to take them, then arranging transportation and other details, and you have a very difficult situation that we are now asking the parents to solve.
No, what we ended up with is a flawed attempt to help which could move many students far from home and family to finish the year and leaves behind many other students who cannot transfer to other schools. Anyone with transportation issues, or special education students or other students with special circumstances or needs will be left behind. They have no choice. But their school year will be disrupted as classmates leave and the end of the year becomes mired in uncertainty.
Democrats offered a simple solution that would have allowed the ISD to become the fiduciary, keep the Highland Park children in Highland Park classrooms, and work out bigger issues between now and the beginning of the next school year. I stand by that as the most common sense and most cost effective and most importantly, least disruptive solution for the students.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 March 2012 01:44
Category: News Briefs Written by Michigan Chronicle
Robert Kolt, an Okemos-based public relations consultant and instructor at Michigan State University, has been appointed volunteer president of AARP Michigan.
Kolt’s appointment, effective immediately, is for a two-year term. He succeeds Eric Schneidewind, who served the maximum six years as AARP Michigan president.
Kolt, 53, has served on the AARP Michigan Executive Council since 2010. He says he intends to bring energy and enthusiasm to the volunteer leadership of the 1.4 million-member state arm of AARP.
“I’m among the new generation of AARP members who see AARP as relevant and cool,” said Kolt, a former political strategist, who has expertise in advertising and media relations. “I will spend a lot of time early in my term listening to members to learn what they’re thinking, and how they want us to serve them.”
Kolt noted that AARP will lead a national conversation on protecting and strengthening Social Security and Medicare in 2012. AARP Michigan will engage citizens 50 and older in many cities across the state.
“Bob Kolt brings impressive credentials in business, government, communications and community service to the volunteer leadership position at AARP,” said Jacqueline Morrison, AARP Michigan State Director. “We’re confident he will also bring energy, commitment and vision.”
Kolt is CEO and president of Kolt Communications Inc. He has served as a political adviser to former Gov. James Blanchard and former Secretary of State Richard Austin.
Prior to founding Kolt Communications in 1991, he was communications director for the Michigan Department of Transportation and public affairs officer for the Michigan Department of Treasury.
He also worked as a news anchor and correspondent for WZZM-TV 13 ABC in Grand Rapids and WWTV-WWUP-TV 9/10 CBS in Northern Michigan.
Kolt, who has a master’s degree in Communications from MSU, is an instructor of Public Relations Techniques and Writing and Media Ethics in the Department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing College of Communications Arts and Sciences. He has been an instructor at MSU for 19 years.
He has been involved in many community and philanthropic organizations, including Capital Region Community Foundation, Capital Area United Way, the Michigan Nurses Foundation and Lugnuts Charities.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 March 2012 12:49
Category: Top News Written by Michigan Chronicle
DETROIT, March 6, 2012 – Real Times Media (RTM), a Detroit, Mich.-based multimedia company, is pleased to announce that it has entered into a strategic alliance with the Atlanta Daily World (ADW) newspaper in Atlanta, Ga. Under the terms of the agreement, RTM will assume full operational responsibility for the 84-year old African American publication this month.
“Real Times Media is delighted to enter into this strategic alliance with the Atlanta Daily World”, says Hiram E. Jackson, chief executive officer, Real Times Media. “The Atlanta Daily World is one of the most storied and legendary newspaper franchises in America and Atlanta is one of the most important markets in the country.
“We believe that building a strong multi-media presence in Atlanta is key to the continued growth of our company,” Jackson said.
Concurrent with the new strategic alliance, a partnership headed by a number of Real Times Media owners including William F. Pickard and Hiram E. Jackson, acquired 100% of the ownership of the Atlanta Daily World.
Founded in 1928 by William A. Scott II, the Atlanta Daily World is Atlanta’s oldest Black-owned newspaper.
“The Scott Family is very pleased with the marriage of the Atlanta Daily World and the Real Times Family,” said William A. Scott IV. M. Alexis Scott will continue as publisher.
