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April 01, 1975 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1975-04-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Elye airliigan Dail!;
Eighty-Five Years of Editorial Freedom
Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

Tuesday, April 1, 1975

News Phone: 764-0552

420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mi. 48104

LSA-SG oversteps bounds

THE LITERARY College Student
Government Council LSA - SG
late last month approved a $150 al-
location to a group supporting the
proposed rent control City Charter
amendment facing voters in next
week's municipal election.
Regardless of the merits of the is-
sue involved-- and there are many
- the LSA student government
should not donate funds to one side
or the other in an electoral contest.
By allocating the money, those on
the council are, in effect, forcing ev-
ery one of the 16,000 LSA students to
make a contribution in support of the
rent control measure.
The LSA government re-
ceives money through an involuntary
50 cent assessment levied against all
students enrolled in the college. The
council members can then dispense
the money as they see fit, but certain
ethical restraints should apply --
though they have not in this case.
Certainly some LSA students op-
pose and plan to vote against the rent
control amendment. They must not
be forced to contribute financially to
a position with which they disagree
--even though the funds flow
through the council before reaching
the group backing the election pro-
Admittedly, almost every issue that
comes before student government for
funding consideration can be con-

strued as political to one degree or
another. However, in this particular
care, we feel that LSA-SG has over-
stepped its bounds in allocating funds
for the rent control group.
A FTER ALL, SHOULD, say, the
state legislature devote tax dol-
lars to the coffers of a group either
for or against a ballot proposal? The
answer has to be a categorical "no."
Prior to the Supreme Court ruling on
abortions, there was a proposal to
make them legal in Michigan. The
legislature was prohibited from giv-
ing appropriations to either side in
that hotly disputed matter. And well
it should have been.
Similarly, a year ago Mayor James
Stephenson announced that he would
use his office, which is maintained at
taxpayer expense, as a headquarters
for forces opposed to the measure re-
instituting the $5 marijuana law.
Again involuntarily collected funds
-taxes - would have been used to
advocate a particular stand on an
election issue which many people op-
1[AD THE LSA COUNCIL acted ju-
diciously it would have funded F
non-partisan activity in this case -
perhaps a newsletter presenting both
pro and anti-rent 'control positions.
Unfortunately, the members failed
to exercise good judgment and have
set a precedent that is abusive and

BACK WHEN Lt. Governor Jim Dam-
man was just a Troy city com-
missioner, he and a bunch of his friends
used to sit around and talk about real
estate investments.
They would discuss which pieces of
property in Troy would become valuable
when a plan to expand the city's business
district went into effect. Then they would
go out and buy the land.
Now, not just everybody knew about
the plan. Those who did had to watch
city government very closely - like from
the inside out But that wasn't hard for
Damman because his friends included
two other commissioners, the city at-
torney, and a member of the Board of
Tax review.
To be perfectly legal about the opera-
tion, the twelve men formed a business
partnership called Lincoln & Company.
Under state law, corporations must main-
tain a business address and file a cer-
tificate with the county clerk's office.
Funny thing about Lincoln & Co.,
though, its headquarters is listed as a
Macomb County warehouse owned by
one of the partners. Damman and h i s
cohorts, however, all lived in Troy -
which is in Oakland County - and they
bought land only there, too.
WHEN THEY snatched up a piece of
property, it was purchased by one of
the partners in his own name and later
transferred to the company. In effect,
they were all silent partners in the firm.
That kept things pretty hush-hush about
Lincoln & Co. After all, somebody might
think it a bit peculiar that city officials
were buying land that suddenly increas-
ed in value, as the result of municipal
planning decisions.
Ain't it perfectly honest to
charge a good price a n d
make a profit on my invest-
ment and foresight? Of
course it is. Well, that's hon-
est graft."9
Graft is as old as politics itself -
the two go hand-in-hand. Back before
the turn of the century when Tammany
Hall flourished in New York City, one
of its bosses described how he became a
"My party's in power in the city, and
it's going to undertake a lot of public
improvements. Well, I'm tipped off, say,
that they're going to lay out a new
park at a certain place.
"I see my opportunity and I take
it. I go to that place and I buy up
all the land I can in the neighborhood
... and there is a rush to get my land,
which nobody cared particularly for be-
"Ain't it perfectly honest to charge a
good price and make a profit on my in-
vestmenteand foresight? Of course it is.
Well that's honest graft."
AND-THAT'S how George Washington
Plunkitt of Tammany Hall was able to
die fat and rich.
But "honest" graft didn't pass away
with either Plunkitt or Taman. - how
could it when people like Jim Damman
still practice the enriching art?
Last week, the state attorney general's
office issued a massive report ondalle-
gations that Damman had misused his
city commissioner's position and prior1
to that his seat on the Troy Zoning
Board of Appeals to aid the Lincoln &
Co. enterprise.-

