Wednesday, April 27, 2011

MCC tries to remove reporter from property for asking questions about tuition hike -- Really

Here’s a little insight into the bustling newsroom at the Macomb Daily: It tends to be loud. Phones are ringing, people are talking, TV news drones in the background and police scanners bleat out a constant feed.
But all fell silent briefly Wednesday when scanner chatter started to mention one of our own reporters.
He was at Macomb Community College interviewing students on the effect of the tuition hike. Specifically, he was on taxpayer-funded ground interviewing adults who chose to chat about how the 5 percent increase could affect them.
Apparently, someone at MCC was unhappy he didn’t have – want or need -- a public relations escort , so they called the police, telling deputies they wanted the reporter to be forced to leave.
Though no one had approached the writer, they told officers he “didn’t have permission” to be on campus.
That's right, they wanted the police to force someone to vacate public, taxpayer- funded property on which he was talking to adults eager to voice opinions. And you thought only the Chinese government could think up rules like that.
Thankfully for MCC, they got less egg on their faces than they could have because officers did not intervene – or at least chose to intervene so slowly the reporter was gone before they arrived.
Hopefully, it’s something a professor can bring up during a series of civics lesson: Public property is open to all! Free speech means it’s OK to ask someone a question! Make sure they’re 101-level classes, though, so as to make it less embarrassing.

MCC counts on media being asleep at the wheel -- but obscuration effort fails

PR pros and journalists don’t always see eye-to-eye, but there’s one thing on which we all agree: Never, ever bury the lead.
That’s why we were so surprised when we got a very bland press release titled “Macomb Community College Appoints Trustee to Fill Vacancy; Sets 2011-12 Tuition Rates.”
The intro covers the appointment of Charley G. Jackson Jr. to fill a vacancy on the board of trustees, with a little background about the undoubtedly worthy Mr. Jackson.
It’s information, certainly, but not exactly news.
In this press release it functions as a lullaby meant to lull the unsuspecting news media to sleep before the real information appears later in the press release. That’s where we find out that oh, by the way, MCC is hiking tuition by $4 to $84 per credit hour.  
That’s a 5 percent increase. And that’s the real news.
It was the press release equivalent of a headline writer leading with "PRESIDENT SHOT, the new movie, is being filmed Saturday."
News media folks are accused periodically of being asleep at the wheel, but apparently MCC was counting on the media being downright comatose.  But based on the headlines the tuition hike sparked, it was just wishful thinking.      

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Prosecutor draws sharp divide between Biernat father-son

Macomb County’s top law man, Eric Smith, apparently believes  the apple not only fell far from the tree, but the trees aren’t even in the same forest for retired judge James Biernat Sr. and his son, assistant prosecutor James Biernat Jr.
Smith, who has been Junior’s boss since 2005 and worked with him prior to that, heaped praise on the younger Biernat, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder on April 15 to fill a judicial vacancy on the Macomb County Circuit Court bench.
“We are so proud of Jim,” Smith told The Macomb Daily. “We think he was clearly the best choice for this position. He has been a great prosecutor — always fair, always sought justice and treated everyone with respect.”
Compare that to Smith’s sharp criticism of Junior’s dad in 2008 after Biernat Sr. reversed the murder conviction of Michael George: “We’re fed up with this judge. We’ve had more complaints about this judge being soft and easy on defendants than any other judge. This judge consistently bends over backward for criminal defendants.”
On top of that, Smith retaliated against Senior by instituting a policy – heavily criticized and short lived -- in which plea bargains were withheld from criminal defendants appearing before Biernat. And Smith didn’t exactly discourage a small rally outside the courthouse protesting the decision.
The Insider suspects Smith won’t be sitting with the elder Biernat at the younger one’s swearing-in ceremony.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Blood spills in Macomb County courthouse

Generally, people are waiting for court proceedings because blood has been spilled outside the courtroom.
But it was a different scenario this week when a man passed out in the gallery, hitting his head and spilling a pool of blood on the carpet in Judge Ed Servitto’s courtroom.
After he was whisked away by paramedics to Mount Clemens General Hospital, the courtroom shut down the rest of the day due to the bio-hazard. It forced more than 100 people, most of them in attendance for a hearing regarding a local bar’s challenge to the state smoking ban, to jam the third-floor hallway for about an hour.
The silver lining? Circuit Court is down a couple of judges and up a couple of empty courtrooms.
Judicial and court employees made a smooth transition to an empty courtroom where Judge Caretti had previously meted out justice. Caretti a week before had moved next door to the courtroom previously inhabited by former judge Donald Miller, who retired in January.
Meanwhile, a cleaning team was called in to eliminate evidence of the incident by 4 a.m. the next day, in time for Servitto’s courtroom to reopen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Judge Judy hands out justice and lesson in manners to local twits

