Gary (r) of the Detroit chapter of the October 22 Coalition to End Police Brutality, hands out flier below to attorney Jeff Edison and friend outside the Frank Murphy Hall in downtown Detroit October 22.

VOD notes Mayor Dave Bing, featured in story  above, with State Treasurer Andy Dillon and company, doing drastic economic violence to the people of Detroit, rushed off to a so-called “Stop the Violence” rally at Rev. Wendell Anthony’s Fellowship Chapel. October 22 was long ago declared a Day of Protest against Police Brutality. See flier below distributed at the city’s halls of “injustice” by the October 22nd coalition.

Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment



DWSD director Sue McCormick, speaking, and (l to r) BOWC financial advisor Butler Benton, Chair Walter Fausone, DWSD COO Matthew Sheck, BOWC V-P James Thrower, and BOWC member Mary Blackmon push for Council approval of $48 million EMA down-sizing contract Oct. 15, 2012.
  • Oct. 15 order follows week-long water workers’ strike
  • Council member Brown pushes for passage by Oct. 23 anyway
  • EMA would cut up to 81 percent of DWSD workforce

By Diane Bukowski

October 19, 2012

DETROIT – In the wake of a week-long strike by Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant workers, the U.S. government on Oct. 12 barred any action for 45 days on a five-year $48 million city contract with the EMA Group. In a filing before U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said it wants to review the contract’s impact on the city’s compliance with the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Council Pres. Pro-tem Gary Brown and Pres. Charles Pugh in session Sept. 13, 2011. They both served on Judge Sean Cox’s secret “Root Case” committee to re-structure DWSD and hand control to non-Detroit interests.

EMA plans to cut 81 percent of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) workforce. City Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown, DWSD leaders, and members of the Board of Water Commissioners pressed for its passage at a Council committee meeting Oct. 15 despite the EPA filing.

“We intend to get this contract out of committee and in front of the Committee of the Whole as soon as humanly possible,” Brown said. “It should be doable in 8-10 days.”

The U.S. government maintained that there is no urgency to implement the contract because the DWSD is not currently in violation of CWA provisions. It said the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) just made it aware of the proposed contract. (Click on EPA intervention DWSD case https___ecf.mied.uscourts.gov_cgi-bin_show_temp.pl_file=5195023-0–13077.)

“EPA seeks a period of forty-five (45) days to evaluate the potential impacts of the proposal on CWA compliance and asks this Court not to take any actions that would open the way for DWSD to initiate implementation of the proposal prior to that time,” U.S. attorney Annette Lang wrote.

“DWSD has not reported any violations of its NPDES numeric limitations on solids since November 2011 and has not reported any other NPDES numeric effluent limitation violations since March of this year. Therefore, nothing in the record would indicate that immediate commencement of the implementation of the proposal is required.”

U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox

She said that the EPA was not taking a position on the contract yet, but would meet with MDEQ and DWSD representatives for review, beginning Oct. 16.

The federal consent agreement, under which Cox has issued several anti-union, ant-Detroit orders, was initiated by the U.S. in 1977. It is known as U.S. vs. City of Detroit et al, Case No. 77-71100.

Attorney Peter Cavanaugh commented on his firm’s blog, Digesting DWSD, “The case that Judge Cox currently presides over was originally filed in 1977 by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency to enforce compliance with the Clean Water Act. The EPA has not played an active role in the case, however, for a number of years. The EPA’s request that Judge Cox ‘take no action’ for 45 days is an interesting development. Judge Cox is not bound to comply with the EPA’s request, but it is unlikely that he would simply ignore it.”

Local 207 Secretary-Treasurer Mike Mulholland at Council meeting Oct. 15, 2012.

During the Oct. 15 meeting of the Council Public Health and Safety Committee, which Brown heads, AFSCME Local 207 Secretary-Treasurer Mike Mulholland and President John Riehl lambasted him for pressing for Council passage of the EMA contract. The BOWC approved it Sept.7, but Council approval is still needed because the City itself is letting the contract, and because of the size of the contract.

Brown and Council President Charles Pugh were members of a secret “Root Cause Committee” appointed by Cox last year to consider proposals on re-structuring DWSD governance. Cox issued a gag order on all members of the Committee, even barring Brown and Pugh from discussing its proceedings with their Council colleagues.

Local 207 and community members including Denise Hearns (front) protested Synagro contract in front of WWTP in 2008.

“The Sixth Circuit just heard our appeal of Judge Cox’s Nov. 4, 2011 order,” Mulholland said. “You want the Council signed on to this plan which is predicated on an illegal order from a right-wing Republican federal judge. It’s like having the Tea Party here. This is an attack on organized labor and our living standards. We also have an obligation to protect the environment for our children and grandchildren. The EMA proposal bypassed the bidding process and is inherently corrupt, recalling the contracts with Minergy and Synagro which led to the current public corruption trials of Kwame Kilpatrick and [former DWSD head] Victor Mercado.”

AFSCME Local 207 President John Riehl tells Council that EPA has intervened in EMA contract dealings Oct. 15, 2012.