The study concluded that Damman had

Vot illegal
broken no laws. In reading between the
lines, however, it seems obvious that the
lieutenant governor had at best violat-
ed the public trust. Moreover, Dam-
man couldn't be prosecuted, mainly be-
cause the statutes are vague and poorly
drafted - with many loopholes, most of
which Lincoln & Co. found.
Damman's political rise and his in- "As
creasing involvement in the shady land
dealings began with his appointment
to the zoning board back in mid-1967. gan r4
SHORTLY THEREAFTER, Lincoln & the m,
Co. came into official existence, although
nobody but the partners knew about it,
and they "established a pattern of con- Dam
duct which involved willful secrecy," ac-
cording to the attorney general's find-
ings. his ca
The firm's first real estate venture was
fairly small - it bought a parcel of land candi
for $22,000 and sold it a year later for
$32,000. During that time, Damman voted
to improve the zoning of an adjacent conuye
piece of property which in turn poten-
tially increased the value of his hold- O-v.
ings as well.
In 1968, the company attempted to
make a series of purchases which at the
time seemed most unorthodox. Various
members of Lincoln tried to acquire the
back portions of a number of adjacent
lots, but no access routes. Thus they mowy
would have owned land completely sur-
rounded by other people's property.
At that time, the city commission was As an
reviewing a planning proposal that would tical asp
involve development, of a central busi- he serve
ness district in Troy and a major affairs h
throughfare encircling the commercial roads, a
area. especiall
THE ROAD, according to the plan, In 197
would cut through the land Lincoln had the Hous
tried to buy - giving the owners val- type ofc
uable commercial space on both sides. it appea
While all this transpired, Damman was contribut
not on the commission but two of his es on cit
partners were - thus he would benefit
from their knowledge about the devel- THE L
opment plan. followed
A year later, Damman won a seat on able vote
the commission and played a direct role the con
in a couple of other profiteering ven- the Troy
tares. from res
His company bought another piece of him to co
property just behind land fronting a The c
major road in Troy. Then as a commis- man's c
sioner he voted to widen the road - ef- Baturr
fectively making the property nearest gressiona
the street less valuable and his moreso. to politic
"As a result (of the road widening), Interes
lots will be much less useable unless which ow
combined with adjacent parcels. Thus later leas
these owners could be placed in the shopping
position of either acquiring the . . . pro- Damm
perty from Lincoln or selling their own suspiciou
lots to Lincoln, the owners of the par- he receiv
cels behind their property," the attorney ter votin
general's report states. had intr
the vote
LATER ON, Lincoln bought other pro- who live
perties that stood to increase under the As the
pronosed business district plan, which quesions
had finally been made public. from Da
However, a second land use study was paign wo
ordered. suffered
That plan, as originally presented to The on
the commission, "downgraded the pro- from th
perties . . . owned by Lincoln," accord- Damman
ing to the attorney general's report. grafter.I
Damman, probably seeing his invest- what he'
ments going awry, offered to vote for an entire Ji
amended version of the second study - not come
incorporating certain portions of the first
that had improved the Lincoln-owned IN PU'
parcels. It was such a compromise that state att
the commission finally adopted it. under at
The scoreboard on Lincoln & Co. reads subpoena
something like this: The firm bought six pon, thei
parcels of land for a total of $95,600 testimon
which are now valued at $222,000. least nine

ust dishonest

the attorney general be-
wising questions about
money, everyone from

nan's contributors


mpaign workers to the

date himself
Viient lapses



M eM-

Indochina: Misery's land

"aid" to Indochina would hasten
the cause of peace. The United States
Government has represented the
cause of corruption, tyranny, and to-
talitarianism in Asia for thirty years.
Of the hundreds of refugees inter-
viewed by the New York Times, not
one said he or she fled because of
fear or hatred of the Communists.
All desired peace and fled to escape
the war.
Meanwhile, South Vietnamese
"soldiers" have kicked elderly women
and shot civilians in their rush to
flee. The Reverend John Mergenhag-
en of Buffalo, N.Y. said he saw
healthy young soldiers crawling over
women and children to get on ships
leaving the war zone. Many soldiers
have shed their uniforms, looted rice
stores, robbed warehouses and set
buildings afire. Civilian refugees
claimed they had been intimidated
and robbed by troops during the voy-
age away from Communist held areas.
Scores of villagers were reported say-
ing that they were sorry they left
their homes.
In Cambodia, thousands of stu-
dents went into the streets of Phnom
News: Glen Allerhand, Barb Cornell,
Judy Nicoll, Cheryl Pilate, T i m
Schick, Jeff Sorensen
Editorial Page: Gordon Atcheson, Alan
Gitles, Paul Haskins, Debra Hur-
witz, Robert Miller
Photo Technician: Pauline Lubens

