Category: Prime Politics Written by Minehaha Forman
One of Detroit’s poster children for corruption, Sam Riddle, is again a free man after a 37-month stint in federal prison and house arrest. In 2010, Riddle pled guilty to conspiring to take bribes and then lying about it.
After recently completing his sentence, the former political consultant is not abandoning his knack for political strategy. In fact, he sees it as a source of redemption.
In a Sunday, Feb. 10 appearance on Fox 2’s Local political gab spot “Let It Rip,” Riddle aired his grievances with Federal investigations, local reporters and apologized to the citizens of Detroit.
“I’m adopting the Al Taubman principal of redemption,” Riddle said, referring to a Michigan developer’s felon-turned-philanthropist approach. “He gives dollars, I give advice to try and make Detroit a much better place for all of us.”
Riddle says he’s sorry for “wallowing in a cesspool of corruption” with former city council president pro tem Monica Conyers, who also served time for federal bribery charges.
“I can look the camera straight on and say what I did was wrong. And certainly I give not an EPN apology, but a heartfelt apology to the people of Detroit for being involved with that crap … I cannot apologize enough to the people of Detroit.”
Riddle, sitting side by side with Fox 2’s Charlie LeDuff, took shots at the journalist who called him a “rakish conman” and a self-described “pimp” in his new book.
“You, Charlie are the biggest pimp in Detroit,” Riddle fired.
“I may be, but at least I didn’t steal from the people of Detroit,” LeDuff shot back.
As for his friendship with Conyers, Riddle says it’s over.
“I don’t talk to her at all. What is there to talk about? We don’t have a basis for a relationship. I know that she’s a good mother, that she takes care of her family,” he said.
But Riddle still thinks the feds could do a better job rooting out corruption in governments.
“The Feds are focusing in on the easy targets — these politician’s nickel and dime bribes. Why don’t you target the Carlisle Group, the parent company of Synagro these companies are bribing entire governments?” He asked. “Go after the multinational corporations. Detroit is being made a whipping post by the State of Michigan, which would like to turn it into a plantation.”
Riddle, who has publically addressed his battle with alcoholism, says he returns to society a sober man.
“Well let me say this — I haven’t drank today. I have a serious problem with alcohol, which … tends to take control of me. I will continue to speak out and I will continue to inflict myself on the universe.”
Riddle said he didn’t know if a felony record prevented him for running for public office but that it didn’t matter.
“You won’t see me running for office, I might get elected,” He joked. “If you’re running for Mayor [of Detroit] you’re suffering from acute madness.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 February 2013 12:02
Category: Prime Politics Written by Minehaha Forman
One of the biggest blows to The City of Detroit’s image came after former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was exposed in a sex scandal that lead to perjury and jail time and now a federal trial. On top of that, former City Council President Monica Conyers is currently serving jail time for taking bribes.
Since then, there has been an election. New people are in place and Federal agents have not taken their eye off Detroit city hall. Current city leaders elected in the aftermath of these scandalous PR disasters are consciously trying to clear Detroit’s tarnished reputation amid negative preconceptions about the City.
These negative perceptions are something Detroit City Council member James Tate struggles with every day as an elected city leader. He said the negative publicity generated over the Kilpatrick scandal has been hard to move past.
“It does shadow everything we do,” Tate said referring to the infamous city hall scandals and current federal trial involving the former mayor. “You have individuals who are accused of horrific things and it overshadows all the individuals who are working extremely hard to right some of the wrongs those former leaders have been accused of.”
He said if were not for the heavy nature of the allegations against the former administration then the public would be less likely to think Detroit’s elected officials are not able to lead and manage our own city.
In order to put the shadows of the past behind, Tate said that means being hopeful that there is a better and brighter future in store for Detroiters. It also means giving new leadership a fair shake, but this has been hard to overcome.
“We’ve got to have a sense of hope. It’s become a cliché but it’s a very important thing,” He said. “You can’t have false hope. It’s important to make sure that there is that opportunity on the end of that hope.”
Tate said the post-Kilpatrick/Conyers political climate has led to the discontent from Detroit residents and neighbors alike who are now a lot more open to the state taking over and running the City of Detroit.
“For a lot of people that [Kilpatrick scandal] was the last straw,” Tate said. “You have a council that came in with a lot of promise. I think people wanted a new council that was more deliberative.”
But because of the heavy financial and public image issues already plaguing the city, Tate said the newly elected council members “jumped into a boiling heap of goodness” that is difficult to get out of in a short period of time.
Tate said the current council has been criticized unfairly for making careful decisions and asking many questions.
“There are people who feel we are being obstructionists,” he said. “It’s not that we want to obstruct, it’s that we have a responsibility to people to really do the homework and not just base our vote on feelings. We have to make decisions based on how it’s going to affect 700,000 people in the city of Detroit.”
