Candy Cane or Coal?

Santa keeps track of who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. So do we. Here are the newsmakers who have had an impact on metro Detroit.



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A Candy Cane to...

Eminem,

for meeting a Rochester Hills teen before he died of bone cancer. The boy’s dream to meet the rapper was coordinated by the Rainbow Connection, which grants wishes to kids with terminal illnesses.

 

Gordie Howe,

for a phenomenal recovery from a debilitating stroke. The 87-year-old even showed up at the Detroit Red Wings exhibition season opener in September.

 

The Sea Life Michigan Aquarium,

at Great Lakes Crossing Outlets, for finally opening after years of planning. 

 

The Michigan Opera Theatre,

for complementing the DIA’s exhibit with the Frida opera series. 

 

John Varvatos,

for opening his store downtown in the Wright Kay building — and for bringing in Alice Cooper for a grand opening party. 

 

The Detroit Red Wings,

for continuing their streak of 24 straight playoff appearances (1990-91 to present). It’s the longest active streak in all of North American major professional sports. Now how about that Stanley Cup?

 

The Kresge Foundation,

for announcing $1.6 million in awards to Detroit-focused nonprofit organizations to strengthen 18 neighborhoods.

 

Detroit Athletic Club,

for marking the 100th birthday of its iconic building with a new sculpture project and rooftop plaza.

 

Friends of the Alger Theater,

which has been working to raise money for a crowdfunding campaign and restoration of the 80-year-old building. They reached their $25,000 goal in the fall, making the historic theater eligible for a $25,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

 

The Fifth Detroit Design Festival,

for proving that the idea of a Detroit Creative Corridor wasn’t a pipe dream. This year’s event, which was held throughout the city, drew some 500 exhibitors and new startups.

 

The MSU basketball team,

for getting to the Final Four (as a No. 7 seed) during March Madness. 

 

The Detroit Institute of Arts,

for mounting the massive Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo exhibit, bringing widespread attention to our world-class art institute. 

 

Detroit Homecoming II,

for bringing 170+ expats home to rediscover and invest in the Motor City. Last year’s Homecoming reportedly led to $230 million in direct investments. What will this year’s bring?

 

Oakland University,

for its first graduating class of the William Beaumont School of Medicine.

 

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse DeBoer,

for changing history for same-sex couples across the country. They were legally wed in August. 

 

Eastern Market,

for expanding its mission, including the inaugural Murals In The Market festival in September.

 

Local chefs Garrett Lipar, Marc Djozlija, and Andy Hollyday,

for their James Beard semifinalist nods, and the entire Detroit restaurant scene, for giving food fans news to chew on just about every other day. 

 

The Detroit Zoological Society,

for receiving the Green Award from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums — their top honor for best sustainable business practices. The zoo has also stopped selling bottled water, keeping an estimated 60,000 containers out of landfills. 

 

The Islamic Relief USA and the Michigan Muslim Community Council,

for donating $100,000 to the Detroit Water Fund and Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency to help Detroiters pay their bills after the city shut
off water for residents with overdue balances.

 

The former Brewster Wheeler Rec Center in Brush Park,

which got a new lease on life after the announcement of a multimillion-dollar development plan for a mixed-use project. The rec center where boxer Joe Louis trained had been vacant for nearly a decade. 

 

Galapagos Art Space

and its founding director Robert Elmes, for buying nine buildings in Detroit and Highland Park and announcing their move from New York to the Motor City. 

 

James Robertson, aka the walking man,

whose story about walking 21 miles a day to and from his job renewed conversation on Detroit’s mass transit problems as well as auto insurance reform and the income gap. 

 

WDET-FM,

for nabbing the Michigan Association of Broadcasters’ “Public Radio Station of the Year,” then tapping Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Henderson to host “Detroit Today.” 

 

The Wessen Lawn Tennis Club in Pontiac,

for playing host to United States Tennis Association senior tournaments. 

 

The 2015 North American International Auto Show,

for drawing more than 808,000 attendees — a 12-year high. 

 

Carhartt,

for opening its 20th retail outlet — and the first in Detroit. The Dearborn-based company was founded here in 1889.

 

Maya Leachman,

the 7-year-old Monroe girl who raised money and awareness of Alzheimer’s disease by selling lemonade. Her grandfather, Charlie, has the disease.

 

The Springwells Park neighborhood,

which was designated as the city of Dearborn’s first neighborhood in the National Register of Historic Places. 

 

Chelsea-area farmer, James Bristle,

for donating the bones of an 11,000-15,000-year-old “hybrid mammoth” that he found on his property. Plans are to have the remains displayed at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History.

 

A Lump of Coal to...

Detroit native and presidential hopeful Ben Carson,

for citing prisons as evidence that homosexuality is a choice. The retired neurosurgeon quickly offered an apology. 