Riehl said, “The EMA contract doesn’t solve any Clean Water Act problems. Business Week just published an article, ‘Detroit Shows Wall Street Never Loses on Bad Swaps,’ which talks about how the banks are profiting from DWSD debt. DWSD’s motion was opposed by the City of Detroit Law Department and the EPA is challenging it, asking Judge Cox to restrict any action. The Cincinnati hearing went well, and may possibly invalidate Cox’s order re-structuring the department.”

Judge Boggs

The hearing on the appeal of Cox’s Nov. 4, 2011 order was held Oct. 9, 2012 in front of a three member panel consisting of Appeals Judges Danny Boggs, an active Republican and Reagan administration appointee, Eric Clay, a Clinton administration appointee who clerked for retired Sixth Circuit Court Judge Damon Keith and c0-founder of the noted Black-owned Detroit law firm Lewis, White and Clay, and William Stafford, appointed by former President Gerald Ford to the U.S. District Court of Florida, Northern District.

Judge Clay

Appellants AFSCME Council 25, AFSCME Local 207 and the Senior Accountants, Analysts and Appraisers Association (SAAA) were represented by attorneys Herbert Sanders and George Washington. (VOD will publish audio recording when it becomes available.)

Russ Bellant said he worked at DWSD previously as a water plant operator and later in its skilled trades development division, which sought to recruit Detroiters and workers of color.

U.S. District Court Judge John Feikens, who previously oversaw the Detroit sewage side of the EPA lawsuit, before his retirement.

“The problem with this flawed proposal is that it is predicated on an overreach of the power of the federal court,” Bellant told the Council members. “The consent agreement only involves the wastewater side of the department, not the freshwater side. But previously [U.S. District Court Judge] Feikens and Mayor Kilpatrick broadened it to allow the Mayor to do no-bid contracts. A $150 million no-bid contract for water meter replacement was one of them, let without council approval. Ratepayers will be paying $22 a year per household for the next 30 years to finance this. The City Council itself needs to take Sean Cox to the appeals court, because his rulings are imposing devastating consequences on our city.”

DWSD Director Sue McCormick presented a slide show on the EMA contract and painted the company in glowing terms during the committee session.

She said DWSD used to have a staff of over 5,000 but now has only 1,978 workers. The EMA proposal will further slash 1,828 positions over a 5-year period, including 262 vacant positions. The cuts would leave 362 positions, for a savings of $136.9 million over five years, or about $27 million a year.  DWSD currently has a combined annual budget of $932.4 million. (See slide below.)

 DWSD is the third largest water and sewerage system in the U.S. It provides water for 40 percent of the state of Michigan’s population, over 1,079 square miles including Detroit and six surrounding counties, and wastewater service over 946 square miles. (See DWSD website at .)

Wastewater Treatment Plant workers on strike Sept. 30, 2012 demand an end to contracting out.

“I spoke to hundreds of employees,” McCormick said. “The system is broken. We need to outsource non-core services like janitorial and lawn work and invest in new technology.” She said the new technology would include new IT systems and automation of human-powered functions.

“There needs to be a cultural change,” McCormick said, “because workers don’t have broad enough knowledge of the entire process. We need to empower the employees by broad-banding jobs. This is required by the court order.”

The EMA plan involves compacting 257 classifications into 31 classifications, with the drastically-slashed number of workers cross-trained in other titles.

McCormick said the cutbacks are critical to maintaining affordable rates for customers. However, no rate caps are included in the contract, she said, only “good intentions.”

EMA VP Brian Hurding (r) sat in audience during Council session Oct. 15, 2012 listening to EMA contract presentation. AFSCME Co. 25 staff rep. Catherine Phillips is at left.

As VOD noted earlier, a prominent municipal bond management firm told the BOWC on Aug. 29 that in fact customers must be prepared for more rate increases. Siebert, Brandford, Shank & Co. (SBS) said that to “enhance DWSD credit,” primary goals must include “educating the public about [infrastructure] projects and the need for water and sewer rate increases.”

McCormick lauded EMA, as its representative Brian Hurding sat in the audience. He did not speak during the session. She said there was no reason to put the proposal out for bid.

“Their process is unique in the business,” she said. “No one does what they do.”

She added that there was no time to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP), claiming the process would have put DWSD “10 months back,” and made it unable to respond quickly to Cox’s orders.

Members of the Board of Water Commissioners said they performed “due diligence” by having staff members call cities where EMA has performed before.


BOWC members present at the session were Chair Walter Fausone, Vice-Chair James Thrower, and Mary Blackmon. Also present from DWSD were its COO Matthew Schenck, Financial Advisor Butler Benton, and others.

“We made sure we did our due diligence before approving EMA,” Thrower said. “We have bankers, engineers, financiers and those with utility experience on the board and its staff. We called other cities EMA has been with.”

Councilwoman Brenda Jones at Oct. 15 committee meeting.

