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Detroit Free Press
CAROL CAIN

Conyers sparks reaction on race, Cobo

BY CAROL CAIN • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST • March 29, 2009

"Making peace, I have found, is much harder than making war."

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-- Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Fein

And so it appears based on reaction to my column last week about various conflicts smoldering across our region: Democrats vs. Republicans, Wayne County vs. Oakland County, haves vs. have-nots and more.

I talked to Michigan Chronicle Publisher Sam Logan, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano and Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson about a host of issues.

But the one who grabbed the lion's share of attention was Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers.

I wrote last week about a taping of "Michigan Matters" (which aired last Sunday on WWJ-TV) in which Conyers commented on Cobo Center and touched on race.

In discussing whether race had entered into the debate over Cobo and putting a regional authority in charge, I asked whether she thought she was a racist. She said: "Black people cannot be racist."

E-mails and voice-mails came pouring in disagreeing with that idea.

"She said in your column in Sunday's Free Press 'I don't think African Americans can be racist.' This doesn't mean they can't be prejudiced," wrote Christine Codish.

Segments from Conyers' interview also aired on radio shows, including the "Jay and Bill Show" (Jay Towers and Bill McAllister) on the Ticket, 97.1 FM. Callers flooded the station's lines.

Indeed, a station spokesman told me Conyers is a sparkplug for discussion.

She also argued that Cobo could be renovated with federal stimulus dollars -- an idea that attorneys for Granholm, Patterson and Ficano do not seem to agree on.

E-mailers wondered about the dollars and cents of it all.

"Is there any realistic chance of stimulus money being used for Cobo Hall?" asked Charles Richards. "If that was done, then why not let the metro hotel and motel tax expire when scheduled and let Detroit be responsible for, and pay for, Cobo Hall entirely?"

If you are interested in hearing more on Cobo, race relations and other regional topics, don't miss the second Michigan Chronicle "Pancakes and Politics "event April 23 at the Detroit Athletic Club. Tickets are available; call 313-963-8100, ext. 2254.

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Foreclosure advice

As the home foreclosure crisis continues, leaders are stepping up to offer counsel.

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Ted Wahby, treasurer in Macomb County since 1995, has met with thousands of people the past few years in a bid to help them work through the process of saving their home.

Wahby, a former executive at Comerica, talked about the human toll of the situation during a taping of "Michigan Matters," which airs at 11 a.m. today on WWJ-TV.

In Oakland County, there were 9,625 sheriff's sales in 2008, up from 8,019 in 2007. In just the first two months of 2009, there were 1,087 sheriff's sales, said Kathy Williams, Housing Counseling and Homeless Services, which is part of Oakland County's Community and Home Improvement Division.

"We have partnered with other agencies to host events that bring lenders, housing counselors and consumers together to resolve mortgage delinquencies," Williams said.

Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press personal finance columnist, also talked about the crisis and warned financially struggling owners to beware of scam artists trying to cash in on their woes.

CAROL CAIN hosts "Michigan Matters" at 11 a.m. Sundays on WWJ-TV. Cain can be reached at 313-222-6732 or clcain@cbs.com.



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