“The Atlanta Daily World is excited to become a part of Real Times,” Alexis Scott said. “This is truly a new beginning for the paper. The resources that are now available will enable us to diversify into a multi-media platform.”
In becoming part of RTM, the ADW joins five other historic African American newspapers including the Chicago Defender, the Michigan Chronicle, The Michigan FrontPage, the New Pittsburgh Courier, and the Tri-State Defender in Memphis, Tenn.
In addition to its newspaper holdings, Real Times Media is parent company to Who’s Who Publishing Company, the leading provider of content celebrating professional achievement in the African American and Latino markets; and RTM Digital Studios, an archival image licensing company dedicated to artifacts from the past 100 years of the African American experience.
“The Real Times approach is more than the printed word—our newspapers are continually evolving and remain focused on a 360 degree integration of print, digital opportunities and engagement marketing. That’s why we expect the Atlanta Daily World and our other brands to continue to buck industry trends and continue to grow.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 March 2012 12:44
Category: Top News Written by Jackie Berg
While many female executives have made it to the top of their department or senior executive levels within their organizations, too few occupy the most coveted position of all — the executive seat in America’s boardrooms.
“Getting an invitation to sit on a board is all about positioning,” said Lizabeth Ardisana, CEO of ASG Renaissance, who sits on the boards of Oakwood Hospital and Kettering University, as well as Citizens Bank. “It demands more than being a top performer in your job. It demands that individuals build credible networks that evidence their reputation as an industry expert and respected leader in the community.”
Unlike a job interview, the process to get into the selection pool of potential board members is often murky and does not come with a proven playbook.
Although many would-be board candidates assume that their HR manager can serve as a direct champion of such appointments, an HR manager’s role is that of an influencer or facilitator rather than a direct champion, according to Linda Forte, senior vice president, Business Affairs, and chief diversity officer, Comerica Bank.
“HR managers are often involved in drafting search factors like core competency requirements and identifying qualified search firms to assist in the recruitment process, as opposed to making direct recommendations,” said Forte.
A firm’s general counsel, who may be responsible for organizational governance as well as other executives familiar with organizational corporate culture, and trusted external advisors are more likely to be called upon for board recommendations than other executives, according to Forte.
Experience is a must, particularly financial experience, according to Joyce Hayes Giles, senior vice president, Customer Service, DTE Energy, who was tapped to serve on the board of Health Alliance Plan in 2011 following appointments to board seats on the American Association of Blacks in Energy and the DTE Energy Foundation, in addition to the boards of the Music Hall, Oakwood Hospital, St. John Providence Health System, Wayne State University Alumni Association and Belle Isle Conservancy.
“Achieving a seat on a corporate board requires deep experience of 10 years or more,” said Forte, who emphasizes that external activities become as important as internal accomplishments in the board selection process.
“It’s a diplomatic process,” she concluded. “There’s a fine line between networking and expressing interest in a possible board seat and over-promoting yourself. The adage that it’s easier to find a job when you are employed applies here. Many senior level officers assume that if you have to announce your qualifications, you are probably not the right candidate. They are looking for the self-evident candidate.”
Despite obstacles, preparation is key, according to Hayes Giles.
“Preparation is a common requisite whether you are seeking internal career advancement or external opportunities,” she said. “You have to walk the walk. If you don’t possess the education, experience and track record desired, you are not as likely to get tapped.”
While savvy senior level decision makers seek diversity, appointing a new board member ultimately is a goal-based process, according to Jack Riley, senior vice president of marketing, Fifth Third Bank, whose announcement of the appointment of General Motors Director of Corporate Relations and president of the GM Foundation Vivian Pickard to its board of directors raised resounding applause among Detroiters who cite, that despite advances, too few women of color are tapped for open board seats.
The proof is self-evident.
According to the Michigan Women’s Leadership Index, published annually by Inforum, found that Women of Color make up 1.18% of board directors in the top 100 public companies in Michigan, a slight decrease from 1.4% in 2009.
