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Locally, 1999 proved to be a year of big numbers.

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Published 12/29/1999

When looking back over the year, we couldn't help but notice the large scale surrounding some of our most notable events in the metro region and across the state. From massive public subsidies for private developments to the thousands of people being left behind by a booming economy, the year produced some startling figures.

$1 million

The amount of money Detroit's two temporary casinos are reportedly raking in each day from the countless suckers lining up to lose their hard-earned cash.

The good news is the city gets nearly 10 percent of the casino take.

The bad news, as the Associated Press recently reported, is that social service agencies are seeing a startling rise in problem gambling.

Not all the blame belongs to casinos the state-run lottery and other opportunities contribute. The results, however, are undeniable: Five years ago, Michigan had no certified gambling counselors, now there are more than 200. During the same period, the number of Gamblers Anonymous groups in Detroit jumped from five to 20. A 24-hour gambling hot line run by a Detroit social services group is receiving about 2,500 calls per month.

$70 million

The amount in tax breaks over 15 years Detroit gave Compuware to encourage it to bring its headquarters from Farmington Hills to downtown's Campus Martius site. It's an impressive number considering that Compuware head honcho Peter Karmanos repeatedly said he didn't want any tax breaks from the city.

The Campus Martius subsidies don't stop there. It was reported last week that the city's Downtown Development Authority will spend another $70 million moving streets and utility lines and making other improvements for the project. Which raises the question: Didn't the city object to renovating the Hudson's building for use as retail and residential space because it would require some tax money?

Oh yeah, when you're tallying up the subsidies for the current project, don't forget the $15 million (at least) the city spent to tear down Hudson's. The biggest surprise, however, came from the smallest number: The city sold two prime downtown lots to developers for a buck each.

164,851

The number of people who had their votes rendered void by Gov. John Engler's removal of the duly elected Detroit School Board, replacing it with a body appointed by Mayor Archer.

Other big numbers connected with the issue include the $1.5 billion in bond money the new board gets to dole out to contractors. And then there are the 11,500 teachers' union members who went out on strike, delaying the opening of school.

Oh, we almost forgot: 180,000 students struggling to get an education while the adults play politics with their lives.

11

It's not the number that is large, but rather the scope of the injustice involving Nathaniel Abraham, who was 11 when he fired the shot that killed Ronnie Greene outside a Pontiac party store. Oakland County prosecutors charged Abraham as an adult, for first-degree murder, even though his brain functions at a 7- to 9-year-old level and he has an IQ of 78. A nearly-all-white jury convicted the African-American boy the state's and maybe the country's youngest person tried as an adult of second-degree murder last November. In the process, Abraham became a poster boy for Amnesty International, which decried the barbarism of prosecuting children as adults.

28,000

The number of creditors affected by MCA Financial Corporation's bankruptcy.

But let's just talk about the homeowners impacted by the real estate giant's collapse. Before MCA closed its 40 branch offices last January, it was servicing 4,700 mortgages totaling $355 million, and about 7,000 land contracts valued at $181 million, with 90 percent of its business in Michigan, according to court records. Though the company should have paid its customers' property taxes and insurance, MCA instead allegedly used this money to keep itself afloat putting 3,000 to 4,000 homeowners at risk of losing their property. The state attorney general's office is still investigating and may file criminal charges.

44,652

The number of prisoners in Michigan's correctional facilities all of whom, as of last week, are no longer protected by Michigan civil rights law. Thanks to a law signed by Gov. John Engler last week, prisoners are prohibited from filing lawsuits under the Michigan Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The law also guts civil suits filed before it went into effect, such as the one brought on behalf of 32 female inmates who allege routine sexual abuse by prison guards and cover-up by the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Another law Engler signed last week prevents the media from entering prisons. Not only will inmates be more vulnerable to abuse, they will have few means to expose alleged abuse.

26 million

The number of people served in 1998 by America's Second Harvest, the country's largest food bank network. Despite our robust economy, 10 percent of our nation's people go hungry or are at risk of not getting enough to eat. According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors' December report, the demand for emergency food grew 18 percent from the previous year the biggest increase since 1992.

Gleaners Community Food Bank in Detroit provided 30 percent more food to pantries and soup kitchens in Wayne County this year than in 1998, says John Kastler, vice president of marketing and special projects.

"We are moving 1.5 million pounds a month," he says.

2

This tiny figure is a big deal considering that it is the total number of days the mayor gave the Detroit City Council to review the controversial Detroit Minergy, LLC contract a ploy Archer is adept at using to get his way.

The council approved the 15-year contract, which will allow Minergy to incinerate the Water and Sewage Department's 50 tons of daily sludge.

City Council President Pro Tem Maryann Mahaffey voted against the project, citing insufficient information, possible job loss, and that 15 years is too long a contract since environmental technology is changing rapidly. The plant is scheduled to begin operating in 2002.

31,659

Number of days that passed between 1912, the year the first game was played at what would eventually be called Tiger Stadium, and the final out at the venerable field on Michigan Avenue. The Tigers will move to a new, taxpayer-subsidized park in Ilitch Village next year. Plans for the old stadium are still being devised.

In other sporting news, the big number is 1,458: The number of yards Lions running back Barry Sanders needed to become the NFL's all-time rushing leader. Instead of taking a run for the record books, Sanders ran out on his teammates just before the season opened. The team responded better than anyone predicted, filling BS's void with teamwide intensity and making a run for the playoffs. Yet to be decided is who gets the $5.5 million in signing bonus cash the Lions say Barry needs to give back.

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