Asked by Councilwoman Brenda Jones whether EMA has experienced any failures in the other cities, McCormick said, “There was a problem in Toronto with subway flooding this year. There was a contractor responsible for diversion of sanitary sewage in the path of subway construction. During the course of construction, the contractor experienced two different rainfall events. The flooding was totally not due to EMA work.”

Wastewater Treatment Plant worker during Sept. 30, 2012 week-long strike.

VOD earlier reported that Toronto newspaper articles showed that floods there, resulting from sewage back-ups, have involved not only the subways, but homes and streets in neighborhoods throughout the city during most of the last decade. EMA began work in Toronto in 1995, and in 2001 instituted a drastic reduction in workforces at its sewage plants. (

McCormick and Fausone also said there had been problems in Akron, Ohio and Minneapolis, Minnesota, but that they were not EMA’s fault. McCormick claimed EMA has a success rate of 90 percent, but did not document that. She said a “book” of documentation was earlier provided to council staff and to its Research and Analysis division.

DWSD and BOWC representatives said EMA itself will issue Requests for Proposals for private contracts and select the contractors, although McCormick claimed DWSD was not handing over its operations to EMA.

Youth supporting Local 207 protest at WWTP July 24, 2012 point out listing of huge contracts on WWTP walls, just a sampling of private contracts DWSD lets.

Blackmon claimed that a commitment to use “Detroit-based businesses” is in the EMA contract, but did not produce the paperwork. McCormick said there has been no study yet of what Detroit businesses are available for DWSD contracts.

This business is Detroit-headquartered, Detroit-based and minority-owned.

Brown said the problem with the Bobby Ferguson contract in the Kilpatrick administration was that the city at the time required “Detroit-headquartered” businesses, which he does not advocate.

“The part of the city program requiring headquarters-based businesses getting 30 percent of the contracts should not have been in there,” he said. “That was a bad policy for years that probably led to corruption.”

According to a previous Human Rights Department worker, however, that classification was established because many national and international corporations were opening front offices in Detroit in order to qualify as “Detroit-based” businesses, even though they could compete for 70 percent of city contracts without that designation.

APTE’s Cecily McClellan speaks at council committee meeting on EMA contract Oct. 15, 2012.

Councilwoman Jones asked if there is any guarantee in the EMA contract that there will be no “change orders” increasing its costs to the city.

Fausone said, “The Board is not in favor of change orders,” but McCormick said that is governed by orders from Judge Cox.

Others who spoke during public comment in addition to Riehl, Mulholland and Bellant t0 oppose the EMA contract were  Chris Griffiths of Free Detroit-No Consent, Association of Professional and Technical Employees (APTE) Vice-President Cecily McClellan, and Tia Lebherz of the international organization Food and Water Watch.

McClellan, who saw an earlier presentation McCormick gave to Council staff, said the presentation given at the committee hearing was not complete.

“This presentation was smoke and mirrors,” McClellan said. “They left out their contentions about the DWSD debt and its supposed deficit. They claimed DWSD has a 40 percent level of debt while Toronto has a 20 percent level. DWSD is not in deficit. By charter, it cannot be in deficit.”

The last Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), for 2011, posted by the city backed up McClellan’s contention that DWSD has no deficit. See postings of city CAFR’s at .

The slide below shows the timeline EMA and DWSD want for their drastic re-structuring.

Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off


Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announces EMA contract at press conference with (front, l to r) Board of Water Commissioners (BOWC) chair Mary Blackmon, DWSD Director Sue McCormick, Bing, BOWC chair James Fausone, and Detroit City Councilman Gary Brown (a member of Judge Sean Cox’s secret “Root Cause” Committee).

 Commentary–by Chris Ford  

October 10, 2012

(VOD: there will be a news story up shortly on the City Council meeting Oct. 15 on the EMA contract, as well as the intervention by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA issued a directive Oct. 15 banning the implementation of the EMA contract for 45 days while their representatives meet with the parties involved.)

The Big Four in the good ol’ days: (l to r) Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Macomb County Board of Commissioners Chair Bill Crouchman

DETROIT — As a group of busy people, we have gotten used to ‘l told you so’ in many aspects of our lives. This is particularly true in politics and political corruption. You don’t have to go too far to see this in our community. Just look at the Kwame saga being played out in our City. Ficano’s dealings are another example. There are others in our community like John McCulloch, Tony Marrocco, Engler, McNamara, Duggan, Jase Bolger, Roy Schmidt and many others.

Corruption is not an expertise of any one party, it is an equal opportunity phenomenon in our system. Just see the influence of Moroun over the bridge issue – everybody knows how he has bought out Republicans on this issue, but nothing happens to these people. These Reps’ only constituent is Moroun!

Protesters blockade the Ambassador Bridge last year.

lt is a disgrace. It is also not a race or a gender issue. You will find fresh examples of both within our community. By this time we are all familiar with the routine. The press keeps praising the guy who by whatever means twists the system to get advantage and lines his/her pockets. While ignoring the obvious, the press touts the accomplishments and knowingly (while appearing to be doing good reporting and following the journalistic standards) participates in the whole sham, and then ‘boom’! Things fall apart! Revelations! Wrong doing! And the rest of the sensational crap to sell the paper. Big business! Until you let it build up to a level of juicy story line they would not expose any such issues.

