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The Flint Police Department and the Mayor: Part 1 of 2

April 29, 2010 3 comments

From A to Zowie

The Flint Police Department and the Mayor: Part 1 of 2

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the April 28, 2010 issue of the Mt. Morris/Clio Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

Sooner or later, you’re bound to see this ad on Craig’s List:

“City of Flint seeks political leader to serve as mayor. Candidate must have experience, leadership skills and ability to communicate. Must be fiscally responsible. Ability to develop solid professional relationships with the police and fire department are an absolute must. Publicity hounds, those whose wives have auto dealerships or those named Kwame Kilpatrick need not apply.”

For several years, Don Williamson was the mayor of Flint. Overall, I saw him somewhat as as grandfatherly comic relief: he gave odd quotes, wore that silver, red, white and blue hard hat and when shown on TV at Flint City Council meetings, he bore an aura of dignity and authority. Some thought the aura was a façade while others didn’t: he was re-elected to office before resigning. One journalist colleague also described Williamson as a bully who would cancel his wife’s car ads if he felt a newspaper’s story on him was too negative.

Enter Dayne Walling, the current mayor of Flint. A few years ago, when he ran against (and lost to) Williamson, he seemed young, fresh, bubbling with lots of new ideas. Some may have even pictured him as a superhero named Wonder Walling, who would rescue Flint from its broken economy and its crime wave.

Now we’re left to wonder just how much of an improvement Walling is over Williamson, if at all.

Williamson apparently doesn’t see his successor as the leader Flint needs. Recently, The Don announced he was thinking of running for office again. For some, this would probably be comparable to Wayne Fontes announcing he wants to coach the Detroit Lions again or Joey Harrington expressing a desire to quarterback the team again. “No, thanks” would be the general response.

While there are those who see Walling as the change Flint needs, there are those who don’t. Someone I know works for the Flint Police Department, and he’s certainly not a Walling fan.

“Jack” tells me that many at the police department aren’t big fans of the mayor, either. A lot of it has to do with Walling’s decision to deal with Flint’s budget deficits by making cuts to the police department. Fewer police officers on the street, demotions, pay reductions. Even with the reduction in manpower, the crimes (including the homicides) continue.

“At this rate, we will need the National Guard this summer,” Jack mused, making me wonder if his tongue-in-cheek comment might be proven true.

I read once about Albert A. Seedman, the first Jewish chief of detectives in the New York Police Department. At one time, crime in The Big Apple was so bad that Seedman worked long days, seven days a week as the weeks turned into months.

When we last spoke a few weeks ago, Jack worked 12 hour shifts. This, he explained, gives the police half the days of the year off. However, they may be returning to eight-hour shifts in May.

Could he and other Flint police officers work 12-hour shifts seven days a week for a few months?

“We certainly could,” he said, adding: “We just wouldn’t get paid to do it, though.”

Jack works a second job and tells me that “99.99999” percent of police officers work second jobs not because they’re bored, but because they need the extra income.

In my second installment, I’ll ask a Flint Police Sergeant’s Association official his opinions about this issue.

Richard Zowie’s a reporter and columnist for the Herald. Visit his blog at www.fromatozowie.wordpress.com or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Tommy ‘Hitman’ Hearns’ financial woes are a wake-up call

April 21, 2010 Leave a comment

From A to Zowie

Tommy ‘Hitman’ Hearns’ financial woes are a wake-up call

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the April 21, 2010 issue of the Mt. Morris/Clio and Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald)

If you’re a boxing fan who wonders whatever happened to Michigan boxing legend Tommy “Hitman” Hearns, the news isn’t the greatest.

That’s because Hearns, who made millions of dollars in his career in the ring, is now broke. He’s hundreds of thousands of dollars behind on his house payments and he recently had an auction to sell boxing memorabilia, personal items and other possessions to pay back almost $450,000 owed to the Internal Revenue Service.

Attorney and blogger Debbie Schlussel, who lived near Hearns while growing up in Detroit, notes that Hearns used his boxing earnings to support his sizable family. You also have to consider taxes to be paid, a lifestyle to finance and not-so-great investments. Hearns sounds like a guy who was overcome with good intentions and bad advice rather than being a chronic spendthrift.