“Executives with experience as CEOs and CFOs are usually in high demand, as are those with specific expertise,” notes Terry Barclay, chief executive officer of Inforum, Michigan’s largest business organization helping women lead and succeed in the workplace. “For example, international experience – particularly in Asia – is in high demand. The needs of public companies are diverse. When companies seek to recruit board members, they look for high-level executives that can add something of real value. The seek people with perspectives or sets of skills that fills a gap for managers and/or other board members.”
“In addition to the importance of diversity of race and gender is diversity of thought. It is the candidate’s experience and track record that matters most,” said Riley. “There’s got to be a fit with the organization’s unique corporate goals, mission and business needs. Vivian Pickard was a natural fit to our Fifth Third Bank board. She had the corporate governance, finance, political and leadership experience our leadership was seeking, in addition to the type of proven philanthropy and community-based marketing expertise we value.”
NON-PROFIT POSTS PAY DIVIDENDS
It’s important that candidates do not dismiss non-profit board posts.
“Experience matters. A large number of women are appointed to non-profit board seats,” comments Forte, “which can serve as an invaluable training experience.”
The type of nonprofit board service matters, according to Barclay. “Being a board member of a big, non-profit health care system or university can provide the experience, visibility and strategic connections that can get you there faster.”
Although preparation is a key consideration, Hayes Giles comments that board trends are shifting, albeit ever so slightly.
“Forward thinking companies are starting to take a more consumer-minded focus in filling available board seats, recruiting candidates that mirror their consumer demographics,” she said.
And they are being rewarded by the insight that a more diverse group of board members brings to the process.
“Bottom line, a company’s profit margin lifts in tandem with consumer satisfaction,” says the customer service expert who has invested 33 years in building DTE Energy’s reputation as a leader in customer satisfaction.
THE INSIDERS CIRCLE
As more women enter the boardroom, they elevate other candidates, according to Hayes Giles.
“The insiders circle is a very, very small circle,” said Hayes Giles. “Men recruit and recommend other men to fill board seats. And it’s up to us to recruit and recommend other women. Without such advocacy, challenges will remain.”
It’s worth noting that despite advances, the majority of women appointed to boards are serving without compensation.
“Paid board seats are highly coveted and don’t come easily to candidates, regardless their gender, race or area of expertise,” said Hayes Giles. “Ultimately, I’d like to be among those few.”
LOW RISK CANDIDATES ARE
A common thread among female executives interviewed is this consensus: board seats are filled by executives with the lowest common risk factors.
Are you worth the risk?
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 17:06
Category: News Briefs Written by Michigan Chronicle
Strategic Staffing Solutions, Inc., (S3) the Detroit-based global information, technology and business services company, filed a defamation lawsuit in Oakland County Circuit Court recently against New World Communications of Detroit, Inc. and WJBK., WJBK FOX 2 Television, FOX 2 reporter Charles LeDuff and producer Douglas McKenzie.
The suit was filed in connection with a story aired by FOX 2 the evening of Feb. 2, 2012 involving a call center that S3 has operated for Wayne County since 2004 that the suit says “contained factual inaccuracies that defamed both S3 and its president, Cynthia J. Pasky.” It seeks damages in excess of $25,000.
The suit said “there was a calculated and deliberate decision on defendants’ parts to avoid the truth in order to sensationalize the story and further the dramatics of their ongoing series on Robert Ficano and the office of the Wayne County Executive.” It says that the story “falsely implies that S3 illegally and/or illicitly obtained and renewed a contract” for the call center “in exchange for significant contributions to Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano’s campaign.”
“We are filing this suit because FOX 2 has rejected all attempts to meet and go over the serial inaccuracies and misstatements that were in the story that aired,” Pasky said. “Given their continued stonewalling of our efforts to contact them, our only recourse is the courts.”
According to S3, inaccuracies in the FOX 2 story enumerated in the lawsuit include:
The story falsely implies that S3 illicitly obtained and renewed a contract with Wayne County to operate a call center in exchange for significant contributions to Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano’s campaign. In fact, the contract was originally awarded through a competitive bidding process in 2004 and was approved by the Wayne County Commission in a public session.