The contracting out of city inspectors on the 21 mile Macomb County Interceptor likely resulted in the infamous break of the water main on 15 Mile Road in Sterling Heights
in Aug. 2004, which created a huge sinkhole and released millions of gallons of raw sewage. Shown here with contractors repairing the break are former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and former DWSD Director Victor Mercado, both now in federal court on corruption charges. Current Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s administration and the City Council later gave the Oakland-Macomb Interceptor to those counties at the directive of Judge Sean Cox.

While the Kwame and Ficano circus is in town, we have the foundation for another circus being laid out right here in front of our eyes. The battle is for City’s coveted and controversial DWSD.

This department deals with so much money and projects that every politician is after its control – whether it is Monica Conyers or John McCulloch or Kurt Heise – all in the name of better: and more efficient system. The equation is simple. !f you control the projects coming out of it, you can squeeze more money out of contractors and build your own empire and ego. This all is done in the name of good governance.

This is not the question of Detroit vs. suburbs. Again, it is an equal opportunity proposition to fleece the system. lf you have doubts about it, just do your own research and find out who has gotten the contracts at the Oakland County Water Resources commission (OCWRC) in last five years and then compare those names to the names of the donors (including friends and families of the contractors) and you will figure it out for yourself. Do the same for Macomb County Public Works Commission (MCPWC).

This information is not that difficult to track for the reporters. For a common person, it would be a bit overwhelming as we need to make our living too. The press knows about it too. But, they are part of the system feeding off the crumbs thrown at them by the big dealers of our society. Just think about it – if you or I had given $5000 cash to Kwame, we would be in big trouble with the feds; our so called leaders of the SE Michigan have each given at least $25,000 in CASH to him – this is the known fact. What happened to them? Well, they got more City and government contracts. The whole system is rigged.

Back to DWSD . . . Now there is another player in this power play by the name of Judge Sean Cox. Cox’s name has a long history with Detroit, and it is not pretty. This Judge and Detroit COO Chris Brown have systematically played up the Clean Water Act ‘compliance’ card and have started dismantling the department. They have used the threat of broad powers of a federal judge to manipulate and take the department apart.

U.S. “Dictator” Judge Sean Cox

First, they removed a very competent Chair of Water Board Commissioners. They created a secretive ‘Root Cause’ committee with a gag order (This is not a jury case to be tried that you would need a gag order, but he used the tool to cook his own deal). Then he installed his own Director, who, by all reports to date, is a very incompetent individual with a very limited knowledge of the system. Then they hired a COO, and a counsel – all without the Board’s knowledge – from Wayne County’s corrupt system.

But the latest act has to top it all. The Director hired EMA to do a 90-day study to assess the Department for efficiency improvements using a $150,000 contract – awarded without following proper procurement procedures – no-bid contract. EMA, a Minnesota based firm with its core staffing out of Toronto, Canada, conducted cursory interviews with some 200 employees (out of more than 1900) and developed a report (which is a secret) and did a power point presentation to announce an 80% staff reduction at the department! They apparently missed the report deadline by several months. Based on this conceptual plan, Chris Brown and the Mayor held a press conference and announced the findings of a ‘conceptual’ study to the world.  Continue reading

Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



October 20, 2012

NEW YORK CITY–On October 8, 2012, 21-year-old Ehud Halevi was sleeping in a youth center run by the New York synagogue where he’s a member. Ehud is homeless, so his Rabbi — who runs programs for at-risk youth like Ehud — had told him back in September he could sleep there.

In a video that’s now gone viral on the internet, two New York police officers are shown waking Ehud in the early morning. Even though Ehud explains to them that he has permission to sleep at the center, they try to arrest him. Then, the officers beat Ehud for almost 5 minutes straight — even after Ehud can be seen lying down.

And despite the NYPD’s beating, it’s Ehud who’s being charged with assault, and he faces 5 years in prison.

Rabbi Moishe Feiglin feels terrible. This happened at his synagogue’s center and to one of his congregants — and he just wants Ehud’s nightmare to end. Rabbi Feiglin started a petition on calling for the Brooklyn District Attorney to drop all charges against Ehud.

So far, the NYPD officer who was most involved in Ehud’s beating has only been minimally disciplined — his gun has been taken away and he’s been placed on desk duty — but the other officer hasn’t been disciplined at all. Rabbi Feiglin says this is unacceptable. Ehud was eventually arrested and charged with trespassing and assaulting an officer, even though the video shows he didn’t fight back.

In the past several months, several tapes of NYPD officers engaged in disproportional and violent exchanges have drawn heat to the department. With pressure rising, Rabbi Feiglin thinks that the support of thousands of people behind Ehud now can get the charges against him dropped.

Click here to sign Rabbi Feiglin’s petition calling on the Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes to drop charges against homeless youth Ehud Halevi, who was beaten by police.