Still, he said the current administration, and even the council has its faults. He said there is some genuine dissatisfaction with some of the city’s leadership.
Part of this has come from difficulties in communicating with Mayor Dave Bing.
“Some would say we have a mayor that is a bit aloof and not really in tune to the people. It’s a big deal. It matters to a lot of folks.”
While he says he likes Bing and enjoys his relationship with the mayor, but has struggled to communicate with him over major issues.
“I’ve heard people are saying [about city council] ‘All you want is a handout,’” Tate said. “Unfortunately some of that has come from the mayor’s office. Instead of finding ways to work together, it seems like a constant battle.”
But that’s not to say the council is perfect, either. Tate said both the council and the mayor have to get on board the same ship and move Detroit away from it’s communication slump. “Some of the comments that come from council have been inflammatory so it’s coming from both sides,” he said.
When voting and making decisions as a council member, Tate said he often finds it a challenge. “There are times when my head and my heart are really fighting it out. I often side with my head because at the end of the day it’s not about me, it’s about the 700,000 people living in the city.
Tate also shared some of his insight on City Ballot Proposals as well as Public Act 4, better known as the emergency manager law.
On PA4: I’m going to vote against Public Act 4. I believe local governments should have the opportunity to govern themselves. That does not mean that there should not be some assistance from the state. I’m not talking about handouts. We are a creature of the State. And if we’re not healthy the State is not healthy. But there is a level of respect that has to be provided. It’s about allowing the people and their vote to count.”
On Proposal C (aka the Crystal Crittendon Proposal): [Asks if the charter says City law department officials can act independently of them mayor or city council]
“The Crystal proposal is kind of self explanatory, all we are asking for is for the charter to be upheld. We are just trying to clarify the language in the charter.”
On Proposal G: “Literally because the City of Detroit has a contract with DPS, if I go to a DPS school just visiting and they gave me a pencil with their logo on it, I could actually be removed from office. I think that is a bit overreaching so all we're trying to do is define what a gift is. Right now the charter just says a gift is ‘anything of value’. Well to some people a pencil has no value but somebody who is trying to remove you from office can say ‘this is of value.’ This pencil becomes the smoking gun of why you should be removed from office.”
On Proposal P: “The reason Proposal P makes sense is you have people who have worked for the city for a number of years and they have spouses who have health insurance so they’re covered. If they’re willing to come back and work for the city on a contractual basis, now we don’t have to pay their health insurance. It sounds bad but we’re able to pay out less even if we pay them the same salary because we’re not covering their insurance.
The way the charter’s being interpreted currently by the board of ethics is we’re not able to hire people back under contract. So it’s not about paying back lobbyists or anything like that. It turned into something so much more ugly than what it truly is.
We’ve got people from the lighting department that we want to bring back, people from building and safety that we want to bring back. I got someone on my staff that is a salary employee. I want to transfer her to a contract. That won’t be beneficial necessarily to her but it will certainly help the City’s fiscal situation. I have to do one of two things: Hire under contract or hire at a salary too low for the amount of work that needs to be done. You’d be surprised if you stepped into this office and see what we do on a daily basis.
On Proposal E: [The proposal that will set a minimum for the number of signatures needed to run for public office in Detroit] “I don’t think anyone has issues with Proposal E
Last Updated on Friday, 05 October 2012 13:15
Category: Prime Politics Written by Minehaha Forman
It’s Friday, time to reflect, (and laugh) at the weeks events. This week’s biggest events in news had people saying some, ironic, informative and downright funny things. In case you missed it, here are some tasty nuggets of what people were saying this week at the Kilparick Trial, and at the Detroit city council’s first public hearing on the Belle Isle proposed lease to the State.
KILPATRICK TRIAL QUOTES: Mike Fountain, police officer who dealt defendant Bobby Ferguson trash tickets in 2001: “I felt threatened. Not just for myself but it’s weird when your family is involved.”
Mahlon Clift, collage pal of Kwame Kilpatrick’s who put $90,000 in cash down his pants to get on a plane: “I felt the bulge, but it wasn’t visible” Mahlon Clift while testifying against Kwame Kilpatrick “He’s a friend, someone that I love.”
Mahlon Clift on whether or not he thought the $90,000 cash delivery was a secret: “If they’re using me, they probably don’t want anyone to know.”
Clift on recieveing $90,000 in cash stacks from Bobby Ferguson: “I didn’t ask why he was asking me to hold $90,000.”
Clift on what he did with the cash to get it to Chicago by plane: “I put the stacks in the pockets on my gym shorts.”