It is sad to see Hearns, described as a friendly guy outside the ring, fall into financial problems. And considering the many millions he earned, many of us can’t help but wonder, “How?”

For me, it’s hard to fathom. Both of my parents were born during the Great Depression and were very poor growing up. Especially my mother, born the fifth of six children to Oklahoma cotton pickers. Even now, I’m perfectly content using a rewards card for discount shopping and visiting both Goodwill and rummage sales.

I hope Hearns is able to return to some sort of financial solvency and often wonder what’s needed to prevent going from rags to riches and back to rags.

I like what one famous singer and two famous athletes have said.

Kelly Clarkson told Reader’s Digest during an interview that she told her financial advisor to appropriately save and invest her money so that she will never have to take a job solely because she needs the money. Clarkson’s quite a forward thinker. I understand she also has surprisingly-modest backstage demands for her concert. This is helpful also, since promoters can save money on low-maintenance divas.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated back in 2002, then-Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal spoke about how he trusts nobody and takes no chances with his finances.

“I got a small camp and my family. I got a guy who handles my money, and I got people watching him,” O’Neal explained.

This approach is especially vital since, as Shaq added: “I got old teammates I don’t even know calling and asking for money.”

Former Michigan State basketball star and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson told SI in 2009 that hiring the wrong financial advisors and trusting them too much can be fatal.

When giving out financial advice to younger athletes, Johnson told the magazine he advises them against relying on friends and family as financial advisors but to instead rely on people who have expertise.

Whether it’s Hearns making a successful financial comeback or John Q. Public suddenly receiving a large amount of money, these three give us all something to think about.

Richard Zowie is a reporter and columnist for the Herald. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

This lefty likes Phil ‘Lefty’ Mickelson

April 16, 2010 Leave a comment

From A to Zowie

This lefty likes Phil ‘Lefty’ Mickelson

By Richard Zowie

(Published in the April 14, 2010 issue of the Mt. Morris/Clio and Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald in Michigan)

My, how times have changed.

It seemed like only yesterday (actually, 2003) when Phil Mickelson was the joke of golf. In those days he was a popular golfer without a major victory on the PGA tour. He commented about Tiger Woods being good despite using “inferior equipment” from Nike. Mickelson later claimed his comments were misunderstood while Woods went on to win more and more major titles, make lots of money and eventually marry a former Swedish model. Woods was the talk of the golf world as he won every event in sight, as Michigan golf authorities begged him to attend the Warwick Hills Buick Open in Grand Blanc. Mickelson, who finally won his first major in 2004 when he won the Master’s tournament in Augusta, Ga., was golf’s bridesmaid destined to live in Woods’ shadow. Especially with Woods’ insatiable drive to win no matter how many victories he’d accumulated.

Mickelson has now won four majors after Sunday’s win at the Master’s. He picked up his third green jacket by shooting a 16 under par. Woods was five back at 11 under.

We remember Woods, don’t we?

You know: the vehicle crash, the women coming forward and saying they’d had affairs with him, the far-too-much-information text messages (Woods must’ve naïvely assumed his girlfriends would just delete the incriminating messages), his wife moving out and their marriage being as uncertain as Michigan weather patterns during the transition into spring. Woods laid low, checked himself into sex rehab and then gave a public apology that seemed as scripted as a reality show. One mistress from Woods’ harem described the golf star as a lousy tipper, and others remark about how Woods is extremely surly towards autograph seekers, even children.

News reports say Woods was even caught on live television using profanity to express displeasure with himself during this most recent Master’s competition.

And then there’s Mickelson.

In 2009, before Hurricane Elin hit Woods and while Woods’ infidelities were said to be open secrets on the PGA tour, Mickelson’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Lefty announced he would suspend his golf career indefinitely to be with his wife. Unlike Woods, Mickelson is said to be very fan friendly: he signs autographs, acknowledges the gallery and is very approachable.

Nike used to run “I’m Tiger Woods!” commercials. I have to wonder if golf has spent far too long marketing the wrong person. Instead of a surly, Jekyll and Hyde womanizer, maybe they should use a family man who loves the game and its fans.

