My range of emotions while working in my childhood neighborhood during the past 11-plus years has touched nearly every point along the way from elated to despair.
The feeling you get after putting on a successful event at the park — after watching people come together for a common good, seeing deprived children feel happy and safe, if only for a little while, because you actually got off the couch and did something — must be what Heaven is like.
On the other end of the spectrum, the day you get a call to tell you that the body of a young woman has been “dumped” in the park, you actually question the existence of God.
Today, I’m mostly just pissed.
A dear friend of mine, Imogene Johnson, who has been with me every step of the way since we first decided to rebuild and reopen Fletcher Field, is facing a $200 fine — perhaps as much as $300 with court costs and other expenses — because justice doesn’t always prevail … especially in a city that’s strapped for cash.
A few years back, Imogene purchased a couple of vacant lots on Almont Street, not far from the park, for the sole purpose of beautifying the neighborhood. She planted a fruit garden on the property and has since taken care of it, sometimes with the assistance of team partners such as DTE, Mt. Olivet Cemetery and Greening of Detroit.
Recently, somebody dumped a load of garbage on the property, which happens all the time in the neighborhood because there are so few eyeballs left to keep the unscrupulous in check. The first Imogene knew of the situation was when she received the ticket.
Now mind you, while Fletcher Field mostly remains clean, there’s trash everywhere in the vicinity, from stacks of bald tires to old appliances … and everything in between. I’ve even seen beaten-up boats left to rot on vacant lots in the area.
Worse yet, there’s guys like Manny Moroun — speculators who bought up property in the area hoping one day to cash in if City Airport ever expands — who have left gaping, rotting holes all over town. And I’m guessing, because of their money and power, they don’t get tickets.
Anyway, Imogene is a saint, has given more to the children of Detroit out of the kindness of her heart than movers and shakers in the city like Moroun, who are mostly out to get even richer. Just today she was working out the details of a Thanksgiving-basket giveaway in the neighborhood.
So, yeah, I’m pissed. If you take away $300 from Imogene, you’re also stealing from the kids around Fletcher Field. That’s not cool, Mayor Duggan. It’s time to do the right thing.