Penh last week to demand the cessa-
tion of American aid. Military assist-
ance can only prolong the war while
food supplies are siphoned off by
corrupt officials.
"A MONG THOSE WHO might be in
great danger if the Khmer Rouge
took over are those Cambodians who
work directly for the American Em-
bassy", reports Martin Woolacott of
the Manchester Guardian. "Yet the
Americans have categorically said
they will not take out their emploves
in any emergency evacuation. Nei-
ther the Embassy nor the State De-
partment seems to see the moral
contradiction between proposing a
blood bath theory and refusing to
evacuate those Cambodians who
would be at greatest risk."
In M o n d a y 's Times, Mal-
colm Browne reported the fall of Da
Nang: "The city was conquered, but
in effect by Saigon's own troops,
rather than North Vietnamese. The
reign of terror by Government forces
in the city cost many lives and effec-
tively kept aid from getting out. The
government soldiers were prepared
to kill anyone, including women and
children, to escape the city. They
sometimes did."
Kissinger have called the totter-
ing dictators in Indochina "our
Congress and the American peo-
ple, therefore, must take the initia-
tive in forming new allies and end-
ing aid to the corrupt.

ambitious soul, Damman's poli-
irations continued to grow, while
d in city government. Municipal
ave their limitations - sewers,
nd zonings can be pretty dull,
y if no personal stake is invol-
0, Damman launched a bid for
e seat in the 63rd District. That
campaign requires money, and
rs he accepted several sizeable
ions in return for favorable vot-
v matters.
ARGEST was a $1,000 gift, that
by two days Damman's favor-
e on rezoning property owned by
tributor. Eugene Batur asked.
commission to rezone his land
idential to commercial, allowing
onstruct a shopping plaza there.
hange was approved and Dam-
offers filled.
neither lived in the 63rd Con-
l District nor had contributed
al campaigns before.
tingly, the Damman family,
Yns a string of hardware stores,
ed space for an outlet in Batur's
an received two other equally
s contributions. In one case,
ved $500 less than two weeks af-
g to repeal an amendment he
oduced a year earlier. Again
directly affected the contributor,
d outside the district.
attorney general began raising
about the money, everybody
mman's contributors to his cam-
rkers to the candidate himself
convenient lapses of memory.
ly conclusion that can be drawn
e evidence compiled against
is that the man is a two-bit
But he won't go to jail for
s done. First of all, because the
rm Damman story probably has
out yet.
TTING together its report, the
orney. general's office labored
tough handicap - the lack of
power. Without that vital wea-
investigators could not compel
y from unwilling sources, and at
e of Damman's partners in Lin-

coln & Co. refused to open their mouths.
Furthermore those who did testify, in-
cluding Damman, did so without fear of
perjuring themselves because the at-
torney general's office cannot take sworn
The only documents the agency had ac-
cess to were either public record or
volunteered by Damman and his law-
A second factor impeding any prosecu-
tion of Damman is the vague nature of
the laws governing conflict of interest
and bribery.
Of one law which might have applied
to Damman's activities, the report
states: "Since the statute is indefinite
... and since the criminal law requires
that the statute be sufficiently definite
to inform an accused as to what con-
duct will subject him o criminal penal-
ties we find no basis for a criminal
charge .
FOLLOWING THE gubernatorial elec-
tion, both he and Gov. Milliken called
for stricter, more clearly defined laws
in this area.
But what remains is that Damman, a
person of questionable repute, holds the
second highest office in the state. He
may not be guilty of illegal action. How-
ever, he has clearly violated any stand-
ard of ethical conduct for public offic-
ials. And if the people cannot expect
their elected representatives to act in a
responsible, honest, and forthright man-
ner, then the democratic process is just
about worthless.
* * *
Summing up his fruitful career in Tam-
many Hall, George Washington Plunkitt
remarked: "I want to say that I don't
own a dishonest dollar. If my worst en-
emy was given the job of writin' my epi-
taph when I'm gone, he couldn't do
more than write 'George W. Plunkitt. He
Seen His Opportunities, and He Took
'Em.' "
So too with Jim Damman. He appar-
ently doesn't have a dishonest or at least
an illegal - dollar to his name. And
although his tombstone probably won't
read the same as Mr. Plunkitt's, maybe
it should.
Gordon Aicheson is Co-EdiforIn-Chief
of the Daily.

of /he Daily.

