‘This site has been removed for non-payment,” is the message that greets visitors on coleman4detroit.com, the website of mayoral candidate state Sen. Coleman Young II.
The campaign is accused of owing $400, according to website manager Ramon Burnham, an African-American who said in media reports that he agreed to create and maintain a web page for Young II for only $200 a month because he believed in his campaign. After repeated calls to the campaign to settle the outstanding balance yielded no result, Burnham said he shut down the site.
This issue may seem trivial and can quickly be dismissed as not a big deal. But only if your last name is not Young. Only if the person, aside from the incumbent Mike Duggan, is not the most high profile candidate running to become the chief executive of Detroit.
The response from Young II’s campaign is that a new website is underway because they didn’t like Burnham’s work. But the web master countered that if such was the case, he was never told about it.
Another political candidate — now president of the United States — offered a similar line of reasoning when confronted with charges of stiffing small business owners like dishwashers, painters and waiters who worked for his real estate empire.
“Let’s say that they do a job that’s not good, or a job that they didn’t finish, or a job that was way late. I’ll deduct from their contract, absolutely,” then candidate Donald Trump said in a USA TODAY investigation that found hundreds of people, including some of his own lawyers, claiming Trump didn’t pay them for work performed.
Despite attempts by the unrelenting opposition including prominent labor leaders to paint Trump as a disaster for small business, he went on to win the presidency.
Still, the allegations were disturbing and raise a central question: Is it fair to treat small businesses that are one or two paychecks away from going out of business that way?
In the case of Young II, he will need to do some explaining on this issue since he is supposedly running a grassroots campaign to help small businesses. If his campaign’s only reason for not paying a web developer is that they did not like the website, what does that say about how he views small business?
If Young II is banking on the idea that voters won’t take much notice of this issue because Duggan appears vulnerable, he needs to think twice.
Young II is a long road away from possibly winning this race and still hasn’t presented a comprehensive plan to revitalize Detroit, unlike Duggan, whose plan is being debated. While there are issues the mayor hasn’t adequately addressed, it does not negate the fact that he is a very formidable candidate with a well-oiled political machine and fundraising prowess.
Young II should expect that he will be under scrutiny because of his pursuit of the mayor’s office.
If his campaign cannot get itself in order by paying the person who runs his webpage, I doubt he can get Detroit in order.
Simple things like this matter because they raise character questions and show what a candidate sees as important, fair and just.
The writer hosts “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at noon weekdays on Super Station 910AM. This column appears Mondays and Thursdays.