Mike Rataj, Bobby Ferguson’s defense attorney: “That’s a lot of dough to stick down our pants.”
Clift on what he did with the 9 stacks of $10,000 once he got home to Chicago: “I probably stuck it in a vacuum cleaner, or something like that.”
Rataj on Clift’s testimony of the cash delivery: “This all seems so weird to me.”
THE BELLE ISLE HEARING: Eight city council members asked state and city officials to elaborate on Belle Isle Lease. In doing so, the conversation got interesting with sassy comments, as well as informative ones. Here goes:
Charles Pugh, City Council President: “Belle Isle is not going to sink into the Detroit River if we do not approve this lease.”
George Jackson, President of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation: “The commitment was to manage Belle Isle to state park standard. That’s a very high standard and certainly one that we [Detroit] can’t afford.”
George Jackson: “We can terminate the lease for cause if the state is not meeting those standards. Not in 30 years, not in two years, but immediately.”
Rodney Stokes, advisor to Gov. Rick Snyder on urban affairs: “We recommend picnic shelter rentals be made online or maybe a 1-800 reservation system.”
Keith Creagh, director of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on why he didn’t have dollar amounts to commit to Belle Isle: “DNR does parks and we do it well. I’m a DNR guy, not a finance guy.”
Rodney Stokes on Belle Isle Lease Documents that took 9 days for city officials to receive: “I apologize for not getting these to you in a timely fashion. I take full responsibility for that. I was out of town.”
Ken Cockrel, Jr, City Council Member: “We’re shifting the focus from bigger economic issues in the city to Belle Isle.”
Andre Spivey, City Council member: “I have a challenge with doing things after the lease is signed. To me it’s like I’m buying a car and signing the lease without knowing the payment.”
Gary Brown, City Council member: “My concern is that there is not a dollar amount tied to the lease. I’m not a finance guy either, but I know that there has to be some financial commitment from the State.”
Saunteel Jenkins, City Council Member on her issues with the lease: “The lease says the state ‘Intends’ to hold Belle Isle to state park standards, not that it ‘will.’”
Saunteel Jenkins: If you can’t give an exact amount, a least give a list of improvements you will make.” Kirk Lewis, deputy mayor: “I’m not aware of any other plans [for Belle Isle]. We felt the state park was the best way to get resources to the island.”
Brenda Jones, City council member: “Why is the City paying to remove equipment that the State does not want?”
JoAnn Watson, City Council Member: “This lease is an insult to the city of Detroit. It is an offense to talk about giving something away because you say we can’t keep it clean.”
Rodney Stokes: “There is no mechanism in place for a daily entry fee [to the island]. You would have to go to the DMV for a state park passport.”
Ken Cockrel: If I buy a car, I want to test drive it. I want to kick the tires. Not, ‘We’ll show it to you later and e-mail you a picture.’ That’s not the way you do business.”
Sauntel Jenkins on the fact that after 30 years the Belle Isle lease can only be terminated “for cause”: “For all practical purposes, this is a 90-year lease. In 30 years we can only terminate it ‘for cause.’”
Chuck Smith, president of MSU Black Alumni Association and Detroit resident who attended the meeting: “Anyone with commons sense can see this is a punk deal. If we’re not talking money, then what are we talking about?”
Last Updated on Friday, 28 September 2012 13:23
Category: Prime Politics Written by Minehaha Forman
Before the presidential debate between presidential hopefuls Mitt Romney and incumbent Barack Obama got started Wednesday night, a panel of Detroit political pundits gathered at the Detroit Seafood Market downtown for an animated discussion on the presidential debate and race in Michigan.
The Detroit panel discussion was heated and lively, something the presidential debate fell short on according to Bankole Thompson, political analyst and Senior Editor of the Michigan Chronicle who lead and moderated the panel discussion.
“I was not impressed,” Thompson said after watching the candidates debate. “I thought it was weak on both sides. The debate here was better,” he said of the pre-debate discussion that took place in the Seafood Market’s PV Lounge.
The discussion and debate watch party drew out notable public figures including Congressman John Conyers, Rev. Jesse Jackson and Wayne County Circuit Judge Craig Strong.
Other panelists included Henry Payne, Editor of The Michigan View, Charlie Langston, talk radio personality, Jay Smith Midwest correspondent for TheGrio.com and Rochelle Reilly, Detroit Free Press columnist.
Before the presidential debate began, panelists jumped into a debate of their own, covering many topics including Romney’s chances of winning Michigan. The point centered on and whether GOP Governor Rick Snyder and GOP presidential nominee Romney were alike. Since Snyder won Michigan over a Democrat, a likeness to Snyder would be a good sign for Romney, pundits said.
