LeDuff: After Helping Win the White House, Michigan Dems Need to Take Care of Their Houses

February 17, 2021, 11:00 PM by  Charlie LeDuff


President Joe Biden plans to visit Kalamazoo on Friday as part of his first major trip since taking office.

It would've been a fitting acknowledgment to Michigan Democratic leaders for helping Biden take back the White House. But party leaders here in Michigan have some very real houses of their own to get into order.

Nursing homes 

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York is taking a beating not only by the press but by his own party members for concealing the true Covid death count in the nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

It may be worse in Michigan. Governor Whitmer — who cribbed many of Cuomo's nursing home policies — never required death data to be collected in Michigan nursing homes until June 2020, well after the  first wave of the pandemic had passed.

Now each week, the Covid mortality data is back-filled with “vital records” searches that find people who died some time ago. 

Last week, 75 percent of deaths reported to have occurred last week, actually occured at some other undisclosed time. Exactly when is a question the administration won't answer, as we wait on our freedom of information records request.

To make matters worse, state and federal Covid data seems to conflict. For instance, state data shows there have been no Covid cases or deaths at Boulevard Temple Care Center in Detroit. Federal data, however, show that the facility reported 60 cases and three deaths. How can we fix a problem when you don't know how big the problem is?

You never have to die, register to vote 

There is a notorious nursing home at 1640 Webb St. in Detroit, which hasn't been occupied for a couple of years. The lights are out, the blinds are missing and the sidewalk snow goes unshoveled. 

Nevertheless, 122 supposed residents there are registered to vote. Among those folks, 27 are over the age of 100. Of those folks, at least 17 are dead, but still registered as active voters.

There is beautiful Esther Lowe – born in 1899.

Minnie Bell – 119 and eternally young.   

Charlie Birt, old as dirt. Born in 1917. Died in 1999, but alive and well according to the Michigan qualified voter list.

None of these people voted, according to election records and none received an absentee ballot. Still, after all we've been through these past few months, it doesn't do much for the collective confidence. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says she is cleaning the rolls, she might start with the the halls on Webb Street.

Fix the damn house 

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist

Remember when Garlin Gilchrist II was picked by Gretchen Whitmer as her running mate in 2018 to lend some Detroit credibility to the Democratic ticket? 

It turns out he had little cred in the neighborhood where he owned a blighted, partially boarded investment property. He bought it from the Detroit Land Bank, whose rehab rules state that the city was supposed to have repossessed it for lack of timely compliance. 

But then Gretch and the Deuce got elected, and Gilchrist was allowed by the city's land bank to flip the house and pocket the $190,000 on a building he bought for $13,500.

The property was purchased by a murky LLC based in Florida. Gilchrist has refused to explain how he found it, or how LLC he found him. The LLC ain't talking either. 

Either way, the building is in worse shape than when Gilchrist owned it, with a crumbling facade and missing window.

So why hasn't the city repossessed it?

“Currently the property is delinquent on compliance updates,” said Alyssa Strickland a spokeswoman for the Detroit Land Bank by way of email. “As a result the case is being reviewed.”

House of horrors

Another city-owned house needs tending. 

The abandoned domicile at 3696 Mack Ave. is filled with murderous memories and empty promises. At it still stands. And will continue to stand.

This is the east side house where a serial killer did his work back in June 2019, mutilating one woman and attempting the same on a second woman who escaped.

The city of Detroit owns that house and Mayor Mike Duggan promised a year-and-a-half ago to tear it down. 

Hizzoner took the opportunity of a woman's murder to push a quarter-billion-dollar bond proposal at a press conference.

The proposal has since passed. The bonds have been put out to market. Demolition contractors have been selected in a heave of controversy. Houses have been selected for demolition, but curiously, 3696 Mack Ave. is not on that list and no one shovels the sidewalk.

Duggan's spokesman John Roach on Thursday morning says the city had committed funds to demolish the home back in 2019. However, a judge in the criminal case blocked it from being razed in August 2020 so defense attorneys could have access to the crime scene. In January, the city law department filed a formal motion with Wayne County Circuit Judge Regina Thomas to move forward with the demolition, which has yet to be ruled on. 

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