March 3, 2009 at 1:00 am

Neal Rubin

Conyers doesn't help make Detroit look inviting

Bob Page believes City Council President Monica Conyers' behavior screams "stay away" to those not "urban" enough. (Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)

Call him crazy -- and you can bet a lot of his friends do -- but Bob Page has this urge to move back to Detroit.

Not Detroit in the broad sense, which might just as easily be Canton Township or Romeo. He means the one below Eight Mile. But if Monica Conyers doesn't want him, then to heck with it.

If the name sounds familiar, yes, he's that Bob Page, the one who grew up here and then spent 12 years on the air as a bluntly entertaining sportscaster. He ventured on to New York in 1988 and did well enough that he's now mostly retired, splitting his time between New York and South Florida.

There's a clear need, he says, for "those of us who've been successful in other cities to come home and help save our hometown." And he has a specific vision of how he'd like to contribute.

Plunk down $200,000 or so for a rambling, 2,600-square-foot apartment on the river, the kind of place that would sell for $3-$4 million in Manhattan. Find a group that has some kids who need a mentor. Teach them about reading or life or fill whatever other gap he can. Live here, build the tax base here, buy his cars and pizzas here.

"I'd make Detroit my base," he says. He'd spend Christmas with his grandchildren in Farmington Hills, take off for someplace warm, then come back for Opening Day in April.

He knows other Detroit expatriates with the same inclination. He also knows people who think he's lost his mind, and after this past week, he's starting to agree with them.

Monica Conyers, the Detroit City Council president, told a white Teamsters official at a public meeting that she didn't care if improving Cobo Center would put more people to work. "Those workers look like you; they don't look like me," she said. On WDIV-TV's "Flashpoint" Sunday, she went down the same bizarre road.

"It seems like every time there's a significant election in Detroit, it boils down to who's the least 'suburban,' " Page says. "We all know what that means."

If he's going to live along East Jefferson Avenue and still be scorned and resented by the second-highest elected official in the city, he'd have to be a fool to write the check. He'll plead guilty to being an idealist, but he's nobody's dope.

Watching from the sidelines

Page is 57, which means he's one of those people who talks about the Detroit of old as if it were Oz.

He has the going-to-

Hudson's-with-his-mother memory, the discovering-downtown-with-his-buddies memory, and even the Tigers-win-the-World-Series memory.

"We got in the car," he says, "a year after the riots" and drove down Jefferson from Grosse Pointe Park. "We joined hands with black folks and white folks and literally danced in the streets when the Tigers beat the Cardinals."

Even then, he was realistic enough to understand that life was not all kumbaya moments for the black people whose hands he was holding. But four decades later, to have Monica Conyers tell him so clearly to stay away? And to have her so buoyed by the response that she's considering a write-in campaign for mayor?

Maybe the voters will tell her to buzz off. Maybe when she runs for council again, they'll remind her that you don't have to look like her to appreciate the DIA or a good Mexican restaurant, or to simply want to feel welcomed.

But until then, the former sportscaster will take his ball and his money and his good intentions and stay right where he is.

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