Sunday, August 26, 2012


Let me start by admitting that I am a fierce advocate for inclusion.  I have served as the vice president of a Macomb County advocacy organization that is a chapter of a century-old national civil rights organization.  I relish the experience and insight gained into racism in Macomb County and Michigan.  However, that experienced led me to believe that a person should be judged by their individual actions, and not be stereotype based solely on their personal beliefs.

So I have caught hell last week for supporting the reversal of the murder conviction of Jimmie Nelson…a white guy who had no love for black people.  That attitude contributed to the ruling of a judge that Nelson had murdered Cherita Thomas, a black woman who disappeared after having car problems up in Tawas City, Michigan back in 1980.  That attitude alone is not enough to put someone in jail for 32 years.

Nelson had a bad attitude and drove a blue truck, the color and vehicle type described by witnesses as the type of vehicle Thomas was last seen in in the vicinity of where Thomas’ car broke down back..  A panel of three court of appeals judges just this past week ruled that Nelson’s attitude was not sufficient enough “evidence” to convict Nelson of Thomas’ murder.  I agree with their assessment.

The problem with Nelson’s prosecution is that aside from having a blue truck, and being an outright avowed racist, there was absolutely no physical evidence to connect Nelson to Thomas’ disappearance.  Her body has never been found, and there was no other evidence presented that physically connected Nelson to Thomas. Simply put, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  

Nelson was tried before a judge.  It is called a bench trial.  In these instances, a judge is the only arbiter deciding the truth of the information presented by the prosecutor.  No one is suggesting that the judge ruled based on his sensitivity to Thomas’ family, the black community, or the times (1980), nearly 32 years ago.  However, sometimes, bench trials with no jury can be as problematic as jury trials, especially when you have one person trying to juggle all aspects of complex and competing circumstances.

Thomas is nearly 60 years old and, in my opinion, entitled to some compensation for having been locked up for 32 years for a crime he should have never been convicted of absent the physical evidence routinely required for such determinations.  Nelson deserves more than an apology: he deserves justice.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012



There are a great many people scratching their heads over why the Missouri GOP would stand by a guy who claims women have powerful gender-based biological weapons against being impregnated if raped.

To be truthful, the mainstream top drawer GOP muckity-mucks are distancing themselves from outrageous remarks made by Republican Senatorial candidate Todd Akin, who is being quoted as saying that

"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare...If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down." 

Now, if that is not a foot-in-mouth statement, there never will be one.  No matter how much spin you put on it (“I mis-spoke”), it was and is a horrific statement that demonstrates, despite being a six-term congressman, this man is out of touch. 

But don't count him out. Despite being derided and de-funded (by the National Republican Senatorial Committee), the Missouri Assembly still stands by him.  They actually believe Akin, who just lost Tea Party Express support, can weather this storm and still beat out long-term US Senator Claire McCaskill in November.  

The larger question is does this firmly brand the GOP as out of touch when it comes to women's issues? Is this really going to blow over and not affect the national election discourse to the extent that Mitt Romney's economy message is overshadowed by Akin's statement and its affect on the attitude of women voters?  And truth be told, Akin's defiant refusal to end his senatorial campaign does nothing to bring Romney's campaign train back on track.

Even worse, the recently adopted Republican platform on abortion now contains no exception for abortion in cases where the fetus is the outcome of rape. Due to the blow-back regarding Akin’s statement, this party platform development will now be seen in a different light altogether. It's the political perfect storm.

The Democrats are salivating over the many ways they can politically exploit Akin's remarks to drive home their election-season message that the Republican Party is waging a general campaign against women.  President Obama has been handed a gift that will keep on giving through the next few months.

To be sure, Akins' semantics may have killed his senatorial aspirations, but they have re-ignited a fire storm that could change national politics for years to come.  And if Akin beats McCaskill, look for a whole new battle for the soul of the Republican Party.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Detroit's Assessor's Office Runs Out of Paper Due to Lack of Vendor Payments

The City of Detroit is at it again. One step forward, two steps back.

Everyone knows the City of Detroit needs every penny it can get.  What some do not know is that there are divisions within Detroit’s departments that are charged with generating revenue.  One would think that those departments and divisions would be given priority when it comes to providing them resources need to keep the money flowing.  But one would be mistaken.

The city of Detroit’s Assessors office is out of paper.  Completely out of paper.  They need paper to make the city’s cheddar, so to speak.  The division cannot function without paper.  You might think it is a small thing, but what business can function without paper?

This office within the City of Detroit’s Finance department is tasked with generating and defending millions of dollars in property tax assessments.  Yet, the workers in this office cannot get printer paper for its office because the vendor has not been paid and will not allow new orders.  That stops the business of the office dead in in its tracks.  A scramble is on right now to get some paper into the office at some point next week. Re-read that last sentence.

How does this happen when Bing’s administration just rammed two personal service contracts down City Councils throat for the division's two management-level assessors who retired after 20 years with the city on July 20, 2012.  These two, who will now be paid a total of more than $250,000, ran the office that cannot now get a basic office resource such as paper. Who would not find this situation unconscionable and why should not those two persons be held accountable?

Starving a department of the resources necessary to conduct business is an age-old management strategy to negatively affect the performance of the department and thus justify contracting out the functions to other parties “to improve operational efficiency.”  Where have we heard this before (Detroit’s  Workforce Development Department, Department of Health and Wellness Promotion, and the Detroit Human Services Department)?   Sounds like a tactic right out of Bain Capital's alleged playbook.

Bing’s administration has been in office long enough to ensure payment to vendors for services to key department and divisions.  The assessor’s office is such a division.  The assessor’s office determines the property tax for homes and businesses and answers taxpayer appeals of those assessments to the Michigan Tax Tribunal, which affects revenues the city should receive for property tax assessments. The revenue this department brings in helps prop up Detroit’s annual budget, and any slowdown in its operations can actually worsen the overall deficit.

In the corporate world, someone's head would roll. Someone in management should be fired or, at the very least, disciplined.  The two high level assessors who ran the office for years and who just retired just to get cushy personal service contracts in the same division should be held accountable for what appears to be a history of their department’s bill’s not being paid.  Just where does the buck stop?