The story makes the “blatantly false” assertion that S3 failed to perform under the contract with Wayne County.
The story involved a “calculated and deliberate decision … to avoid the truth in order to sensationalize the story and further the dramatics of their ongoing series on Robert Ficano and the office of the Wayne County Executive.”
FOX 2 ignored the fact that the contract extension in 2009 was approved by the Wayne County Commission in full accordance with the charter after a full explanation and that the extension lowered the county’s costs at a time when the economy was at an all-time low and cost-cutting measures were imperative.
The story ignored the fact that under the new contract Wayne County realized a 15 percent reduction in call center costs in the first year for a total savings of $84,432 and an additional 10 percent reduction in the second year for further savings of $47,000.
The story ignored the fact that when proposed additional profits did not materialize, S3 further reduced its rates to the county pursuant to the contract, providing additional savings.
The story ignored the fact that in 2011, S3 again competitively bid for the project with five other potential vendors, and the contract was awarded to S3 based on its superior bid.
The story falsely said that LeDuff had tried to call Pasky and showed him supposedly falling asleep while on hold. Company phone records show that no such call was received.
The story falsely said that FOX 2 had requested a representative of S3 to appear on camera when no such request had been made.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 16:34
Category: Top News Written by Bankole Thompson
Regime of once powerful Wayne County boss facing federal scrutiny
Can Robert Ficano, the man who once wielded enormous influence and power and whose political machine was unmatched compared to other political heavyweights in Wayne County, now survive the rigorous federal scrutiny that has so quickly engulfed his administration?
That is the question on the mind of every political entity in the city and beyond. For the last four weeks I’ve been listening to people from various political backgrounds playing the soothsayer’s role, making predictions about the future of the county executive and his administration.
Some believe that the end of his administration is a foregone conclusion, while others are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt as long as he doesn’t get indicted and stained in the process.
While it is important to state clearly that Ficano has repeatedly declared his innocence and has not been charged with any crime, it is difficult to fathom how his administration can function effectively under the climate of a widening federal investigation that has already nabbed one of his top lieutenants, Tahir Kazmi.
Kazmi, the county’s former chief information officer, was recently charged by federal prosecutors with extortion, theft and obstruction of justice, hallmarks of federal corruption probes.
“We are turning over every stone in this case, and anyone who tampers with our investigation will be charged with obstruction of justice. We hope that these charges will encourage others to come forward and assist us in our investigation rather than impede it. The citizens of Wayne County are entitled to a thorough investigation to ensure that they are receiving the honest government they deserve,” was how the determined U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Barbara McQuade described the charges.
The charges against Kazmi signal what some predict is a harbinger for things to come in county government as FBI agents enhance their investigations with more subpoenas to try to connect possible spider web corruption in the Wayne County regime.
“If these allegations are true, this is outrageous. We have been fully cooperative. If somebody did something wrong, we are going to hold them fully accountable,” Ficano said recently in an urgent news conference held in the lobby of the Guardian Building after the Kazmi charges were announced.
The federal investigation is not over. Ficano’s former deputy, Azzam Elder, the man widely perceived by many to have had power that exceeded his title, and Turkia Awada Mullin, the county’s former economic chief, whose doubtful appointment to CEO of the Detroit Metro Airport blew the covers off the $200,000 severance package, are all reported to be under the federal microscope.
Michael Grundy, another top Ficano lieutenant and political operative, who ran the county’s insurance program for the poor, is also under federal scrutiny, facing disturbing allegations of shakedown from a county client, as well as reports of wiring thousands of dollars of public dollars to a fledging IT company owned by a childhood friend.
With all of these investigations focusing on the Ficano administration — and the men and women who served under him occupying significant positions that warranted public trust and responsibility — it is hard to imagine how Ficano’s administration can ride out the political storm.
How can his administration earn the public confidence when reports of county misuse of funds meant for the most vulnerable in society by some of his former executives are dominating the headlines?
The individuals under scrutiny were not just regular employees. They were key members of Ficano’s cabinet running departments, and by the stroke of a pen changed lives.