 

Michelle Cline, superintendent of Garden City Public Schools,

for comments about not wanting to become “the first white school that failed.” The district was facing financial difficulties and there were concerns it would be dissolved or have an emergency manager appointed. She turned in her resignation effective June 30.

 

State Reps. Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser,

for distracting the legislature from other business (like fixing the roads) with their torrid tea party soap opera. Then there was the cost of a special election to fill their seats, in which they ran again. They lost. 

 

Members of the Sigma Alpha Mu chapter,

at the University of Michigan, for trashing rooms during a ski trip to Treetops Resort in in late January. The resort said physical damages exceeded $200,000. The chapter has since been closed.

 

Rosemary Amanda Andreopoulos,

for registering a blood-alcohol level of 0.29, more than three times the legal limit, after getting her car stuck in a snowbank. Her 9-year-old daughter was also in the car.

 

James Henley and Ricardo Hearn,

the information technology contractors who pleaded guilty to paying kickbacks to Timothy Cromer, a former Detroit Public Library official.

 

The Michigan Legislature,

who kept on pushing any deal to fix our crumbling roadways down the road. Yep, we missed another construction season. Should be another bumpy pothole season. 

 

Madonna,

for not lending a Frida Kahlo painting she owns to the DIA’s exhibition, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit. She previously lent the My Birth painting to a London museum. Maybe her hometown is “too provincial?” 

 

WDIV-TV anchor Carmen Harlan,

who said, “Given the fact that we have the largest Arab population outside of the Middle East, I guess this should not come as a real surprise” at the end of a reporter’s story about an alleged ISIS threat that included Michigan. After outrage from Detroit’s Muslim and Arab-American communities, she apologized.

 

Kathryn Ronk,

who taught at a Catholic high school, for being sentenced six to 15 years in prison for having a sexual relationship with a student. The sentencing judge said there was no room for double standards.

 

William Melendez,

the now former Inkster policeman who beat a 57-year-old with no criminal history. It cost him his job — and cost Inkster taxpayers a nearly $1.4 million settlement.

 

Heroin,

for making a “comeback” and contributing to death and crime rates in the area. In Oakland County alone, heroin overdoses doubled between 2013 and 2014.

 

The vandals,

who damaged multiple historical headstones and graves at the Sashabaw Plains Cemetery in Independence Township.

 

State Sen. Virgil Smith,

for firing shots into his ex-wife’s car. He faces felony charges — including felonious assault and malicious destruction of personal property $20,000 or more. At press time, the trial was set for December.

 

Rudolfo Diaz,

principal of Detroit’s Western High School, for allegedly conspiring with the co-founder of Esperanza Detroit to steal some $100,000. The nonprofit aims to help at-risk kids. 

 

The city of Flint,

for pumping water out of the Flint River after it ended its contract with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The percentage of Flint children with elevated lead levels in their blood has more than doubled in some ZIP codes.

 

The Detroit Tigers,

for just about everything this disappointing season — the firing of GM Dave Dombrowski, throwing in the towel and trading David Price and Yoenis Cespedes, and all those injuries. 

 

Brandon Lamar Williams,

who gets a double dose of coal for not only being suspected in a carjacking attempt but also racially profiling his victims. According to court records, he pointed a revolver at a witness, then said, “Oh, you good, I only rob white people.” 

 

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department,

for generating headlines worldwide for shutting off the water of residents for unpaid bills. Then there were all those broken fire hydrants, too. 

 

The Michigan Economic Development Corp.,

which had to lay off up to 65 people because of budget cuts. Kind of ironic for an organization with a mission to “drive job creation and investment.”  

 

Car thieves,

for nabbing at least three classic vehicles during the Woodward Dream Cruise — including a gold early 1970s Chevrolet Camaro used in Papa John’s Pizza chain commercials.

 

Atlanta businessman Roy Dixon Jr. and former Detroit Treasurer Jeffrey Beasley,

for being part of a cast of characters sentenced in a bribery/kickback scheme that cost the city of Detroit’s pension funds nearly $100 million in losses. Dixon was sentenced to 42 months in prison and three years of supervised release; Beasley got 11 years.

 

Former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers,

for suing McDonalds for $25,000. She claimed she cut her finger and broke her nail on a table on New Year’s Day. 

 

Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Teana Walsh,

for her social media post suggesting that police should shoot protesters in Baltimore. She ended up resigning her position.

 

British photographer David Yarrow,

for letting a tiger get loose during an August photo shoot at the Packard Plant. 

 

Detroit Public Schools,

for having their needs put on the back burner as Detroit Federation of Teachers President Steve Conn and the federation’s executive board battled for control. It’s not over. Conn was removed and plans to form his own union.

 

The Detroit Lions,

for the usual, obvious reasons (i.e. losing). 

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