Thanks for being a change-maker,
-Emilia and the team

Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment



On September 20, 2012, youth, parents, and community activists from across the United States converged in the Nation’s Capitol to demand an end to school closures and corporate reform policies that violate the civil rights of poor, working class, communities of color, students with disabilities, and English learners. FIGHT BACK NOW!!
Cities:  Baltimore, MD,  Boston, MA,  Chicago, IL,  Detroit, MI,  Eupora, MS,  New York,  Newark, NJ, Philadelphia, PA,  New Orleans, LA,  Wilmington, DE,  Washington, DC.

From Keep the Vote No Takeover leader Helen Moore: “Washington has agreed to a national hearing on education on January 29th in DC.” Click on Journey for Justice for flier which details demands of Sept. 20 march as well as contact information for Detroit sponsors.

Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Six members vote to cancel Oct. 18 hearing

Members earlier open to revised ‘lease’

By Diane Bukowski 

October 17, 2012

DETROIT– The Detroit City Council voted 6-3 to postpone an Oct. 18 hearing on Belle Isle indefinitely, two days before it was to happen. Free Detroit-No Consent, Hood Research, and We the People had blanketed the city with fliers, going to Wayne County Community College campuses, churches and other venues, according to one member.

Valerie Glenn displays photos of Belle Isle to City Council at hearing Sept. 25, 2012.

The City Clerk’s office posted the hearing on Oct. 12. It was to be sponsored by the council’s Neighborhood and Community Services Committee, chaired by Councilman James Tate. During public comment at the beginning of the Oct. 16 meeting, Valerie Glenn of Free Detroit-No Consent thanked Tate and other members for holding the hearing. No one told her they were considering canceling it.

“We haven’t had a formal discussion about the actual [state lease] proposal we would be voting on,” Tate said later on Oct. 16.  “Questions have been sent to the state, and deliberation needs to be done. It is unnecessary at this point. I voted no on this [hearing] in committee and am voting no on it now.”

City Councilman James Tate, Oct. 15, 2012.

Tate said in an earlier on-line chat on, “Belle Isle is an asset, but it is not a core service of ours. I have been and remain open to any and all suggestions (and assistance) on how we can improve the park.”

The six who voted to postpone the meeting were (in alpabetical order), Gary Brown, Saunteel Jenkins, Charles Pugh, Andre Spivey, James Tate and JoAnn Watson.

“It would just generate more confusion,” Jenkins said. “There is already fighting and correcting inaccurate reports that Council is voting down a Belle Isle lease proposal.”

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson earlier co-sponsored a rally against a state takeover of Belle Isle.

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson listens to City General Services Dept. Director Brad Dick at hearing on Belle Isle Sept. 25, 2012.

“The request for a public hearing had nothing to do with it had to be this week,” she said. “It was disrespectful not to check with us. We ought to have all proposals shared with all our colleagues [first]. Everybody needs to have time to review all the proposals, then yes, have a hearing scheduled for the public. We can look at all proposals and what’s behind the green door, including why not just manage it ourselves. We also need to discuss the matter with experts including experts on historic designation.” (See story below which indicates that Belle Isle is on the National Register of Historic Places.)

Proposals other than a revised lease which have been raised by council members include the city’s 2005 Belle Isle Master Plan, and private proposals, including one from an agency which wants to bring the Bob-Lo boat back.

Councilman Kwame Kenyatta Aug. 7, 2012

“I requested the public hearing,” said Councilman Kwame Kenyatta, who voted to hold it as planned. “There was nothing in writing that it was to discuss the state proposal. I had asked the Mayor to set up a committee to discuss the various proposals to look at how Belle Isle should go forward. We have in committee discussed a number of proposals to take the six million dollars off table, and leave the island open to community without a fee. . . A public hearing is for the public to speak on any issue of the day.”

The Bing administration has alleged that it costs the city $6 million annually to operate Belle Isle, although the cost that appeared in last year’s budget is much less.

Councilman Kenneth Cockrel, Jr., who voted to continue with the hearing, agreed with Kenyatta that the hearing was to be a broad discussion for the community.

Councilwoman Brenda Jones also voted to go ahead with the hearing, but said she would not be able to attend due to a prior engagement.

Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


(R to L) DEGC CEO George Jackson, Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis, State DNR Director Keith Creaugh, M-DOT DIrector Kirk Stuedle try to sell Belle Isle lease to Council.

  •  Allowed Sept. 25 presentation by state, DEGC, Bing administration
  • Brown, Tate, Jenkins, Cockrel, Jr. others considering revisions 

By Diane Bukowski 

Oct. 17, 2012

DETROIT– The unexpected cancellation of the City Council Oct. 18 committee hearing on Belle Isle, described in the story above, came in the wake of a Sept. 25 Council discussion which showed many members inclined toward considering a revised “lease” of the island to the state.

Gary Brown at Council Oct. 15, 2012.

“All parties involved need a clear understanding of whether it is the will of the body to move forward to negotiate changes to the lease, or just shut it down,” Council President Pro-Tem Gary Brown said at the beginning of the Sept. 25 discussion. “If there’s no support for a lease under any circumstances, then a discussion is a waste of time.”

