Telegram - Serving Metropolitan Detroit Since 1944

By Renee Summers
Telegram Reporter 

A Look Back at Some of the Noteworthy News Highlights of 2019


January 2, 2020

Another year is coming to a close. The Telegram thought we’d review some of the news that made headlines here in our downriver communities. How many continue to stick out in your mind?

2019 began with the federal government shut down. The longest government shutdown on record came as President Trump and Congressional Democrats reached a deadlock over the president’s request for more than $5 billion to build his long promised U.S.-Mexico border wall, funding Congressional Democrats had said all along they would provide no money for. Prior to the shutdown, Trump agreed to a short-term funding deal which provided no money for the wall; after pushback from conservative pundits, the president reversed his position, forcing the government into a shutdown. Both the NAACP and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib called on the president and Congress to end the shutdown.

On the morning of February 3, residents in downriver communities, Detroit, and Dearborn were awakened by a foul odor in the air which made many sick. Marathon later explained the odor was the result of a malfunctioning flare at the refinery, which allowed the release of the substance mercaptan into the air. Residents as far north as Macomb County were able to detect the strong odor. Local fire and police departments were inundated with phone calls from panicked residents. Panic turned to anger as residents and state elected officials participated in a rally organized by the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, which aimed to bring accountability to Marathon and awareness to the lack on any type of warning system at the refinery.

In May, the focus was on water quality in Michigan. The city of Hamtramck warned residents of high levels of lead detected in samples taken from homes in the city. In Detroit, high levels of lead were discovered in the school’s drinking fountains, prompting Superintendent Nikolai Vitti to suggest that drinking fountains in the school buildings might be eliminated. High lead levels in drinking water were also detected in Ionia, Kalamazoo, and Benton Harbor.

On June 4, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation making it illegal to sell e-cigarettes and other non-traditional nicotine products to minors. “This is an important step in protecting public health and keeping tobacco products out of the hands of our kids,” the governor said.

In July, Dr. Shelley Holt, Superintendent of the Wayne-Westland School District, filed a $2 million lawsuit, alleging retaliation against her by the district, after she had reported violations of federal and state laws which govern the district’s operations. She had also taken action to correct mishandling of district financial affairs. Dr. Holt had also begun to address the district’s illegal use of disciplinary withdrawals against predominantly African-American students and violations of the rights of special education students. The disagreements between the school board and the superintendent divided the community. In October, Holt resigned and the lawsuit was dissolved


On July 27, the city of Inkster hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for its new Leanna Hicks Public Library, set to open early in 2020. On hand for the event were Inkster Mayor Byron Nolen, Wayne County Commissioner Glenn Anderson, and Terrence Hicks, grandson of Leanna Hicks. Library Board President Akindele Akinyem praised the city’s development of a 10,000 square foot, modern library, saying, “Today’s event is historic.” The library’s previous building on Inkster Road was permanently closed in early 2018 due to building problems, and the library has been operating out of a nearby strip mall.

In October, after a tenuous six-week strike which brought financial strain to 46,000 UAW workers, General Motors and the United Auto Workers reached a deal. Terry Dittes, UAW vice president of the UAW-GM Department, said, “We are all so incredibly proud of UAW-GM members who captured the hearts and minds of a nation.” Analysts say the UAW strike reflected Americans’ anxiety about the overall economy.

Hometown pride was at an all-time high in November, when the River Rouge Panthers met Muskegon at Ford Field in the Michigan high school football finals. River Rouge was victorious with a 30-7 win, the first state football championship in the school’s history.

Good bye 2019, Hello 2020!


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