Home folks think I’m big in Detroit City;
From letters that I write they think I’m fine;
But by day I make the cars;
By night I make the bars;
If only they could read between the lines.
I wanna go home.
— Bobby Bare
It is always interesting to me to read the local newspaper when I am traveling. What may seem like big news at home often gets little or no attention somewhere else, and each city seems to choose its own areas of local interest.
Recently I was traveling in Michigan, and wherever I went, the local paper seemed to be the Detroit Free Press. Detroit is broke and has filed for federal bankruptcy, so it is natural that news connected with that would be important.
One day, a front-page article had to do with the legal fees that would be incurred by the city in connection with the bankruptcy.
U.S bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes is worried that the legal fees will get out of hand, so he has hired a lawyer from Chicago to represent the court in reviewing and approving all the legal bills that will be handed to the city of Detroit. The headline said, “$600-an-hour lawyer to monitor legal fees.” I read that and I thought, “Good grief!” Things have gotten so bad that the bankruptcy judge is paying one lawyer $600 an hour, just to check on the other lawyers. The Chicago lawyer, a man named Fishman, probably has a different reaction. He probably thinks, “What a country!”
The next day, the banner headline in the Detroit Free Press said, “Mayor count in chaos.” In Detroit, the Democrats are really the only political party and have been for decades. Therefore, whoever wins the primary election for mayor can be assured that he will be elected in the general election. In this recent primary there were two candidates, one named Duggan and one named Napoleon, and election officials cannot agree on which one of them won.
The explanation is a little complicated, but in essence, here seems to be the problem: Duggan got 20,000 write-in votes, and if those count, Duggan wins. However, the election workers who counted the ballots were supposed to use a system of hash marks, one hash mark for each vote, and then tally up and record the total.
They only recorded the totals, and did not use hash marks. It is not clear whether or not hash marks are legally required. If those votes get thrown out, Napoleon wins. Does this sound familiar? Does Florida, 2000, come to mind? As one editorial writer said, “You can’t make this stuff up.”
Another story in that paper recounts the fact that a Canadian man in a scuba diving suit got caught trying to smuggle 8 pounds of marijuana into the United States by swimming with it from Canada, across the St. Clair River, into an area northeast of Detroit. All right, it is a crime, and marijuana can be harmful — but don’t you have to laugh? Where is Inspector Clouseau at a time like this?
And finally, there is the dog story. Detroit used to have 1.8 million people, but the population has shrunk to about 700,000 today. Much of the city is a wasteland, and as people have departed, many have left their dogs behind. Others have decided that they can’t afford to feed their dogs, so they turn them loose. As a result, an estimated 50,000 stray dogs now roam the city, many of them in packs, and some of them are aggressive or carrying diseases.
Anyway, I was glad to get back to Fort Wayne and once again take up reading The News-Sentinel. Sure, we have some strange stories, and we have some funny stories (and sometimes the humor is unintended), and occasionally something unfortunate makes headlines. But I’d rather be here than in Detroit.