Burberry and the Wuss: An Urban Journey
by David Rambeau
With all the controversy swirling around the mayor's office focusing on the termination of Karen "Burberry" Dumas from her position as communication director for the city of Detroit, it might be difficult to hear the laughing in the background or the smiles of the faces of certain people, but I swear I heard late one night laughter coming from the cell of ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick just before he nodded off to sleep with these thoughts fading into pleasant dreams...All you high and mighty people thought I was bad news for the city. Well, at least I got through my first term without all this noise, and reelected to a second term before I ran into a little bad luck. I'd still be mayor if people would have just minded their own business. Now look at what's happening... And while the cot in his cell might be hard, his face is ringed with a smile of grim satisfaction.
There were others too. Somewhere in his suburban townhouse or whatever luxury housing he enjoys, I think a smile rippled across the face of our former Chief of Police Warren Evans as he sat on his patio watching the sunset, remembering fondly his days as chief before he too was fired by Mayor Bing. You remember Warren Evans, the police chief who wanted to be a cable television star, who made the trailer walking heroically into the camera, bandoleers across his chest, looking like an urban ninja warrior. Warren Evans who told our current police chief, Ralph Godbee, to take care of the evidence in the closed up, fenced in former Detroit crime lab. "I wanted to do a crime drama, thinks Evans, now what they have at city hall is a soap opera."
And in another suburb the creditors of Bing Enterprises, still out about $400,000 for unpaid bills when the mayor was in the steel business, reads the papers about the happenings at city hall and bursts into a jubilant monologue, "Well, the n..... stiffed us, now he's got some problems of his own. What goes around, comes around."
It is easy to understand their shadenfreude. Over thirty former employees have been fired by the Bing Administration for various and sundry offenses. Others have simply resigned to seek other pastures or opportunities. But with the legal action filed by Rochelle Collins the soap opera will continue, and we'll obtain more details about the inner workings in the executive chambers and what real transparency actually is.
Some data is already alleged. For instance. Did the director of communications actually convince the mayor to cancel a Washington appointment with the senior senator from Michigan so she could go shopping at a luxury retail store in the nation's capital? Could that really be true? Did she really say, "You can meet with that old dude anytime. When it's time to shop, it's time to shop."
One city council member stated that the people of Detroit are exhausted and embarrassed by all the shenanigans going on downtown. No, we're not exhausted and embarrassed. Bing isn't; Dumas isn't. Why should we be? This is entertainment, tragi-comedy. If anything in Detroit is a cause for concern, it's unemployment, rising food prices, homelessness, lack of opportunity, and crime. The drama at city hall is comic relief. Where is Efee, the Clowncilwoman when we need her political commentary?
There's more. The elderly are concerned about their aches and pains and Jesus. Those on fixed income are concerned about the rising cost of living. The employed are worried about their mortgage payments, foreclosure, falling housing values and credit card payments. Junkies are worried about drugs, youth about the lack of jobs. Why should they be exhausted or embarrassed about a city hall dog and pony show? What we all need is "panem et circenses."
And the plaintiff, Rochelle Collins, out of a job, fired, after twenty-one years with the city. I'm sure she didn't expect that when she became executive assistant to the mayor. Would you? What a way to end a career.
The mayor and Burberry had their script together on this complaint, but what will they say when another person sues, and then another? Collins may be the first, but will she be the last? This may be the end of the first act, but with most full length plays the second act come next and then, the finale?
What we have here is a class problem, not a racial problem. Burberry has an upper class attitude. She was making a $140,000 salary with $140,000 in benefits and perks. That's $280,000 per annum. A few Detroit residents have a middle class income and perspective, while over 50% have a lower class environment. That means the dollar store and used clothing outlets. That means fast food and missed meals and bus rides. That means SSI, welfare and no health insurance. Detroiters are functionally illiterate, unskilled and out of work.
"Forget about meeting with the senior senator from Michigan; I got to shop. What's that you say? (As Jean-Jacques Rousseau said) The people have no bread. No bread, let them eat cake."
Watch for the next episode of Burberry and the Wuss.