Councilwoman Brenda Jones asked that the matter be referred back to committee to hear other proposals including a previous Belle Isle Master Plan.

Councilwoman JoAnn Watson noted the council was still waiting for an opinion from Corporation Counsel Krystal Crittendon regarding the legality of the “lease,” since state law requires an assessment of the value of any municipal property prior to a sale or lease. No such assessment has been done.

Councilman Kwame Kenyatta boycotted Sept. 25 discussion on Belle Isle lease.

The proposed ‘lease’ is actually a grant, since it charges the state no rent for a 30-90 year period, like the Detroit Yacht Club’s occupation of Belle Isle land for $1 a year.

Councilman Kwame Kenyatta, who opposes any lease, boycotted the discussion.

The Council moved ahead anyway with a presentation from Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) CEO George Jackson, Deputy Mayor Kirk Lewis, State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Director Keith Creagh, former DNR Director and current advisor to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder Rodney Stokes, Michigan Department of Transportation (M-DOT) Director Kirk Stuedle, Detroit General Services Director Brad Dick, and other officials.

During the discussion, several Council members said they supported the concept of the lease, with revisions including the hiring of Detroit residents and businesses.

Council President Charles Pugh

Pugh said, “I would be willing to vote for the right lease, not just any lease. I want to hear the other proposals.” Cockrel, Jr. said the concept needs “further discussion,” but that he wants to see other aspects of the controversial Financial Stability [consent] agreement effectuated first.

Tate said, “I believe the majority of the body is willing to entertain the proposal, but we just don’t want it shoved down our throats. There is a problem with trust and respect.”

No federal agency was at the table, although Belle Isle is listed on the federal National Registry of Historic Places.(Go to from that registry, which includes an inspiring description of the island as one of the most beautiful venues in the country.) It is also listed on the State of Michigan Registry. Previously, the U.S. government had to approve the building of the MacArthur Bridge, according to old Common Council records. The U.S. also operates a Coast Guard facility on the island which now lists the Office of Homeland Security on its sign, since Belle Isle is a national border property.

Belle Isle Conservatory and Aquarium; photo from National Register of Historic Places.

There is also no inclusion of the federal government in the proposed lease document.  For full lease with attachments, click on Proposed Belle Isle lease with attachments. The city has published the lease without attachments on its website, and did not provide Council with them until the Sept. 25 hearing. Lewis said Bing himself did not have them at the time of his press conference with Michigan Governor Synder announcing the proposed lease.

At no point in the discussion did representatives from the state commit to spend any dollar amount on the Island, although they did indicate their interest in issuing bonds. Lewis said that a 30-year initial lease is necessary to obtain bond money. Creagh said the state would possibly issue a $20 million bond.

Councilwomen Saunteel Jenkins (l) and JoAnn Watson at Sept. 25, 2012 hearing on Belle Isle.

Watson said, however, that under the 2005 Belle Isle Master Plan, the city had already committed to obtaining $248 million through bond sales for park improvements.

“It is a wonderful Master Plan, with a funding strategy to raise the money and make Belle Isle a revenue-producing entity, with sponsors and private contractors paying the city.”

Councilman Kenneth Cockrel, Jr. commented that the two 30-year renewals are virtually automatic, and that he expects the city will have an economic recovery prior to the end of the first 30 years.

Tyrone Travis of Free Detroit-No Consent and the Coalition to Stop Privatization and Save Our City earlier listed $272 million in bond issues related to Belle Isle that are still being paid by Detroiters through the year 2039. (See box and click on Tyrone 9 17 12. )

Creagh said, “The DNR does parks, and does it well. We clean restrooms and pick up the trash every day. We have foresters, fishery experts, biologists, and hydrologists who are experts.”

He said the city and state would jointly develop a security plan, with state troopers and park rangers (who are also troopers, according to the state website) patrolling the park.

Charles Pugh and Gary Brown questioned the sensitivity of state troopers, who are mostly non-Detroit residents and mostly white, to the needs of Detroiters utilizing Belle Isle.

Rick Olson sat in audience during hearing; he proposed a gate to bar entrance to Belle Isle after 10 p.m.

“There is a proposal from the DNR for a six-week high impact plan involving putting up a security gate to close the park after 10 p.m,” Watson said. “I presume Gov. [Rick] Sndyer’s name would be on it.” Creagh said that DNR Parks Director Rick Olsen came up with the plan, but that it was no longer being considered.

Other Council members expressed concern regarding whether state park regulations would accommodate events like family re-unions and picnics on the island.

Stuedle said the proposal involves the jurisdictional transfer of all Belle Isle roads from E. Grand Blvd. over the bridge onto the island, making them into state “trunklines,” despite the state’s contention that the city would continue to own Belle Isle under the  agreement. The transfer would be for the “life of the lease,” Stuedle said.

He added that any federal or state grants for the roadways “will stay with the roadways.” Previously, those grants went to the city of Detroit.

Recreation Dept. AFSCME Local 542 President Phyllis McMillon tells rally Sept. 22 that there are only four permanent workers on Belle Isle, who have already been re-assigned.