of us by now that the people
are winning in Indochina. Lib-
eration forces in Vietnam and
in Cambodia have made great
strides in their struggle against
US intervention and imperial-
ist aggression. Similarly, na-
tional liberation forces in the
Middle East are showing that
they will resist US exploita-
tion and intervention. The US
imperialists are on the run.
Their domains of economic ex-
ploitation are shrinking. Their
ability to control other people's
lives and lands is being soundly
challenged and destroyed.
At the same time, the eco-
nomic crisis at home is get-
ting worse. The contradictions
of capitalism have never been
more visible. In a classic epi-
demic of overpopulation, more
goods pile up on the shelves
than people are able to buy. In-
flation is eating away our in-
comes, average wages of work-
ers is falling, and unemploy-
ment ranges from a national
rate of nearly 10 per cent to as
high as 50 per cent in areas of
some major cities. For us in
Ann Arbor their crisis means

crisis. When the crisis grows-
when resistance abroad is fierce
-the danger of war is great.
Failing capitalists always look
to the final and inevitable solu-
tion of war to overcome their
They are certainly losing in
Indochina. We believe they have
long been preparing to look
next to the Mideast. Wherever
they look next, we are saying
we will not fight any imperial-
ist wars.
And, not only will we refuse
to die to support their collapsing
system, we firmly support all
struggles against US imperial-
ism. We will fight to rid our-
selves of this capitalist system.
We urge everyone in Ann Ar-
bor to rally at noon thisFriday
(April 4) on the Diag to demon-
strate against imperialist wars,
and to march against war to the
ROTC Building.
No intervention in the Mid-
east or Indochina! Victory to the
Vietnamese, Cambodian, and
Palestinian peoples!
--Black Students Libera-
tion Front; Organiza-
tion of Arab Students;
Revolutionary Student
Brigade; Middle East
Lihp....nn f mmit..p


rip-off landlords and manage-
ment companies, and after read-
ing the distorted arguments
they are presenting this year, I
believe they are the same peo-
ple, with the same motives.
Two of the distortions which
are particularly aimed at the
University community deserve
comment: they claim that pro-
fessors who rent their homes
while on sabbatical will be con-
sidered landlords and be con-
trolled; this is not true. The
Ann Arbor city code includes
in its definition of owner-occu-
pied housing, housing which the
owner usually lives in but
leaves for a period of up to two
years; - the charter amendment
exempts such housing. "Citizens
for Good Housing" also claims
students who sublet their apart-
ments will be subject to the pro-
visions - but the amendment
allows the, rent control Board to
define the landlord as the lessor
or the sublessor - not both -
and I for one am sure it would
not choose to control me rather
than my landlord.
ONCE AGAIN THE landlords
are trying to trick us into let-
ting them continue to rip us
off. I want us to do something
an,,w the dmernte r,.tal 1 si,,_


pheric ozone layer. For over a
year now, scientists have been
concerned about the threat to
atmospheric ozone posed by con-
tinued widespread usage of
man-made compounds common-
ly known as freons, and about
possible biological and climato-
logical effects that would result
from an altered ozone layer.

For those readers who desire
more information I have recent-
ly placed copies of a 480-page
document in the Ann Arbor Pub-
lic Library and in The Univer-
sity of Michigan's Engineering,
North Engineering, Chemistry,
and Physics Libraries. This do-
cument represents the official
record of two days (December
11 and 12, 1974) of hearings be-
fore a U.S. House of Repre-
sentatives subcommittee on pub-
lic health and environment. A
number of university of gov-
ernment scientists and indus-
trial representatives testified.
Congressman Esch's office pro-
vided me with these copies for
the libraries just named.
IN CONGRESS at least two
pertinent bills are under consid-
eration. They could lead to an
eventual ban on unessential vs-
ne n f rt on 'clo rin,. dhro1 ,-n.

To The Daily:
President and Mrs. Fleming:
we thank you for your invitation
to the Honors Convocation and
Reception. We appreciate your
interest in a formal bestowal
of honor onto us for our aca-
demic achievements. However,
we feel that in these troubled
economic times of cutbacks to
crucial academic programs, the
money involved in this affair
could be far better spent in the
students' interests by deioting
it to other channels within the
University. Because of dire
threats to educational depart-
ments, Pilot Program, fears of
a tuition hike, and dormitory
rate increases, we believe tiat
the investment of funds into a
program such as the Honors
Convocation and Reception is
superfluous. We realize that the
amoint of monev being spent is
not large, but in this tim i of cur-
tailment of educational pro-
grams, it conveys an atmos-
phere of extravagance.
Omission of this affair would
demonstrate a sensi'ive sym-
bolic recognition of the imnact

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