A Media Frenzy

Recently, there has been a media frenzy in response to the nasty tape recording released by County Executive Mark Hackel in an attempt to distract the public from what amounts to a crime.  While it is clear to most that this an attempt to silence and intimidate Warren Mayor James Fouts who cried foul on County Executive Mark Hackel who gave the green light to his “favorite” contractor to illegally dump at least 150,000 yards of road excavation dirt at the Freedom Hill closed landfill without any required permits or approval.  While County Executive Mark Hackel admitted that he did not have any written agreement with the contractor for the illegal dumping, the issue escalated when the Mayor of the 3rd largest City in Michigan publicly requested that the AG conduct an investigation into what could have resulted in an environmental disaster in Macomb County.  Known for weeding out public corruption, Mayor Fouts insisted that such illegal actions by public officials must have consequences to avoid actions like this in the future.

No stranger to playing “dirty” politics, the County Executive Mark Hackel “leaked” a morphed and engineered audio file of the Mayor in an attempt to pull the proverbial “wool” over the eyes of his constituency, by encouraging a network of media contacts to quickly go after Mayor Fouts in an attempt to disparage and discourage the citizens of Macomb County from pursuing the complaint raised by the Mayor of Warren regarding the cover-up of the illegal dumping at Freedom Hill and the systemic corruption plaguing Macomb County.

Received anonymously and with no indication of the time, date, or even the location of where this recording took place, County Executive Mark Hackel himself admits that the tape was edited, and is unsure of the number of edits/splices this recording underwent.

While Mayor Fouts questions not only the validity of this AWFUL tape, but the context of the tape, and who was also speaking and where this speech was recorded, and according to multiple sources, the contents of this tape clearly DO NOT reflect Mayor James Fouts’ attitude towards the special needs community, the public outcry was as expected, severe.

In a statement on his Facebook page, Warren Mayor James Fouts responded to this attempt to silence him by stating: “This recording was not me.  He (County Executive Mark Hackel) will stop at nothing which already includes name calling and intimidation. Expect the worse! When Mark doesn’t have the facts Mark attacks.”

According to anonymous sources, County Executive Mark Hackel has the expertise available to him to electronically engineer audio recordings, in a technique commonly known as audio morphing and modulation, to serve his own political agenda in a vicious attempt to discredit his political rivals.  The software, referred to as voice cloning, has been on the market since 2001, and is easily capbale of synthesizing anyone’s voice by using just a few voice samples of anyone “simply talking somewhere out in public, during mobile phone calls, in videos posted on social networking sites,”.  Examples of which are Google’s DeepMind, Adobe’s Project VoCo, and many others.

While it is clear that the fallout from the illegal dumping at Freedom Hill clearly has nothing to do with the diversionary tactic used by County Executive Mark Hackel, the Mayor of Warren is prepared to use this opportunity to advocate and assist the special needs community and by raising awareness regarding the challenges faced by some members of our society every day.

In addition to donating a sizeable contribution to fund the Awareness Building Campaign initiated by Lt. Governor Bryan Calley, Mayor Fouts publicly commented on his Facebook page that “If anything positive comes out of this, it is that there is more public attention on the issue.”  In a Facebook post, Mayor James Fouts stated that he “want(s) to make things better going forward, and will certainly do (his) part!”

Recently, in a phone interview with Arc of Macomb Directory Lisa Lepine, who reached out to Mayor Fouts and is already working with his office on scheduling a kick off meeting to help “get more information out about people with disabilities”.  Lisa Lepine was touched by the Mayor’s statement that every time he had the pleasure of meeting with an individual with Down Syndrome, he was moved by the “warmth, positivity, and pure sincerity” rarely seen with anyone else.

While the county heals, it is important to remember this incident was a great learning opportunity for those of us unware of the challenges faced by certain members of our society.  It is important to remember that these individuals are the everyday heroes and champions that triumph over adversity on a daily basis setting an example for the rest of us.