“The administration believes the lease will save $6 million a year, free up 36 city employees, and police who will not have to patrol the island,” said Lewis. “The plan to make Belle Isle a state park will return it to being a jewel of the city, with canoeing, horseback riding, and better upkeep. We have some of the best, highly-valued state parks in the country.”

Lewis said he was not aware of any other proposals on the table, including the 2005 Belle Isle Master Plan, which Councilwoman JoAnn Watson raised.

Brad Dick, Director Detroit General Services Department, at Council Sept. 25, 2012.

At a rally Sept. 21, AFSCME Local 542 President Phyllis McMillon said, “Bing told a lie when he said we have 36 workers here. There are only four permanent workers, the rest are seasonal from April to September. The seasonals are being laid off Sept. 23, and the four permanent workers have been re-assigned even though the lease deal is not approved.”

Dick told the Council there is no guarantee regarding how long any of those workers will be retained in other positions in the future.

Roger Penske

Pugh asked if there would be a commitment to hire Detroit residents under a state ‘lease.’  Stokes said he “could not give a guarantee on the numbers,” but said “we will work our darndest” to do so. He said he already works with “Clean Detroit,” run by Roger Penske, which coordinates with Goodwill Industries. Both groups pay sub-standard wages for work seven days a week, previously done by city employees at union wages and benefits..


Creagh added that the plumbers and electricians unions are donating volunteer labor.

The state representatives discussed other details of the lease, including the $10 a year “Recreation Pass” required for motor vehicle entrance, the routing of federal funding, grants and endowments through the state instead of the city, and an 11-member Advisory Council dominated by gubernatorial appointees. These issues were discussed in an earlier VOD article at

Only the Belle Isle Conservancy would partner with the state, although Jackson said they were not involved in drafting the proposed “lease.” (See sidebar with board members.)

Among other issues, the presentation revealed that the lease is likely part of a larger plan to develop prized riverfront property including Belle Isle for the benefit of the wealthy.

Stokes said the state plans to convert both east and west Detroit riverfront land and has already invested millions on the east coast of the river. Those funds have not gone to the city, however, but to the wealthy, private Detroit Riverfront Conservancy and other private entities.
According to a Sept. 2011 release from the DEGC, the remediation of the old Uniroyal site, now known as Belleview, just west of the Belle Isle bridge is currently underway, with the Riverfront Conservancy using part of the site to finish development of its Riverwalk.

“Bettis/Betters Development, LLC, holds an agreement with the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to develop it,” said the release.

Former Detroit Lions football star Jerome Bettis and Pittsburgh developer C.J. Betters are the partners.  Job Site Services of Bay City, Michigan, Blaze Contracting of Detroit, E.C. Korneffel of Trenton, Stantec of Alberta, Canada, and Wade Trim of Detroit are contractors.

An earlier release said “Plans for the 44-acre site call for a mixed-use development consisting of different levels of housing and up to 1 million square feet of commercial space.” 

Bettis said housing would consist of “upscale condos” along with retail developments.

(Comments and photos from public at hearing will be up shortly.) 

Uniroyal site by Belle Isle Bridge undergoing clean-up in preparation for “upscale development.”

Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment



VIDEO ABOVE: Nick Ciaramitaro, Director of Legislation and Public Policy at Michigan AFSCME Council 25, breaks down reasons to VOTE NO on Proposal 1 (“A referendum on Public Act 4 of 2011 – The Emergency Manager Law”) and to stand up for democracy in the Michigan Statewide General Election on November 6, 2012.

This video clip was recorded on September 8, 2012 during the Twelfth (12th) Congressional District Caucus Meeting at the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) State Convention held at the Lansing Center located in Lansing, MI.


Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


Click on!/VoteVIPslate and for contact and other information on the Vote VIP Slate.

In this Aug. 4, 2009 file photo, Detroit Chief of Police Warren Evans, right, and team stop a vehicle in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

VOD Editorial: Although the VIP slate says to vote “NO” on individual Detroit proposals other than the Charter requirement issue, VOD endorses Proposal M, which would essentially de-criminalize the personal use of marijuana in Detroit on a limited basis. It would put a partial stop to the ongoing mass incarceration of Detroiters and others who are targeted by police in illegal stops and searches, many of them involving possession of marijuana. See commentary by Glenn Morgan, Jr. at

For more information on Proposal M, go to and

VOD also endorses the proposal for Wayne County Community College’s operating millage, as well as Wayne County proposals directed at limiting the powers of the Chief Executive, currently Robert Ficano. Click on Wayne-County-and-Detroit-proposals for a full listing posted by the Service Employees International Union. Unfortunately, neither the city or county clerks have posted the listing on their websites.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic march for civil rights in Detroit, 1963. Then UAW President Walter Reuther is at left. Photo: WSU Reuther Library

VOD endorses the grass roots actions of the hard-working VIP slate, but VOD has not yet seen any television commercials at all to tell folks to vote NO on proposal 1 to eliminate Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager Act which has decimated Detroit and in particular other majority-Black cities in the state.