In a different setting, a board would have asked Ficano to resign a long time ago for either being a bad manager or not having a clue as to what his lieutenants were allegedly doing.
Was he that much in the dark about what was happening or was he just going along with the program?
This investigation is crucial because it involves possible economic crimes and breaching the public’s trust.
Ficano will continue to declare his innocence after every federal charge is announced with one press conference after another regarding one more of his former cabinet members. The public can only stomach so much. The reports of possible cases of corruption, bribery and extortion by individuals who were sworn to uphold the interests of taxpayers are a disturbing distraction for the Ficano administration.
We saw this political circus play out before with the Kwame Kilpatrick administration, where the former mayor tried to make the case that his legal woes would not affect his duties as the city’s chief executive officer, when it eventually did just that, resulting in him being forced to leave office.
Of course, Ficano is not Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick’s initial legal issues emanated from his personal affairs. Even though Ficano has not been charged, everyone around him that has left his administration, it appears, is getting ready to fall.
Given the close relationship between him and some of his former lieutenants, like Elder who is now bent on exposing his former boss, will Ficano testify against his former right hand man, or will it be the reverse?
As the wheels of justice turn with dizzying speed, Wayne County is like a stone rolling down the mountainside.
One would think that what’s taking place in Detroit City Hall corruption probe will serve as a valuable lesson for some county officials to be more honest and forthright.
Ficano is set to give his State of the County address on Wednesday, Feb. 29. The county executive will certainly try to be upbeat despite the federal probe, amd it is important for him to restore public confidence in Wayne County government. The speech should not only be about budget cuts. It should also be about ethics, and a string of preventive measures to ensure that taxpayers are not cheated.
In addition to the State of the County speech, Ficano should deliver the State of the Anti-Corruption speech and reassure taxpayers that their dollars are in the hands of good stewards who understand that the business of working for the public is a privilege and not a birthright.
That will be a good start for assuring Wayne County taxpayers who feel betrayed by every report of malfeasance and possible corruption emanating from one of the most powerful local governments in Michigan.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 16:28
Category: Top News Written by Phil Power
Well, the votes are in; the millions spent on TV ads, and the candidates have moved on. But when you survey the results of the Michigan Republican primary election, all I can say is:
“Bring back the smoke-filled room!”
That’s not because of the way things turned out. What bothers me are all the evils that go along with the primary election process.
I wasn’t surprised that Mitt Romney squeaked out a win over Rick Santorum. After all, his father, George Romney, was elected governor here three times in a row, and old-timers like me still remember him with some affection.
In some of his TV ads, Mitt made no bones about his own affection for his native state. He talked fondly about growing up in Michigan and saying the election was “personal.” During one speech, he even opined that our trees were “about the right height.”
In fact, you might have expected that he would have won easily. But the outcome was hardly a convincing victory for Romney, with all he had going for him here. He picked up endorsements from virtually the entire Republican hierarchy, from Gov. Rick Snyder and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on down. Romney started the campaign with a double-digit lead, only to quickly fall behind before recovering. In the end, he won by less than half the margin he piled up four years ago over John McCain.
Put another way, about three in every five Michigan primary voters rejected their native son, as did two-thirds of the state’s counties. That may be in part because of the constant barrage of anti-Romney ads launched by the Santorum camp.
Not exactly the best way to help position the ticket for November! Yet picking nominees via primary elections is now the “democratic” norm, both in Michigan and nationally. That’s too bad.
Among the many things that troubled me this time were the weight accorded a few ultra-rich donors and the skewing of the entire campaign toward a small but intense base of very conservative activists. Worst of all were the ads. TV screens throughout the state were clogged with political ads, at once both sanctimonious and harsh, from the candidates. I found it hard to tell the difference between the spots paid for by the Romney and Santorum campaigns themselves and those of their accompanying “super PACs,” anonymously funded by multi-millionaires and sanitized as “independent” of the actual campaigns by the U. S. Supreme Court.