A 19-year-old Roseville woman may have learned a lesson in manners from none other than Judge Judy.
The famous TV jurist in an episode that aired Wednesday ordered Jennifer Kish to repay $500 that her then-boyfriend’s aunt paid to bail her out of jail in her hometown.
Kish whined to Judy -- Judith Sheindlin -- that she didn’t think she should repay Jennifer Yacheson for getting her butt out of the Roseville slammer in March 2010 after being arrested with friends for shoplifting.
“There was no agreement to pay her back,” Kish smarmily told Judge Judy.
Judy retorted to the younger Jenny: “Somebody’s got to be out of money, and it’s not going to be her.”
Preach it, Judge Judy -- the Insider and everyone one with a lick of common sense is in the choir.
That brings us back to Kish, who was apparently not invited into the choir or into anyplace else that requires the sense God gave grapes.
Kish complained that after she was arrested she was terrified about being locked up and too scared to call her mother to set her free. (Well, maybe that shows a smidge of common sense.)
In calling around for her boyfriend at the time, she located his aunt, Yacheson, who had helped Kish in the past. Yacheson agreed to be nice again and provide impromptu bail money.
And apparently unknown to her, it was considered a gift by its ungrateful recipient.
If getting caught stealing wasn’t enough to teach her something, maybe Judge Judy’s televised reality check did.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

This is where The Insider gives love to The Clem

Macomb County, for all its delicious quirks, isn't exactly a haven of fine dining. That's why The Insider was delighted to find the newly opened Allen's River House across the street from our own humble Macomb Daily offices in Mount Clemens (incidentally, also across the street from the Gibraltar Trade Center.)
Allen's looks like a typical roadside dive -- until you walk inside.
That's when you catch an eyefull of peaceful river views through a long bank of windows.
But if you're still unconvinced about the special attributes of the dining establishment on N. River Road, check out the menu.
Sure, it has the traditional burgers, fries and onion wings.
But is also has lemon chicken pot stickers, duck wings in an orange ginger sauce, oysters Rockefeller, steamed mussels in white wine, potato crusted whitefish and cedar wrapped salmon with buter chive sauce.
Everything comes at a reasonable price -- salmon is the most expensive thing on the menu at $15. Everything else is in the $5-$10 range.
And for that, you're getting something not often seen in Macomb County -- fresh, seasonal ingredients.

According to a recent review in the Detroit News, Chef Tim Winterfield gets fresh beef from Crooked Creek Ranch in Bruce Township and hard rolls from Cantoro's Italian Bakery in Livonia. The menu promises "all of our meats are locally raised, all natural and antibiotic free."

Before this, Winterfield ran Le Metro, a French-themed bistro in Southfield.
A French chef using fresh, seasonal ingredients and locally farmed products in Mount Clemens? You heard it here.
So take The Insider's advice and give fine dining in the Clem a try, especially when the weather warms and you can relax on Allen's spacious deck along the river.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Here comes the bride…all dressed in green

White is the traditional color of weddings, but don’t tell that to Mount Clemens’ mayor Barb Dempsey, who sees only green.
And it’s not because she’s jealous.
No, the venerable mayor thinks about money when she thinks about weddings.
Dempsey recently said she has done her fair share in bringing revenue to the cash-short community by, you guessed it, performing ceremonies for blissful brides and grooms. Or at least paying brides and grooms.
During a recent budget study session, the mayor remarked that she has performed enough weddings in Mount Clemens to cover the $1,500 salary for her part-time position.
“My salary is paid for,” she said. “The taxpayers aren’t paying me a dime.”
The cost for having the mayor preside over a marriage in Mount Clemens is $100 for residents, $150 for non-residents, according to City Clerk Lynne Kennedy. All proceeds go to the general fund.
So, if you’ve got the Benjamins, Dempsey has the time.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Payments for nonexistent shopping center, bug killing, surprise cash-strapped officials

In this kind of economy, municipal budgets are being watched like a supermodel watches her weight.
So some Mount Clemens city commissioners were a little surprised at a few items they found in the budget while conducting an in-depth study session recently.
For example, Commissioner Karan Bates-Gasior pointed out the city apparently is paying a $1,000 annual membership fee to belong to the International Association of Shopping Centers.
But there’s a problem.
“We don’t have any shopping centers in the city,” she said.
City Manager Doug Anderson was equally puzzled. “That’s the first I ever heard of that,” he said.
They also questioned why the city needs an exterminator, only to discover there are critters such as bats and bees that sometime find their way into City Hall.
And there’s something even worse.
“There are some big spiders that like to come inside,” said Finance Director Marilyn Dluge.
Spiders? The Insider is no fiscal genius, but we suggest investing in a few .25 cent fly swatters and leaving exterminators to cities flush with cash.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

St. Clair Shores official has a top ‘stache in town

Members of the St. Clair Shores City Council are jokingly referring to Chris Rayes as the “Tom Selleck of St. Clair Shores” these days.
Is it because he drives a red Corvette around Hawaii? Nah, he just grew a lush and luxurious mustache.
Rayes, director of the city’s Community Development and Inspections department, recently came in second place for having the best mustache in a contest sponsored by the city’s firefighters union, International Association of Firefighters Local 1744.
Best mustache contest? That's right. Firefighter Dan Sebastian said the local came up with the contest, which was held at Boat Works Bar & Grill, as a fundraiser for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the Great Lake Burn Camp. Participants each paid a $20 fee to enter and then collected pledges.
To qualify, Rayes had to first shave his mustache and let it grow back. That took about three weeks.
“It’s the first time in 30 years I didn’t have a mustache for a period of time,” said Rayes, a 14-year veteran of City Hall.
Firefighters Adam Walleman came in first place, while Ian Griffin finished third.
The winners received some special gifts but all participants took home new Gillette razors, organizers said.
Rayes is to be commended not only for being a good sport, but also raising $465 in pledges on his own – the highest amount raised in the event by an individual.
He won -- and not just by a hair.