The daily media is campaigning vigorously to keep PA 4 and has published questionable polls claiming that the VOTE NO ON 1 vote is diminishing.

The major unions appear to be focusing on Proposal 2, the Collective Bargaining Amendment, which VOD supports. However, despite what officials like Bob King, President of the UAW International, have allegedly said, Proposal 2 will NOT take care of issues regarding voting rights.

UAW President Walter Reuther embraces Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the podium before Dr. King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech to the Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington.

It is a betrayal of the UAW’s founding mission not to fund the campaign against PA 4. UAW President Walter Reuther and other union officials from the Teamsters and the rest of the AFL-CIO marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement. Dr. King was assassinated directly after marching with Memphis sanitation workers represented by AFSCME who were on strike.

Detroit’s own Viola Liuzzo, who was married to a Teamsters local official, was murdered by KKK members, with the FBI riding along, during the campaign for voter rights in the South. So was Leroy Moton, the 19-year-old Black youth riding with her. Dr. King, Reuther, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, and many other union officials attended her funeral at IHM Parish in Detroit.

Anthony and Viola Liuzzo. Anthony Liuzzo was a Teamsters business agent who supported his wife when she joined the voter rights campaign in the South, before she and Leroy Moton were murdered by the KKK in collusion with the FBI.

VOD is SHOCKED that whoever is putting money into the Prop 2 ads is not contributing some of that money to ads against Proposal 1. This is a betrayal of the 51 percent of Michigan’s African-American voters who are impacted by PA 4, and also white voters who have not yet faced the PA4 sledge hammer. Until now, the state government has focused on majority-Black cities as a way of dividing the electorate.

But if PA4 is not defeated, the state government will go on a rampage taking over other cities.

See video from Michigan Forward below and go to their website at  for further information on Proposal 1–VOTE NO TO REPEAL PA 4!

Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment


Glenn Morgan, Jr.

By Glenn E. Morgan Jr 

 “Soldiers are made by other Men;  

Warriors are born by God given Birthright”     

–Aasiyaku Bisseau X. (pseudonym)   

October 11, 2012        

The mass incarceration of black men and other men-of-color in U.S.prisons warrants national and international attention as a human rights issue. A number of studies shed light of this complex and important problem.

Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow.”

The study titled The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarcerations in the Age of Colorblindness by attorney Michelle Alexander illuminates this pressing issue. She candidly states that the system of mass incarceration functions as a “well-disguised method of racialized social control” reminiscent of the old American South’s Jim Crow system.

This has certainly led to the increasing number of men-of-color, particularly black men, in U.S. prisons. It is obvious that the criminal justice system—which is ‘criminal’ itself—operates like a conveyor belt system in a factory. It criminalizes you. Then takes you through the legal process. Imprisons, rehabilitates, and then back into society you go.

Well, that’s the idea, or should I say formula.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Cleland.

I know—I have been through it at the federal level. Let me give you the abbreviated version of my story if you (as the reader) are not familiar with it.

On February 16, 2012, I was sentenced to do ninety days in a federal facility by ring-wing, ultra-conservative U.S. 6th District Circuit Court Judge Robert H. Cleland who was appointed by President George Bush in 1990.

Next, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) notified me six weeks or so later that the Federal Correctional Institution(FCI) in Milan, Michigan forty miles south of Detroit would be the facility for my incarceration. I was to “self-surrender” at the facility onMay 15, 2012.

Milan Federal Corrections Prison, Michigan.

On May 15, 2012, I reported to the FCI-Milan. I said my goodbyes, went through the official intake formalities, and walk through the sprawling three-hundred acre facility’s gates to serve my ninety days.

I did not know what to expect before going to FCI-Milan. I am not, nor ever have been, a “career criminal” who knows the ins and outs of prison life and system.

Once inside, I immediately recognized the ethnic/ racial breakdown not long after being mainstreamed into the general inmate population, which range from 1200 to 1500 respectively (estimated). Black males made up the majority of the inmate population, followed by Hispanic males (non-black), white males, and Others (i.e. Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, etc.). FCI-Milan’s inmate demographic did not surprise me because it mirrored the plethora of studies out there about the mass incarceration of men-of-color.

The new slavery: Black men in prison.

Narcotics and white-collar crimes are the primary offenses committed by the “captives”—as I called them—at FCI-Milan. A lot of black men are serving short and long term sentences for drug convictions: 5- to-10 years on up. Clearly, a result of the quote “War on Drugs” as Alexander points out in her book.

I was a little dismayed to find out that many of them are from the City of Detroit; I found this out from “Brothers” from the city who had been at FCI-Milan for years and knew the ropes as far as who’s in for what offense.

I used the moments when Brothers from the city who asked me about my case to find out information about their experiences with the criminal justice system and how they felt about their drug conviction, or whatever the offense might be. The overwhelming consensus was that the “black man can’t get a fair shake under the whites man’s unjust legal system.” And, that “the drug laws, and laws in general, in this country are biased.” No surprise at all.  Continue reading

Print Friendly
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment