Olumba’s stem-winding farewell baffles, offends

Detroit News staff
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Olumba’s farewell baffles, offends

Departing or term-limited state legislators gave their farewell speeches this week, and it was debatable how many of them were must-see television — for those watching the live-streamed proceedings.

They were short and long, poignant and mind-numbing. And when it came to Rep. John Olumba, the independent Democrat from Detroit who has been missing for many recent floor votes, it was at turns funny, biblical, critical, insulting, offensive and incomprehensible. Such as when he credited Gov. Rick Snyder with reinventing the “shout-out.”

Some highlights:

■Olumba accurately predicted as he started his 30-minute speech that “there’s like ... even maybe a little bit of fear about what I may say.”

He knocked Democrats, some by name, with whom he often broke to gain a House Appropriations subcommittee chairmanship and support Republican initiatives in his final two years. He said he was “sick” of the high taxes in Detroit. He praised the GOP: “You freed the slaves once, and you’ll do it again.”

But he also criticized and offended transgenders, Asian-Americans and Arab-Americans.

“Asians and Chaldeans, I swear, they should have a Black Misery Appreciation Day; they’re selling fake hair and gas and loosies and cigarettes to people all across Detroit just hoping to catch a breath of fresh air and making a fortune doing it,” he said.

Olumba also objected to those who are seeking to include transgender individuals in Michigan’s civil rights law, saying their situation is different from the suffering of African-Americans who sought protection from discrimination.

“To me, seeing a guy dressed up like a girl is either going to be really funny or really sad,” he said. “But don’t make the offense of comparing his journey ... to Martin Luther King being assassinated, or my wife or wife’s father being sprayed with hoses or bitten by dogs, or my great uncles being jailed multiple times. Or to millions of people losing their lives to forced bondage and servitude.”

■Sen. Mark Jansen, a Grand Rapids Republican who sits on the Appropriations Committee, calculated that he appropriated more than $500 billion in state money in his eight years, “so don’t call me a cheapskate.”

■You can’t say state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, left anybody out in her farewell address.

“This journey has changed me forever, my friends,” she said, proceeding to heap praise and mention no less than 100 people including relatives, constituents, co-workers and the support staff of the state House.

She reminded her colleagues she is the eldest of 14 children and said the way she saw and treated fellow House members was similar to how she deals with her seven brothers and six sisters — with tough love.

“I sincerely want you to do the best job ever and to reach your potential. And the way to do that is to listen to me,” she told her co-workers, drawing a chuckle from the House floor. It was an emotional farewell for Tlaib, who paused to cry at least six times during the goodbye.

Not all goodbyes were as emotional as others:

John Walsh, if I was to be forced to choose a Republican to represent me I would pick you,” she said to the Livonia representative. “But remember, I said forced.”

Auditor Mayo punches out

After 10 years of auditing and reviewing the often contentious and deficit-riddled finances of Wayne County, Willie Mayo is calling it quits.

Mayo, 72, has served the maximum term allowed by the county charter and will hang up his county calculator at the end of the year.

“It was the pinnacle of my career,” Mayo said. “To cap it off with an appointment as Wayne County auditor general, it was just awesome.”

Mayo grew up on Detroit’s east side and founded an accounting firm in 1981, which he sold when he became the legislative auditor general. Mayo will focus on his new management consulting company — Lakewood Advisory Services — after his county retirement.

Dingell leaves us wondering

U.S. Rep. John Dingell released this week his last congressional Christmas jingle, which hit some high and mysterious notes.

As he recovers in a Washington, D.C. hospital from a broken hip, the 88-year-old Dearborn Democrat contemplated the political scene with a poem written in the cadence of “Twas the night before Christmas.”

Perhaps the most baffling part of the poem from the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history was the final stanza:

So the election’s now upon us, and amidst all the hintin’ /

There’ll be a line of new choices [and a Bush, and a Clinton] /

As folks “actively explore,” and throw their hats in the ring /

We must look at their records, and the experience they bring /

As for me, I’ve never been one to create a big scene /

So Happy Holidays to all, DINGELL 2016!

Spokesman Christopher Schuler said Dingell was not referring to the political aspirations of his wife, Rep.-elect Debbie Dingell, who takes over the 12th District seat on Jan. 1. So the Insider and others are left to wonder what kind of platform the potential nonagenarian presidential candidate might mount against a possible Hillary Rodham Clinton candidacy.

Contributors: Richard Burr, Steve Pardo.

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