Payne said the country was more divided than ever under Obama and compared Romney to Snyder as he is a conservative leader focused on building business and less divisive politics.
Reilly disagreed. “Governor Snyder and Mitt Romney are so different they might as well be different races,” She said on the panel. “Snyder is not like Romney. Snyder is not wishy-washy, he is secure in who he is.” Romney, she said, is not consistent.
Payne then pointed out that Mitt Romney, being a Mormon in America, is a minority in his own right.
“Romney’s a minority,” Payne said. “As a Mormon what [his people] have gone through is very similar to the American Jews.”
“That’s some Bull,” Reilly countered.
Charlie Langston of Talk Radio 1270 WXYT said that race and religion politics don’t matter in this year’s presidential run. “I don’t think people care if someone is Mormon, Catholic, or Jewish because what people want is job security and to keep the lights on,” he said. “This is Obama’s race to lose.”
After the debate, viewers seemed disappointed. Local political analysts shared their thoughts about the candidates’ performances with a consistent theme that there was a letdown on President Barack Obama’s part.
Stephen Henderson, Detroit Free Press columnist, reacted on twitter immediately after the debate, declaring Romney a winner in some respects.
“My call is that Romney won debate on style, but Obama held the line on substance. Better for the challenger.” Henderson wrote. “Romney exceeded expectations, and Obama didn't meet his. That's huge for Romney in this race, it’s only way he stays alive.”
Henderson had some tips for Obama on the next round.
“Next debate, Obama needs to punch back,” he said. “Hit Romney on substantive flanks he exposed tonight. The race will tighten before then.”
Henderson was not the only one who wanted to see more offense from Obama.
“When do we get 47 percent? When do we get people dying without the Affordable Health Care Act?” Reilly asked during the debate via Twitter.
Detroit political analyst Steve Hood also said he wanted to see more bite from Obama as well. “He didn’t go hard until after ten o’clock [the last 20 minutes]. I’m thinking, “Where is he? When will he go hard?”
Detroit News columnist Nolan Finley said he was surprised to see Romney’s ease at the debate. “Romney is looking more comfortable as the debate wears on,” Finley said on Twitter. “Not what I expected.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 04 October 2012 10:18
Category: Prime Politics Written by Bankole Thompson, Chronicle Senior Editor
I posted on my Facebook page Saturday afternoon that it's time for moderate Muslims to call out those extremists in Islam who are using the religion to call for violence and death.
One of the reactions to my call was swift: there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. You are either a full time Muslim or not. That was how one of the postings on my page put it and the individual went on to evoke the war on terrorism, foreign policy etc.
It was almost as if the person was waiting for the opportunity to unload anti-American rants or his views about the United States' political stance across the globe. Nonetheless I always welcome healthy debates that force us to think critically of the world around us and not to think and act like zombies.
This individual's reaction to my call for moderate Muslims to step up and not let fundamentalists hold Islam hostage is a sentiment deeply buried in the hearts of some who are looking at the current violence across the Middle East as America's fault.
The anti-Islamic film created by a California convicted bank criminal is said to be widely responsible for the the violence that has been brought to the doorsteps of some American embassies in the Middle East. And in Libya, where it began, the mob-style violence tragically engulfed the life of an American ambassador and some of his staff.
Like a wild fire it is spreading rapidly across the Middle East.
What can be done about it?
One of the answers lie with Muslim moderates - those who believe that violence is not the answer to advancing the cause of human dignity- and addressing inherent socioeconomic ills.
Just as we condemn the actions of Christian extremists who push against religious tolerance by calling for the Muslim holy book, the Koran, to be burned, moderate Muslims must also do the same. They should not let extremists define Islam as a violent religion and exploit the religion to advance their own pathological views.
If you are a Muslim who does not believe that crusading for violence and death is the appropriate response to the anti-Islamic film, then speak out. Tell the world that Islam is more than the way extremists are portraying it on television screens across the world.
Certainly the anti-Islamic film poses several challenging questions for us about absolute individual liberty.
I'm a big proponent of individual liberty and the right to express one's views.
But individual liberty becomes a burden sometimes when people use it as a vehicle to convey their prejudice and denounce other people's existence or belief system. That is what happened in the case of the bank criminal in California who engineered his own crusade against Islam by creating a film that was condescending toward Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.
Therefore when individual liberty becomes a premise for both Islamic and Christian extremists to launder their ill-conceived notions and hatred toward religious tolerance we have to speak out. Men and women of goodwill including Imams and pastors cannot keep silent when dishonest men and women want to rule over religions that have at their core human respect and tolerance.
Thus, what is the ultimate human goal as we watch the doorsteps of U.S. embassies in the Middle East come under attack?
Last Updated on Monday, 17 September 2012 10:49
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