As Tiger plans his comeback, I’m still laughing at the comments of his caddy, Steve Williams, who said he won’t tolerate any heckling of Woods by fans at golf tournaments. He probably also would prefer fans not breathe lest Woods’ porcelain-fragile concentration be shattered into a quillion pieces.

Williams should thank the golf gods that his boss is a golfer and not a baseball player.

Remember Boston Red Sox star Wade Boggs? In 1988, it was revealed he’d had an affair with a lady named Margo Adams. Guess what Boggs got to listen to at each ballpark on the road? “MAAARRRGO! MAAARRRGO!” Later that season, during a road game in Anaheim against the now-Los Angeles Angels, some smart aleck organist played the theme to “The Addams Family” while Boggs was at bat. Boggs also faced the humilation of Adams granting a Penthouse interview and disclosing details of her and Boggs’ sex life.

One of these days I would like to start golfing as a hobby. Somewhere in storage, I have a set of left-handed golf clubs my father-in-law bought for me during a rummage sale excursion (I’m a natural left-hander who also bats and golfs left-handed). If and when I do start golfing, I want to be like Lefty, not Tiger.

Richard Zowie’s a reporter and columnist for the Herald. He thinks a golf handicap is having to wear his coke-bottle glasses while swinging a club. Visit his blog at www.fromatozowie.wordpress.com or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

Take me out to the ballgame…

(Published in the April 7, 2010 issue of the Mt. Morris/Clio and Birch Run/Bridgeport [Mich.] Herald)

From A to Zowie

Take me out to the ball game…

By Richard Zowie

This past Saturday, my wife and I went out to watch our two youngest sons partake in baseball camp in Vassar. Both will be playing baseball this summer, Robert in the minor leagues and Charles in the majors. Robby’s team is the Rockhounds while we don’t know Chip’s yet. I’m hoping it’ll be the Astros.

The camp was pretty exciting to watch as all the young ballplayers learned the basics of hitting, fielding and throwing. They then played a simulated game.

Watching both play baseball brought back memories for me of the two years I spent playing little league baseball in Alvin, Texas (about 30 miles southeast of Houston) in the early 1980s. My first year I played on the Orioles and the second year on the Braves. This, of course, was back in the days where the only thing tougher than trying to hit a home run was wearing the 100 percent polyester uniform pants in the humid heat of the Texas Gulf Coast.

Richard Zowie, Little Leaguer with the Orioles, Alvin, Texas, circa 1981.

Having played two years of little league ball doesn’t qualify one as an expert on the game, but there are a few things I try to tell my sons that I hope will turn them into better ballplayers than what I was:

One, don’t swing at every pitch you see. If you swing at terrible pitches, you’ll become the opposing pitcher’s best friend and will all but guarantee he won’t throw anything hittable to you.

Two, focus on making contact with the ball first, and then, when you’ve become good at that, then advance to trying to crush the ball into Saginaw Bay.

Three, if your coach gives you advice that differs from your Dad (that’s me) tells you, always defer to your coach.

Four, always hit the cutoff man.

Five, baseball’s a game, and games should be fun.

Case in point: Rick, my teammate back in the day with both the Orioles and Braves. Rick was a big, friendly kid who always had a smile on his face. He also liked taking chances on the field.

In one game, Rick hit a bouncer to the shortstop, who promptly overthrew the first baseman. Rick was safe at first, and while the ball wasn’t too far away, Rick decided to try for second.

The first baseman’s throw to second bounced away towards the shortstop. Rick then ran for third. The throw beat him, but the third baseman dropped the ball.

Yep, you guessed it, Rick ran towards home where the throw arrived late. We all celebrated his “home run”.

Watching him run around the bases (which was actually more like a slow jog), it was almost like slow motion and as if the theme to “Chariots of Fire” was blaring on the loudspeakers.

We also had a feisty female head coach that year (back in those good ol’ boy days in Texas, this was very unusual). If I remember right, her name was Donna Miller. I’ll never forget that game my Dad attended. Normally a quiet man, Dad wondered aloud why the team was letting a woman coach.

And, yes, she heard him and glared at him. That probably explains why she seemed pretty sour towards me after that.

Richard Zowie’s a reporter and columnist for the Herald and a diehard Houston Astros fan. Visit his blog at http://www.fromatozowie.wordpress.com or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.