The Michigan Truth Squad, a fact-checking program of The Center for Michigan, assigned “foul” or “technical foul” calls to a majority of the ads from both campaigns for outright misstatements, unsubstantiated inferences and simple personal innuendo.
The robocalls that infested so many homes around the dinner hour represented their own form of entrapment as well.
Abraham Lincoln once proclaimed our democracy was “of the people, by the people and for the people.” Turns out these days it’s become largely the product of the millionaires, bought by the millionaires and (I fear) conducted for the interests of the millionaires. And because the target audience in the Michigan primary was the right wing of the GOP, the dominant campaign rhetoric was mainly shameless pandering to hard-right ideology. The main effect primary elections have on our political institutions is to let activists on the fringe determine the kinds of candidates normal people are supposed to vote for in general elections.
That’s a very odd way to manage a political system.
I remember when I was a (very) young man being allowed to sit (silently) in the “midnight caucus” at Democratic Party state conventions. That was the device at which party bosses discussed the merits and demerits of the candidates for office and issued “leadership recommendations” to the party faithful.
Although only a minority of party bosses actually smoked cigars, this was our equivalent of the smoke-filled room of legend.
What strikes me about those meetings is how knowing and probing the discussions were. The bosses knew all the candidates well, their tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. Some might be womanizers, others hard drinkers. Some had deservedly distinguished records.
Others were frauds.
However, whatever their morals, the bosses knew their own continued power depended on picking candidates who were not only competent to fill office but also capable of standing up to the scrutiny of a campaign without embarrassing themselves or their party.
The boys in the back room had a self-interest in picking winners. The scrutiny of the smoke-filled room was much, much harsher and more candid than all the glitzy TV ads and robocalls.
Sadly, today, in the name of “democracy,” we have changed the rules. We now have primary elections conducted primarily to pander to the ideologues amongst us. These elections are for the most part paid for by unelected, unrepresentative wealthy individuals and interest groups. And the image-mongering that has substituted for the gimlet-eyed judgment of professional party bosses often winds up picking the least capable and least qualified among the candidates.
Don’t know about you, but I’d be willing to risk the consequences of a little second-hand smoke if we could just bring back a system for picking candidates that made sense.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 February 2012 16:10
Category: Top News Written by Carol Cain: Special to the Chronicle
Ann Romney wishes more people knew her husband, Mitt Romney, as well as she as she’s convinced they’d vote for him for president.
“I’ve watched him fix things his entire life,” said Romney, who has known him since they were children growing up in Metro Detroit.
Mrs. Romney talked about the many people he helped through their church, the companies he helped while at Bain Capital, and the U.S. Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah that were on the verge of collapse before he rescued them a decade earlier.
Romney even helped by giving his wife of 42 years something that can’t be bought ---hope.
Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998, Mrs. Romney, mother of five boys and 16 grandchildren, was devastated. An active woman who loves being with family and horse back riding (she has won some national amateur equestrian championships) was understandably
“I was so sick and depressed I couldn’t get out of bed,” she told me during taping of “Michigan Matters” which airs 11.a.m Sunday on WWJ-TV CBS Detroit.
“Mitt was so incredibly gentle and kind,” she said. “He told me he knew I was going to be OK. And I believed him.”
“I wish more people knew him,” she said. “Women voters in particular would vote for him if they knew him like I know him.”
He showed his unwavering support again when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. She’s been cancer free since and has had to work to keep her MS in check but the health concerns have made the couple even closer and dedicated to helping others.
The Romneys have made his second bid for the presidency into a family affair, as their five sons have been involved.
“It was wanting to give our grandchildren and others a brighter future,” Mitt Romney told me during taping. “One where everyone has a chance to go for the American dream. There are too many people in tough situations, and hurting and states like Michigan are feeling it most.”
“This is where I was born,” he said. “This is personal.”
(Carol Cain is an Emmy winning journalist who is senior producer and host of WWJTV CBS Detroit’s “Michigan Matters.” She also moderates the Michigan Chronicles “Pancakes and Politics” events which begin March 12 with Gov. Rick Snyder.)
Last Updated on Friday, 24 February 2012 20:26
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